By Tonnie Iredia

As a young TV news reporter many years ago, one public officer I had to cover extensively was by name, Mr. John James, Commissioner of Police in the then Midwest State. One of my colleagues hypothesized then that the man was not likely to be a Nigerian because he had two English names.

Although I couldn’t  quite agree with his reasoning as I had Nigerian teachers back in my school days that had such double foreign names, I have always subconsciously had doubts about the nigerianness of such persons. So, do I still feel same now with a citizen Goodluck Jonathan as our President? To get a robust answer, I passed the question straight on to my friend, Dele, who almost immediately virtually overwhelmed me with a quantum of the man’s bio-data. Trust Dele -a first class historian of the old school-U.I, he started by reminding me that the man’s name is also Ebele and that his prophetic paternal grandmother had nicknamed him ‘Azikiwe’ as a salient simile to the great Zik of Africa.

According to Dele, President Jonathan, an Ijaw by birth, hails from Otuoke in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. He attended St. Stephen Primary School, Otuoke, St Michael Primary School,

Oloibiri, Mater Dei High School Imiringi and the University of Port Harcourt.  For his NYSC, he served as a classroom teacher in Community Secondary School Iresi in Osun State. By the time my friend told me how many of the President’s childhood friends remember him so well and how one of them testified that Dr Jonathan was not just their prefect at school but was at a time, the chairman of the committee of prefects, I was satisfied.

There was however, a second issue about which Dele could not carry me along. This had to do with another question-Is President Goodluck Jonathan a politician? To me, the answer is No! No!! No!!! In fact, my final answer would still be in the negative even if after earning five million naira in the ‘who wants to be a millionaire’ contest, witty Frank Edoho wants to take me back to two hundred and fifty thousand naira only. Pity, Dele lost his temper on me here. He asked if I remembered that Dr Jonathan was elected in 1999 as the deputy governor of his State-Bayelsa and was re-elected in 2003. I agreed. I also acknowledge that the man later became governor through the political process before his election as the nation’s vice president in 2007.

I also accepted the fact that at a time, he was acting President before assuming full control as President in 2010. Finally, I had no quarrel with his assertion that the President convincingly won the April 16, 2011 presidential election.  Talking to me now at the top of his voice, he asked; what then is politics, who is a politician and what is Jonathan? Unknown to my angry friend, he was offering me a golden opportunity to off-load a subsisting burden I acquired many decades back.

Oh yes, I said to Dele, President Jonathan has long been involved in politics but obviously does not qualify to be listed as a Nigerian politician. To  so qualify, a person must possess the common traits of the class. Such an applicant must, for example, belong to a political party that wants to forge an alliance with another party in which his own party alone produces both the Presidential candidate and his Vice for the alliance. Put differently, a Nigerian politician only takes, he doesn’t give. Indeed, the Nigerian political class is a special breed of people who stand logic on its head all the time and who are ever self serving and insincere.

There is ample evidence that Jonathan does not belong there.  It is obvious for instance that it is only a Goodluck Jonathan that would in the height of political electioneering publicly admonish his country men and women not to rig on his behalf at an election. Let’s ask it ‘point blank’; how many Nigerian politicians truly share his cherished sermon that no politician is worth dying for? Certainly not the array of our political leaders who relish political tension and terrorize their opponents with an army of thugs that never includes their own children who are comfortably in schools in several developed cities of the western world.

Besides, which other Nigerian politician would appoint a man he has never met and does not know to take charge of the Electoral Commission? We hear that both the INEC chair and secretary are from the North – a development which other politicians would have conveniently used ‘federal character’ to scuttle. President Jonathan was no doubt also aware of General Aliyu Gusau’s unhidden political interest, yet, he invited him to serve as his National Security Adviser about one year to elections.

Being power drunk, the average Nigerian politician exploits power predictably. With the throwing of bombs here and there in the last one year particularly on Independence Day, all those interested in the presidency would have been indicted and jailed with or without any complicity. Surprisingly, that didn’t happen under President Jonathan. As for humility, forget it as far as the Nigerian politician is concerned because he is virtually infallible. The difference has been clear under Goodluck Jonathan.

Two quick examples here. First, he reversed himself over the FIFA controversy making it possible for us to remain in competitive international soccer- a healthier game for many of us than politics.

Second, he reversed his appointment of an unsuitable Group Managing Director for the NNPC shortly after he made it. That is certainly part of why our usual trauma of perennial fuel shortage has not recurred in his tenure. I must confess that I was among many Nigerians who initially saw our President as weak until I had a chance to chat it out with another pan-Nigerian friend, Sule Lamido- Governor of Jigawa State.

For hours in his Dutse abode, he impressed upon me what Jonathan represents for an emergent, strong and united nation state which should have no room for primordial issues like zoning. Thereafter, I was able to reason that Jonathan must be a special breed to attract such admiration and loyalty across the board. With that, I concluded that my search for what makes Jonathan a member of the Nigerian political class is probably endless.

Wait a minute; does the man, Goodluck Jonathan, not have a godfather? He should have if he is a Nigerian politician. Here, I was able to gather that many credit him with two ‘milito-political’ giants, Obasanjo and Danjuma, as his sponsors. My resolve now is to await the end of the one-week presidential retreat at the Obudu Mountain Resort before seeking Mr. President’s, help to unravel the benefits which a man can derive from two sworn enemies as his combined political sponsors.

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