By Ikechukwu Eze
Former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, marked his 60th birthday last week. Many other politicians, especially those of his soar-away status, would otherwise have sought to bring down the sky, to let the whole world know they have entered the diamond pantheon.
But in his characteristic modesty and exceptional self-effacing disposition, Jonathan resisted all entreaties to mark this important milestone, in a formal ceremony. Quiet commemoration had always been his style until a successful foray into politics and national leadership peeled off his cover, like the proverbial gold fish.
On November 20, the very day of his Diamond Jubilee, Jonathan was in his country home in the sleepy idyllic ambience of Otuoke, his village, in the wetlands of Bayelsa State, surrounded only by family members. There were also few close friends and well-wishers who personally called to offer their felicitations and prayers.
A flashy moment however came later in the day when hundreds of youths from different groups across the country stormed Jonathan’s home to celebrate with him. They took turns to present modest gifts of artwork to the former President, and their leaders made impassioned speeches in praise of Jonathan and his achievements. But that was as far as the celebration would go, as there were no formal dinners, banquets or spectacle linked to the event.
For him, the quiet time with family on this occasion, served as a welcome break from the grind of an unending run of international engagements, as the world continues to seek his attention. For instance, in a time span of about a month, beginning from September this year, Jonathan had had a busy run, beginning from Malaysia where he delivered a keynote address at a World Peace Summit, and Greece where he served as a key panelist and main media attraction at the 2017 Rhodes Forum Dialogue of Civilisations; to South Africa where he moderated the main session at an education conference that brought together many former African heads of Government.
Two weeks ago, Jonathan was just getting ready to travel to Liberia as head of the National Democratic Institute Election Observer Mission to the Presidential run-off when the supreme court of Liberia suspended the process.
There is no doubt that ex-President Jonathan is being courted and serenaded like an A-list celebrity by the rest of the World, ostensibly because of his great achievements and deep democracy footprints while in office, even if the story is told differently at home.
Today, without equivocation, he is seen all over Africa as the apostle of free and fair elections; the one who stripped a continent of that unprogressive affliction of a long-existing sit-tight syndrome. Even his traducers admit that it is a rare privilege for a past Commander-in- Chief and President of Nigeria, a nation hitherto identified with military dictatorship and flawed elections, to easily emerge as the toast of the international community, especially in the area of democracy and electoral reforms in Africa.
Never in the history of party politics in Nigeria had a level playing field been created, by the main actors in a race in which they were involved. Jonathan did that effortlessly by reforming the electoral system and ensuring that only those with proven competence served in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
At 60, Jonathan’s life symbolizes the Nigerian dream. The echoes of the now iconic aphorism “My ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian”, backed by a rare courage in statesmanship; has become the clarion call for responsible citizenship and patriotism. That is the foundation that has made Jonathan a reference point for democracy and good governance; it is his legacy that will outlive all of us that witnessed this change.
More importantly, as he marks his birthday and the world continue to celebrate his legacies in style, it is expected that his example will stir up new passions amongst the younger generation; that a life of true sacrifice for the cause of the nation is worth it after all.
As the former President devotes his time and post-presidential life to inspiring more co-operation and commitment towards improving our societies, and making a change in the lives of the ordinary people in our various countries, through the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, there are obvious signs that forces out to extinguish the touch he lit, are at work. However, in the face of extreme provocation, he has remained incredibly calm and unfazed.
Despite the desperate efforts that feed into the plot to put the former President and his former appointees under unnecessary pressure, there is no doubt that history will be kind to him, for all he has done to uplift the status of his country and people.
*Eze is media adviser to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, President, Federal Republic of Nigeria (2010-2015)