By Rotimi Fasan
WHEN Goodluck Jonathan steps down in two days time and Muhammadu Buhari takes over as president, he would have helped to give practical demonstration to that much remarked (in our parts) but hardly realised notion of popular democracy, that sovereignty lies with the people. By handing over power to Buhari, Jonathan would only be abiding by the will of the people who said, on March 28 2015, that they wanted a change of leadership.
In a different dispensation, the outgoing president could have insisted on staying on in office against the will of the people- even if at his own peril. Thus, by listening to the voice of the people, Jonathan has helped to strengthen the idea that a democratic transfer of power from one elected government to another is actually possible in our country. For the simple fact that Nigeria had been under the governance of the same party since 1999, the very idea of democracy was in abeyance as the Peoples Democratic Party was beginning to behave and see itself like a conquering army. Now, it has brought the country down on its knees.
But Nigerians are a forgiving people and they will miss Goodluck Jonathan. If some of us could miss Sanni Abacha so much that they could swear by his name, far many more will surely miss Jonathan whose person and presidency was of a radically different character from Abacha’s. President Jonathan may have had a cat and mouse relationship with Nigerians; he may not have had an easy relationship with Nigeria. But he was a personable and an immensely lovable president. He had the mildness of character that would have been suited for a different era. But when he became president some six years ago, Nigerians were ready for a gritty and more determined leader. Aso Rock Villa was no longer a mere holiday resort for another ruler, whoever that might be, content to reign in blissful semi-retirement. Jonathan might have come with good intentions; and there is every reason to believe that his thoughts for Nigeria were good. His undoing was his failure or refusal to reign in the excesses of his subordinates, many of whom were openly corrupt in a manner that questioned the legitimacy of the administration the president led. There were too many centres of power; too many leaders to the extent that control was almost nil. Everyone did as they pleased, especially those overrated female ministers who competed for attention and power with the president. Add to this the intrusive conduct of his wife, Patience, and you have the perfect diagnosis of the disease that eventually killed his government. Jonathan should not have been as laidback as he was, relying on unconscionable subordinates to run his administration on a day to day basis. The lethargy that characterised his government appeared to have been a “mortal inheritance” from the Umar Yar’Adua terminal administration. Even Yar’Adua, it seems, would have been a more assertive leader than Jonathan had his health permitted him.
But Jonathan took too much for granted with the kind of people he was surrounded by. He stuck out his neck defending them in a way only a leader could have defended trusted people in whom he is well pleased. It was no surprise, therefore, that Nigerians took his defence of his ministers, heads of agencies and other parastatals, for approval and active support of their misconduct. Yet, it would not be surprising to many of us, Nigerians, to hear of serving or past members of the Jonathan government with more illegally acquired wealth than anything that can be attributed to the leader himself. Such was the reckless abandon with which some in that administration appeared to have operated. Nigeria was there for the taking and at their beck and call. How hard they rode us!
It is Goodluck Jonathan who as leader is now being held to account for the government over which he had control. It is on his head that Nigerians have exacted the cost of misruling Nigeria in the past six years. Now, Jonathan is paying the cost of not being nearly in charge. First, he had to pay with his presidency which was booted out in an election that would have been his to lose, had he taken better charge of his administration. After the loss of the presidency, he now has to await the judgment of history. The president’s administration surely had its pluses which may not be too obvious yet. It’s probably in realisation of this that the president himself said Nigerians would appreciate him more when he is gone. Good as I want the judgment of history to be on Jonathan, I surely do not pray or hope to see another president whose term would be worse than his. Not in terms of fighting corruption, providing security in all ramifications or taking charge of governance.
The Shakespearean dictum that the evil that men do lives after them may already be at play with regard to the Jonathan years. His administration seems to be going at the worst possible moment, with vastly dwindling oil revenue at a time when the commodity Nigeria ranks as one of its leading producers in the world cannot be found in the country or is only available at cut throat prices. Workers across the country are groaning hard as they are being owed salaries in arrears of six months or more in at least two-thirds of the country’s thirty six states. There has never been a worse scandal in the history of Nigeria’s civil service. In addition, power supply has become ever more erratic. All of these make for a vicious circle of corruption. It is with this slew of scandalous records that the Jonathan administration goes into the ages. This is surely a mean achievement for an administration that came into office on a promising note, if not exactly a bang. But a note of high expectations, nevertheless. Now it leaves with a whimper and we must wish the president and his family well for serving this country.
Go well, so long and better luck to you, Goodluck Jonathan. Welcome Mohammadu Buhari. May your time be well for Nigeria.