By Dons Eze, PhD
In 2015, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was seen as evil personified. He was clueless, naive, incompetent, weak, inept, and he headed the most corrupt government in the history of Nigeria. Jonathan was also said to have lacked vision, focus, political will, and hence was incapable of tackling the multifarious problems facing Nigeria.
It was because of this general belief that Goodluck Jonathan was a failure that made both the conservative and the so-called progressive elements in Nigeria to come together in a grand coalition to ensure that the man was booted out of office.
During that time, Nigeria was faced with two main problems – insecurity, particularly Boko Haram in the North East, which had displaced many people in the area; and corruption, which had eaten deep into the fabrics of Nigerian society.
In spite of these problems, however, Nigerian economy was still relatively in good shape, as the country was rated the biggest economy in Africa, while the Naira exchanged at N185 to one United States dollar, etc.
Then came retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari and his mantra of change seeking to upstage Jonathan in a Presidential race. He presented himself as a paragon, impeccable, incorruptible, and the best thing that could happen to Nigeria. He promised to deal ruthlessly with corruption, as well as the monstrous Boko Haram, and to restore Nigeria on the path of glory. Majority of the people believed him and gave Buhari their votes.
However, less than three years down the line, Nigerians began to complain, that they had not seen the promised change, save on the negative side. According to them, everything in the country had gone haywire. There was heightened insecurity, not just Boko Haram in the North East, but all over the country: armed Fulani herdsmen ravaging towns and villages, banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping, cultism, etc.
They also complained about political intimidation, disregard of both the legislative and the judicial arms of government by the executive, disrespect for the rule of law, abuse of press freedom and violation of human rights, corruption, mismanagement of the economy, scarcity and high cost of goods and services, etc.
In consequence, many of them began to look on Jonathan years with nostalgia, and wished that the man had remained in power. Some of them began to recant and to tender public apologies for the roles they played in bringing down Jonathan’s government.
Aminu Shagari, son of former President Shehu Shagari, lawyer, and three-term member of House of Representatives, was one of them. Apologizing to Jonathan, he confessed that he was among those who helped to bring down his government to ensure that Muhammadu Buhari emerged, in spite of the fact that as a military officer, he led a coup that dethroned his father in 1983.
Aminu lamented that after his father had passed away, President Buhari travelled all the way from Abuja to Sokoto to pay a condolence visit to the family, but never gave any “words of comfort”.
According to him: “We didn’t hear such because he didn’t say anything. We gave him the condolence register. He only signed and put the date. Personally, I was very disappointed with that. I expected that at least, as Muslim, he would write, ‘May Allah forgive him and may Allah forgive us when our time comes.’ That makes me extremely disappointed in him.
“This is somebody we really supported, campaigned for and mobilised people for his election because we obediently adhered to our father’s dictate to forgive and let bygone be bygone.
“The same Muhammadu Buhari, in the condolence letter he gave the state Governor (Aminu Waziri Tambuwal), promised to immortalise our dad. Close to two years after his death, he has yet to fulfil his promise. Whereas he recently named certain landmarks after some Nigerians who are still alive, including former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Let me use this opportunity to tender a public apology to former President Jonathan and seek forgiveness because I helped to divide the Peoples Democratic Party and bring down his government, but I have found out that what we thought about his stewardship was not entirely true”.
Another repentant “sinner” was Dino Melaye who represented Kogi West senatorial district at the red chamber. At a book launch in Abuja, Melaye publicly apologized to Jonathan over his role in the 2015 general election, which resulted in the loss of the Presidency by the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party.
Said the former senator, “I Senator Dino Melaye, I want to say openly here that after many things that have happened and events that have unfolded in recent times, I want to say openly here that once I was blind, now I can see.
“In 2017, I was arrested eighteen times, there were more times in 2018 and between then and now, I have been taken to court for twelve different cases and out of those cases, we have won eleven of them. And that only one is that borders on attempted suicide. I wonder how someone like me who likes cars and loves life so well would want to kill himself.
“President Goodluck Jonathan, I want to say that on behalf of all of us who shot blindly, we are sorry. The one that I later wondered was why you did that phone call. I sometimes wondered that if you had not made that call, we would not be where we are today
“But after I saw what is happening in America, where President Trump is saying I no go gree, I can now see the reason for that call. There are very few people like you. I pray for that anointing”, Melaye said.
There was also one Deyemi Saka who wrote to Goodluck Jonathan apologizing for his role in vilifying him, which contributed to his removal from office through the ballot.
He wrote in part: “It is with utmost sense of patriotism and contrition that I write you. Throughout your Presidency, I held you responsible for the insecurity which plagued our dear nation. I came up with tons of independent intelligence analysis in which I consistently accused you and your government of culpability.
“As a man of honour and integrity, it is pertinent I must accept my judgemental errors, missteps and misgivings. I must be bold enough to own it and apologise.
“I apologise for promoting the worst disaster in governance than can ever be known to mankind above you. I am deeply sorry for classifying you clueless and spineless while promoting one who is evidently lifeless, emotionless and brainless”.
Governors elected on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) were not spared of this volte face. They visited Jonathan and fraternized with him.
That is the irony of life. You don’t value what you have until you lose it. But that is not to say that Goodluck Jonathan is a saint, or an angel. Far from it. Jonathan is human, and he had his many faults.
But during the Jonathan era, there was “a breath of fresh air”. There was no political intimidation. There was no jailing of political opponents, no gagging of the press, no imposition of heavy fines on television stations, – Arise, AIT and Channels televisions and other media organizations.
During the Jonathan era, Fulani herdsmen were not audacious, operating with recklessness, burning down towns and villages, raping and killing people in their numbers. There was also no killing or teargassing of unarmed protesters – IPOB, Shiite members, EndSARS protesters, parents whose children were abducted, etc.
During the Jonathan era, there was also no religious persecution, no nepotism, appointing people to political positions based on the faith they profess, or where they come from, etc.
Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher of antiquity, said that “change” is the only permanent thing in the world. Yesterday, Goodluck Jonathan was a sinner, today, he is a saint!
Dr. Dons Eze, KSJI