By Donu Kogbara
CONGRATS to Segun Adeniyi, my friend and the Chairman of ThisDay newspaper’s editorial board, for writing a really good book that is generating a lot of discussion.
The book, titled Against the Run of Play explains how an incumbent, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, made history by losing a presidential election in 2015. And I agree with those who are complaining about Jonathan’s failure to shoulder at least some of the blame for his avoidable political downfall.
Longstanding readers of this column will recall that I was a passionate Jonathan supporter between 2007, when he became Yar’Adua’s Vice President, and 2014 when I reluctantly decided to support Muhammadu Buhari instead.
For seven years, I carried Jonathan, the first-ever Head of State from my beloved Niger Delta, on my head. I desperately wanted him to be a superhero and constantly prayed that he would do a great job and prove that people from our area were capable of providing competent national leadership.
But Jonathan disappointed me. He let blatant corruption run riot. He sat back while certain ministers did whatever they wanted and got away with chronic misconduct. He didn’t control his overbearing wife, Dame Patience. He allowed her to poison his once-cordial relationship with then Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi. He mishandled the fallout from the Chibok Girls’ abduction.
And so on.
However, there is one criticism of Jonathan that I must firmly reject. He is always being accused of being heavily biased in favour of folks from his ethnic group and our region. And I regard this accusation as grossly unfair.
As a matter of fact, one of MY reasons for “abandoning” Jonathan was my belief that he hadn’t do enough for the Niger Delta and its inhabitants!
Sure, he promoted and financially empowered some of his Ijaw tribesmen and women from Bayelsa and beyond. Sure, he dished out some plum government appointments and juicy contracts to South-Southerners in general.
But he didn’t help THAT many people from his core constituency!
When I was kidnapped in 2015, I developed a rapport with most of my kidnappers, who were Ijaws; and I wound up chatting to them at considerable length while we were waiting for my family to organise a ransom payment.
One of the things they told me was that they couldn’t believe how little Niger Deltans had gained from Jonathan’s administration. And they were right.
Jonathan did not act on the United Nations Environmental Programme’s report on the terrible pollution of Ogoniland. He did nothing about the disgraceful state of Port Harcourt Airport. The East-West Road that traverses Jonathan’s home turf was a messy potholed joke during his tenure.
He ignored and neglected these and MANY other Niger Deltan issues that he should have treated as priorities. Like many individuals from minority groups, he was afraid of offending the larger ethnic groups.
And he was certainly NOT as blatantly and shamelessly ethnocentric as big players from other zones often are! Jonathan was too timid, not too biased, if you ask me!!!
I have attended government meetings in which Yoruba and Hausa have been spoken, despite the presence of people who are neither Yoruba nor Northern.
I have never attended a government meeting in which any minority language was foisted on everyone.
When leaders from major tribes get their hands on power, they aggressively promote their ethnic interests and people. But when Jonathan did only a fraction of what les autres have been doing since time immemorial, it was a crime.
When Jonathan was in office, I was regularly mocked because Dame Patience (who was deemed to be my sister because we are both from Rivers State) did not sound well-educated…by Northerners who had not sniggered for one second when Turai Yar’Adua was expertly mangling the English language!
Nigerians are so hypocritically full of s—t sometimes! And I SO wish that Jonathan had damned the consequences and openly put the Niger Delta first, so that those who were always determined to falsely accuse him of being an ethnic chauvinist would really have had something to complain about!
When you come from a suffering place that has been routinely robbed despite providing most of the country’s wealth for decades, you are entitled to try to address the injustice UNAPOLOGETICALLY.
Anyway, back to Adeniyi’s book: I will defend Jonathan on some levels. But he didn’t, alas, have what it took to be the kind of leader I wanted; and the best conclusion I’ve heard came from an article that was published in Vanguard on April 28 and written by Azubuike Ishiekwene, the MD/Editor-In-Chief of The Interview magazine and a board member of the Global Editors Network:
Adeniyi’s book shows that the man [Jonathan] was the single greatest contributor to his own downfall. I find this whole business of fishing for red herring for Jonathan’s defeat childish and amusing. Blaming Barack Obama and the US, blaming a wing of the Northern political elite, blaming the Palestinians. The man in the mirror is blaming everyone else but himself.
A copy of “Against The Run of Play” would help Jonathan see how he wrote the script of his own defeat. His graceful and historic concession of power was against the run of play, true. But the events that led to his fall were not against the run of play; he brought them on himself.