But there is no reason to be harsh to the man being awaited in Otuoke. He has, at least, drawn attention to that small backwater enclave in Bayelsa State. From the day he landed in Abuja to resume as Vice-President in the Umaru Yar’Adua Presidency in 2007, he had set the stage for the examination of, an even intrusion into, his life. And what a life; what trajectory he has led in the last 16 years of public service, playing at both local and federal levels as the most unlikely custodian of power and influence.
His story, without doubt, will be a great lesson to humanity in general and to the outgoing President himself, in particular. His departure from office is instructive about the transient nature of power and how mere luck and subterfuge are not always sufficient as alternatives to merit and competence.
In the heat of his melancholic reign as president, when the public felt compelled to reassess, with a damning verdict, the mandate given to him in 2011 as the first elected President from a minority tribe in Nigeria, Jonathan had pitiably described himself as the most abused (he apparently meant the most insulted) president ever. As he takes his exit formally from tomorrow, he will be leaving with the indignity of not just being the most slighted, but also as one, to be very candid, who epitomises what leadership ought not to be.
Even his supporters can hardly quarrel with this summation, that the man who calls himself Ebele Azikiwe is not South-South’s best shot at goal; all they seem to ask for is leniency, presuming that he seemed to mean well, but was just unable to surmount the myriad of challenges that confronted his administration.
But it is not a question of inability alone. It is more about incapacity – the stark unsuitability and, perhaps, unpreparedness, of his person for the position of authority. For one, inarticulation, which though counts as one of his major drawbacks, is not necessarily the main reason why he failed. He is disappointing because he presided over a government that was very corrupt but thought nothing of it, while also being incapable of identifying the most important needs of the people let alone providing them.
Jonathan supervised a fiefdom cabinet that had many serially lying to the citizens about the state of affairs, particularly of the nation’s finances and indebtedness. With the exception of a few, the cabinet of the past four years was a loathsome lot, which the President did not see the need to or lacked the guts to sack. From Power to Petroleum, Works and Agriculture and in particular the Finance ministry, it was a cabinet that flew at half mast.
Once the nation escaped the unpreparedness of his first year in office, which witnessed a series of policy summersaults and gross lack of cohesion; loads of other indiscretions followed, especially in the area of internal security and the provision of power and energy, which often caused enormous harm to the polity. For example, the last one month of fuel scarcity that almost shut down the entire economy was due, in part, to a President that couldn’t find his voice or lift a finger as the nation ground to a halt under his watch. If he didn’t consider a direct intervention necessary, did he not deem an explanation to the citizens statesmanlike, even if he had just a few days left as the helmsman?
But it was typical of him, always dignifying half-measures as a way of life which, anyway, he gleefully exemplified – dour, dull and dubious in actions and, often, in inactions.
But it all boils down to the misplaced sentiments that threw him up in the first place.
If he didn’t find the academic world fulfilling, perhaps for his inability to justify any form of claim to intellectuality, Jonathan is even not the type that should have been promoted beyond his modest faculty. His type always requires a comfort zone, with little exposure to the media and public. And if he must operate on a visible platform at all, he would always need the protection of a superior. It was this second-fiddle profile that defined his foray into politics, first as the deputy governor in Bayelsa State who became governor when Diprieye Alamiesiegha was impeached from office; and then as Vice-President who got an unexpected elevation when his principal, Yar’Adua, died in office.
It is often said that a deputy is like a spare tyre in politics. Jonathan typified this quintessential second fiddle persona, which most likely was what got him picked in the first instance for an unmistakably harmless, colourless mien – the type that won’t threaten the boss or betray any ambition for power. Fortune has always smiled on him until it became clear that to every Joe, there is always an expiry date for mediocrity.
Nigeria’s story may have been a classic case of topsy-turvy in her 55 years of existence. But the last five years under Jonathan have been quite appalling, almost traumatic as to have caused an outrage a few times. Yet, people got acclimatised, settling down to the comedy of errors exemplified by the inelegant manner in which the President and his wife, Dame Patience, carried themselves and the mindless way in which the economy was run.
Whereas Nigeria amassed unprecedented revenue from oil in his tenure, Jonathan simply turned the till over to a cabal for a bazaar, denying the nation true development and the privilege for citizens to enjoy being part of a wealthy and endowed nation. His idea of team spirit is to allow himself to be captured, by the women around him, in particular, and those who lack self-discipline at the sight of wads of dollars. While his wife desecrated the institution of the Presidency by her crude and unguarded statements, in torrents, other influential amazons helped themselves to ceaseless freebies.
In his first year in office alone, payments on petroleum subsidy grew from N250bn to N1.3trn, a quarter of the national budget. Yet, everybody else but Jonathan and his cohort was alarmed. Foreign reserves got depleted with impunity. He paid off no old debts but piled up an additional $23bn. He even had to borrow to pay salaries. If money was alleged to be missing, it didn’t matter to this Doctor of Zoology as long as it escaped the American radar. He redefined corruption to suit his whim, didn’t care if the figures added up or not and eventually turned his failed reelection bid into an astounding demonstration of larceny, until the common sense revolution brought change. Such profligacy cannot continue for another four years.
From tomorrow, he will be gone…but he won’t be history.
Dr. Jonathan and his wife will continue to remind us of the type of error a nation should never repeat. Even though he has hurt Nigeria enough, it is pointless to be unkind to him any further.
He should just go.