By Reno Omokri
I almost exclaimed Et tu, Brute?, after reading Ike Abonyi’s piece with the title ‘Jonathan’s 2023 Selfish Gamble”. Because if anybody should accuse former President Jonathan of selfishness, it should not be Ike, for obvious reasons.
And it cuts to the bone when Ike says “political players tend to reason selfishly when it comes to domiciling political power.”
As I write this, former President Jonathan is probably the most selfless person, not just in Nigeria, but in West Africa, and possibly Africa. Dr Jonathan and the word selfish do not belong in the same sentence. And I find it very disturbing that no less a person, than the special adviser to the Peoples Democratic Party Chairman, Ike Abonyi, would write this. Why? What type of gaslighting is this?
Since 2015, former President Jonathan has spent his post Presidential life building consensus and rapprochement within the PDP. He is not paid for this. He is doing it because it is an extension of his omega personality. He reconciled the party after the October 7, 2018, PDP Presidential primary threw up former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. He reconciled the differences within the PDP during the Sheriff saga.
I do not want to say too much on the main issue Ike Abonyi raised. But what I can say publicly, confidently, and without fear of contradiction, is that former President Jonathan is not a threat to anybody in the Peoples Democratic Party. Read between the lines Ike (and those behind him). Headlines should not move people. The media is a business. They know what will sell. Show some political maturity and refuse to be so gullible to the extent that you believe everything you read.
What the PDP needs now is unity, not a witch-hunt against Dr Jonathan. We ‘lost’ the 2019 Presidential election because we could not afford to put at least one man (or woman) as an agent in each of the 120,000 polling units in Nigeria on Election Day.
We need to come together to make sure that that mistake is not repeated in 2023. And to do that, we need cohesion, internal unity, a pooling of our resources, and a network of committed party loyalists nationwide.
Sowing seeds of discord, like Ike has done, will not help our cause. Not at all. In his New Year message, the Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, in a statement ironically released by Ike, urged Nigerians to use 2021 to save Nigeria.
How does Ike and those he represents intend to do that by attacking the man who is the face of democracy in Africa?
I mean, considering the effort former President Jonathan has put into advancing democracy in Africa, it almost amounts to sheer madness that someone who is a spokesman to his party chairman will write about him the way Ike has done.
Look at what he has achieved in Mali as Special Envoy of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Nobody thought it was possible to bring peace to Mali, including some of those who applauded when GEJ was appointed.
Yet, at significant risks to his life, Dr Jonathan went to Mali seven times, even visiting the troubled regions in the hinterland, and meeting the influential Islamic clerics who inspired fighters amongst the protesters.
He finally persuaded the military junta to release ousted President Keïta on August 27, 2020. He got them to agree to a transitional government, sworn in on Friday, September 25, 2020, with Mr Jonathan in attendance.
The PDP should be so proud of this effort, as well as Dr Jonathan’s role in advancing democracy in Tanzania, South Africa, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mozambique. I am beside myself, trying to understand why Ike did what he did. What is the motive? It is not helpful to him or those he represents.
Ike writes that he expects “former President Goodluck Jonathan to be forthright and unqualified in reacting to his name being dropped in some quarters as a hopeful for the Aso Rock in 2023.”
Let me burst Ike’s bubble-when you have gotten to the level in life where God has put former President Jonathan, you talk, not because you want to say something, but because you have something to say.
Ike alleged that “Jonathan’s current position (on restructuring) is being influenced by his strange dream of returning to power in 2023 and needed to find himself on the same side with his new partners.”
Is it that Ike is trying to revise history or he is so eager to please those who sent him on this errand that he has forgotten, or perhaps was never aware, that the stand former President Jonathan took at the 18th Daily Trust Dialogue, on January 21, 2021, is consistent with the stand that he has always taken on restructuring, which is that Nigeria needs restructuring, but that restructuring on its own will not solve all of Nigeria’s challenges, excerpt we also “restructure our minds.”
This was a position former President Jonathan took as far back as 2012 when Dahiru Musdapher was the chief justice of Nigeria, and he (then President Jonathan) had called a stakeholder meeting to address the delay in trying corruption cases.
Musdapher attended the meeting with one chief judge from each of the six geo-political zones, along with then-Senate President David Mark, then-Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, then-chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Lamorde, and Ekpo Nta, then-chairman of the ICPC.
At that meeting, former President Jonathan and Musdapher came to a joint agreement that Nigerians needed a mind restructuring to understand that stealing should not be branded as corruption, but should be called stealing, because when you tag it corruption, it makes it less odious! He even said Nigerians should use the word ole (Yoruba for thief) when referring to thieving politicians.
One of the issues that restructuring is meant to tackle is the corruption and injustice in the system, and former President Jonathan was repeating his point of 2012.
He was not trying to appease the North, as Ike asserted.
And you can imagine a media adviser to the PDP Chairman writing that “It is so disgusting and disheartening that President Jonathan’s administration was so underwhelming in performance to the extent that Nigerians wanted anything but him.”
Sad. Very sad. But let me remind Ike that under Jonathan both the World Economic Forum and CNNMoney projected Nigeria as the fourth and third fastest growing economy globally respectively. It was also under Jonathan that we overtook South Africa as Africa’s largest economy and generated our highest GDP growth rate of 6.3% in 2014.
May I also remind Ike that under Jonathan, Nigeria was the top FDI destination in Africa, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Is Ike unaware that under Jonathan, Nigeria was acknowledged by the International Food Policy Research Institute IFPRI, as having reduced hunger levels by 2013. Their annual Global Hunger Index showed that Nigeria’s index dropped from 16.3 in 2005 to 15 in 2013. This led to Nigeria receiving an FAO award for reducing poverty on June 19, 2013. Today, Nigeria is the world headquarters for extreme poverty.
Or is he forgetting that under Jonathan, in 2014, Nigeria made her best ever improvement on the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, moving from 144 the previous year, to 136, an 8 point improvement. Whereas, according to Transparency International, Nigeria is more corrupt today than it was under the previous administration, having moved 13 places backwards in the CPI, from 136 in 2014 to 149 in 2021 (our worst performance ever.)
Ike should also be informed that Jonathan built 165 almajiri schools and 14 new federal universities, with 10 of those in the North. As a result, of the 1,543,683 who took the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) in 2013, 1,074,065 obtained five credits and above, representing a 70 per cent pass rate. The significance of this will not be appreciated until you consider the fact that in the previous year, 2012, only 615,123 representing 39% of those who took the examinations obtained five credits and above. Meanwhile, today, Nigeria is the world headquarters for out of school children because not a single new university has been completed since 2015 and no new almajiri schools has been built to cater for the 13.5 million children who roam the streets of a Northern Nigeria without access to formal education.
Former President Jonathan lost the 2015 Presidential election not because of the poorly defined reason given by Ike, but because Bola Tinubu made a deal with General Buhari and supported him on the understanding that after his tenure, Buhari will hand over to him.
I study politics like a science. Go through the results of each of the elections that Buhari has participated in between 2003 and 2019.
In 2003, Buhari secured 12,710,022 votes. In 2011 he got 12,214,853 votes. In both of these elections, the bulk of his 12 million votes (about 89%) came from the North.
But in 2015, Buhari was able to amass 15,424,921 votes, because of the Southwest in general and because of Tinubu specifically.
General Buhari has never exceeded 12 million votes in the North every time he contested against a Southerner. He has always been consistent with that number. He has a captive audience in the North and is anathema in the South. He needed a Southern Quisling and he found his mark in Tinubu.
And when he lost, Jonathan was honourable. He conceded while the votes were being counted and did not go to court to challenge his loss (the first time such a thing happened in Nigeria).
And Ike ends his piece saying “Those routing (Ike, learn to spell. It is rooting, not routing) for Jonathan knows (and it is know, not knows) as a fact that he could not turn this nation away from drifting.”
Well, I end mine by asking Ike to face those ‘routing’ for Jonathan, and leave Jonathan alone. He has not asked anyone to ‘rout’ for him!
*Omokri is former aide to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan