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The good in Jonathan’s luck

By Rotimi Fasan
THERE’S, perhaps, nothing better than the destiny of a man who has thrust upon him what many struggle, kill or get killed, to get.

A man like that would be the envy of his mates. Such is the story of Nigeria’s Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan, who in the space of a few years since he became a politician seems to be living to the hilt the full meaning of his first name, Goodluck. One cannot but emphasise the ‘good’ in VP Jonathan’s name, the truth being that not every luck is good. Some luck can be the very opposite of good, but that is not the case of Goodluck Jonathan.

Perhaps next to Obasanjo to whose caprice (or is it generosity) he, Jonathan, owes the greater of his political success, there is no luckier Nigerian politician in recent memory than Nigeria’s Vice President. Not even many of those who later rose to prominence in leading positions having started out with much humbler aspirations, including former President Shehu Shagari whose ambition was to be a senator but ended up in the presidency- not many in his class can lay claim to the kind of luck that has come the way of Goodluck Jonathan.

Having risen from relative obscurity as the Deputy Governor of laidback Bayelsa State, his principal, DSP Alameseigha having run foul of the law (his supporters would say snared by -who else?- Obasanjo), arrested and charged for money laundering among other offences, before his infamous escape from Britain- with Alameseigha incapacitated in this manner, it became the lot of Goodluck Jonathan to take over the mantle of leadership in Bayelsa.

But it is a measure of the man’s loyalty or, perhaps, lack of confidence or colour or, indeed, all three that he was virtually railroaded into the substantive position of governor even when it had become clear that Alameseigha had forfeited his claim to the office despite a disgraceful guard of honour mounted for him following his Alcatraz-like escape home.

Goodluck Jonathan would have nothing to do with the position of governor of Bayelsa, he continued to prevaricate until it became impossible to pretend he couldn’t be governor in the absence of DSP. His tenure thereafter did not witness any landmark achievement. As with his present position as Vice President, the only thing remarkable about his time as governor of Bayelsa, aside trying to prove loyal to Alameseigha even in jail, was the complete lack of charisma or remarkable achievement.

But governor, Jonathan became and not longer after that the race started for the 2007 presidential election. Several prominent politicians from the aggrieved Niger-Delta showed their interest, including Dr. Peter Odili and ‘fine boy’, Donald Duke. Given their closeness to the ultimate kingmaker then in Nigeria, the man who had the knife and the yam, President Obasanjo, many expected either of the two men, especially Peter Odili, to clinch the prize as PDP presidential candidate.

But the wily farmer had something else up the folds of his agbada. And so it was that he sprung ‘Umooru’, Musa Yar’Adua, lately governor of another laidback state, Katsina, on Nigeria. Yar’Adua had neither indicated interest in the race nor was he one of the front-runners. But Obasanjo knew best.

And to complete the surprise mainly he and, maybe, a few other cultists in the PDP chose Goodluck Jonathan, just a few months before deputy governor of Bayelsa, as his running mate. The unlikely pair from the PDP, both former school teachers, went on to win the race, respectively, for Nigerian President and Vice President in 2007.

The administration had hardly been inaugurated when signs started showing that another good luck was in the corner for Jonathan, to wit, that he might sooner than later become Nigeria’s president. The reason was no other than that from even the campaigns, candidate Umaru Yar’Adua had, on account of his fragile health, shown remarkable incapacity for the position he was aspiring for.

The campaigns had no sooner taken off than he was bundled off to Germany for medical attention. He has since been in and out of hospital several times, the latest being in Saudi Arabia.

With about 18 months left of their first term and the President again in hospital, many Nigerians, including the prominent and not-so-prominent have been calling for his resignation and attention has once more shifted on the man who is constitutionally positioned to take over in the event the President Yar’Adua chooses to go take a deserved rest in order to fully take care of his health.

Let me quickly add that this is neither an attempt to gloat over or make light of President Yar’Adua’s health condition or, indeed, wish him ill. He is still the President and, like many Nigerians, not forgetting those presently shedding more tears than the bereaved and would want us to believe that the presidency is Yar’Adua’s for life- it is both my prayer and wish that the President gets well and returns home safely.

But not to continue in the manner that suggests he is failing to give attention to his health, holding on greedily to the office of president even when his health would not permit. Doing that is damaging not just to him alone but to the country as a whole.

There is nothing superstitious about the matter nor is it a question of wishing someone ill. Framers of the Nigerian Constitution anticipated this and had wisely made provisions for the President to step aside on several grounds, including ill health. We should not shy away from this point.

In the event the President chooses to take this option and not listen to those timeservers goading him on to a second term- the moment he chooses to leave the office on any of the grounds prescribed by the Constitution, the man to take over is his deputy and that happens to be Goodluck Jonathan.

That is the man we should all begin to look at and ask searching questions, including how prepared he is for the position, and if not, how he can be better groomed within the limited time available. Should Jonathan then emerge president, it would be yet one more good in his luck.

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