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Brewing controversy over nostalgia for Jonathan amid crippling hardship

By Sunny Ogefere, Seye Olumide (Lagos) and Julius Osahon, Yeneagoa
15 December 2016   |   4:16 am
Of 14 Nigerians that have ruled the country since it gained Independence in 1960, the administration of immediate past president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan ...
President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

• Change agenda has failed, says Abubarkar
• Former president is a failure, Kpodo claims

Of 14 Nigerians that have ruled the country since it gained Independence in 1960, the administration of immediate past president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been the most vilified.

Apart from the fact that Jonathan emerged President under controversial circumstances in May 2010, with the adoption of the doctrine of necessity after the demise of his predecessor, Alhaji Umaru Yar’ Adua, he became endeared to millions of Nigerians during the 2011 Presidential election.

When he contested the 2011 election, there was the sentiment it was not only appropriate to give someone from the minority group a chance to lead the country for the first time, but that his experience, as a former deputy governor, governor and vice president would be of immense benefits that would help him in proper coordination of the affairs of the country.

However, eight months after he was fully sworn in on May 29 2011, precisely in January 2012, Jonathan’s removal of the subsidy from oil dented the image of his administration and his personality, one of the major points opposition parties used to flay his government.

Throughout his six years in power, his administrative policies were seemingly twisted, misrepresented or miss-interpreted through the well-oiled and organised criticisms of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) now the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). His good were as vilified as his errors.

The leadership of the APC among others latched onto every available media platforms and other information dissemination networks especially the online portals to fault whatever he did; they described his as the most weakest leader the nation ever produced, his government as the most corrupt, visionless among others. He was unable to come out of the image destructive network that was weaved around his government until he lost in the 2015 Presidential election to President Muhammadu Buhari.

However, more than a year out of office, Jonathan is still bearing the burden of the many dents of his government particularly the various allegations of corruption leveled against most of his lieutenants.

But in the last few months, songs of praises are been sang for Jonathan as some Nigerians, who were once his ardent critics are beginning to do comparative analysis between his government and that of his successor, Buhari.

To them the stewardship of Buhari and his promises of ‘Change Agenda’ is getting bored as Nigerians continue to groan under intense hardship, poverty and lack occasioned by economic recession; dilapidated infrastructure to the extent that majority of the members of the ruling party now jokingly referred to one another as “Internally Displaced Politicians (IDP) under the Buhari watch.

Using the indices of poverty and cost of living, many Nigerians are beginning to hold the view that the cluelessness of Jonathan, in addressing cogent economic issues was more or less better, compared with what the country has gone through in the last 18 months, under President Buhari.

Some even attempted to compare the internal crises that affected the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Jonathan to the one that the ruling APC is currently undergoing under Buhari, and came to the conclusion that there seems to be littlie or no difference. The incumbent ruling party, is as divided and factionalised as the former ruling, PDP.

Last month, in Sokoto State, one of the core northern states, where Jonathan has gone to commiserate with the Sultan of Sokoto and the family of his National Security Advisers, Dasuki Sambo over the death of late Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki a former Sultan, some Pro-Democracy group, the Wailing Wailers, urged him to come back while they asked President Buhari to honorably resign.

The group in a statement in Abuja, by its Acting National Publicity Secretary, Usman Abubakar, lamented that given the lingering economic woes, as well as the rising inflation rate, it was glaring that President Buhari doesn’t have the solution to the nation’s problems.

The group hinged its call on Jonathan to return on the fact that Nigeria’s inflation has risen to a record breaking of 18.3%, claiming that in the history of Nigeria, the last time the country experienced hyper-inflation, depression, recession and famine was when Buhari truncated civil rule in 1984 and took over powers.

The group also lamented that those who supported Buhari out of ethnic and religious sentiments have now realized their mistake as poverty, which does not respect ethnic group or religion sentiments ravages the nation.

One of the northern elites told The Guardian they would prefer any other candidate to Buhari in 2019.

Recently also, a PDP lawmaker in Lagos State House of Assembly, Victor Akande made a call on the former President to step into the crisis affecting the PDP as he is in a better position to resolve it.

He said it was unfortunate that PDP has not gotten its axe together and that it has not really harmonised and resolve its problems in order to forge ahead, saying: “Mr. Jonathan should come out of his cocoon and put the party aright.

“If Jonathan has come forth to lead the party in the right perspective, and take over the mantle of leadership, our story would have been different by now.’’

Former National Secretary, Labour Party (LP), Mr. Kayode Ajulo in his view said Jonathan has his shortcomings while in power but if what is happening economically today in Nigeria is to be placed side by side with what we experienced during the Jonathan’s days in government “it may not be out of place to conclude that the former is better. That is not automatic anyway because of economy depression across the world now.”

Ajulo however said, “One thing that the leadership of the ruling APC will agree with me is that in the past it is only the masses that are not close to government corridors that bear the brunt of government economic policies but today even those in the corridors of power are grumbling and lamenting.”

He said what made Jonathan’s government different and better was the fact that his administration has a responsive approach to the need of the people compared with the Buhari’s style, which appears unperturbed; “Jonathan’s government fears the people but reverse is the case now.”

A chieftain of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, who prefers anonymity, blamed some South West leaders for what he described ‘the mistake of 2015’, which is already dawning on everyone.

Spokesman of Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said the challenges facing the country at present transcends either both Buhari and Jonathan’s personalities because of the prevalent poverty. He said however, “the truth between both of them is the former President appears to have more respect for the rule of law and human feelings that what we are currently undergoing where people could be remanded in prison for mere criticising government policies.”

According to him, “In the light of events happening in the country there was never any political prisoners under the immediate past administration. The numbers of various inconclusive rerun elections, and massive election malpractices and violence that have occurred under the Buhari-led government are never witnessed under Jonathan. However, I will only encourage President Buhari to emulate some of the good things Jonathan did instead of the critical approaches of his adherents who never saw anything good about the previous administration.”

But some critics said those clamouring for Jonathan’s second coming or saying he did better were either ignorant or paid sycophants.

A former security aide to the Bayelsa State Government, Richard Kpodo, took a swipe at those orchestrating for Jonathan, saying: “The call was not only in bad faith, but an attempt to further institutionalised corruption and poor governance.

Kpodo, who is a chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC), also absolved President Buhari of any blame over the current nation’s economic recession.

According to him, “The ongoing fight against corruption and economic policies of the present administration will take Nigeria back to the part of posterity.”

He said despite a drastic fall in oil prices, the government has forged ahead and returned monies belonging to states to assist in paying salaries of workers and embarked on development projects,” these were traits strange to the administration of Jonathan.

He described Jonathan’s administration as the most corrupt and he has enjoyed cover-ups from sycophants and political jabbers “the Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration earned N17trn from crude oil sales within eight years and left behind 45bn dollars external reserves and 3.348bn dollars external debt.

“Late President Yar’ Adua grew the reserves to 64 billion dollars within just one year and the administration was able to finance 15 months of imports despite the 2008/2009 world economic meltdown. Hence, Nigeria survived the meltdown because of the political will by the administration to save. Despite the tough economic reality at that time, Yar’ Adua left 47.7bn dollars in reserves and an external debt of 3.94bn dollars. Meanwhile, the administration earned only N9trn from crude oil sales within that short period.”

He also added that the Jonathan administration witnessed an oil boom when Brent crude sold for over 100 dollars/barrel, with the regime earning N 51trn within a period of five years. But because of corruption, the administration did not only squander the oil revenue but even depleted the reserves left by Yar’Adua, leaving just 32bn dollars and a huge external debt of 63bn dollars for Buhari.”

Also, an activist and chieftain of PDP in Delta State, Comrade Elija Ologe said the era of Jonathan has come and gone, consequently he should be left alone.

“Jonathan cannot come back, he disappointed every body. He was given opportunity to develop his place and he practically could not do anything. So we need somebody that can turn Nigeria around not Jonathan.

“Jonathan has come, he has finished his bit and he has left, so he should not come back. But I am sure that even Jonathan himself is not ready to come back,” he added.

In another reaction, Mr. Alex T. Dumbo, a lawyer and State Chairman, Voice of South-South, said Jonathan has paid his dues to the Nigerian project and should be allowed to enjoy his well-deserved retirement.

“Be that as it may, Nigerians are enjoined to begin the search for available and very credible sons of the Niger Delta with proven ability and sparkling credentials to render political service to the larger Nigeria.

“This line of thought stems from the fact that the Buhari-led APC has failed palpably in 90 per cent of its electoral promises.

“Let it be on record however that Kpodo lacks the moral fibre to classify persons calling for Jonathan’s return as having only self-serving motive.”

Governorship candidate of the Lagos PDP in 2015 election, Mr. Jimi Agbaje said it was glaring that Nigerians are hard hit economically now than they were under the Jonathan government “although the Buhari’s administration has promised the situation would improve by January next year.”

He added that whatever policies the incumbent government is putting in place are yet to impact positively on the people and there is the need to review it.

“I wouldn’t blame whoever says there was relief under Jonathan compared with now, that is the obvious but at the same time, governance is a challenge, I hope the Buhari administration will wake up to the challenge and do the needful,” he stated.