Jonathan’s ‘transition’ controversy
By SOC Okenwa
Former President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, has finally written and released the much-expected book on his stewardship and other presidential experiences. Having left power in a blaze of glory way back in 2015, magnanimously conceding defeat in a gentlemanly responsible manner to the man that electorally battered him, President Muhammadu Buhari, Jonathan is apparently enjoying himself in his peaceful retirement and basking in the euphoria of having ‘survived’ Aso Rock — that is, if what Reuben Abati, his former SSA on Media and Publicity, had told a flabbergasted nation about the ‘devils’ and ‘demons’ that inhabited the place of power was to be taken seriously into account!
GEJ, as he is fondly called, turned 61 recently and he used the auspicious occasion to launch a book about his years in power entitled: ‘My Transition Hours’. The book was officially presented to the public penultimate Tuesday. And the event witnessed a full house of who-is-who in Nigerian politics in Abuja.
Dignitaries (including ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Federal Government who represented the reclusive President Buhari, the ruling APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, retired Generals and former Heads of state Yakubu Gowon and Abdusalami Abubakar, Senate President Bukola Saraki etc) came from far and near to honour the man from Otuoke town in Bayelsa State who made history (positively and negatively) as an incumbent President defeated soundly by the opposition. And as a sitting President who acknowledged his defeat by calling and congratulating the victor thereby setting a positive precedent in a ‘do-or-die’ politics Nigeriana (apology to OBJ).
The launch of the book attracted ovation from the different personalities present for the modest man from the Niger Delta oil-rich region whose presidential trajectory is a study in providential favour. GEJ’s political rise to and fall from the top was a classical tale of ‘goodluck’ and divine favour. During the book presentation Jonathan visibly basked in the euphoria of the glorious moment as one speaker after another extolled his patriotism and democratic ideal. Of course we cannot agree more that Jonathan is both a patriot and democrat.
However, we cannot disagree less that he came, saw but never conquered the Nigerian infrastructural and developmental malady. Destiny smiled at him but he messed up with the uncommon opportunity he had to make Nigeria great again. Few men in the history of the world had been so blessed!
Days after the book’s presentation controversy has trailed its contents. It would appear that the GEJ narrative did not go down well with some prominent political players during his giddy stay in Aso Rock. First to fire a salvo towards Jonathan after reading the book for certain misrepresentation regarding the Chibok girls’ abduction saga was the Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima. He lampooned Jonathan via a statement for trying to exonerate himself from the Chibok ugly incident while blaming others including himself the Governor. Governor Shettima described the book as “a presidential tale by mid-day, a mere fiction devoid of facts”.
The Executive Governor of Borno State was obviously livid that Jonathan never revealed the content of the presidential panel that investigated the Chibok abduction imbroglio which he said was submitted to him but about which he never did anything until he left office. Shettima may have had his own side of the story to tell someday but we hold that there was political dimension to the Chibok saga. The Borno Chief Executive cannot escape blame for the irresponsible way and manner he handled the Boko Haram kidnapping exploit in his volatile state. He was aloof quite like Jonathan and cared less because none of the girls was his daughter or relation! Shettima even jetted off to the US in the middle of the Chibok ‘rapture’!
And following Shettima’s strongly-worded dismissal of ‘My Transition Hours’ the ex-Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation under Jobnathan, Bello Adoke, equally puntured the ‘falsehood’ Jonathan peddled when he said that he took the crucial decision of phoning Buhari and congratulating him even when the comprehensive result of the poll was yet to be fully announced. Jonathan had given the impression that Adoke, Osita Chidoka, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and his ex-aide on Domestic Affairs were not favourably disposed to his conceding defeat. On the contrary however Adoke submitted that they were the ones ‘pressurising’ GEJ to rapidly acknowledge his defeat to douse the tension in the land then.
The former Minister and AGF concluded that someday in the near future he would be writing his own book to present the issue in a true manner. What he was saying in essence was that GEJ never single-handedly took the decision to recognise his electoral fall from power but a collective thing involving others with him at that moment in time in the nation’s history.
The presidency was not left out of the fury over what transpired during and after the presidential poll of 2015 as narrated by the very man at the centre of it all. Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, had issued a strong statement denouncing Jonathan for saying in the book that corruption was worse now than under his leadership! And again for giving himself credit for the Single Treasury Account (TSA) initiative as well as Biometric Verification Number (BVN), and the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPS). Shehu had dutifully countered Jonathan on those scores scoring his administration poor on fiscal prudence and arguing further that it served no useful purpose initiating an idea without the political will to implement same.
But by far the most pungent put-down of GEJ and his book came from Zainab Duke-Abiola, the obscure wife of the late Bashorun MKO Abiola. The woman dismissed the book as “monumental manipulation of historical facts and figures” going on to slam same as “a pseudologia fantastica”! For the widow: “Jonathan said corruption is not stealing and thereafter flagged off the looting spree of the treasury, which ultimately plunged Nigeria into recession when he left. Jonathan will go down in history as Nigeria’s worst political mistake”.
Disagreeing with Jonathan on his submission that Boko Haram, Chibok girls’ kidnapping crisis and the former American President, Barack Obama and ex-British PM David Cameron worked against his re-election bid Mrs Abiola blamed his presidential failure squarely on his “gross incompetence and ineptitude”.
Besides, the leading online news portal, ‘SaharaReporters’ based in the US, had exclusively reported online that the book had an original and fake versions! Could it be that Jonathan was not the original author of the book? Who wrote the fake version? Or could we believe then that literary swindlers are out to swindle Ebele and make money out of his presidential prerogative?
For some critics who had read the book the literary effort by the Ijawman was not a masterpiece in any stretch of imagination expected of an ex-leader with such academic accomplishment. For so-called PHD holder to have written what Gov. Shettima and Zainab Duke-Abiola described condescendingly in an unflattering manner betrayed intellectual laziness on the part of GEJ.
Yet his intellectual predicament could be understood. Goodluck Jonathan has never been known, in and out of power, to be charismatic, intellectually sound and eloquent! He is not the American Obama, the French Macron or the Canadian Trudeau. Neither is he the Nigerian Soyinka or the late Achebe. Jonathan is wholly made in Nigeria and as such a ‘Naija’ product he could not have given what he did not possess in terms of wittiness and grittiness of intellectualism or radicalism. His parental and environmental background must have played a major role in the formation and trajectory of the GEJ we know.
Conclusively it seems from the look of things lately that Jonathan is indeed happy with himself, enjoying the bliss of retirement, convinced supremely that he had delivered on the mandate Providence had placed upon him following the tragic demise of the late Umaru Yar’Adua, his ex-principal. And the one subsequently conferred on him by Nigerians (rigging or not!) He is conveniently blaming every other person but himself for his manifest failures occasioned mainly by his spineless disposition and meek attitude.
He is clapping for himself as it were like a lunatic in the market-square with one hand! His ‘Transition Hours’ appears to be a presidential tale fraught with alleged inaccuracies and revisionist conclusions. It has failed to impress anyone, not the least those who should know better.