By Alkasum Abba, History Department, ABU, Zaria
When the former President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan published a personal account of his stewardship, covering the period 2010-2015, with a book titled: My Transition Hours, presented to the public in Abuja with fanfare and media blitz, a lot of interest was generated and people were scrambling to acquire copies. In fact, the book sold like hot cakes in the first one week of its release. This is not surprising because Dr. Jonathan’s tenure was filled with great challenges within his political party, his government, the economy, national unity but most importantly, security. People therefore, expected to hear, learn and understand what transpired in the five years that he led Nigeria. Unfortunately, the book is a disappointment because it says almost nothing worthy of note except a desperate indulgence in self defense and eulogy. This is in stark contrast with the quality of the print, the paper, the simple language and presentation of the book in fifteen short chapters of an average of fifteen pages each.
There are many issues to raise with President Jonathan in this book but I will focus, for now, on five. First is his poor understanding of the dynamics of Nigerian politics. Second, is about the role of his party, the PDP in promoting violent politics in Nigeria over a period of sixteen years. Third, is his inability to tackle the urgent security challenges in the country, particularly in the North East, where Boko Haram had overrun many Local Governments Areas and even declared their caliphate in the conquered territories in Borno and Adamawa States. Fourth is about his relationship with President Obama, who he blamed for his 2015 defeat. Fifth is about the circumstances leading him to concede defeat.
1. Poor Perception of Nigerian Politics
The first issue which seemed to perplex Dr. Jonathan was the opposition within his own political party, the PDP, to his rightful accession, as the Vice-President, to the office of the President in May 2010 following the death of his predecessor, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. One is surprised about how politically naive President Jonathan was for lamenting about the attempt by some people within his party to oppose his becoming the President. We practice competitive democracy in Nigeria where intrigues and power struggle are constant and an integral part of the political process. The attempt to explain it on ethnic, religious or regional grounds is only a display of poor understanding of the dynamics of Nigerian tripod politics, built, nurtured and nourished by political parties like the PDP, especially since 1979; where the elite think that they will bring political stability by rotating the Presidency among themselves, in their regional blocks, under the platform of zoning, outside the perimeters of democracy and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. While in 1979, the NPN reached a gentleman’s agreement about zoning and rotating the Presidency, the PDP in 1999 enshrined it in the constitution of the party.
In view of his experience in 2010, it is surprising that President Jonathan, again, did not anticipate the opposition by his party colleagues to his contesting the 2011 presidential election and his re-election bid in 2015. It is that lack of understanding of Nigerian politics that made him become bitter, very bitter indeed, in his 2015 defeat. This is precisely because he believes that he was an embodiment of Nigeria and everything good about the country and that such a person like him should not be opposed! In fact, he thinks that those opposed to him were sectional, ethnic or religious bigots, even when he too was behaving and acting just like one of them! This is why he ended up blaming Northern Nigerians/ Muslims for his 2015 historic defeat. He said on pages 15 and 16 of his book that:
When I contested for the 2011 elections with Arc. Namadi Sambo as my running mate, some Northern Nigerian leaders were outraged at my decision to throw my hat into the ring. They claimed that it was their turn to fill the vacancy in the presidency they raised a shouldering argument over the constitution of my party, the PDP…
It was not about Nigeria any longer. The reason they gave was that the government of President Obasanjo, a Southern Christian had just ended after eight years in office. Many Northerners (predominantly core Northern Muslims) voiced out their reservations about my further participation in the race. They wanted me to walk away from my constitutional right. The fact that we came to power on a joint ticket was the truth that was conveniently avoided…
During the 2015 elections, the argument became further inflamed and intense. Northerners insisted power had been with Southern Christians for about thirteen years and they wanted it back.
In fact, President Jonathan illustrated this problem by quoting one of the chieftains of the PDP, Alhaji Lawal Kaita, who said that “anything short of a Northern President is tantamount to stealing our Presidency.” But one thing that Dr. Jonathan did not understand is that Lawal Kaita was basically speaking for his own long standing political associate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who left the PDP in 2007 to contest the presidential election under the platform of Action Congress and was wooed back to the PDP by President Jonathan. So, when Lawal Kaita said “northern president”, he did not mean any northerner but his very intimate political associate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. The point which President Jonathan kept on missing is that every single sitting elected president of Nigeria since 1979 was challenged by his party colleagues during his second term bid, but none of them ascribed this opposition to ethnic, religious or regional grounds in the way that Dr. Jonathan does. For example in 1983, Chief M. K. O. Abiola challenged the nomination of Alhaji Shehu Shagari for NPN ticket for his re-election. They fought it out in the party and some members openly told Chief Abiola that the presidency was not for sale. No one denounced Chief Abiola as a southerner opposed to a northerner; as the question of religion does not arise since both Shagari and Abiola are Muslims.
Coming back closer, in 2003, it is a well known fact that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was challenged by his own Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, for the PDP ticket, even before the party primary was conducted. It was with great difficulties that Chief Obasanjo was able to plead with his own Vice-President to allow him to re-contest. Chief Obasanjo saw this as a betrayal of trust from a subordinate, who he hand-picked and made his Vice-President, rather than imputing ethnic or religious connotation to this outrageous political treachery. In spite of the truce in 2003, which allowed Chief Obasanjo to contest for second term, Vice-President Atiku Abubakar ignited his ambition for 2007 on the day of their inauguration in 2003. This is how Chief Obasanjo described his Vice-President Atiku Abubakar’s scheming to arrange for his presidency in 2007, behind his back, right from 29th May 2003.
In my opinion, the transition programme began the day I was inaugurated for the second term on May 29, 2003… Right from the moment we were sworn in at Eagle Square, Atiku’s banner for 2007 was hoisted, and displayed everywhere in the arena. I, of course ignored it. He had shown his hand much earlier when his mar-about assured him that I would not complete the first term before he took over. He believed it and acted accordingly. He touted the Mandela model, in expectation that he would take over in the second term. The third prank he played was trying to get Na’Abba to impeach me. The final one before the 2003 election was his arrangement with Alex Ekwueme to be his running mate, and after Ekwueme had won, he would serve only three years, and then resign for Atiku to complete the term. As a result, they would have no competitor in the 2007 elections. (MY WATCH, Volume two, p. 189)
These acts of betrayal by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar are some of the factors that made Chief Obasanjo to fight and block him from obtaining PDP presidential ticket in 2007 and the continued political battles between the two of them, until the recent fragile cease fire, foisted on the two of them due to their apparent fear of the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019. What is quite important to note is that because Dr. Jonathan operates within the framework of ethno-religious political perspectives he saw every normal political opposition to him as wrapped in his limited world outlook in contrast to both Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. What would have President Jonathan say had he been the one betrayed in such a flagrant and despicable manner by his own Vice-President, like President Obasanjo was? He would have imputed all sorts of primordial explanations!
2. PDP and Violent Politics
One area which seemed to invoke anger and fury of President Jonathan was that his 2015 campaigns were marred by violence to the extent that his presidential convey was stoned in three Northern States. These are Katsina, Bauchi and Adamawa. This is how he lamented about it:
The essence of my campaign was to promote democracy and social justice which encompasses love, peace and togetherness. I did not preach hate. Other political parties had other ideas and it was clear as soon as our campaign train entered the Northern part of Nigeria, especially the North West and North East which were strongholds of my opponent. Young people were recruited to pelt my convoy with stones in three Northern States. The attack happened in Katsina on January 21, 2015, in Bauchi on January 22, 2015 and in Yola, Adamawa State on January 29, 2015.
It is a treasonable offence to attack the convoy of a President. The security agents attached to me would have been justified if they had used deadly force, but I restrained them. Perhaps this is what those who instigated the attacks wanted. (p.58)
At best, this is simply a display of political immaturity, but the truth is that it is a conscious and deliberate distortion of the violent nature of politics and campaign system introduced, promoted and sustained by the PDP since its assumption of office in 1999 and President Jonathan is a major beneficiary of this undemocratic practice. He cannot wake up one day and denounce it because it was not concluded in his favour! President Jonathan needs to remember that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands.
Indeed, the PDP had the singular honour of being the most undemocratic ruling party in the history of Nigeria, where the President, as the leader of the party and government, would single handedly decide who became a Governor, Senator, Senate President and even the National Chairman of the ruling party! This is what we saw under President Obasanjo, 1999-2007; he had removed sitting Governors, Senate Presidents as well as PDP Chairmen who disagreed with him. These are sacred facts of history. It is an open secret that the Aso Rock Villa was deeply involved in the selection and imposition of candidates for PDP party primaries and rigged elections for them. This is how the PDP transformed Nigerian democracy into totalitarianism.
One major effect of this policy of imposition was the revolt of some prominent PDP leaders, including State Governors from the party as the 2015 elections were approaching. This is one of the factors that led to the defeat of President Jonathan in 2015. Therefore, it is this dismal failure of the PDP undemocratic practices, which were dramatically ended by the 2015 presidential election that has exasperated President Jonathan. He tried to look for every excuse to condemn this perfectly democratic and transparent election that led to his unceremonious exit from office in May 2015 as being marred by violence and sectional biases.
President Jonathan’s argument about the attacks on his convoy was challenged by the APC as a ploy by the PDP to postpone the 2015 elections. In the case of the attacks on the convoy of the President in Katsina and Bauchi the APC said that it was the PDP that was organizing the attacks. Even though the APC was then an opposition party and could say anything about the government, nevertheless their argument was strong. In a statement issued on Saturday 24th January 2015, the party stated that:
Information is now in the public domain that these attacks were self inflicted, with the aim of demonizing the APC and instigating retaliatory attack in the southern states, thus precipitating chaos which the PDP and the Presidency will then use as an excuse for the postponement of the elections.
Apparently, they did not envisage that the information about their complicity over the attacks will leak to the public. It is common knowledge that the security around the President is such that no hoodlum can come close enough to pelt him with stones. (NEWSWATCH, 25th January, 2015, p.3). This position of the APC about the involvement of PDP leaders in the attacks on the campaign convoy of President Jonathan was confirmed by the PDP governor of Bauchi State, Mallam Isa Yuguda. In fact, Governor Yuguda was very specific when he accused President Jonathan’s Minister of FCT, Mallam Bala Muhammed, of organizing the Bauchi attack. Although the FCT Minister denied his involvement, the PDP was lukewarm about it! This is how Ben Atonko of the Daily Trust newspaper reported the incident:
The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister Bala Mohammed has reacted to allegation by Bauchi state governor, Isa Yuguda that he (Mohammed) was the sponsor of the attack on the presidential team of President Goodluck Jonathan in Bauchi last Thursday. Apart from heckling the FCT minister during his speech at the presidential campaign rally, dangerous objects were thrown at the presidential campaign team resulting in injuries. No life was lost.
While many were pointing finger at the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC), the Bauchi state governor came out Sunday to say the attack was plotted by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members in Abuja and executed in Bauchi. (DAILY TRUST, 27th January 2015, p. 7). The PDP has no history of democratic practices in Nigeria and the Nigerian print media is filled with political violence induced and unleashed by leading members of the then ruling party on its opponents and sometimes even its recalcitrant members. For example the National Interest newspaper of 29th March 2001, has reported on page 12, how a militia called the Bakasi Boys, operated in the PDP controlled State of Anambra under the watchful eyes of Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju. This militia had gone around unleashing violence against the opponents of the Governor in and outside the PDP in order to facilitate his re-election in 2003. The paper said:
…a group of concerned citizens of Anambra state criticized the group [Bakassi Boys], saying that the Governor, has put together a group of rascals financed and armed them with sophisticated weapons and charms not only to harass and intimidate, they kill and litter the streets with corpses of innocent and law abiding citizens as well as political opponents to enhance the chances of a second term. The petitioners further alleged that the governor gave the Bakassi the unfounded right and privileges to walk into any home take anybody and go kill the person like a dog on the street…
Only few weeks ago, the All Peoples Party (APP) chairman of Nnewi South local council, Chief Eze Odumegwu, was allegedly killed by members of the Anambra Vigilante Service, otherwise called Bakassi Boys. The Chief was said to have been abducted from his home by the assailants who drove him away before his eventual death.
Similarly, the New Nigerian of 5th October, 2001 reported about the political violence in Gusau, the Zamfara State capital which the leaders of the PDP were accused of organizing. The riot in Gusau led to the death of two persons and the arrest of 68 people by the police. Two prominent leaders of the PDP, retired Col. Mohammed Bala Mande and President Obasanjo’s Minister of State for Education, Alhaji Bello Usman “were seen among the hoodlums during the riots.” The paper reported the APP Governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Ahmed Sani Yerima as saying that:
He appealed to PDP leaders in the state to respect the will of Allah and recognize his leadership of the state. He regretted that as Muslims, the PDP leaders in the state were still finding it difficult to come to terms with his victory over them at the polls…
But this violence and mayhem of the PDP was also extended to its National Secretariat, at Wadata House, in Abuja. The Weekend Vanguard of 26th January, 2002, reported on page one that:
Pandemonium broke out yesterday at the National Secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after security aides of Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju of Anambra State fired live bullets into the air to disperse scores of political thugs who attempted to prevent the governor from entering the premises for a meeting of the party’s National Executive Council (NEC).
The thugs were believed to be working for a PDP chieftain in Anambra State who is strongly opposed to the governor…
Such violence moved from one State to another, year-in-year-out, and was worsened by the complete lack of democracy and public trust of the results announced by INEC, after every national election; 2003, 2007 and 2011. Thus the patience of the electorate ran out and desperation moved into the centre stage of politics, especially with regards to the peculiar Nigerian ‘democracy’ devoid of any element of democratic norms because the PDP was dominated by a political elite opposed to contest and competition, which they replaced with IMPOSITION! This is why election violence increased geometrically, after successive elections, from 1999 onwards, especially since the judiciary was not able to bring justice to the door steps of the Nigerian electorate, who spent hours at the polling booths and got results different from their votes. This is also how the PDP created an unprecedented culture of impunity and intolerance by unleashing election violence on their opponents. One of the best illustrations of this undemocratic conduct of the PDP is the example of the campaign that brought the Yar’ Adua/ Jonathan ticket into the presidency in 2007. In this campaign, the PDP went out of its way to prevent the ANPP presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari from campaigning in his own State, Katsina. According to a Daily Trust report filed by Lawal Ibrahim, titled, Violence Mars Buhari’s Campaign in Katsina:
Violence yesterday forced General Muhammadu Buhari, ANPP presidential candidate, to abort his campaign in his home state, Katsina. General Buhari arrived Katsina in the afternoon, had lunch at the Liyafa Hotel and then headed for the polo ground venue of the rally. The heavily armed police officers, Daily Trust observed, numbering about a hundred were drafted from Rafindadi roundabout to the polo ground junction where they parked their vehicles and sealed all the roads. They turned back people who came to witness
the campaign rally as well as vehicles loaded with All Nigeria Peoples Party supporters who were headed to the venue to receive the party’s Presidential flag bearer. The situation degenerated especially along Yahaya Madaki Road where vehicles belonging to the ANPP and PDP and those of passers-by were indiscriminately smashed. The state secretariats of the two major opposing parties in Katsina state, the ruling People’s Democratic Party and the All Nigeria Peoples Party were set ablaze by the irate supporters of the two parties… (Daily Trust, 12th April, 2007, pp. 1 and 4)
Yet, in spite of the bad situations like this and many others in the course of the 2007 and 2011 presidential campaigns, President Jonathan decided to keep mute about them and only focus on what transpired in three out of thirty-six States of Nigeria in the course of the 2015 elections.
It is important to raise this issue with President Jonathan because he is the ONLY Nigerian politician, privileged to be on the executive arm of Government, (achieved through elections and not by appointment), for a continuous period of 16 unbroken years, 1999-2015. He was first elected in 1999 as Deputy Governor in Bayelsa State, then became Governor after the removal of his Governor and in 2007 was elected Vice-President of Nigeria, then became President in 2010 to complete the term of his late predecessor and was elected as President in 2011. So, he is the one person who knows the ins and the outs of PDP secrets of election victories in 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011. He cannot denounce the conduct of 2015 elections simply because he had lost and ignore the other elections, which he was declared winner. As a matter of fact, even the election of 2007, which ushered him into the Presidency, was admitted by his principal, President Yar’Adua on the day of their inauguration on 29th May 2007 to be flawed (Daily Trust, 30th May 2007, pp. 1, 4 and 8). Yet, nowhere in his book did he mention it except to claim that he had reformed the electoral system and won the 2011 presidential election, hands down, but by his own admission, with over five hundred people killed in Kaduna State alone and ten NYSC ad hoc staff losing their lives in Bauchi! And these were PDP controlled States then.
However, even the 2011 presidential election acclaimed by President Jonathan, was not free from accusation of rigging by some of the people who have the privilege of knowing what actually transpired at the INEC controlled collation centres. The American Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. John Campbell, in an article titled, Nigerian presidential elections: The devil is in the ballot collating, said:
INTERNATIONAL election observers have been enthusiastic about Nigeria’s 2011 presidential elections, seeing them as dramatic improvement over those of 2007, admittedly a low bar…
There appears to have been substantial election rigging, not so much at the polling stations where international observers were often present but at the collation centres where monitors were usually absent. A distinguished Nigerian civil organization, The Civil Society Election Situation Room, notes that in twelve states – one third of the total- ostensible voter turnout was suspiciously high. The national voter turnout average was 53 percent. In the twelve identified states, the turnout ranged from 62 percent to 84 percent. The Situation Room cites allegations that the figures were ‘doctored’ and declares that the collation process constituted ‘the weakest link in the election management process.’ Project Swift Count, another civil organization involved with election oversight, did station observers at some collation sites, but apparently a number of its personnel were arrested or otherwise intimidated. The Situation Room faults the Electoral Commission for having been ‘ineffective in its oversight function as far as monitoring and controlling the collation process was concerned.’
Nigeria’s governors often play a prominent role in election rigging. Of the twelve states with dubious turnout figures cited by the Election Situation Room, eleven had governors from the ruling party who supported Jonathan; none had governors from the opposition who supported Buhari. Of the twelve states that Buhari won, all in the North, Jonathan accumulated more than twenty-five percent of the votes in eight of them. Of those eight, all are represented by governors of the ruling party, the PDP. (Daily Trust, 21st April 2011, p. 14). How then can President Jonathan claim that his 2011 victory was achieved through a free and fair contest?
3. The Boko Haram Phenomenon
Perhaps the most obvious problem which exposed the failure of President Jonathan’s government was his inability to address the serious security challenges posed by Boko Haram. I do not know whether he really understood the magnitude of this problem or not because he did not give it the serious attention it requires from him, in this account of his stewardship. He said in his book that the opposition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, was popular in the North East. As the President of Nigeria and presidential candidate of his party he needed to find out why Buhari was popular in the North East. As someone from the North East and had lived in the region for almost the entire duration of Dr Jonathan’s presidency, I want to inform him that the most important problem faced by the people was insecurity, or call it the Boko Haram’s violent attacks on innocent people; pillaging their villages and killing them in their wretched homes, markets, places of worship and even on the public highways of the Federal Government. Yet, President Jonathan did not think that this problem deserves at least a chapter in his account of his stewardship as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, except for the Chibok girls’ issue, because it had become an international embarrassment to him, his government and Nigeria.
I do not want to repeat what is already known about the scourge the Boko Haram inflicted on the people, society and psychology of the inhabitants of the North East. I just want to say a few words about my personal experience, in Mubi town where I served as Vice-Chancellor of Adamawa State University, from October 2007 to October 2014. The point is that the security situation kept on deteriorating year by year until Boko Haram seized Mubi and was by October 2014 threatening to takeover Yola, the Adamawa State capital. In the first three years of my stay in Mubi, it took me one and a half hours to drive to Yola and two and a half hours to drive to Maiduguri through Michika, Madagali and Bama. So I could travel to Maiduguri and come back on the same day. I could also travel to Yola and come back on the same day. But from 2011 the security situation was gradually deteriorating which compelled the imposition of state of emergency on Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States. And this state of emergency involved the withdrawal of all telephone communications for three months. The state of emergency led to the setting up of military check points on highways. This increased the travel time from Mubi to Yola to almost FOUR hours by the time I left in October 2014.
To be specific, at the University, we closed work at 3 pm instead of 4 because in the last three years of my stay in Mubi we were living under curfew. Sometimes the curfew could start from 5 or 6pm. Even when the curfew was relaxed to 9pm the streets of Mubi become desolate or empty by 7pm. I had gotten so used to living under curfew that I used to get dazed whenever I travel to Abuja and observed how people were moving freely at night! By 2014 the Boko Haram calamity had forced the evacuation of a number of important towns along Maiduguri-Mubi and Mubi-Yola roads, in rapid succession. This is the sequence: on 6th August 2014 Gwoza was captured, on 23rd Madagali fell, then on 2nd October Bama fell, on 8th Michika followed and Mubi on 29th. Then in the month of November the following important and strategic towns also fell in rapid succession: Maiha on 10th and on the 15th both Hong and Gombi fell to Boko Haram. Given that the Boko Haram had earlier attacked Song, located just 40 minutes drive to Yola and burnt the Local Government secretariat, there was panic in Yola. This made people in Yola to lose hope in the capacity of the government to protect them and embarked on daily prayers at the Eid Ground to seek for God’s protection. As a result of this tense and precarious situation, some people started from evacuating Yola, especially those who have friends and relations in far away Kaduna, Kano, Abuja and so on.
Although, the military with the assistance of the vigilante groups were able to recapture these towns within six months, the security situation remained fragile, right through to the 2015 elections. This explains why Buhari became popular in the North East, given his antecedents as a military officer and his promise that he would bring back peace to the region. Buhari was not voted for in 2015 because he is a Muslim as insinuated by President Jonathan; everyone wanted peace, first, whether Muslim or Christian because you have to be a living person to practice any religion.
In spite of the above problems and many more, President Jonathan was boasting that his government was able to liberate most of the areas conquered by Boko Haram to facilitate the conduct of 2015 elections. He said:
Fortunately, the Nigerian military had successfully liberated most of the local governments in the North East from the insurgents; a situation that made it possible for INEC to organize elections in all the affected areas. The towns and communities liberated before the 2015 elections include Bama,Dikwa, Buni Yadi, Baga, Konduga, Madagali, Mubi, Gamboru-Ngala, Michika, Damboa, Munguno, Gwoza, Marte, Gujba, Bara, Hong, Kukawa, Goniri, Askira and Abadam. (p.35)
Despite this claim by Dr. Jonathan, many local government areas were left under the control of Boko Haram; in fact as many as 17 mostly in Borno State by the time he handed over power in May 2015. Since the towns, villages and local governments under the control of Boko Haram were many, President Jonathan does not want to mention them by name in the way that he did in the case of those “liberated” just before the 2015 elections. In addition, most of the areas listed above as having been liberated had a large number of their population living in refugee camps. In fact, most of them voted at the camps rather than at their “liberated” towns. President Jonathan is so concerned about this liberation of towns that he repeated it again in the passage below. He said:
Anyhow, the six weeks served us well. We received the military equipment we were expecting within that period and our Armed Forces commendably dealt a deserving blow on the terrorists and repossessed all territorial areas of Nigeria previously occupied by the terrorists. Boko Haram was deflated up to the point of handing over to my successor on May 29, 2015. (p.67)
This is surprising because President Jonathan was quite aware that the $2.5 billion appropriated by the National Assembly to purchase arms for our Armed Forces to enable them fight Boko Haram have been diverted into his 2015 campaign. How ill-equip our Armed Forces were at that time could be seen in the way Boko Haram operated with impunity in the so-called liberated areas. This is attested to by the fact that on the eve of the campaign visit of President Jonathan to Yola, the Boko Haram had on Tuesday 27th January 2015 attacked communities previously liberated in Adamawa State, including Michika and Madagali where scores of people were killed and government had to impose curfew on the whole State to enable the President visit and campaign on 29th January, 2015. According to a report filed by Owolabi Adenusi of the Newswatch Times:
The Adamawa State Government yesterday imposed a curfew on the state two days to President Goodluck Jonathan’s visit to the state slated for tomorrow. The curfew, effective from 8p.m-6am, is to prevent any security breach in the troubled state before the visit of the president…
Newswatch Times gathered that the action of the government may not be unconnected to the Boko Haram attack last Tuesday in the border communities of Michika and Madagali, where scores of people were feared killed. According to a source, no fewer than seven villages were attacked with scores of people killed by the insurgents.
Mr. Emmanuel Kwache, a resident of Michika who fled from the scene of the attack, said on telephone that ‘over 30 people were mercilessly killed by Boko Haram. As I am talking to you, the insurgents are still there in Michika town; they didn’t spare anything, they slaughtered people like rams. They burnt our houses after looting foodstuff.
‘No presence of troops; some residents are on top of hills, while those that could not run were abducted, particularly young people and women.’. Another fleeing resident of Garta also said his house and many others were razed down by the rampaging insurgents. ‘They burnt down my house and mosques and looted foodstuff; at least 12 people were killed. Government should come to our rescue by deploying troops,’ he pleaded. A member of Michika in the state’s House of Assembly, Mr. Adamu Kamale, said though he was yet to get the exact casualty figure, but ‘the fleeing residents told me that for now over 40 people were killed; slaughtered like goats.
‘It’s so sad; we reported the matter to the concerned authorities but all to no avail. The insurgents are moving freely in the area. We are calling on government to deploy troops,’ he stressed. (NEWSWATCH TIMES, 28th January, 2015, p.4)
As far back as 2012, President Jonathan’s National Security Adviser, General Andrew Owoye Azazi, had warned the PDP to adopt democracy in the choice of its presidential candidate. This is important coming from someone who was an insider in the government of President Jonathan and his former Chief of Army Staff. In addition, he was from the President’s home state of Bayelsa. It is also significant to note the venue he decided to issue the warning to the PDP. In an address at the South-South Economic Summit held at Asaba, Delta State, on Friday 27th April 2012, he said:
… And I would also like to say this, though the PDP people will not agree with me, they would like to attack me, but I hope they do it in private; PDP got it wrong from the beginning by saying Mr. A can go and Mr. B cannot go and these decisions were made without looking at the constitution. Is it possible that somebody was thinking that only Mr. A could win and that if he could not win, there would be problems in this society? (THE NATION, 29th April, 2012. See also WEEKLY TRUST, 28th April, 2012, p. 5)
Instead of heeding the advice of General Azazi, both President Jonathan and his cohorts in the PDP re-dedicated their resolve to impose his candidature on the party as its sole 2015 presidential candidate. To demonstrate this resolve, the first step they took was to hound the NSA out of office with dispatch, for daring to talk about democracy to the PDP. The second step was to bring Alhaji Bamanga Tukur as the new National Chairman of the PDP. His mission was to snatch from the PDP Governors, the control of the party and shift this control from States to Abuja, as the first step towards a successful imposition of Dr. Jonathan as the party’s presidential candidate. This became necessary because many Governors were opposed to the imposition of Dr Jonathan as the 2015 PDP presidential candidate. It was this hard handedness that triggered a rebellion by some of the PDP Governors, who bolted out to establish the ‘New PDP’ just before the 2015 elections. The third step was the use of threats and intimidation to the rest of Nigeria by President Jonathan’s kinsmen and militants in the Niger Delta. In fact, from 2013 their various groups started threatening that they will break Nigeria if Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is voted out of office. Among the most sensational of these threats were newspaper headlines like; Dokubo: No Peace if Jonathan Loses 2015, published by Daily Trust. In this report filed by John Chuks Azu, the newspaper said:
Niger Delta militants will take up arms again and throw the country into chaos if President Jonathan is not re-elected for a second term in 2015, former militant leader Mujahid Asari Dokubo has said. Addressing a news conference in Abuja at the weekend, Dokubo, who led an armed struggle against the Federal Government for years in the past, said the peace in the Niger Delta at present is because Jonathan is president and that chaos will return if he is denied re-election. ‘The day Goodluck is no longer the President all of us who are on sabbatical will come back. There will be no peace not only in the Niger Delta but everywhere. If they say it is empty boast let them wait and see,’ said Dokubo, who as leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF) coordinated a campaign of violence in the oil producing areas. (DAILY TRUST, 6th May, 2013, p. 1)
Five months later, the same Dokubo Asari issued another threat to the voters of Nigeria, warning in a most vile and outrageous manner that: There Will be Bloodshed if Jonathan Loses in 2015, Asari-Dokubo Threatens. In this report filed by Emest Chinwo he was quoted thus:
There would be blood in the streets if Jonathan is not re-elected president in the 2015 election. (THISDAY, 10th September, 2013, p. 11)
What is quite interesting is that President Jonathan said nothing in his book about these persistent threats to the people of Nigeria by his own kinsmen for a continuous period of three years before the 2015 elections. This is not surprising because even at that time, neither President Jonathan, nor his officials or his political party, the PDP, cared to issue a simple statement of caution to his kinsmen threatening bloodshed in Nigeria, for one man’s political ambition! Yet, on page 18 of his book, President Jonathan found reason to admonish the Arewa Consultative Forum for issuing threatening statements opposing his re-election in 2015. This again, is in stark contrast with what President Jonathan said is his philosophy in politics. That is:
We must never allow contestation for political office to degenerate to a level where it becomes a threat to our nation’s peace, security and stability. (p.27)
4. President Obama and the 2015 Elections
One person who received a lot of attention in President Jonathan’s book is President Barack Obama of the United States of America. He was mentioned in the following pages; 32, 33, 35, 36, 64, 65 and 93, even though the index of the book identified only pages 35 and 93. In fact President Obama was the third most mentioned name in the book following Muhammadu Buhari, 19 times and Goodluck Ebele Jonathan 10 times. President Obama had been perceived by President Jonathan as an opponent to his re-election in 2015. In fact, Dr. Jonathan seems to believe that the Obama Administration encouraged and supported the opposition, especially since the abduction of the Chibok girls by Boko Haram. The invitation of the 19 Governors of the Northern States by the US National Security Adviser, Susan Rice, over security situation in the North East, irritated President Jonathan. The relationship almost froze when Michelle Obama displayed the Bring-Back-Our-Girls banner at the lawn of the White House, thereby internationalizing the security challenge of Nigeria represented by the tragedy of the Chibok girls. The visit of the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, on 25th January 2015 to specifically protest against the postponement of the elections by six weeks, was considered by President Jonathan as interference into Nigeria’s internal affairs. President Jonathan said:
For some strange reasons, the Obama administration had tactically penciled Nigeria and my administration for failure. Amongst many manoeuvres, was the refusal to provide any real military backing to Nigeria’s Armed Forces. President Obama and his security adviser, Susan Rice, bluntly refused to sell any military hardware including jet fighters and attack helicopters to Nigeria. Obama cited the Leahy Law as the reason his regime prevented the American Government from supporting Nigeria in providing weapons to fight Boko Haram. Even when the State of Israel expressed the willingness to sell attack helicopters to Nigeria, the gesture was frustrated by the Obama administration that kept waving the same Leahy Law like a banner. (Pp.35-36)
The fact of the matter is that America like any other major power on the world stage had to worry about the way Nigeria was drifting into abyss under President Jonathan because a breakdown of law and order in the most populous African country will have international consequences. The situation becomes worrisome with the obsession of the President to continue in office, perhaps caused by his mortal fear of handing over to his popular and formidable opponent, Muhammadu Buhari. For in the course of the campaign, his wife Patience Jonathan had openly expressed this fear that her husband would be arrested and jailed by Buhari. It is within this context that we should look at the reasons behind the postponement of the election by six weeks. It was common knowledge in political circles in this period that President Jonathan was considering the option of handing over to an interim government, with Atiku Abubakar as the Interim President. This could explain why both President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of the UK, who knew this plan to abort democracy in Nigeria, were insisting that the elections must be held and should also be free and fair. Because President Jonathan was not keen about the elections, which he was not sure to win, he went to the extent of accusing President Obama of asking Nigerians to vote for Buhari. He said:
On March 23, 2015, President Obama himself took the unusual step of releasing a video message directly to Nigerians all but telling them how to vote. In that video, Obama urged Nigerians to open the ‘next chapter’ by their votes. Those who understood subliminal language deciphered that he was prodding the electorate to vote for the opposition to form a new government. The message was so condescending, it was as if Nigerians did not know what to do and needed an Obama to direct them. (p. 65)
The fixation of President Jonathan with the attitude of President Obama towards him and his government is just an illustration of his own subservient conduct towards the American President. He created the impression that America is the only government in the world that could help him procure arms to fight Boko Haram, at a time that he had actually converted the money meant for the procurement of arms into his re-election campaign. In fact, it looked like he just wanted to make the American President his scapegoat. For during the Nigerian civil war of 1967-70, both UK and USA were hesitant about selling arms to Nigeria. What did General Gowon do? He did not sit down to lament and blame those countries. Instead he went to the Soviet Union to buy arms to prosecute the war, successfully. It is also quite interesting that President Jonathan has published his book three and a half years into the tenure of President Buhari, yet he refused to admit that President Obama did not also sell arms to Nigeria even with his alleged favourite candidate as President, still citing the same Leahy Law. It is President Donald Trump who has sold arms to Nigeria.
In any case, the people of Nigeria do not receive instructions from the President of the United States of America on how to vote; it is only weak Nigerian leaders who do so, or keep on lamenting in the way President Jonathan was doing. For in 1975 when President Gerald Ford of the US wrote letters, urging African leaders to support Government of National Unity in order to subvert the victory of the MPLA, on the eve of the Extraordinary Summit of the OAU over Angola, the Nigerian Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed was the only African leader to denounce the US for such interference and went to the extent of releasing the letter. President Jonathan never had the guts or capacity to conduct Nigerian Foreign policy in this patriotic manner and this is why he turned himself into almost an object of self pity, in his relationship to President Barak Obama of the USA!
5. Conceding Defeat
One issue where President Jonathan deserves special commendation, in spite of everything, is his ability to concede defeat in the 2015 presidential election. Truly, this had never happened in Nigerian political history. In fact, what is even more commendable is the fact that his concession happened twelve hours before the official result was declared and it was a decision which he took without consulting his party colleagues, or even his family. May be he too did not appreciate the significance of his action until after it had happened. Everyone, from President elect Muhammadu Buhari to Western Governments, including USA and UK, as well as ECOWAS, the UN Secretary General and many others expressed appreciation to President Jonathan, for doing what had never been done in Nigerian politics!
However, the one point that I want to make here about this issue is that; it is perhaps the first rational decision President Jonathan took, on time, which was in line with the national and international mood about the 2015 Nigerian elections. The situation was so bad that any attempt to extend his tenure by getting himself declared winner would have tragic consequences both for him and for Nigeria. Even though President Jonathan had denied the assertion by the well connected, influential and informed American political scientist, Professor John Paden on page 79 of his book that there was considerable international pressure on him to concede, the truth of the matter is that President Jonathan was really not in the position to cling to power beyond 2015. For, apart from international pressure, especially from UK and USA, the domestic situation was not good for him, either. The economy and security challenges narrowed down his support base. The lack of unity and cohesion in his own party, the PDP, about his candidature made any effort on his own part to continue in office extremely difficult, if not suicidal. Above all, the frustration of the ordinary soldier with the failure of the government to provide them with arms to fight the Boko Haram, almost eroded any opportunity to use the military to continue his rule.
This book, My Transition Hours, by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, is one of the most important books on Nigerian history and politics published in 2018. Although it has taken him more than three years to write this short book of 180 pages, it is nevertheless a significant step towards the understanding of his person and leadership of Nigeria. However, the book is far short of public expectation, because it has not addressed many of the knotty issues about the Government that he led for five years. In fact, the title of the book, My Transition Hours, gives the false impression that Dr. Jonathan was in transition for the five years that he ruled Nigeria, when he was in effective control of the affairs of the country. This is why I think, the appropriate title for this book should be; literally, The Disappointing Hours of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as he had been more concerned with bringing out and discussing what he didn’t like rather than what he did in government.