If Jonathan Had Wanted To Be A Statesman, By Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo

International diplomats are falling over themselves to ascribe the title of statesman to President Goodluck Jonathan. In the politically correct language of today, he conceded defeat in the March 28th presidential election, and, as such, had done something rarely seen before in Africa. It’s the prerogative of diplomats to lie for their government and our government and anyone who cares to listen to diplomats.

It is also our prerogative to resist such a lie. It is important that we do so, otherwise Wikipedia-bred historians will soon hitch the same wagon and market to generations yet unborn the false construct of those interested in massaging the ego of failed politicians in the name of maintaining the predominant world order.

Even if President Jonathan was not dragged to the phone and cajoled to make a call; even if he was not promised immunity from prosecution by the National Peace Committee and other interest groups influential in Nigerian affairs—the idea that he became a statesman after hours of cooking up figures in the South South and South East and hoping to make up for the deficits from the figures from the North, some also cooked, some written by underage children, he came to the conclusion that he had been beaten aerially.

We could as well call Olusegun Obasanjo a statesman for not going for a 3rd term when it was clear that he tried all he could but failed. And while we are at it, maybe we should also call Sani Abacha a statesman for agreeing to die just to clear the way for Nigeria to move forward with the fourth republic.

Not even the Americans who are at the helms of this Jonathan praise and worship gave their own Richard Nixon credit and the ‘title’ of a statesman when he resigned following his impeachment. Nixon resigned while still screaming that he was ‘not a crook’ following the Watergate scandal. America was facing a constitutional crisis had Nixon chosen to hang on to power. But soon after powerful members of his Republican Party visited him and withdrew their support for him, he knew the game was over.

In the case of Nixon, we had audio recording of all he said inside the White House. If we could obtain such an audio of Jonathan’s words in the last three days before and after the election, we would be calling for an impeachment and not statesmanship.

In any case, if Jonathan had wanted to be a statesman, there were little steps he should have taken all through the six years he was at the helms of Nigerian affairs. If Jonathan has wanted to be a statesman, his first action as president after winning a four-year term would not have been to order the Central Bank of Nigeria to pay convicted felon $1.1 billion. On April 29, 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan secretly approved the transfer of $1.1 billion to the London account of Malabu Oil and Gas owned by former Minister of Petroleum and a convicted money launderer, Dan Etete and Sani Abacha’s son, Mohammed. The money came from funds paid to the Federal Government by two multinational companies; Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited and Shell Nigeria as part of the settlement of the Malabu oil block case between the Federal Government, Malabu and the two multinational oil companies.

If Jonathan had wanted to be a statesman, he would not have refused to publicly declare his assets as was done by his predecessor, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. And when challenged about the constitutionality of declaring his assets, he would not have retorted, “I don’t give a damn!” If Jonathan had wanted to be a statesman, he would not have pardoned the convicted felon, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and soon after began the illogical argument that stealing is not corruption. If Jonathan had wanted to be a statesman, he should not have allowed his minister of aviation, Stella Oduah to continue to be in office amidst scandal over the purchase of N225 million naira bulletproof cars. And after he was forced to set up a presidential committee to look into it, he would have made the recommendations of the committee public.

President Jonathan went dancing at a campaign rally, the day of the abduction which was also the day after Nyanya terrorist bombing that claimed 72 lives in the nation's capital, ABuja
President Jonathan went dancing at a campaign rally, the day of the abduction which was also the day after Nyanya terrorist bombing that claimed 72 lives in the nation’s capital, ABuja

If Jonathan had wanted to be a statesman, he should have done everything to reduce the cost of government. In January of 2012, a presidential committee on public service reform discovered that top government officials in Nigeria take home N1.126 trillion a year in salaries and allowances – out of a national budget of N4.6 trillion. These public officers constitute just 0.013 per cent of Nigeria’s population. They include 108 senators who each make over $1.7m a year. That alone is $183.4 million (N28 billion). Then the 360 members of the House of Representatives each takes home over $1.2 million, which amounts to $432 million (N65bn). Again, each state governor collects an average of N200 million naira a month just as security vote. In a year, they each get N2.4 billion naira. So, our 36 governors take home N87 billion naira on security votes alone every year. Add our 38 ministers and ministers of state, 100 plus heads of federal and state agencies, over 432 state commissioners, 774 local government area chairmen or caretakers, almost 10,000 councilors and you will understand where the N1.126 trillion goes.

If Jonathan had wanted to be a statesman, he would have made the recommendation of 101 committees he set up known, including the audit report of the missing $20 billion dollars from the NNPC. If Jonathan had wanted to be a statesman, he would have invested his political capital in restructuring Nigeria such that it would be a fairer society. If Jonathan had wanted to be a statesman, he would have made permanent changes in Nigeria that would outlive his presidency. If Jonathan had wanted to be a statesman, he would have spent more of his energy thinking about his grandchildren instead of fighting and cuddling his godfathers.

The truth is that Goodluck Jonathan has never wanted to be a statesman. Those who are trying to hang it on his neck are worse than those who hung the presidency on him when he did not want it or even had any willingness to live up to the expectations of that job.

The good thing is that it is not late for Jonathan to be a statesman if he really wants to. He could start by accounting for what happened to Nigeria’s foreign reserve in the last 3 months. While he is at it, he could also declare his assets, after all, he is not running for office again. As a parting gift, he should not just release the $20 billion audit report, he should also punish those found wanting so that he would leave the incoming administration with less burden from the unfinished business of his last 6 years in power.

Diplomatic speaking, Jonathan is a statesman- their statesmen.  But for those who want to keep it real, he is simply a man not prepared for the presidency of Nigeria and who refused to learn on the job only to squander the goodwill invested in him by millions.

The rest of the world is humoring us when they say that Jonathan is a statesman. They are buying into that our foremost malice, low expectations.  This is exactly why we are where we are. We celebrate mediocrity.  We worship people who have failed and we wonder why we have not climbed any higher.

We need to be clear on our premise. Screwed ups premise means screwed up precedence. We need to get that clear so that we will be able to objectively judge Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure when it comes to an end on May 29, 2019.