By Donu Kogbara
WHEN Dr Goodluck Jonathan became Acting President, while Yarâ€™Adua was still receiving treatment in Saudi Arabia, he acquired substantial powers and started to take bold decisions that moved the country forward.
But the atmosphere continued to be poisoned by uncertainty and tension.
There were constant debates about issues such as whether Yarâ€™Adua should be impeached for not handing over to Jonathan properly before he went abroad, whether his wife and cronies were lying when they said he was getting better, whether he would ever be well enough again to step back into the driving seat, whether a medical panel should be established to assess the state of his health, whether Jonathan would be pushed back into the number two slot when Yarâ€™Adua was dramatically flown back home under cover of darkness.
And so on.
When Yarâ€™Adua eventually passed away (may his soul rest in peace), many people â€“ including several Southerners and Northerners who genuinely regretted his unfortunate and premature demise â€“ breathed sighs of relief about the fact that Jonathan had become a fully- fledged President. And I noticed that most of the people who welcomed Jonathanâ€™s elevation fell into two main categories.
One group just felt that the nation had been seriously undermined while Yarâ€™Adua was ill, incommunicado and incapable of playing a dynamic leadership role.
The other group simply said that it was fitting that the Nigeria ship of state should, for the first time ever, be run by a Niger Deltan.
Every brand new leader has virulent opponents from day one. But most folks are willing, initially at least, to quietly or noisily support brand new leaders who have reasonable track records and unthreatening images. And Jonathan received enormous amounts of goodwill when he first took over.
I clearly recall being in many places where anyone who dared to criticise him was shouted down.
However, this â€œhoneymoonâ€ period rarely lasts for any leader. Coldly analytical scepticism usually sets in after a while. And many of those who kicked off by praising Jonathan to the high heavens are now saying that they are sick of him.
For the past few weeks, I have been regularly encountering disgruntled citizens â€“ his fellow Niger Deltans in particular â€“ who once regarded Jonathan as a potential Messiah who could deliver change, development, prosperity and stability, but are now furiously complaining about what he has done or not done.
A major percentage of these former fans are even seriously thinking about not voting for Jonathan if he decides to stand as a presidential candidate next year.
And, frankly, though I donâ€™t agree with every negative opinion that Jonathanâ€™s nouveau detractors are expressing, I understand why they are so aggrieved.
Despite being a longstanding South-South advocate who was sad when Yarâ€™Adua died but was nevertheless glad that he was being replaced by â€œmy big brotherâ€ Jonathan, I am not totally happy about his regimeâ€™s modus operandi and mindset.
And I must confess that there are times when I am so disillusioned that I wonder why I bothered to hang a large photograph of him in my house.
But you know what I tell myself and other dissatisfied Niger Deltans whenever we are tempted to give up on our Oga?…â€œITâ€™S NOT JUST ABOUT JONATHAN!â€
It is not about an individual who possesses flaws like all mere mortals. It is about important collective aspirations that should transcend personal gripes.
And Iâ€™m sorry if this sounds primitively and blindly sectional, but I have wearily concluded that all Niger Deltans should throw their weight behind Jonathan – not necessarily because of who he is but because of what he represents.
Since Nigeria gained independence from British colonial masters nearly 50 years ago, nobodyÂ from our geopolitical zone has ever occupied the top post.
Most of this countryâ€™s wealth flows from our ancestral lands and creeks.
But we have been cruelly and consistently marginalised. And since we have yearned for a leader â€œof our ownâ€ for ages, we must not waver or falter now that one of us has finally been given a chance to run the show.
We may not always like the way he runs it. He (and those of his sidekicks who are corrupt, arrogant and inept) may frequently or occasionally upset us. And we are entitled to bellyache when we are angry with him and them. But we should still try to stand by him because he is from our beleaguered backyard!
I also have a photograph of Barack Obama hanging in my house because I have a sense of history. Even if Obama did not impress me â€“ and he does – I would still celebrate him as the first Black American President. And it is this same sense of history that has persuaded me to keep Jonathanâ€™s portrait on my wall.
Dr GoodluckÂ Jonathan comes from Ogbia, the local government area from which the first barrel of Nigerian oil was exported in 1958. And there is an element of Poetic Justice – something mystical – about the fact that God chose a man from that precise location to be the first Niger Deltan to head the Giant of Africa.