By JAPHETH OMOJUWA
First impressions, they say, are everything. Not the same for anyone who is president of a country like Nigeria. With Nigerians, last impressions are just as important as first impressions. Goodluck Jonathan’s last week as President has seen Nigeria shut down due to power cuts and fuel scarcity. Lives have been lost, airlines cancelled flights, media houses and banks closing early, telecom companies declaring their services would be hampered by the scarcity of diesel. One could argue, despite the turmoil that characterised his tenure, that this has been Jonathan’s worst week as President. In the midst of what has looked increasingly like a national security issue, the government has offered nothing in terms of explanations or an attempt to offer the way forward.
But to sum the Jonathan administration up through the events of the last one week would be unfair. It would amount to saying a President who led a country for five years can be judged according to what happened within just a week. Yes, there has been a clear display of government failure over the last one week but the truth is, this administration has been failing for the better part of the last five years. It is only expectedly signing out, looking to clear the minds of those who ever doubted its incompetence to have such doubts cleared.
President Jonathan will be remembered as that man who appeared uninterested as Nigerians battled a cabal to have him installed as acting president, and eventually president. He was that politician that Nigerians, ignoring the platform he ran on, instead assumed they could vote for him without regard to the party he was representing.
Many will remember President Jonathan for insisting the October 2010 Abuja Independence Day bombing had nothing to do with MEND despite the group insisting it carried out the terrorist attack. Between 2010 and 2011, Jonathan was clearly the most loved politician in the country. His seeming harmless mien combined well with a good messaging had him win the 2011 election despite claims by certain people the election was rigged. Maybe, the election was indeed rigged but he really was the most popular candidate in 2011, hands down!
That didn’t last. By January 2012, the President had burnt all the goodwill he enjoyed with the people. Allowing marketers and corruption combine to milk the country of N1.6tn subsidy payments was bad enough, the President was now seen as working with the same cabal to transfer the cost of corruption and the inefficient subsidy system to the people. The revolt lasted for weeks but the President had his way by increasing fuel prices to N97 from N65.
He had his way then, many Nigerians simply bided their time. Maybe, things would have turned out differently had the administration prosecuted and jailed those mainly responsible for the 2011 subsidy heists, we will never know. Maybe, doing something about the increasing cost of governance would have made a difference will be hard to guess but things only got worse for the administration from there.
Boko Haram’s bombing activities became intense and persistent. If some thought he could not have done much about the bombings, a few would forgive him for the things he did just after some of such bombings. Two Nigerian states, Kaduna and Yobe, were under attack when the President departed the country to attend the Rio+20 United Nations Summit in Rio, Brazil. The smoke from the previous day’s bombing of Nyanya had not disappeared while the President was already in Kano, not only receiving an Ibrahim Shekarau defecting for the umpteenth time but indeed captured on camera dancing! The President was dancing while the nation mourned! Things simply kept piling up.
Fifty nine boys got butchered at Buni Yadi while the President and his handlers partied on, under the guise of a centenary celebration. Several more gaffes like that became the norm rather than the exception. If the President cared about the predicament of the North-East and its endless devastation in the hands of Boko Haram, his actions showed the exact opposite.
Then came the abduction of the Chibok girls in April. What followed is unforgivable and Nigerians indeed refused to forgive the administration on this one. Several acts of negligence, indecision and outright carelessness have simply meant that over 400 days after, the Chibok girls remain abducted. You better not even try to imagine what life would be for them now, for those of them that survived the snakes of Sambisa Forest and the terror of mad Abubakar Shekau and his fellow gang of murderers. The government was desperate to wish the Chibok issue away so it adopted the Bring Back Our Girls advocacy group as its opposition. It should never have done that; it lost that particular battle because at each turn, #BringBackOurGirls always showed the President and his government as not as interested in rescuing the girls as it was in making it look like the group was an enemy of the state.
Many things went down under the administration, that if Jonathan ever decides to reflect on his time as president, without the burden of office and the stanching miasma of sycophants, he’d see that he was the one person responsible for his own fall from power. Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke stayed on forever as Minister of Petroleum Resources, while each new day she spent in office helped to further deplete the President’s political capital. She was an unnecessary liability he should have done away with strategically; she stayed on so they would both deservingly leave together this Friday. Princess Stella Oduah was eventually eased out of office but it was already an act too little – no prosecution – and too late. Seeing as it was apparent she had ordered two cars with N255mn of taxpayers’ money. There’d be no need to state that Abba Moro, Minister of Interior, who was culpable in the death of some 19 National Immigration Service job applicants in March of 2014, will this week exit government in the very same position.
That was an identity of the Goodluck Jonathan administration: incompetence was fine as long as loyalty was guaranteed; corruption was permission as long as usefulness to the government via election donation was on the cards. Heck! Embattled Buruji Kashamu was President Jonathan’s main ally in the South-West in the run-up to the 2015 elections. Things were really that bad.
When your administration has to deal with endless reports of missing money, missing children and adults, missing accountability and have that combined with endless political battles against the likes of Olusegun Obasanjo and governors of your own party, you’d have needed more than luck to retain power.
In the end, luck could only take Goodluck so far. In 48 hours, Nigerians will be saying goodbye to Goodluck Jonathan. You can bet most of them will not care about a farewell, there is proof of that, they made him the very first casualty of a loss by an incumbent president in the history of Nigeria.
For Jonathan though, his concession call to Buhari was probably the most important thing he did as President. That call was not just about him conceding the election, it did help to quell tension across the country. History will not be fair if it forgets to credit him for this. So then, Jonathan was a very bad President who somehow did a very good thing on his way out of power. Goodbye Jonathan!