Does Jonathan have the liver?

SUN Newspaper-Femi Adesina

Suddenly, the man we consider tepid and lukewarm has come out strong, belching smoke not only from the nostrils, but also the ears. Vice President Goodluck Jonathan got back his grove last weekend, and he flexed muscles that we thought were either non-existent, or which had gone flabby, flaccid and limp.

Hear the man from Bayelsa, whom good luck first thrust into the governorship of his state, and then the vice presidency:
“Key officers of government that are on top of their jobs need not harbour fears. But those who, rather than focus on this administration’s mandate to the Nigerian people, prefer to cause acrimony and disunity in order to advance personal aggrandisement, have every reason to fear.”

Was that Jonathan or somebody else? It was truly Jonathan, reacting to a story in a national newspaper that he had contacted the First Lady, Turai Yar’Adua, for directives on the Federal High Court ruling, which declared that he could wield presidential powers, due to the continued absence of his principal, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
Jonathan felt the newspaper story portrayed him as a weakling, jellyfish. True, that is the way most Nigerians see him. So it was time to threaten some fire and brimstone. It was time to prove that still waters truly run deep.

After the riot act read to key government officers, it’s time to ask: does Jonathan have the liver to do what he threatened? Even if he assumes presidential powers, does he have the spunk, the mettle and pluck to use it? Or will he be too timorous and faint-hearted to use the power? Will the hawks in the power vortex so much browbeat him, that he will remain timid and diffident despite the enormous powers at his disposal?

Since Yar’Adua was evacuated to Saudi Arabia last November 23 for medical attention, the nation has been adrift, tossed dangerously by the roaring waves on a tempestuous sea. Indeed, it is a miracle that the ship of state has not hit the rocks, or run aground. A court has ruled that though power was not officially transferred to him as stated by the Constitution, the Vice President can assume the powers. But the issue is, when he assumes the power, can the Vice President wield it as he should? Has he got the liver, the grit?

“His biceps are too weak. You must have a political base to make the kind of statement Jonathan has made. But he has none,” says eminent virologist and former oil minister, Professor Tam David-West. I respect the opinions of this Buguma-born academic, who now prefers to be called a fisherman. And so, I got very worried about Jonathan. Are his biceps truly weak? Does he truly lack a political base? Then, we are in deeper trouble than we ever imagined. The president is ill almost to the point of incapacitation. The Vice President is said to be a sissy, a feeble fellow. Holy Moses! We are then in serious trouble.
But it is up to Jonathan to prove critics wrong, to show that the hood truly does not make the monk. He has to demonstrate that beneath the dour façade lie steel, a strong will and resolve, needed to run a complex country as this.

Here’s an assignment for Jonathan. The talk in town is that he’s an Obasanjo boy, and that, indeed, the retreating president handpicked him as vice president in 2007, because he believed that Yar’Adua would not last the distance. The calculation is this: Yar’Adua drops out of the race, constitutionally, Jonathan steps into office as president, and because Obasanjo leads him by the nose, the Otta chicken farmer is back in power again. He gets his third term in office by another means.

If the political configuration painted above emerges, Obasanjo has the president in his pocket, he has a say in who becomes vice president, David Mark, the Senate president, is another Obasanjo boy, so the country becomes his fiefdom all over again.
Despite all his weaknesses and pussy-footing, one good thing Yar’Adua had going for him was that he effectively checkmated Obasanjo with all the man’s overbearing tendencies.

He put him in his position, and shut him up for good. With Jonathan in the saddle, all these gains may be reversed. Obasanjo chastised us with whips as military head of state, chastised us with scorpions for eight years as civilian president, now he will beat us with snakes. Venomous mambas. Good grief! We better run for cover.
Goodluck Jonathan will have to prove to us that he can countermand Obasanjo, which for now appears very doubtful. The former president got DSP Alameyeseigha removed as Bayelsa State governor, and planted Jonathan in his stead. The latter will remain grateful for life. Again, while Jonathan wanted to run for office as Bayelsa State governor in 2007, Obasanjo dictated otherwise. Jonathan balked, but the former president reportedly threatened him, and he capitulated. Now, ultimate power is at his fingertips, yet he’s an Obasanjo boy through and through.

I’m for constitutionality at all times. Yes, Jonathan should become Acting President. But then, has he got the liver to stand up to Obasanjo? That is my worry. If Jonathan sells us into Obasanjo’s slave market again, we will be of all men most miserable. The glory of Nigeria will be slain upon the high places. The mighty will fall again, and great will be the crash. The prospect makes me shudder, a cold chill runs down my spine. In fact, going on voluntary exile may become an attractive proposition.

To further indicate that Jonathan may not be his own man, two things come readily to mind. At the inception of this administration, Yar’Adua declared his assets publicly, and there were calls on Jonathan to do the same. He said there was no clause in the Constitution that compelled him to do so. True. But then there were pressures from every side, and he buckled. He announced some middling assets, saying that was what he was worth both home and abroad. Okay, we suspend disbelief, so we believe him. But what happened to his earlier conviction that he was not bound to declare his assets publicly. A man without backbone? I’m afraid.

Again, when Yar’Adua vanished for some time in 2008, Jonathan was so irresolute that he allowed Babagana Kingibe, the then secretary to the Federal Government to take over the running of government. It took a returnee Yar’Adua to give the audacious Kingibe a kick in the butt. Will Jonathan have the liver to use power, even when he has it? I’m really afraid.
“His biceps are too weak. You must have a political base to make the kind of statement Jonathan has made. But he has none.” These words of the fisherman from Buguma continue to ring in my ears. For once, I pray that the fisherman returns with an empty net from the Sombriero river, that he will not be proved right this time


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