Special Report

May 7, 2010

A man called Goodluck

By Adekunle Adekoya
MOST Nigerian motorists never really pay attention to their spare tyres, until they get a flat in the middle of nowhere, or while racing to meet a crucial appointment. It is an attitude that is deployed in almost all spheres of life here.

In the political arena, once the governorship candidate has emerged, everybody settles down; what remains is to plug their selfish interests onto the “mains” of the governor, not bothering much about the person’s specifications of his running mate, who, in reality, is a “spare governor”, or in the case of Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, a “spare president.”

President Goodluck Jonathan

Even when he joined the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, it is highly unlikely that this man, whose luck has run very well so far factored in the vice-presidency, let alone the nation’s highest political office in his wildest imagination.
But Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in a startling move felled all the PDP aspirants, and almost single-handedly imposed Umaru Yar’Adua, who hitherto was not known to have indicated serious interest in the presidency on PDP platform.

If that was surprising, he further amazed the nation when all Nigerians learnt that Dr Jonathan was to be his running mate.

But it would seem that providence had, on occasions in his life as he was growing up, indicated that Jonathan was going places. Witness: In 1982, after the mandatory national service in NYSC, Jonathan sought appointment as a classroom teacher in the old Rivers State.

He was invited for interview by the old Rivers State Civil Service Commission, but as things would later turn out, he got appointment as an Inspector of Education (Science), apparently because he had impressed his interviewers. That was quite a feat and in real terms, a quantum leap, for he was thus able to get an appointment that normally took others many years to attain.

Earlier, as a young boy, his grandmother had nicknamed him “Zik,” apparently a wish that her grandson attains the prominence of the nation’s first president, the late Rt. Hon. Dr Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe. The late Zik had a Ph.D, and Dr Jonathan earned a similar degree in Zoology from the University of Port Harcourt.

Starting primary school at St. Stephen Primary School (now State School, Otuoke), which he completed at St Michael Primary School. Goodluck who was born 20 November 1957, had secondary education at Mater Dei High School , where he sat for and passed the West African School Certficate Examinations, WASCE, in 1975.

After a working stint at the Department of Customs & Excise from 1975 to 1977, he left and enrolled at the Zoology department of the University of Port Harcourt in 1977, graduating with honours in 1981. In 1985 he obtained a master’s degree in Fisheries & Hydrobiology, and a decade later, added a Ph.D.

However, the trajectory of his ascent to the Presidency began when he joined the PDP in 1999. A former Air Force Officer, Chief Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, better known as DSP or Alams, positioned himself to clinch the governorship ticket of the PDP in Bayelsa State, and Jonathan emerged his running mate.

Thus, the Biology teacher became Deputy Governor in 1999. Winning election for a second term in 2003, everything seemed to be going “well” until 2005, halfway into their tenure, when a money-laundering scandal erupted like a volcano, which swept Alamieyeseigha away from the governorship. It is still recent history; and again, providence uploaded the Biology teacher into higher office as Governor of Bayelsa State.

It was during their campaign in 2007 that the nation began to get apprehensive of the ticket on account of the health status of Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua. Many Nigerians will still remember the spectacle of former president Obasanjo calling Yar’Adua on his mobile phone at a rally, asking him whether he had died.

Yar’Adua was to surface later at a rally in Ado-Ekiti, wearing a sweater under his caftan, an indication of how well, physically it was with him then. And then, this.

Most Nigerians (an exceedingly tolerant lot of people) probably wanted Yar’Adua to complete his first term, and opt out, but Providence had other designs. In some respects, Jonathan’s ascendancy is similar to that of Obasanjo, and to that extent, both are providentially men of history.

Obasanjo became military Head of State after an abortive coup claimed the life of General Muhammed; in 1999, people I will call “supremacists” decided, in their wisdom, to unspring him from Abacha’s gaol and install him president, using the PDP as their beast of burden.

Now that he has full presidential powers, he should use them immediately to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians while Alhaji Yar’Adua recovers completely. It is the only way he can remain a providentially-propelled politician.