USAfrica: President Jonathan’s critics are unfair, expect too much. By Benjamin Aduba


President Jonathan’s critics are unfair, expect too much.
By Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba

USAfrica: President Jonathan's critics are unfair, expect too much. By Benjamin Aduba
President Goodluck-Jonathan of Nigeria

Exclusive & Special commentary to,  the USAfrica-powered e-groups of  Nigeria360,  UNNalumni,  and CLASSmagazine Houston.

USAfrica: An African-American sports figure, Satchel Paige once said that he does not look back because somebody or something might be “gaining” on him. This wisdom is similar to the Igbo saying credited to the dog which said: “ana ajara’m ike oso, ana’m agba awakwa akwa) (you do not have to praise my speed for I do not have to adjust my loin cloth as I run).

Both statements warn about wasting time on distractions (such as looking back, constantly adjusting one’s pants, etc) in the pursuit of one’s goals. But I plead that President Goodluck Jonathan’s critics should spend a few minutes looking back; just so that they may understand where he came from and how far he has gone. One would usually learn from history.

In 2007, Jonathan was elected (on a joint ticket) the Vice President to President Umaru Yar’ Adua, a man of ill health (until the President’s death). Yar’Adua did not exactly make his VP a co-president even as his ill health grew.

From all indications, Jonathan was not even a member of Yar’ Adua’s inner circle. Jonathan did not have a national constituency or following. He did not espouse any set of galvanizing agenda. He came from Baylesa, a riverine state which, in the estimation of some, is merely required to provide oil, but otherwise to keep quiet.

His Ijaw ethnic group’s other major contribution to Nigeria has been in producing regional “trouble makers” like Ken Saro-Wiwa, Adaka Boro, Dokubo Asari, MEND, and others. They did not produce national figures such as Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe ‘Zik of Africa’, Sir Abubakar Tafewa Balewa, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, or The Sarduana of Sokoto, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello.

Yes they are socio-culturally close to the Igbo and Yorubas but they never fully assimilated into either ethnic nationality. Jonathan’s ascendency to the presidency was very propitious. When the President Yar’ Adua became seriously ill and incapable of performing his duties he did not turn over the office to his vice as required by the constitution and so even in the absence of the president Mr. Jonathan was still outside the governing inner circle and was treated as an interloper.

He chaired the Federal Executive Council but rumor had it that he was not allowed to occupy the president’s chair. Even a courtesy visit to see the president at Saudi Arabia became a diplomatic disgrace, the height which was reached when the president was flown back at midnight without Mr. Jonathan being prepped about flight arrangements.

The rag tag generals did not consider it part of the protocol to inform him. He did not receive much support even from the Legislature. Yar’ Adua’s prolonged period of illness left Nigeria adrift for almost two years so that what Mr. Jonathan inherited was a rudderless ship with broken GPS. He spent the remaining 18 months of Yar’ Adua’s administration trying to figure out where things stood. But he had to spend a good portion of that time trying to fend off strong forces aligned against his succession to the thrown. I was a strong voice opposing his ascendancy on the ground that he was a signatory to the PDP stupid and unconstitutional rotational presidency.

He did not become his own man until May 29, 2011. Therefore Mr. Jonathan has been a president for just 8 months no matter what his critics write and say.

So if we looked back what will we see? We would see:

• A President who was kept waiting at the gate for 4 years of what would have been his apprenticeship by the masters who would not show him the trade secrets which would help him transit from journeyman to master • A man who came from a minority tribe with a reputation for breeding “trouble-makers” instead of from the chosen House of Israel. He was not from the tribe of Benjamin.

• An inheritor of a rudderless ship afloat in the ocean for over 50 years already buffeted by civil war storms, looted treasury, corrupt military and civil servants, a distrustful tribal society and compromised security apparatus: a Jewish nation in their 40th year in the wilderness, an ungovernable people.

• A President and a head of a party divided internally by the party’s position on rotation of the office he occupies as opposed to a head of a united ruling party. His legitimacy is questioned by what could possibly be a majority of his party faithful. One cannot rule from a divided house which risks collapsing at anytime.

• A nation where electoral rigging has become the accepted form of getting to the highest offices and where results would be contested “even if Jesus himself presided over it” as a national leader was once quoted. And, so on…. The above is an abridged history of the conditions under which President Jonathan is trying to redirect the Nigerian ship. Most people would agree that he has not been dealt a good hand. But one can only play the hand he was dealt. Mr. Jonathan has started well by surrounding himself with one of the best hands Nigeria has produced.

His ministers (too many — due to the constitution requirements) represent men and women of vision and strong character especially the economic team led by the likes of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Central Bank Governor Mr. Lamido Sanusi; his energy team of Mrs. Allison Madueke and Prof. Barth Nnaji, etc would suggest that he might do well if given time. But unfortunately our president does not have any time at all.

The compromised security team he inherited is incapable of securing the nation so that the work of development can begin. His political opponent from within his party is even stronger than his Royal Opposition and often teams up with them to sabotage his intentions. Some tribal elites bent on settling tribal scores would want a failed presidency to confirm that there are indeed people who are “born to rule.” What Mr. Jonathan has to do is to realize where he is; what his strengths are; and the amount of opposition arrayed before him. He must understand that he cannot do all the things that are expected of him. No person can. He should dust up Mr. Yar’ Adua’s seven point agenda and select just three and go after them with vigor. If I were President Jonathan, I will not put security on top of this list as it would consume an inordinate amount of resources and yield little result. I will not put the fight against corruption on the list either for the same reason. I will go after providing jobs via agriculture and roads improvement; I will try significant improvement in energy supply and perhaps I will pay significant attention to higher education.

These three areas could show significant improvement in the short time frame that is left in a four year term. Rome was not built in a day. I will leave the rest for the next President to handle, come May 29, 2015                                                                                                                                                                              •Aduba is the Boston, Massachusetts-based contributor to, CLASSmagazine and USAfrica multimedia networks, Houston.


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