Jonathan: Man in the middle... or muddle

THE GUARDIAN Newspaper- Onajomo Orere

Vice President Goodluck Jonathan may not have sought the office of president of the country but he is being made to act the part now. Nigerians want to see if he can quickly clean up the mess and tackle the many challenges plunging the nation deeper into the realm of failed states.

HE did not set out to be leader of the country. Therefore, it would be too much to expect a vision of how things should be from him.

But a vision he must have, now that fate or whatever has thrust the leadership of the country, albeit temporarily, unto his lap.

President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has a vision for the country. He may not have done much for his vision. His health challenges may have contributed to the limited attainments.

But Jonathan, the "unwilling" deputy governor turned governor of Bayelsa State in December 2005, is again being drafted somehow, to step in, to perform the duties of the president of the country.

The challenges out there are well known. They are legion. They range from a disunited country to a country with an image of never-do-well. Some even predict failure for the country. The country that does not know how to conduct elections. A country with pervasive insecurity, poverty, lack of infrastructure, lethargic civil service, myopic legislature, restless military, deep-rooted corruption, docile population, poor healthcare and education systems, a worthless currency, high unemployment, religious fundamentalism, militancy, and many others.

On the international scene, there is United State's (U.S.) new "problem" of branding Nigeria a terrorist haven; less-endowed nations riding on the back of Nigeria because the tiger is asleep. She is accused of exporting fraud to other parts of the world, donor-dependent whereas well endowed with quality resources, and others.

Where does Jonathan start from? Which problems are more important than the others?

A cross section of Nigerians believe that until President Yar'Adua who is currently receiving treatment in Saudi Arabia for acute pericarditis -inflammation of the lining of the heart - returns, Jonathan has to rule and rule well.

Although not given yet full powers of the president in accordance with the constitution of the country, Jonathan's hands have been strengthened somewhat by an Abuja High Court ruling of last week, to run the show.

Many eminent Nigerians have been clamouring for him to take charge, imperfect as the instrument of transfer of power is at the moment, instead of leaving the country to drift rudderless. Here lies the big challenge for the man whose luck has been his greatest propeller.

A university don and fellow of the Centre for Advance Social Sciences, Dr. Sofiri Peterside, has suggested, based on what he feels should be the priority of Jonathan, that the Vice President should vigorously follow up the amnesty programme for repentant militants and their rehabilitation.

Peterside, who was one of the resource persons to the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta, observed that the recommendation had become imperative because it does appear that since President Yar'Adua took ill and went outside the country, the entire amnesty process had been stalled.

To Dr. Effiong Edunam, a historian and a former Commissioner in Akwa Ibom State, Jonathan should reduce the Peoples Democratic Party's (PDP) Seven-point Agenda for easy implementation. In this, he (Jonathan) should tackle the problems of power, roads, the Niger Delta and electoral reforms.

The acting Action Congress (AC) chairman in Bayelsa State, Mr. Ebikina Miriki wants the Vice President to ensure the rule of law mantra of Yar'Adua is upheld always in whatever he does.

The Prelate of the Methodist Church Nigeria, Lagos Archdiocese, His Eminence Sunday Ola Makinde, declined to advise Jonathan on what he should do or not at this time "until he assumes the acting president" status.

The founder and Senior Pastor of Guiding Light Assembly, Parkview Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos and National Secretary of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Pastor Wale Adefarasin wants that, if and when Jonathan truly assumes the mantle, he should start with the electoral reform and have zero tolerance for corruption.

Dr. Abdullahi Baffa, a lecturer in the Department of Mathematics of the Bayero University Kano (BUK), Kano State just wants the Vice President to provide sound leadership to bring the country back from the brink of disaster.

Constructive diplomacy is what Dr. David Aworawo, an expert in international relations and Senior Lecturer in the Department of History and Strategic Studies, University of Lagos, see as recovery path for Nigeria's plummeting international image.

If all adult Nigerians were polled, they would have one area dear to their heart or the other to recommend.

Aworawo's colleague in the Department of Philosophy, Dr. Karo Ogbinaka, said Jonathan should first and foremost build confidence in the presidency because as far as the ordinary Nigerian is concerned at this point in time, he said, "there is no government in place especially at the centre.

"Jonathan should create an atmosphere that we have a government in Nigeria. That the presidency is still alive and kicking", he said.

The Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nduka Eya wants "hope" in the country to be restored while the National Chairman of the Justice Party, Chief Ralph Obioha, feels Jonathan has a "lot of healing to do urgently".

Dr. Doyin Okupe, the former Special Assistant to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Media has a shopping list for Jonathan to tackle quickly. And they are all well known to Nigerians.

Politician, Jimi Agbaje just wants electoral reforms first.

To Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Chris Akiri, there is nothing in the January 13 ruling of Justice Daniel Abutu of the Federal High Court, Abuja to confer "acting president" status on Jonathan yet.

In fact, he wants the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minster of Justice, Mr. Mike Kaase Aondoakaa to challenge the ruling at the Court of Appeal to straighten the misinterpretation of the Constitution the ruling had seemed to give.

"The Abutu judgment, which smacks of a case pre-committed to a partisan conclusion, would have been credible if it had been expressly stated to represent a mere judicial stratagem, without a nodding reference to law and to the provisions of the Constitution, to serve as a balm to the ongoing constitutional-cum-political crisis. But then, it should be noted that a case like this, obviously delivered per incuriam, unless successfully appealed against, may not only guide future causes and matters, but become a precedent for other parallel cases", Akiri said.

But Aondoakaa had already hailed the judgment as good for the polity and the country.

The deployment of troops to quell the religious strife that had threatened the peace in Jos, Plateau State since Sunday may be the first major test of Jonathan's capacity as acting for the president. The fuel scarcity is also there.

Many Nigerians are not looking at Jonathan's quaint faade, a faade that comes to many as docility, lacking action. Nigerians are also not calling for him to take the mantle of leadership because they see the saviour-image in him.

As many Nigerians have consistently said, they just want somebody that can be held accountable to the many woes currently bedeviling the country with Yar'Adua's absence from the scene.

Dr. Peterside just wants the Vice President "to rekindle hope and make sure that funds are deployed, institutions are established and ensure that the amnesty rehabilitation process comes on stream," he said.

He believes that the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State would provide the litmus test of what to expect of Jonathan on the saddle.

Peterside urged the Vice President to investigate the cause of the perennial fuel scarcity in the country and take drastic steps to assuage the pains inflicted on Nigeria as a result of this.

"We want the Vice President to investigate what is wrong in the petroleum sector", he added.

Former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Onueze C. J. Okocha (SAN) believes there is leadership vacuum in the country currently and "anything can happen to the country at any time", adding that unless something was done urgently, "Nigeria will run into serious crisis."

Prince Amgbare said knowing Jonathan as he did in Bayelsa, the Vice President would "never do anything to hurt the establishment".

But Miriki advised Jonathan to "look beyond party interest as nobody or institution is above the nation.

"The Vice President should not only treat the cabals or sycophants as enemies of the state but should match his words with action and avoid the political intrigues of the very few cabals and be more focused and decisive".

Another fellow Ijaw son, and a former member of the Federal House of Representative, Mr. Ebikeme Ere, wants the vice president to be allowed "to rule the country in line with provisions of the constitution".

Revd. Makinde warned those not wishing to follow the constitution in the matter of leadership of the country to be careful of what they were doing to the country. He however refused to offer advice to Jonathan since, according to him, "he has not assumed the office of acting president" as contained in the constitution to enable him function with executive powers.

"The Vice President has been busy calling for prayers on behalf of Mr. President and we should follow that example. He has consistently done this by organising so many prayer sessions on behalf of the president and we join him to pray for Mr. President to get well.

"In all this, I think, I'm more particular about upholding him with our prayers. Because there is nothing prayer cannot do...those who are vehemently calling for his resignation are not considerate enough considering the state of his health...that calling alone if he hears it, can worsen his condition and psychologically, he will breakdown. My prayer is that Yar'Adua should be healed so his detractors will be humiliated and disgraced.

"Let those who are very close to him, persuade him to temporarily hand over the government to the Vice President", Makinde said.

Adefarasin suggested: "I think that Nigeria's problems need to be resolved from their very foundation... the Nigerian constitution.

"The other one is that there must be electoral reforms. If these two things are done by Goodluck Jonathan, then Nigeria would have taken a huge step towards a better future.

"He should have a zero tolerance for corruption. What I'm saying in other words is that he should not allow the corrupt to go free. They must be brought to book".

For Okupe, "Vice President Jonathan should embark on nationwide consultation on the present constitutional crisis that has befallen the nation as a result of failure of the president to write the official handover letter to the National Assembly."

As he put it, "it is obvious that the two institutions that can act constitutionally are apparently and seemingly hampered - the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for obvious reasons of loyalty to their employer and the National Assembly for constitutional constraints.

"The VP must call a consultative meeting of organized Labour and civil society including youth organizations and student union leaders. He has to hold a similar meeting of traditional rulers and religious leaders, leaders of the National Assembly and Judiciary, all past Presidents and Heads of States, Council of State, National Executive Council of the PDP, National Security Council (NSC), and FEC and address the nation on the outcome of all the consultations".

He also listed what the Vice President must not do if he must move the nation forward: "The VP must not behave as if there is no problem. There is a very serious national problem and all is not well. He cannot afford to be inactive in this matter. In the absence of the president, the VP is the most senior person in the administration and the nation. He must spearhead and provide leadership in the various efforts to resolve the constitutional problem brought about by the failure of the President to write officially to the National Assembly; informing them of his incapacitation; he must not let down the civil society and the masses of the country by allowing the negative forces currently strangulating the life of the nation to triumph."

Agbaje wants Jonathan to "govern with the fear of God and a sense of history. He should avoid the professional praise singers and hangers on that usually 'hijack' those in power," he said.

Baffa, wants Jonathan to "exercise presidential powers without any encumbrances.

"The Vice President should not be given a no-go area in the discharge of his duties as the Vice President. I believe that the country requires a very serious and very purposeful leadership by assuming full presidential powers" to tackle the myriad of problems of the country.

In advising Jonathan, Aworawo asked him not to take the gentility of his boss in the area of foreign diplomacy. Yar'Adua, he said was "probably too gentle for the dynamism that contemporary diplomacy requires. You don't have to be assertive but you can be dynamic which was lacking.

"Just to be more specific on what his focus should be, to begin with, he should try to let international community know that Nigeria is still a continental, regional player. In Africa, Nigeria remains a very important country that the rest of the world would neglect to the peril of Africa and international community itself", he said.

Ogbinaka said the general "perception is that what is going on is massive looting in the embassies, in the ministries and it is now like a mad house, which one really does not know who owns the property.

"He has to strengthen the institution of governance before we can move forward. Secondly, we have to face the problem of infrastructure in this country.

"Jonathan must win back the confidence of the polity, that something is really happening" he added.

The Secretary General of Campaign for Democracy, Mr. Solomon Sobade said that it is expedient of Jonathan to undertake bold steps and instill confidence in Nigerians. "If he is actually acting as president...he needs to take charge of governance in the real sense of it".

To Chief Eya, Jonathan should avoid the slow approach to issues, which the Yar'Adua administration is known for as well as concentrate on areas that can bear meaningful impact on the society while Obioha wants Jonathan to accept all parts of Nigeria as his constituency and know that as the father of the nation, he must now ensure that he will do everything possible to stabilize the polity and create visible hope for Nigerians.

"Our infrastructures are in total state of disrepair and these infrastructures are the roads, energy, hospitals and schools".

He continued: "Jonathan should lead us well because as it is now, he is not just the President of the PDP but that of the entire nation and therefore should carry the burdens of the nation to greater heights".

Goodluck Jonathan in the eyes of his father

This interview with the VP's father, Pa Ebele Jonathan, was conducted by The Guardian shortly after Yar'Adua and Jonathan won the April 2007 presidential election. Pa Jonathan has since passed on but no one else has spoken as knowingly about the VP.

WHY did you choose to call your son, the Vice President-elect Goodluck?

Jonathan: Since my parents gave birth to me, I have always deemed himself a lucky person. And in several instances I have excelled where others could not. I have never failed in my life. When I gave birth to my son, I instinctively realized that this child has that element of fortune as well. There was a day I looked at him and decided that this boy has good luck, I just said to myself, this boy is lucky. So I decided to call him Goodluck.

He did not plan to be deputy governor, governor now a Vice President-elect, his name must be magically.

Well, I really don't consider his name to be instrumental to his recent elevation in life by God. I gave him the name long ago when it was still very difficult to predict that he will become a deputy governor, governor and then vice president. He was working in OMPADEC as a director, when (Diepreye) Alamieyeseigha was looking for a running mate. Then Ogbia people in Port Harcourt held a meeting and resolved that the only Ogbia son that could represent them adequately and ensure the progress of Bayelsa State was Goodluck, so they decided to approach him. Goodluck did not have such ambition. I remember he was reluctant and did not want to resign. Reason being that if they failed in the election, he has to start all over again. But our people assured him that himself and Alamieyeseigha must win but in case the reverse is the case, they promised to offer him a better job.

Otuoke is a rural community, how did you manage to train Goodluck in school?

(Roars in laughter). Where the money was? I was not a rich man but if you are determined and you have aspiration, there is nothing that you cannot achieve. Whatever you believe in will come to pass. I am not literate but I decided to send Goodluck and his elder sister to school. Though I was not literate, I consistently monitored the performance of both of them. There was something about Goodluck that I noticed. Each time they return from school, you will see him reading his book. Like I said earlier, I am not literate but I could distinguish teachers' assessment of my child when I see their notebooks. I knew the different between a good and a bad mark. In primary school, Goodluck was always coming first in his class. And when he finished primary school, I wept because I did not have money to send him to secondary school. I was the only son of my parents and had only a sister who I am older than. I did not have a rich brother or relations to support me in educating him. Despite all these odds, I resolved to send him to secondary School so that he could read and write. Then, when I visit Port Harcourt and other cities because I was not literate, I figure it difficult to cope. If you put up a signpost asking people not to pass through a particular route, I will not know this instruction and might even walk into danger. So, I resolved that this my son, will not be subjected to same travail. I resolved that my son must know how to read and write since I did not have the privilege. I took him to Mater Dei High School in Imiringi to register.

The first examinations he took, he returned home and was crying that he came second. I empathized with him and cried along with him. Afterwards, I consoled him. He was pained that one boy from Imirigni beat him. I encouraged him to be contented with the second position that after all, it might even be in his interest. For me, I was gladdened by his performance. He maintained this until he sat for the West African Examination Council (WAEC). When his result came out I did not know to assess his performance. After WAEC, he was given a testimonial, which I did not know what its content and essence were. It was an educated blind man in our village, who could read and write, that sent for me and requested for Goodluck's result. He asked why I was troubled over the WAEC result. I told him what I heard from people that Goodluck had failed but that I wanted to gather money for him to re-sit the examination. I told him that all that was given to Goodluck was a testimonial, which cannot earn him a job. The blind man listened to me and said it's not true. He admonished me not to misplace the testimonial because there was nowhere in the country that Goodluck will present the testimonial that he will not be offered employment. I asked him if he was sure of what he was saying and he emphatically said 'yes'. Still, I had my reservations because the man was more of a mystery to us in Otuoke.

Let me explain the mystery about this blind man. Sometimes when you walk past him even without uttering a word, he will mention your name and this makes me to wonder if this fellow was actually a blind man but he was. I sometimes used to tell others that he was not a blind man because I sometimes deliberately walk past him without saying a word and he would shout my name. So, when he talked about Goodluck's result, I became reassured that my son had excelled.

Otueke is right inside the mangrove forest. What was the means of transportation then to Goodluck's school.

Our means of transportation then was the river and bicycle. I used to convey him to school on my bicycle. When the school resumed, I would use my bicycle to transport him to school and when the school was on holidays, I would still ride to his school to bring him back home.

Goodluck has been described by many as a gentleman, was he rascally as a child?

No, no, no. My son was not racially. He never caused any problem in this community (Otuoke). He was not stubborn. He never caused trouble in this community. No, my boy did not do that.

Were you surprised when he was nominated as the running mate to President-elect, Umaru Yar'Adua?

I was surprised. Why should I not be surprised? I was surprised but all the same I am happy for him. When I heard he was running as a deputy governor to Alamieyeseigha, I was afraid. Then he was in OMAPADEC earning small, small kobo that kept him going. As a matter of fact, I was not glad that he was leaving OMPADEC to venture into politics. I felt my son would be ruined. On the other hand, I felt that those Ogbia sons who wanted him to be a deputy governor then felt that was better than being in OMPADEC. Since my son ventured into politics, I was worried as a matter of fact. But after he served as a deputy governor and then through providence became a governor, I became confident that he would do well as an administrator. So, when the vice presidential opportunity came his way, I was rest assured that he would do well. Well, since it has so pleaded God for him to be in that exhaled seat, I have always prayed to God to grant him the wisdom to carry on.

You must be a happy father?

Certainly, I am proud of my boy. He has made the family and the entire country proud. I am a happy and proud father


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