Goodluck Jonathan, Bayelsa election and Nigeria’s post-truth democracy

By Wealth Dickson Ominabo

Fake news, hate speech and misinformation have become the hallmarks of Nigeria’s democracy since the commencement of this administration. A period that has been characterized by suppression of truth, propaganda and falsehood. State and non-state actors’ resort to fabrication of lies to sustain legitimacy at different times within our polity. Today, there is an uneven competition between different segments of the society and political players to undo another in the game of falsehood.

While falsehood and misinformation are not new concepts in communication, especially in the area of political communication, there is a worrisome dimension that fake news has begun to take as it has continued to shape national discourse in our country. Fake news is becoming a major challenge that questions the sustenance of our democracy.

Former Nigeria’s President, Goodluck Jonathan has recently been in the spotlight following the outcome of the Bayelsa election conducted in November 2019. First, there was the news that he worked against his own party, the Peoples Democratic Party; that he supported the All Progressives Congress (APC)candidate, David Lyon. After then, another news surfaced that he was grooming himself for the 2023 presidential election. Recently, the rumor mill has been busy with the news that he is responsible for the Supreme Court decision that disqualified the APC’s candidate a day to his inauguration as the governor of Bayelsa.

While some account of the rumor stated that former President Jonathan had negotiated the return of Bayelsa State to PDP with President Muhammadu Buhari when he visited the State House in January, others say he made calls to the Rivers State Governor Wike and Justice Mary Odili to ensure that the victory of the APC at the polls was reversed.

In a sane society, you will expect that such conjectures will not gain traction in social spheres, regrettably even enlightened people jump into this bandwagon in their political analysis while discussing David Lyon’s political fate. To me, it remains a brazen display of illogicality to surmise that former President Jonathan and President Buhari will sit to discuss how to upturn the fate of a people’s will against the interest of Buhari’s own party the APC, given the importance the party attached to that significant foothold in the Niger Delta.

Today in Bayelsa there are some who believe that Dr. Jonathan is responsible for aborting the ‘next level reality’ in Bayelsa. While APC supporters accuse him of greed for not putting the interest of the State ahead of his own personal and party interest, within the PDP, some ignorantly believe this rumor to be true, thus celebrating him as a faithful party man who came to the rescue of the party at a time when it mattered most.

The interesting part of this illogicality is that just months ago; immediately after results of the elections were announced, members of the APC hailed the former President and called him a Statesman and father to all while the PDP supporters heaped all sorts of blames on Jonathan, apparently ignoring the internal party squabbles within the PDP in the State that led to the loss for the party.

The premise of most of these rumors have always been Jonathan’s association with supposed political foes. For example, many wondered why the former President agreed to receive APC stalwarts at his home after a governorship election that saw his party lose to the opposition in Bayelsa State. Why should he congratulate David Lyon knowing fully well that his party was contesting the results of the polls, many asked? And recently, when the Supreme Court disqualified the APC and INEC declared Sen. Douye Diri of the PDP as the Governor of Bayelsa State, Dr. Jonathan, consistent with his personal philosophies of peace, politics without bitterness, nation building and respect for the rule of law, congratulated Sen. Douye Diri and asked Bayelsans to unite and work together towards a peaceful and prosperous state.

Now you have people shouting “why should Jonathan congratulate Diri when he initially refused to support him. If he had no hand in the “miraculous” Supreme Court verdict why did Douye Diri visit him immediately after his inauguration”?

The former President’s genial disposition as a democrat and his commitment to nation building is something which many are yet to understand and even appreciate. That is why you will hear some accuse him of anti-party activities, and others criticize him of inducing the judiciary to save his party.

Jonathan as a politician had before and after presidency always declared that he has no enemies to fight. Jonathan, as former President of Nigeria and a former governor of Bayelsa, is a key stakeholder in the political development not only in Bayelsa but in the entire country, hence his doors will always be open to people of different political leanings.

Former President Jonathan since leaving office in 2015 has risen to become a totem of political liberality and an icon of peace and consolidation of democracy in Africa, hence boxing him up in the frames of a PDP man who should ostracise all those outside his political family will amount to a “political diffusion” and naivety.

In 2015 when he had the power, he didn’t seek to manipulate the Judiciary to perpetuate himself in office, so why on earth and on what basis will he seek to procure a judgement to further someone else’s political ambition. In this post truth era, there is no doubt that emotions have overriding influence over logic, lies becoming more plausible than truth, men are no longer controlled by their brains but by their emotions. Opinion molders and news gatekeepers have a responsibility to ensure that truth triumphs always in the hearts and ears of those within their spheres of influence.

*Mr. Ominabo is a Yenagoa based public affairs commentator; Twitter @wealthdickson

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