By Muhammed Adamu
NOTE: That the Jonathan government was decadently corrupt is not to be debated any longer. Nor should it be debated too that virtually every one in that government helped themselves scandalously to the public till. What continues to be denied though is that Jonathan himself, on whose desk the buck should have stopped, had a hand in that filthy bazaar; or in the very unlikely event he did not, at the very least he should have remorsefully borne responsibility for the humongous theft that happened under his permissive -or even if negligent- watch.
Pro-Jonathans still insist that although his government was filthy-corrupt, Jonathan himself was unsullied by the torrents of sordid feces which had bathed it head and trunk, torso to limbs. They admit that although everyone else in the Jonathan Government could be guilty of one form of corruption or maladministration, Jonathan himself was not. And Jonathan is so emboldened by the brazen, unscrupulous defense of this army of blind supporters, he has become himself a broken record of Shaggy’s lyric of intransigent self-defense: to every allegation of corruption or maladministration, he now sings ‘It wasn’t me’.
I was about to pen on this and other related issues when I stumbled -in my archive- on two previous articles that I believe are sufficient to assuage a sudden desire to tackle the ‘Jonathan temperament’.
Passage of ‘obligation
Thus the current title, ‘Now that Jonathan is on the menu’ is a rehash of a Preamble to a piece titled ‘Jonathan: A Good Riddance’; and it is concluded with a Postscript that is also a rehash of a previous piece titled ‘Jonathan: From the Divine to the Dubious’. Read on:
Jonathan: A good riddance: The word ‘buck’ in the context of the popular saying ‘passing the buck’ originated in the Mid-nineteenth century as a ‘marker’ used in the card game ‘poker’. A ‘marker’ was passed from one card player to another to indicate the passage of ‘obligation’; or a shift in the obligation to play after the last person. Call it ‘dealing next in the game’. And so the phrase ‘passing the buck’ by and by came to mean that which it now widely means, namely ‘shifting responsibility’. Or shifting the blame.
Thereafter one of United States’ great Presidents, Harry S. Truman was credited with the phrasing of another famous ‘four-word’ axiom of ‘administrative responsibility’, namely the saying that ‘the buck stops here’ as a terminus for the onus to bear the cross of any failed situation. Truman was the first to mount this axiom on his desk at the Oval Office all through his sojourn at the White House.
For Truman ‘the buck stops here’ meant seriously that on the President’s desk in the Oval Office should end all excuses both for action and for inaction. Nothing could be more politically courageous, especially in a world of politics where “A good politician” as Mencken would say, “is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar”. Or worst of all as in our own part of the world where the overriding purpose for going into public elective office is to offend the law and to defile the moral escutcheon of the society. The principle that domiciles all responsibilities squarely on the desk of the ultimate administrative leader with the final authority can, in fact, be said to be weightier than even the concept of ‘collective ministerial responsibility’ which merely holds ‘government officials’ collectively responsible as well for successes as for failures.
And Truman who was neither prodded by the exigencies of political correctness nor moved by the dint of moral rectitude was nonetheless altruistic and courageous enough to say to Americans ‘Let’s end all the blame-game here in my office, and right here on my desk. I will bear the cross not only of my office, but I will bear the crosses of those subordinate to me whose actions derive from powers delegated by me’.
According to Arthur Koestler, the Hungarian-born British journalist, “If the creator had a purpose in equipping us with a neck, he surely meant us to stick it out”. President Truman had stuck out his neck for good governance when he said: ‘hold me responsible including where –technically- I may not be responsible. And perhaps this was why Dean Acheson, U.S. lawyer and statesman described Truman as “The captain with the mighty heart”. In any case, beyond the highest possible office especially in any governmental hierarchy, there is practically no place else to ‘pass the buck’ further up -except to ‘return’ it down the ladder, -which Jonathan seems adept at.
By the way in elevating that axiom to the pinnacle of governmental responsibility, Truman had helped also to bring the legal doctrine of ‘vicarious liability’ –which is embedded mostly in labour law and in the law of tort- much closer to the rules of administrative law and political governance. And thanks only to Truman the ‘moral’ thereafter was to be clear, that principals should as much be liable for the conduct of their subordinates, as they are deservedly entitled to the glory that the good work of diligent subordinates bring to their offices.
The buck under Jonathan: But the ‘buck’ did not have one ‘table’ where to ‘stop’ under Jonathan’s administration. In fact, the irony of it was that the ‘buck’ under Jonathan stopped on all ‘desks’ except President Jonathan’s. IBB –even though he refused to apologise for manifest errors in governance- at least he did say he accepted responsibility. Not Jonathan. He saw no evil, heard no evil and he authorised no evil. Every evil done under Jonathan hadn’t his imprimatur: they stole from the arms vote, he said ‘it wasn’t me’; they stole from NNPC, ‘it wasn’t me’; they even stole from CBN, ‘it wasn’t me’; they were caught on a camera, ‘it wasn’t me’!.
Every humongous, mind-benumbing heist pulled under the Jonathan PDP administration was perpetrated by ‘others’ unbeknownst to President Jonathan himself.
Jonathan did not approve money, yet money was approved; he did not authorise spending, yet money was spent; he did not share money, yet ‘sharing’ of money seemed about the only event that had taken place all through his six-year administration. But don’t ask Jonathan. The proverbial ‘buck’ of vicarious administrative responsibility never stopped on Jonathan’s table. The ‘buck’ under Jonathan’s corrupt administration was a ‘woman’ of very easy virtue; instead of Jonathan’s it stopped on other tables: Dasuki’s, Iweala’s, Methu’s, Diezien’s, Badeh’s, name it.
Roosevelt they said ‘proved that a man could be president for life’; and that Truman ‘proved that anybody could be president’. But it is not true, as they said, that ‘Eisenhower proved that we don’t need a president’. In truth Nigeria’s Jonathan alone in the history of democratic governance has proved that a country does not need a president to be governed.
Many like Jonathan: But there were many like Jonathan. The U.S. writer William Allen White, in his claim that William McKinley was undeserving of America’s presidency, wrote: “This face of McKinley’s, this placid, kindly, unchipped mask of a kindly, dull gentleman, is a cast…to represent American politics; on the whole decent…and rarely reaching above the least common multiple of the popular intelligence”.
And as if with Jonathan in his mind, Henry Kissinger, in expressing similar sentiments about Ronald Reagan, said “When you meet the president, you ask yourself, ‘How did it ever occur to anyone that he should be governor, much less president?”
HE was, as Shakespeare would say, “sweet Fortune’s minion and her pride”. Without necessarily striving Jonathan virtually had it all. He attained heights un-dreamt even by the ambitious hallucination of those who gave their all. Jonathan rose from a ‘rustic’, ‘shoeless’, socio-economic beginning to the neplus-ultra of political achievement: from a Local Government Chairman to Deputy Governor; from Governor to Vice President and from Acting President to President.
All these he attained more by the dint of ‘luck’ than by the hook of ‘merit’. Besides, his name is also ‘Goodluck’; a perfect doublet –especially for a troubled nation- of a desirable piece of ‘good omen’. Who would be in our (Nigeria’s) situation and not desire some ‘good luck’ and some ‘good omen’? In fact, for a woebegone nation, like Nigeria, and for a people so forlornly forsaken, like Nigerians, nothing could have been more aptly desideratum than a politician bestowed –by his baptismal- with the divine and the providential.
Jesus of Otuoke: Everyone said that the Zodiacs must be favourably at work in the political affairs of this young Doctor of Philosophy (PhD.) –Jonathan- who hails from hitherto little-known Otuoke village in Bayelsa. And although he seemed politically vacuous, many Nigerians still argued that he could be our chance-talisman. In any case, ‘lucks’ and ‘good omens’ don’t come in packs and sachets of merit and credibility; they alight often from un-comely, sometimes repulsive, packages –like the Jonathan candidacy.
Many waxed biblical, asking: ‘who ever thought that anything good could come out of obscure Nazareth? They said that Jonathan could very well be our own ‘Jesus of Otuoke’; -revered not at home but venerated abroad.
And in our efforts to legitimise the omens of ‘providence’ and ‘good luck’ we were even prepared to turn time-honoured axioms and proverbial upside down: we argued for example that “God’s Providence” is not only “on the side of clear heads” (like Henry Beecher wrote), but that it could also be on the side of cloudy, goody-goody ones -like Jonathan’s. We also insisted that “The wind and the waves” are not only “on the side of the ablest navigator”, (like Edward Gibson said), but that they could also be on the side of lucky, un-stirring ones, like Jonathan.
Shoeless man from Otuoke
Many pastors said that they had communed with Heaven and that the Lord had spoken to them, revealing that Jonathan was His ‘anointed’. They said that God told them that this shoeless man from Otuoke would be our biblical Moses; and that in spite of his seeming vacuity and cluelessness, he would be the one to enact our own version of the parting of the Red Sea -to ‘let my people go!’
Jerry Gana, the one notorious for hunting with the Devil while he sups with the ‘Divine’, said that Goodluck Jonathan held the ‘key’ to the Gate of our Promised Land. Ethno-centric, rabble rousing, reactionary Clark said that Goodluck needed no credentials or antecedent-merit; -that that where the ‘divine’ stood proxy for man, earthly paper credentials were like filthy rags. And when Jonathan first deployed to work, many said that they saw a burst of patriotic enthusiasm in this shoeless child of destiny; an enthusiasm to unleash the ‘divine’ and the providential on this God-forsaken land which no longer brought forth fruit. There he was they said, chisel at hand, impatiently waiting to hew the hedgy overgrowth of our socio-economic and political Augean Stable. And for many of us it did not matter if he hit the ground running, ambling or crawling. It mattered only that he was propelled by the ‘divine’ and by the ‘providential’.
Freedom-seeking Israelites: We were –and maybe still are- a nation eaten hollow by pride and prejudice, bigotry and base pursuit. But by God we are a people driven by faith; faith in the power of the unknown and faith in the efficacy of the unknowable. We believe that since faith could move mountains, faith would not have problem moving, especially a floating ‘ships of state’. So Jonathan needed not to steer the rudders.
It was sufficient that he was on board the Ship of our State. The invisible hands of angels would do all the steering. We could not invest faith in the divine medium that produced Jonathan and then appear to disbelieve Jonathan himself. And so when he said that he would move Nigeria forward, we needed no more than to say: ‘amen and amen again!’ And when he put us on a long tortuous road map, the so called Energy Road Map, which he said would lead to abundant light; and abundant light would lead to unlocking our arrested potentials, like the disciples of old, we only picked our raiment and we faithfully followed him. Goodluck became our Moses and we became his freedom-seeking Israelites.