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Bimbo Manuel

Chapters: Buhari-ism And Jonathan’s Onus

‘We are made wise not by the recollection of our past but by the responsibility for our future’ George Bernard Shaw

Political scholars will pick their teeth and scratch their heads in future when the Buhari years is discussed.

The Information Ministry under this government has seemed so limp and tepid because there is really nothing to sell to the masses of the country and observers across the world, in the way my undergraduate law student can define Trumpism in both its national and global vision, even if it is a controversial one.

There is no Buhari-ism beyond oft-trumpeted ‘fight against corruption’ and dubious claims about its war against insecurity in its many descriptions. A lot of fury, no substance. My cynicism draws from the experiences of people of various backgrounds across the country, tales of woe in the hands of marauders sometimes rumored to be herdsmen, some said to be highway robbers and yet some kidnappers. That is not to mention the rumored presence of the Islamic State in The Sahel among other troubles that continually threaten our national peace. Our police seems eternally swamped and our military forces have become an internal defence corps.

At some point, the Vice President was made the poster boy of this government, sharing out ‘dividends of democracy’ in different forms to indigent market-women and the ‘lazy’ young across the country. However, you soon got a feeling that someone somewhere felt that it was making the teacher-lawyer-pastor rather too visible and too popular. So they yanked him and clipped his wings and assumed aspirations. There has not been anything else than trouble for the Minister of Information to manage. The controversies in the political space have also not helped to polish the government’s image locally and internationally, Imo Supreme Court judgement, the troublesome removal of the immediate past Chief Justice of The Federation, Amotekun versus Hisba, to mention a few.

So, maybe Buhari-ism after all is a governance principle, policy and vision that inadvertently or deliberately shuts down or abets more than it opens up in positive political development, governance, economy and social life. That would probably be the definition for those who whisper that the Buhari government is run Gestapo-style, a method that seems to strong-arm, blackmail and threaten violence or arrest against perceived opponents. If the President were not so withdrawn and his Information Minister were to speak more often, address issues of national concern more directly and with a clarity linked to a defined vision, the political environment would not seem so fearsome.

John Stuart Mill said, ‘What citizen of a free country would listen to offers of good, skillful administration in return for the abdication of freedom?’ Our condition proves worse, our country has become devoid of true freedom and it has been denied good, skillful, people-centric administration to boot.

It is however clear that though Buhari may have failed so far in articulating a practical national educational, economic, military, security and social vision that we all can understand, believe and line up behind, we must hold the man who allowed him a sedate stroll into power responsible.

One man only must wear that garb of responsibility, he alone must take the blame for the state of the nation now. He is Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and while I join many other who have apologized for vilifying him while in office till we installed Buhari in his stead, he must accept that he prepared the ground for the emergence of the Buhari/Tinubu national affliction. Now that he has gifted us hindsight, we are free to interrogate him. It all comes down to character.

According to the wise General Olusegun Obasanjo, ‘Yet there comes a time in the life of a true patriot when abdication would amount to a betrayal if not outright treachery’. Jonathan Ebele Goodluck sold us out into this national distress because when he was needed to stand as a patriot, he folded.

In 2014 leading to the 2015 elections, PDP was a strong political party, in fact so strong it prided itself as ‘the largest political party in Africa’! There was no reason that sort of party should lose an election to an APC struggling to worm its way into national relevance. The Igbos were and are still suspicious of a ‘Yoruba Party’, the North was torn at some point, ready for the picking, between the money of Atiku and the Talakawa idealism of Buhari, with its power brokers uncertain which way the Jamaa would swing. PDP should not have lost. But that may be considered a superficial argument. Let us agree.

If Nigerian politics is cash-driven, APC never had the kind of financial muscle available to PDP at any given time, even with all the cross-carpeting that went on at the height of the 2015/15 campaigns and the warm-up to it. There was no reason PDP should have lost a national election to APC’s Buhari in 2015. But people were tired and angry with the incumbent and the carrying-on of his men. APC strategically played up that anger against Jona.

If incumbency had assured election victory in Nigeria so long that Buhari’s defeat of incumbent Jonathan was globally celebrated as a feat, the cause of the loss should be owned first by Jonathan before any consideration of all external factors.

Let us accept all the excuses for losing elections in Nigeria.

Irrespective of what anyone says, Nigeria is still a very ethnically divided country and Jonathan is from a minority. However, the same Jonathan used his run in office as Yar’Adua’s aide for two years and another two years as his own man to good effect. He won 2011 with minimum controversy. He had the sympathy of the entire nation behind him, especially for the perceived injustice he suffered at Yar’Adua’s passing and the people’s hope for a continuation of Yar’Adua’s brilliant performance in his neophyte. He was a popular president for some time. The argument of tribalism did not matter then. We can also argue that the purposes of the North were still being served at the time and they did not mind, knowing that their time would come in the next term. And it did come.

Jonathan, as leader of his party and president, was simply not focused and interpreting the political climate correctly. Even if it looked otherwise at first glance, he filled every position with people who were not strategically considered. They were selected purely in hope of finding personal political protection with the future in focus. He populated his government with ethnic sycophants, who had no power to secure longevity in office or assure re-election. They were mainly newbies parading themselves as gurus and who passed themselves off as highly connected. Jonathan was bedazzled by their grand speeches and big ‘educated’ grammar and he lost.

The real political ‘mechanics’ were meanwhile quietly but busily analyzing all and plotting their telling responses. And they were adept political engineers, versed in dirty work. They understood how to tell the people that Jonathan was clueless and the people believed. They knew how to show us on the streets how large his aides and friends were living and there was nothing to curb their excesses while the people suffered. They even created the fable that Mama Peace was in charge because ‘Oga’ slept most of the working hours away. No one disproved it with definitive action. They threw Buhari up as an upright alternative who would hound the Jonathan ‘thieves’ down and put them in jail. People were elated. They had to be because they were tired, hungry and angry. We all knew that Buhari was not the messiah, to be honest, but such was the intensity of the hatred for what the men around the president stood for that some said, ‘even if a dog was contesting against Jonathan, I would vote it!’

No amount of vociferous support and angry rhetoric coming from the South East and South South base of the president was going to change the outcome of that election. Instead, he helped to polarize the country against himself not estimating that the total population of the entire southern regions could not match the census and electoral figures of the North, even without joining forces with the politically potent and volatile South West. He lost both zones, even in spite of what he thought he did for them and their leaders.

The Jonathan government did very little to debunk the view on the streets that though he might not have been personally corrupt, the people surrounding him were and he seemed powerless to rein them in. They lived large and flew around in private jets, built grand homes and rode unearthly cars, with dollar graves everywhere. They were arrogant and the people resented it.

In spite of all, I think Jonathan could still have won in 2015 if he had stepped up and shown some muscle, something that proved he was in charge.

When push came to shove, in spite of all the obscene dollar billions we heard bandied about to fight the election battle and the big names that lined up behind or arrayed themselves in his support, incumbent President Jonathan still lost. The powerhouses of PDP could not bring in the presidency for Jonathan because none of them considered sentiments on the streets strong enough against themselves and their principal to be anything of consequence.

It all comes down to the leadership President Jonathan Goodluck provided.

It was a weak, lackadaisical one, a head man without control, a captain who did not have a good grasp of his destination and the state of his ship.

Jonathan Goodluck had a responsibility that would have changed the political equation of the country forever. Coming from a minority, he did not understand that he represented all minorities who had till then been excluded from central power in the country; he did not understand that he bore on his shoulders and on his head, the responsibility to prove to the kingmakers spread across the country that there are men and women from Igboland and the minorities capable of truly leading the country in strength and fairness, even development and balanced, progressive governance, sensitive to the streets, with unwavering commitment to what is indeed important to the people, beyond the personal aspirations of those in power.

In that regard, Jonathan Ebele Goodluck failed woefully and blew the chances of building trust among those who still retain the sentiments of pre-Civil War politics and its harvest of woe, resentment and suspicion.

I conjecture that directly because of Jonathan’s failures as a true national leader of strength and vision, who understood the providence of his call, it has become even more difficult for anyone from anywhere other than the wide expanses of the North and Yorubaland to become the president of this nation. And their eminent qualification will be of little consequence. What is peddled as currency at the top is trust and the suspicion Jonathan heightened in his tenure makes that a very difficult commodity to purchase now, at least until fate throws up another one like him from Igboland or one of the minorities scattered across the country.

Ultimately, the onus of what has happened to our politics, our social life, economic and technological development, rests squarely on him and, he has to own it, with an apology or an explanation, even if it makes some of his trusted co-travelers in that government uncomfortable.

Though, I apologize, sir for my resistance against your return to office, I do not forgive you for imposing Alhaji Mohammadu Buhari on us for eight years.

‘A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom’ Bob Dylan. And I add, ‘a hero is one who understands the responsibility that his opportunities impose on him and acts to match the occasion…in deliberate consideration of posterity’


Bimbo Manuel

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