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Why are we insulting President Jonathan?

By Dele Sobowale

“A leader is best/ When people barely know he exists/ Not so good when people obey and acclaim him/ Worst when they despise him..Lao-tsy, 16th Century, Chinese. (BOOK OF QUOTATIONS p 124).

Jonathan-hands-headOn Wednesday May 28, 2014, I went to visit an elder statesman, from the Niger Delta, in Nigeria. On the same day, several newspapers carried the story about Mrs Patience Jonathan asking (begging? ordering?) people to stop insulting her husband – the President. My senior friend/Oga took out his iPad and showed me an audio/visual recording titled Na You One Waka Come. That spoof mercilessly and viciously lampooned Jonathan and his wife. At first, I found the stuff amusing; then it became annoying and finally alarming.

Suddenly, I came away with the impression that Nigerians are, once again, over-doing what needs to be done. We have crossed the line from legitimate  criticism to unrelenting deliberate insult aimed at the President.
On that day, I sat down with copies of eleven leading Nigerian newspapers and read twelve foreign commentaries about Nigeria – marking each F; for Jonathan and A; against Jonathan. The result was staggering.

Close to eighty five per cent of them were not only critical but despiteful as well. Jonathan probably has become the subject of the largest number of defamatory texts published about any human being alive today – most of it emanating from Nigeria. Was this the man we elected in 2011? How have we suddenly arrived at this situation where we love to defame the man who is the symbol of our sovereignty?

I don’t fully share the argument of Mrs Jonathan that God put her husband there. But, it is partly true. God, I believe gave Jonathan a choice to make in 2011; just as the Almighty gave Ghandi, the choice in India in 1948 and Mandela, after finishing his first and last term as President of South Africa. The man who could have been the first Indian Prime Minister, just for the asking, turned down the offer.

Mandela could also have gone for the second, or even third, term in South Africa. He stopped at one. God provided the choice, Jonathan and Nigerian voters, including many of those now casting aspersions on the man, made him President in 2011 – despite the slimmest C.V for the most important job in Nigeria. We made him our leader and we should share the blame for the predicament in which we find ourselves.

Once more I find myself, at the beginning of an article, of reminding my readers that I campaigned on this page in 2010 and 2011 against President Goodluck Jonathan. In fact in 2009, when Yar’Adua went to Saudi for his last trip on earth, I urged Mrs Turai Yar’Adua to get her husband to resign so that Vice President Jonathan could take over as President.

This was followed by another article in which I wrote that “two names would not be on the ballot in 2011 – Yar’Adua and Jonathan. But, if the latter [Jonathan] used the power of incumbency to contest the 2011 elections, disaster will follow.” Here we are in 2014 and Yar’Adua has gone to join his ancestors; Jonathan used all the advantages of incumbency, plus the “I went to school shoeless” pitch, to garner the votes to win the 2011 elections. Disaster has followed and is still with us. Why, then, am I disturbed by the insults Nigerians and foreigners heap on the President. My reasons are simple — respect for the President’s office.

One thing is becoming increasingly clear – the President’s defenders losing the battle to opponents and detractors. Their puerile attempts, at mounting propaganda, in support of Jonathan, are failing woefully. Hitler’s Propaganda Chief was partly right when he said that a lie repeated often enough will eventually become accepted as truth. Goebbels, 1897-1945, failed to realize that propaganda which is based mostly on falsehood can only succeed if government has total control of communications as the Nazis did during the Third Reich.

With today’s  ICT capacities, few governments in the world today have that sort of control; and there might never be any again. The Jonathan administration controls very little of the communications today and will control even less in the future. So, instead of trying to subdue the President’s opponents with half-truths and falsehood, they would be better off sticking to the truth as much as possible. And they should work on widening their circle of supporters.

No government can fail to achieve some results. Those should constitute the core of the campaign in support of the President. Furthermore, they seem to be overlooking the non-partisan opinion leaders who need solid facts in order to defend the President. Faceless individuals writing under pseudonyms cannot persuade thinking people. Only people with track records can turn the tide. One example would illustrate the point.

“If you want to live forever, write a book” [or have one written about you].
I am about to finish the biographies of two eminent Nigerians and it is interesting how sometimes a position someone takes, while still a relatively obscure individual, shapes the course of national events later on. One of those personalities first proposed the break up of Rivers State into two. Abacha, while running the five government-sponsored political parties, was so eager to have the man’s support, he immediately asked Mazi S.G. Ikoku to pen it down as something to be done at the appropriate time. BAYELSA was born one year after. Yet, the man is not from Bayelsa.

Bankers, business magnates, Ministers, Chiefs of Staff, SSGs, Deputy Governors, Senators, Speakers of Houses etc should tell their stories for the lessons they teach others. That is one of the ways to grow our democracy.
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