by: Anthony Kolawole
Nigeria’s former President Goodluck Jonathan might pass as Nigeria’s most mischievous former leader. Clad in the linen and fake illusion of a national statesman recently, Jonathan has been fruitlessly attempting to re-write the history of Nigeria under his leadership by twisting empirical facts and also, cleverly encouraging voices of dissent in parts of Nigeria.
While in office, nothing mattered to Jonathan and public appeal or pulse never, ever appeased his sensibilities. Everything fell flat under his watch. Jonathan shunned action when it mattered most and looked the other way when his comrades or vermin in power criminally pillaged Nigeria and mindlessly feasted on the commonwealth of the people like bees on honey. He demonstrated in words and actions a terrifying incapacity to preside over the affairs of a country, as complex as Nigeria.
Now, the Ex-President has embarked on the lonely voyage of personal image laundering. And each time he numbly barks in foreign lands, in his usual distinctive lifeless fashion, Jonathan struggles to pacify himself by touching on sensitive national issues and cleverly inciting the masses against the government, when he is not downrightly casting aspersions on the sound leadership of Nigeria by President Muhammedu Buhari.
Dr. Jonathan was in America recently on the invitation of the chairman U.S. House Sub-Committee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, Congressman, Christopher H. Smith, to speak on the supposed crisis facing Christians in Nigeria and the Niger Delta question. In the course of the presentation, Jonathan bandied verifiable lies and desperately sought to elevate his ruinous leadership of Nigeria beyond the precincts known to Nigerians who angrily ousted him through the ballot.
Jonathan incredibly declared in his speech that his administration battled impunity and had ended Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) by the first quarter of 2015, when foreign nations agreed to sell arms to Nigeria. Leaning on the agitations in his Niger Delta region, Jonathan advocated for the implementation of fiscal federalism as the only panacea to ending restiveness in the oil-rich region and then, canvassed for the establishment of Religious Equity Commission to tackle religious persecution and extremism among series of other issues.
In the first instance, it is self-delusion and extremely ridiculous for Jonathan to vaguely claim his administration “… had rolled back the Islamic terrorist sect, Boko Haram, by the end of the first quarter of 2015 after we were able to get weapons to arm our military.” A dishourable leader does not earn veneration by displaying unbeatable skills of lies or deception
No Nigerian is in doubt that President Muhammedu Buhari inherited Nigeria on May 29, 2015, when at least 14 LGAs in the Northeast were under the territorial control of Boko Haram insurgents. Terrorism peaked under his tenure, with multiple bomb explosions in different parts of Nigeria every day. Terrorists foisted their emblems and insignias in communities, after killing, abducting or deposing traditional rulers of these communities, declared their version of Islamic Caliphates and appointed their own Emirs to govern the people.
These are bare facts of the history of yesterday in Nigeria. It took the wisdom of President Buhari to restructure, fund and overhaul the military high command, especially the appointment of Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) with the sole charge to end terrorism in the country that liberated the Northeast and Nigeria from the chains of terrorism.
It sounds hollow for the former President to claim he purchased arms for the military to battle Boko Haram. But it was under his watch that Nigerian troops would sheepishly bade retreats at the battlefront in the face of menacing insurgents on account of terrorists’ superior weapons. Besides, the revelations from the office of his former National Security Adviser (ONSA) Col. Sambo Dasuki about the $2.1 billion arms procurement fund, which the former President permitted its alleged diversion and embezzlement to fund his 2015 re-election campaigns should keep the veil of shame permanently on his face.
Without prejudice to whatever the courts may decide on some of the cases before it, at least, scores of Nigerians who dipped their fingers into the arms procurement fund, opted for the plea bargain clause of the EFCC and have been refunding these monies, which attests to the veracity of the claims of embezzlement of the funds. So, when and with what funds did Jonathan purchase the weapons he is claiming? Earlier statements credited to him made such allusions and holding tenaciously to such claims means he has secret to expose to Nigerians.
Former President Jonathan has never ceased eulogizing the brilliance of the ideas enunciated by his 2014 National Conference. It was his idea; it was his initiative and everything about it was teleguided by him. He handpicked idle political loyalists, associates and friends, whom he assembled in Abuja. They were fed and paid fat allowances for a deal to rework the existing framework of Nigeria.
They churned out a report to him, but he could not muster the courage to implement it . Again, he had all the power and resources to implement what came out of the National Conference, but he chickened out and dumped the report. It implies that as leader of Nigeria at that material time, he was not sure of even himself or dreaded his own shadows.
But today, Jonathan feels Nigerians should not be allowed a moment of respite until government adopt or implement the recommendations of his arrangee and manipulated National Conference. Phew! Even if one agrees with him that religious persecution and extremism is a problem in Nigeria, both must have existed when he ruled Nigeria for six years.
So, if the National Conference recommended the setting up of Religious Equity Commission as remedy to ending religious crisis in the country by its powers “to arrest and prosecute those who contravene the law,” what hindered Jonathan from singling out this aspect to implement, even if the entire report had to suffer neglect? An executive proclamation by him, backed by a Bill to the National Assembly would have sealed the deal. But Jonathan gazed into the skies as usual and allowed this “brilliant” idea to waste and he is today so excited about it.
Jonathan needs to be reminded that there are enough existing laws to curb criminality of whatever dimension, whether political, religious or economic in the country. Perhaps, the former President needs to be reminded that the problem of Nigeria has always been the political will to enforce these laws. The solution to these problems would hardly be the multiplicity of enforcement agencies or creation of independent bodies as preached by Jonathan. The 14 persons he cited as example who were sentenced to death in the aftermath of the Zagon-Kataf crisis by President Ibrahim Babangida were not convicted by any Religious Equity Commission (REC).
Dr. Jonathan bandies a strange concept of impunity. In his address, ending impunity is establishment of his underfunded universities and almajiri schools in Northern Nigeria and convicting Boko Haram Terrorists like Kabiru Sokoto and his gang members.
Jonathan says, “the point I want to emphasize by citing these incidences is that my administration had the political will to halt impunity in Nigeria and that is why killings due to religious extremism was localized to the Northeast with occasional killings in other zones of the North….”
This is a strange doctrine of impunity. But if his tactics worked so excellently as he is insinuating, what prevented the administration from ending terrorism? How can he explain the reality of insurgency reaching its peak when he was president? What impunity is greater than when you allow your accolades and political leeches to dubiously divert public funds meant for procurement of arms to protect the sovereignty of the country you lead as President and lots more? Jonathan would do himself personal good if he refrains from making jest of Nigerians, whom he disappointed so glaringly.
Nigerians demur Jonathan’s new found passion for the plight of his people in the Niger Delta. He believes intervention agencies like NNDC, OMPADEC and Niger Delta Ministry have not been beneficial to arresting the pervasive poverty and environmental degradation in the region more than the 13 percent derivation funds the Obasanjo regime conceded to oil-producing states.
The former President admitted that over politicization of intervention projects handled by these agencies is mainly responsible for default. At least, it is good news to read him admit that the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) has not neglected the Niger Delta region as widely propagated and that the people mismanaged these initiatives and the funds.
But when Jonathan held sway in Aso Rock, he identified these issues as problems of his people, but initiated no move to rectify. He even insulted their dignity and right to a better life by abandoning the UNEP assessment report which recommended the clean-up of Ogoni land. It is President Buhari that has implemented the report.
It is very unkind and uncharitable for Jonathan to preach and pin true fiscal federalism as the only remedy to militancy in the Niger Delta, as according to him, kings of yore in the region like King Jaja of Opobo and Nana Olomu who resisted the fretting away of their palm oil resources, and were similarly maltreated, deposed or exiled by imperial Britain, failed to halt the agitations. “Let me add that the punitive measures against these kings did not end the agitations, he said.
Aside the inciting intent of the contents of his submission, it is now clear the masked brains in the ever festering agitations for resource control and militancy in the Niger Delta. Not long ago, some militant groups accused Jonathan of sponsoring militancy in the region, but he stringently denied it. But with these confessions, no one is in doubt about some of the veiled forces that stoke fire and unrest in the region.
And relapsing into his dreamy National Conference report again, Jonathan concluded that from “the foregoing, the only option that will solve the agitation in the Niger Delta is true and Fiscal Federalism as practiced in the United States from whom we copied the Presidential model of government.”
Had Jonathan started the implementation of the true fiscal federalism in Nigeria and his successor or another government halted it, he would have earned himself the status of a hero. But he did nothing, but has metamorphosed into an executive activist for this campaign outside of office. It will be better, if he devotes time to explain to Nigerians why he failed to implement his “laudable” policies, but desires that another President swallow them hook and sinker.
Kolawole PhD is a University lecturer and contributed this piece from Keffi, Nasarawa State of Nigeria.