Anthony Ailemen, Abuja Bureau Chief chronicles the Jonathan years of dogged commitment to the Nigerian Project.
For those who had followed President Goodluck Jonathan’s journey to the assumption of the nation’s number one seat, they will attest to the fact that it was indeed a tortuous journey.
First, he never nursed nor did his body language ever indicated that he wanted to proceed to seek higher political office after providence made him Governor of Bayelsa state, in 2006 For him, it was a surprise when it was conveyed to him that have has been nominated as the nation’s number two citizen to contest the 2007 presidential election with Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who was the then presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The ill health of his then boss, President Yar’Adua meant that he had to carry out greater state responsibilities since the President during that period needed to travel out often for medical treatments Unfortunately for him, the powers of the Vice President had reduced considerable following the not too good relationship that trailed that of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his then Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
During the period of late President Yar’Adua’s illness, President Jonathan had had to contend with stiff, stubborn and unyielding opposition to every policy and decisions to allow him play his constitutional roles as Vice- President. But following the inability of the President to perform state functions, the onus then fell on the National Assembly to invoke the ‘Doctrine of Necessity” which has now become Nigeria’s political lexicon, to enable him transit into office as Acting President, on the 23rd of February, 2010.
President Yar’Adua had before then left the soils of Nigeria to seek medical help in Saudi Arabia and Germany after he was diagnosed with a heart disease known as “ Acute Pericarditis”, pericardial disease, which causes inflammation of the heart tissues. At the demise of President Yar’Adua, on the 5th of May, 2010, the President was sworn in as full Executive President, a position he held until he contested and won the PDP nomination as Presidential candidate in the 2011 election which he won with a landslide It was thought that his travail will end with his election as the President and Commander- in- Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but this was not to be as he was confronted with the most atrocious security challenge in the history of Nigeria.
Not many where ready to think that the Boko Haram insurgency had any political under tone as many leaders from the north had warned that they will make the country ungovernable for him, for daring to seek the office of the President when they said was their own turn. From the day President Jonathan made up his mind to contest the 2011 Presidential election after wining the battle to succeed his late boss, the north vowed to disgrace him out of office. Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa had, while addressing some northern elders in Kaduna told them that the President was behind the Boko Haram insurgency as part of plans to decimate the North.
This was despite the fact that President Jonathan himself had at various fora lamented that even within his government some persons have become sympathetic to members of Boko Haram even to the extent that he was being pressured to offer members of the group, amnesty.
As attested to in his postmortem examinations of the 2015 Presidential election by elder-statesman and one of the top political Leaders of northern extraction, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, the President was portrayed as enemy of the north who must be removed at all cause Speaking on the outcome of the 2015 presidential election, Alhaji Yakasai opined that “ I know that the last election, definitely was free, fair, but in my own judgement, it was not credible.
This is because the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC either by an act of commission or omission, appeared to favour a party as against another. And some collisions had taken place, whereby the electorates where not allowed to exercise their conscience in deciding who to vote for. Ethnic sentiments where employed or deployed, religion was used to teleguide and manipulate voters to vote in one way or the other.
For these reasons, again, in my own opinion, that election was not credible” Alhaji Yakasai while quoting copiously from Professor Ango Abdullahi’s attacks on President Jonathan, noted that the highly respected Professor had vowed that “ if Jonathan is reelected, there will be war in Nigeria” which goes to show the extent of the hatred for the President by some people. He continues “ How can you say you believe in democracy and say if Nigerian people, out of their own free will decided to vote for Jonathan, there will be war. Another northerner said if Jonathan is reelected, there will be blood shed. Another one said they will make the country ungovernable for Jonathan.”
According to him, “ These reckless statements created tension in the country and this tension is still on ground because now, that changed the scenario into a different thing. That Jonathan is hated by the north, simply because he is Jonathan, he is from South South, ad do on. So, it was not that the people of the country were allowed the freedom to vote a candidate of their choice and in their wisdom decided not to vote for Jonathan.
Nobody could have raised any issue. But for people to say if someone is elected there will be trouble, this is what gave a wrong signal” The election was manipulated at different levels, as according to him, “there were cases where religious leadership- Imams were made to preach on aFriday on the eve of the election that they should not vote for an infidel. Now the election was being contested by two principal candidates- one a Christian and the other a Muslim.”
“To a Muslim, anybody who is not a Muslim is an infidel. It means they were told not to vote for anybody, but Buhari. You see, this is the reason why I said people were manipulated, teleguided to vote and all these question of Card Reader is a bunkum. It did not work” “Either by an act of commission or omission, in most places in the north, people went and thumb printed ballot papers. Account was not kept of the numbers of ballot papers distributed at polling stations and used.
They were not accounted for even until today. So, there seem to be a connivance of some sort so much so that even traditional rulers were involved in the conspiracy. But for me, it amount to short sightedness and I hope that this will not plague this country into more trouble in the future. This is the sum total of my position with regards to the last general election” The elder statesman had concluded that the President’s travail emanated from his decision to contest the Presidency while the north felt that the Principle of zoning as entrenched in the constitution of the PDP should have been adhered to.
The military’s inability to deal with the Boko Haram’s issue decisively was also seen as weakness on the part of the President as they posited that he was incapable of fighting the Book Haram insurgency. Through out his reign in power, Jonathan was also said to be the most criticized President that Nigeria ever produced since Independence in 1960 Democratic Culture One fact which incontrovertible, however, is that history will remember President Jonathan as someone who from the onset set the machinery in motion for the sound democratic culture that Nigeria and Nigerians will enjoy in future.
Shortly after the 2007 general election, Nigeria assumed the status of a pariah nation which no one wanted to associate with despite the claims of being the “ giant of Africa”. The decision was the direct results of the heavily manipulated 2007 election, which saw smaller African countries enjoyed better support because the nation was then seen as a failed state. President Jonathan who was not comfortable with the position vowed to change that by entrenching a democratic culture that will give respect to governments elected in Nigeria.
Against all odds, and against all counsel from some quarters, the President sought for and appointed Professor Attahiru Jega as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, a decision that was later widely applauded by even the Civil Society groups across the world because of the integrity he was expected to bring into the Commission. From that moment, the President not only gave Jega, a seasoned technocrat, a free hand to operate, but also provided him with every thing he requested to succeed. The President had also vowed that if he was defeated in any election, he was ready to quite office .
For the first time, Nigerians began to see free and fair elections with Courts upturning verdict in favour of opposition parties without interference. Thus the foundation for free and fair election was layer in Nigeria under President Jonathan, following his recognition of the fact that the starting point of good governance is the conferment of legitimacy on that government.
When a government is seen as legitimate, which means it has derived its powers from the people, then whatever that government does will have some acceptance and such as government can also be voted out at the will of the people if they failed to perform. As part of measures to ensure that the nation’s unity was not jeopardized, the President convoked the 2014 national conference, which previous administration dreaded to thread on and allowed the body to freely discuss the problems and proffer solutions to the challenges facing the country.
Regrettably however, he has not been able to see through the full implementation of the recommendations of the conference and it is only hoped that the incoming administration will have the courage to re- visit it. The administration of President Jonathan also embarked on the oil and gas sector roadmap, which gave birth to the well thought out concept of “ Local Content Act” which today has succeeded in opening up the sector to Nigerians and created several thousands of jobs Due to the foresight of President Jonathan, today, Nigeria has a savings put aside for the raining day with the creation of the Sovereign Wealth Fund despite that fact that some governors fought it to a stand still.
Corruption To fight corruption, President Jonathan abandoned the old ways of playing to the gallery, as practiced under the regime before his where the anti- graft institutions were the “images, the hammer and anvil of a strong man” who used the body to witch hunt perceived criminals and reward those who helped them to persecute political enemies, as it were. Infrastructural Development: Transformation Agenda Some of the biggest achievements of the outgoing administration were in the infrastructure development sector in areas such as roads, rail transport systems revivals and the investments in the water transportation, aviation, as well as information technology, just to mention a few.
The President is leaving Aso Villa, with his head help up with pride, and this much has been acknowledged by world leaders, particularly for conducting a free and fair election that he lost and congratulated the winner even before the final results were collated, knowing fully well that apart from growing Nigeria’s economy to become the largest in Africa, he has also grown the nation’s democracy to the true position as the real giant of Africa.