Nigeria’s president is Goodluck Ebere Azikiwe Jonathan; his first name is English with a very clear meaning…good lucks through destiny and God’s wishes. One of the middle names is of Ijaw which translates to ‘mercy’, Azikiwe is the name of one of Nigeria’s nationalist from the Eastern part of the country and it means full of vigour, while the last is a biblical name meaning ‘gift of God.’
The story of this Goodluck is full of ‘lucks’ that are ‘good’ from unexpected and reluctant contenders, from a Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State to Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In a twist of fate his bosses in the two powerful offices had to vacate their office untimely that enable him took over as a governor of the state and a president of the country without the electorates deciding on those choices. While his former boss, Governor DSP Alamieyeseigha was impeached for corrupt practices, President Umaru Yar’Adua died in office after a mysterious health-related problem. Goodluck is indeed a beneficiary of his name.
With less than a year to the 2011 presidential election, the political pendulum is swinging. There are some aspirants that are real serious contenders in the next election likewise there are some political jesters attempting to make names for themselves as mere presidential aspirants. Anybody can take the title of aspirant by their aspiration.
When compared with his predecessors, Goodluck Jonathan has many things going for him as well as some obvious weaknesses. He may not be as endowed with diplomatic clout like President Obasanjo who was visible in international arena with intimidating aura of the African leader. Obasanjo bulldozed his way to the position of prominence among the world’s top leaders; he even took prime positions for group photographs at global summits where George Bush of USA and Tony Blair of Britain always stood by his side or at his back. So far, in his few foreign visits at the international arena, Goodluck’s has not exhibited any strong character among world leaders since he became Nigeria’s president. In his meetings with other world leaders, he has appeared like an obedient-servant-leader from Africa. No pun intended and I am not saying he behaves like a schoolboy.
Goodluck also lacks the flamboyance and charisma of former President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) whose swagger, composure and dictions and in rhythm with that of his late wife Maryam were memorable attributes of that regime. Jonathan seems not to bother about those elements of sagacity as he tries to be sincere even his extemporal remarks at public forums indicate like of adequate rehearsals.
Dealing with issues decisively is the remarkable feature of late General Mohammed Sani Abacha. A man of few words: his decisions are final; enemies and friends did not take him for granted. We could remember actions he took after his famous enough-is-now-enough address when he said: “We remain silent not because we are weak to act… Our deliberate silence is to give errant organisations and individuals time to do a rethink… since that is not the case enough-is-now-enough.” He was genuinely brutal rightly or wrongly once decisions were made. He neither sought for external loans nor visited foreign powers and the economy was in the right footing with Professor Sam Aluko in-charge of economic intelligence. Goodluck Jonathan sometimes seems to be too slow in taking decisive actions and occasionally revises his own decisions like the suspension of Super Eagle from FIFA activities.
General Mohammed Buhari and his lieutenant Tunde Idiagbon could not be forgotten in haste as they tackled corruption and indiscipline head-on not minding individuals and institutions involved. The duo hit hard on the untouchables, that many years after Ribadu-EFCC was seen as a replica of that regime. The current President Goodluck Jonathan is slow to act on various anti-corruption reports on his table especially on the allegations involving a member of his family in money laundering, Halliburton scandal, Siemen scam and the rot in other systems.
He shares some characteristics with his immediate boss, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua: simplicity, sincerity and attempting to satisfy contending parties that are at variance on policy issues. Yar’Adua was colourless because of his health and the influence of the so-called cabals who surrounded him; nevertheless he was able to make some impacts which are obvious to Nigerians.
An introvert to the core, Jonathan has made some remarkable outing worthy of commendations. In the last few months that he took over power as the President some of his utterances and actions indicate that he would not pursue a do-or-die agenda at winning in the next election. The appointment of a radical unionist and political scholar, Professor Jega as Executive Chairman of Independent National electoral Commission (INEC) is a pointer to his genuine intention for a transparent, free and fair election in 2011. He also made independent choice of Architect Namadi Sambo as his Vice President against recommended candidates by his godfathers and PDP machineries.
It is doubtful if he will emerge as PDP Presidential Candidate going by the threats of some Niger Delta leaders like Chiefs Edwin Clark and Albert Horsfall daring the Northerners for the post in provocative posture claiming the backing of Niger Delta people.
It is a fact that PDP governors who did not accord respect to Jonathan when he was Vice President and while acting as commander-in-chief during Yar’Adua’s hospitalisation are not likely to endorse his candidature for the election. With powerful influence over PDP primaries, apart from feeling betrayed by his recent choices in appointment and awards without considering their inputs, the governors are unhappy that he is not approving enough money for their states from the Excess Crude Account.
Some of the Jonathan’s utterances too are not helping the matter as his bluntness exposes his party’s past misdeeds. Speaking at a meeting with Nigerians during a visit to Toronto in Canada, Jonathan said some chieftains of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) tried to persuade him not to appoint Professor Attahiru Jega as INEC chairman because they feared Jega would block the party from manipulating election results. He said he resisted the pressure because of his commitment to credible elections.
He also used the occasion in Canada to say that election results would be declared at the polling units, leaving no room for manipulations at the collation centres. He added that a tribunal would be set up to try electoral offenders irrespective of status or party affiliation.
Not minding the recent pronouncement by the new National Chairman of PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo that PDP had dumped zoning since 2002, northern political juggernauts are not taking the issue lightly. It is clear so far that if the retired generals who have declared their intentions for the forthcoming election could not have their way, a dark horse probably Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau of ANPP may spring a surprise at the Presidential election which could not be manipulated by the new INEC.
President Jonathan’s disposition so far towards the election is quite remarkable. Though he is not a typical do-or-die politician, he could be a great leader if he refuses to get carried away by the euphoria of the office and sectional sentiments being expressed ethnic jingoists to push himself forward. Though he has more than 100,000 loyal fans on his Facebook, he should allow his party if not Nigerians to decide on
his candidature for 2011 election rather than merely listening to praise-singers only. Great leaders leave the stage when the ovation is loudest, because they believe that holding a public office is not about how long but how well they serve the people.
I wish our good looking, goodluck and humble President is smart enough to read the hand on the wall in setting a good record of himself, his Niger Delta region and Nigeria.
Yushau A. Shuaib
University of Westminster
Harrow campus London