By Sunny Ikhioya
The race for elective positions in 2023 has started and with it a lot of speculations about the candidates for the next presidential election.
One of the names that have continued to feature in the news in this regard is that of former President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
Given the way he was hounded out of office by the then opposition, it is a big surprise, if it is true, that members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, are clamouring for his return.
The inevitable questions to ask are: What is it that Jonathan failed to do in his six years in office, that he will be coming back to complete in four years? What is it that the APC now see in Jonathan that they did not recognise while he was in office?
Does it mean that all the negative things said about Jonathan are all false? Is it fair in politics to destroy someone’s reputation and integrity, only to come back later to praise him as the messiah?
What is the electorate’s stance on this? Are we ever going to witness a truly clean and fair election in Nigeria again? Should the personal ambitions of a few individuals override the progress and development of the nation?
How do they explain the rumoured coming back of Jonathan is a stop-gap for a Northerner to return after four years? Is rotational presidency still a viable option for this country’s democracy?
These and other issues will certainly be trending as politicians of different shades begin to come out and jostle for the presidential ticket of their individual parties and ultimately, to become the next president of the country.
Those in government today, who enjoyed the very important aspect of democracy, could not even bear a little dose of their own medicine. People who used social media as tool for campaigns, have now turned full circle reactionaries.
Where there is no clear freedom of speech and expression, there cannot be true democracy; so, the level that Jonathan took us during his reign, as it concerns true democracy, has been lowered several steps by his successor.
There is no institution of government that is not affected one way or the other: the Judiciary, legislature, you name them. And so, as the 2023 election programme begins to unfold, we will know whether the people are now ready for true change or they are still in dreamland.
The Jonathan regime paraded some of the finest technocrats who, after serving in Nigeria, are now distinguishing themselves in different endeavours, all over the world. People like Akinwumi Adeshina, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and others.
People also say that Jonathan allowed his wife to exceed her boundaries, sometimes interfering with affairs of the state. As a real gentleman, he was loyal to his wife to the end; not one word of open friction throughout his reign in government, despite her seemingly overbearing attitude. That, however, cannot be said of others, some of whom lay claim to being disciplinarians.
Jonathan was a prophet of sorts. He claimed, while they were still abusing him when he was in power, that they will later come back to seek and apologise to him. It has turned out to be a self-fulfilled prophecy.
If media reports are anything to go by, some Northern leaders and interest groups seem to have come to the realisation that there is something to appreciate about the Jonathan government after all.
With bandits running riot all over the North, the belief among such Northern leaders is that governance was better under Jonathan. It is a sentiment shared by even the bandits, according to their interviews with Sheikh Gumi. Indeed, he did try to the best of his ability in providing quality governance as attested to by the almajirai schools programme, railway projects, expanding the economy, agriculture and many other projects his administration initiated.
So, where did he get it wrong? Jonathan was a victim of certain interests and ethnic groups. Unfortunately, as he is from a minority ethnic group, he could not muster the necessary numbers to keep the countervailing forces at bay. More painful for the Niger Delta region was his poor handling of the Escravos pipeline and EPZ projects.
Intra and inter-ethnic sentiments always come up in areas where government proposed projects are sited; communities where such projects are are to be sited always want their interests to be paramount. It happened when the Delta Steel Factory was being constructed; the Owvian-Aladja communities turned themselves to enemies.
When it came to the refineries, the Ekpan community ensured that the project was in Ekpan and not Warri. There are so many situations like this happening all over the country. The same thing is happening between the Ijaw and Itsekiri communities in the Escravos-Ogidigben area of Delta State. Not a few people believe that Jonathan should have done better if he had allowed the projects to go on and find alternative ways to settle the communities.
Instead, he allowed the project to stall until the eve of his departure; today the project is abandoned. Yet, it is a project that would have been of immense benefits to the whole country, especially to those close to the projects. He gave too much room for some of his kinsmen to behave as they liked, thus creating not a few enemies for him and his government.
He brought the Boko Haram insurgency to a tolerable limit before the 2015 elections, but his adversaries would not credit him with this. Elections took place in Borno State and beneficiaries of those elections are in government today. The US and UK tried severally to sabotage the war against insurgency because he refused to go with them on the same-sex marriage issue. I believe that the Jonathan administration will be judged kindly by history when the time comes.
He tried his best to let the people know that no life is worth losing over elections, not for people’s personal ambition, no matter the situation. Since he left office, it appears that Jonathan has been very well received by the people and each day his profile keeps rising. But is it necessary for him to come back?
If he falls into the temptation of allowing politicians to lure him into coming back, that will be the ultimate mistake of his life. So far, we have not heard from Mrs. Patience Jonathan; it is better for them to allow the rumoured matter to die now. People are only goading him for their selfish interests; he has done what he could in the six years he served as President and history has taken note of the role he played.
Let other people be given the chance to contribute their own quota. He is already a statesman, with great international admirers and followers; he will always be there to advise future Presidents and leaders of the country and build on his library and legacies.
Let him leave the politicians alone to play their dirty politics; he is already above them all.
***Ikhioya wrote via www.southsouthecho.com