The Jonathan presidency has a history of indelicacies and its politics, a genre of farce. Much of his time in the saddle will be remembered for its usual execrable standards in the form of bad policy and decision-making, outright gaffes and stultifying indifference to pressing national issues. His media chat through which he communicated was often a piquant mélange of dull and hotheaded rhetoric. Through the years, his appearances became events, where all he does is to amuse himself. We must give him credit though, unlike most politicians, he means whatever he says.
Barely three months after he was sworn in, in 2011, Mr. Jonathan showed he had none of the raw materials of moral sentiment required of a President. When he was asked if the attack on the United Nations building in Abuja will have any adverse effect on the image of Nigeria, the president said, “Of course, wherever you have terrorist attack in any country, Nigeria is not an isolated case. Many countries have suffered from terrorists attacks, may be it is the turn of Nigeria. But we are on top of the situation”. He statement shocked Nigerians and caught us napping!
In June of 2012, in response to the question of public declaration of his assets; he showed he doesn’t riff on orthodoxies. “The issue of public asset declaration is a matter of personal principle…That is the way I see it, and I don’t give a damn about it, even if you criticise me from heaven. When I was the Vice President, that matter came up, and I told the former President, let’s not start something that would make us play into the hands of people and create an anomalous situation in the country.” How is that for a President? His response revealed a general lack of restraining inner core for someone holding a public office. The “I don’t give a damn” comment became his body language and the defining cliché of his presidency.
When questioned on poverty, the President did not waste time to state his objectively disordered view. “I visited Kenya recently on a state visit and there was a programme for Nigerian and Kenyan business men to interact and the number of private jets that landed in Nairobi that day was a subject of discussion in Kenyan media for over a week…If you talk about ownership of private jets, Nigeria will be among the first 10 countries, yet they are saying that Nigeria is among the five poorest countries… Some of you will experience that there is an amount of money you will give to a Nigerian who needs help and will not even regard it and thank you but if you travel to other countries and give such an amount, the person will celebrate.” Wow! By this time Nigerians knew, they have entered “one chance”. Every interview of his, became a tour de force performance where arrogance and inane cattiness were at play.
Have you ever wondered why corruption thrived and became official policy under Goodluck Jonathan? The answer is not far fetched. He believes there is no corruption in Nigeria, he can only think of thieves. With his peculiar doctoral distinction, he said: “What many Nigerians refer to as corruption is actually stealing. Stealing is not the same thing as corruption.” Throughout his presidency, he was star-struck by the résumé of his cabinet members and content with spending his presidential days in the BarcaLounger while his unelected women take control of the country. Hear him, “CNN has said our economy is growing. The best Economists are at the World Bank. Now you have all these Nigerian economists talking nonsense. Do they know better than CNN or World Bank?” When calls mounted for the petroleum minister to appear before the legislators, he said; “The Petroleum Minister has appeared before the Parliament for over 200 days…in the Nigerian Parliament you’ll agree with me that there is more politics than work.” On the alleged $20billion that was not remitted to the Federation account, brought to light by former Central Bank Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the President came out swinging. He was more eager to discredit Sanusi than investigate his thieves. “Twenty billion dollars is a lot of money. If you steal $20 billion today, America will know. It is their money. Where will you hide the money? Even Dangote that is celebrated as the richest man in Africa today can not produce such amount of money…”
At every media appearance, questions for the President ranged from security to the economy and infrastructural provisions. Of course, he botched everything. From the half-hearted state of emergency, the Buni Yadi Killing to the Chibok girls abductions. He was totally indifferent to the brutality of terrorism and the mass slaughter in the North-East. “We believe that wherever these girls are, we will get them out. What we request is maximum cooperation from the parents and the guardians of these girls. Up till this time, they have not been able to come out clearly to give the police the identity of the girls that are to return. The police have records of 44 of them, while the principal mentioned to me on Saturday night that 53 have returned but the police have record of 44. I recently set up a committee to go to Borno State, we will provide the security.” What!
Here are some of his memorable quotes:
“The PDP must win the south west and salvage the region from rascals.”
“If I go there or send any of my ministers they will just kill you.”
“Niger Delta militants are not terrorists, they have a reason for their agitations.”
“I met Asari-Dokubo for the first time in the State House. Whenever we call them they come.”
“They are making provocative statements that will set this country ablaze. How can someone tell me that such people are senior citizens. They are not senior citizens and they can never be. They are ordinary motor park touts.”
“If you put a goat where yam is, it will eat it, if you put people where money is, they will steal it”
I asked my friends on Facebook to list the stupidest things done or said by Jonathan that ruined his presidency. Each and everyone of the above statements from Mr. Jonathan were cited. No one captured the public persona presented to the world by the President better than Lekan Ogundipe. He wrote, “He gained notoriety with his malapropism, inverted logic, colourlessness, disingenuosness, character deficiency, shameless dramatisation of his moronic propensities, high-profile stupidly, paradoxical mental laziness and intellectual hollowness and brazen corruption. In all these, he ranks unbeaten as the most unpresidential President Nigeria will ever have. Surely he and his wife deserve a joint award for comical ineptitude!” What more can I add?
The Jonathan presidency is a costly joke on us. As it is, the Buhari presidency will have its work cut out for it. The treasury is empty! Unless they prosecute the major actors, the stolen money is gone for good. Last week Mr. Jonathan revealed his sense of humour by saving the best for the last as defined in his practical postulations to his party members on stomach politics. He said, “So I encourage members of our party to remain loyal to the party, not to be so disillusioned because we lost presidential election and decide to go where they think they will fill their stomachs or something. It’s not easy. I have been here for five years plus, you hardly satisfy even 15 percent of those who work for you…So those people running and those already cross-carpeting, they will come back on an empty stomach because they will touch the primary members of their party, before they get to you. They know you are coming because you are hungry, before it will get to you the food will be gone.” This is the rallying philosophy of the Jonathan’s presidency. Unfortunately it took us 6years of unprecedented plunder to find out.
Soon, it will be May 29 and Jonathan will join the rank of ex-Presidents and most certainly cast himself as a statesman, but we know better. History will not be kind to him. He will be remembered as a prisoner of two islands: his pockets and his women. He will be cast as an eunuch, without values nor beliefs, who clanked hard on Nigeria for ill. We will remember him for knitting religion into our political fabric to the point of disintegration and his lack of moral leadership will not escape our minds. For a long time to come, we will remember his tired, senseless and scattered rhetoric. It helped us rid this country of him.
Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú maintains a weekly column on Politics and Socioeconomic issues every Tuesday. She is a member of Premium Times Editorial Board. Twitter @olufunmilayo