by Alabi Williams
Just as his ratings in the public space had sustained equilibrium, despite revelations of unparalleled theft and squandering of public treasury and opportunities by disciples who worked directly with him, and others from afar during his tenure as president, Goodluck Jonathan may have thwarted own flight and has plunged downhill. His swelling fame has burst, courtesy of some fleeting pronouncements that were sourced from him by a third party.
Content of the book, Against The run of Play, written by chairman of the ThisDay Editorial Board, Olusegun Adeniyi, is what has made Jonathan to appear like a bad loser, despite the heroic display two years ago, when he suffered historic defeat in the 2015 elections. The former president had, against the norm, accepted that he had lost the election, and he promptly called candidate Muhammadu Buhari, to congratulate him. That was even before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) collated the tallies for official announcement of winner.
Jonathan earned local and global acclaim for that uncommon concession, at a time many expected him to either go to court or engineer some June 12 excuses to truncate final announcement of result and cause Nigeria pain. He did not do that, not that there were no grounds for that. He simply didn’t want chaos. Remember that Godsday Orubebe, a former minister of the Niger Delta and returning officer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at that election had cried foul over the handling of the situation in Rivers, which had been riddled by violence. The body language of INEC at that time was that Rivers’ election could not pass the test, as attested to by observers, foreign and local. They were to be cancelled. But INEC could not proceed with such because the repercussion could be damning. Morally, Rivers became an issue for the electoral body because it could not afford to close its eyes on Kano that posted unprecedented, yet questionable wins for Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC), and force Rivers not to post landslide win by whatever means for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in its catchment zone. That could have been interpreted as barefaced bias, for which INEC later allowed Rivers’ first round election to stay as announced by officials on ground.
The point to note is that the 2015 elections were not flawless, but Jonathan was reasonable not to push his luck. The All Progressives Congress had promised to form a parallel government should PDP play funny with the elections. Perhaps, security report had warned the former president to accept whatever INEC was to announce, so that Nigeria will not boil.
After all said and done, many have expected that Jonathan will render account of his days in government all by himself and at his own time. That account, will of course, discuss how he was picked as vice presidential candidate, courtesy of ‘large-hearted’ former president Obasanjo; how he survived as a marginalised vice president, until mother luck catapulted him from presidential boys’ quarters into the main Aso Villa. Jonathan should have a good story to tell, of how he defeated the entire northern establishment in the PDP to win the party’s ticket for 2011. Ibrahim Babangida, Aliyu Gusau, Bukola Saraki and Abubakar Atiku consolidated their resources against Jonathan, but he prevailed. His four years in the saddle will be a good story, how Boko Haram tried to diminish his efforts and all that should be part of his memoirs. He should not fail to discuss 2015 and why he thinks he lost the election.
What many did not expect was that Jonathan would surrender his juicy and sensitive story for another to tell, when he is alive and mentally fit. We are not even talking about a biography, whose outcome will be painstaking, after which a body of editors would be invited to review and vet before ownership is assumed. As it turned out, the book, from reviews and analysis is a montage of stories told by a collection of actors in the 2015 general elections, of which Jonathan is presented as the central character.
Following rave mentions and vitriolic reactions from headline grabbers, who have no choice but to attribute the content and timing of release to Jonathan, the man has now alleged distortions in the views he had voluntarily and originally surrendered. If that were true, it is coming too late because the damage has been done.
Like I said, many people know that the 2015 elections were not perfect. But they do not expect the former president to sulk two years after. He could have taken sometime, maybe after 2019 to explain what happened to him in 2015, separate from the collage of different viewpoints on same canvass, which is sharply contrasted for enhanced news value.
The writer has insisted that due diligence was applied in ensuring that the content that pertained to the former president were returned to him for final vetting and approval. Yes, but was Jonathan privy to the timing of release, which has become a PR disaster at a time the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is unearthing stolen monies allegedly budgeted and released during his tenure? The country is in recession and the people are hungry and angry. Ordinarily, Jonathan should not on his own, pick this time to discuss 2015 and remind Nigerians of things they want to quickly forget. He ought to know the mood of this moment. But again, he seemed helpless.
While Jonathan is said in the book to blame others for his 2015 loss, other actors blame his wife for causing the fall of her husband, by her meddlesomeness. I am yet to hear of Mrs. Jonathan’s views in the book. If others were permitted to talk about her, I think she should have been approached for her views, at least for a balance. I know such encounter might be fraught with problems of translating her original views in whatever language into printable conversation. But everybody deserves a right of reply.
For me, I really wonder why Jonathan, a man announced as Nigeria’s first holder of Ph.D. to be elected president will lend himself to easy misrepresentation, both in and out of office. In office, he struggled severally to present himself accurately. His gaffes in office became legendary, when he casually explained that stealing was not the same as corruption. He knew what he wanted to say, but simply lacked legibility.
Now that he has surrendered the most newsy and profitable part of his yet to be written memoirs to a third party and earned all the knocks, will he still be entitled to some royalty?
On the 2015 elections, many saw it coming and actually wondered how he could have survived with the array of strong ‘enemies’ lined up against him. In 2011, against the run of zoning tradition in the PDP, nearly all the geo-political zones to be candidate supported Jonathan. He enjoyed the support of governors and other powerful caucuses in the party. Outside political circles, he was the toast of the civil society, youths, women and others. He won convincingly. He was given four years to pay back the mandate the people gave to him. Towards 2015, he had lost a great deal of goodwill, for so many reasons. Were he to be politically savvy, he should have known that the wind had been drained off his sail. He watched helplessly as the party drifted under him. He watched, as the APC coalesce before his very eyes, he merely shrugged. Five strong PDP governors left the party; two were on the fence. A good number of his party senators left, the Speaker left and the party became a shell of its old self.
Except for the huge sack of campaign funds, many knew the glory had departed. And Jonathan was duped. But he should avoid being duped again and again.
- This Best Outside Opinion was written by Alabi Williams/Guardian