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Jonathan / Atiku: The Basic Difference
It would not be inaccurate to describe Nigeria’s current political terrain as a cauldron of boiling water. Add to this the recent fatal spree of bombings and killings; and it becomes apparent what is at stake pre, during and post the forthcoming elections. The current air is thick with permutations and expectations, mixed in unfortunately with the smell of smoke, death and uncertainty.
Politics, especially in Nigeria, always seems to bring about unbridled hysteria and the worst in those vying for political office and recognition. We see the formations of strange alliances and allegiances. We see people selling their souls to the highest bidder for one type of gain or another. We watch men and women by-pass reason, unity and the safety of our children for whatever they feel political office will bring to their wallets and ego.
With the national primaries upon us, the tension between the camps of the two primary aspirants of the ruling PDP party is particularly higher than Nigeria has ever known. It is fair to say by all calculations that the party sees itself the most likely to produce the next president, depending on how the primaries go. The wrong flag bearer may well just swing the pendulum in favour of one of the opposition parties.
So where the PDP is concerned, I wish to give a character assessment of the two pivotal candidates in question, Jonathan and Atiku, and look at who, on successfully scaling the primaries is more equipped to do justice to the presidency over the next 4 years.
I see the following personal qualities are vital in determining the kind of president Nigeria needs for the next phase of her development.
The word compassion is generally defined as being sympathetic or having concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others. Throughout Atiku’s eight-year term as vice president till date, I struggle to find instances where he has demonstrated this quality. Privately, we know he owns one or two educational institutions from which one can conclude that he perhaps has an interest in the education and development of future generations.
However some of his recent utterances about impending violence and doom in Nigeria only serves to jeopardize the well being of this very future generation and does not cut a fine example of someone of a compassionate disposition. Also, and I may be wrong on this, I am yet to hear his outright condemnation of these recent acts of terrorism and show of empathy towards its victims. I have however heard him speedily criticise the government’s ability to provide security to the nation, a rather cheap and unpatriotic way of trying to score political points in my books. I am afraid even Nuhu Ribadu unashamedly succumbed to this salacious brand of politicking. When bombings occur in other parts of the world it’s a rarity to see parties play politics in this way. The whole nation tends to stand together in complete condemnation.
Goodluck Jonathan only really came into the public consciousness since 2009 when former President Umaru Yar Adua became incapacitated by illness and was flown abroad for treatment. Prior to this as Vice President, Jonathan was largely in the shadows until Yar Adua’s unfortunate illness and demise saw him become acting president and subsequently president in May 2010.
On becoming president, one of Jonathan’s actions within a short space of time was to facilitate the return of former EFCC chair Nuhu Ribadu to the country. Many felt Ribadu’s travails were politically motivated and were glad to seem him back in the country. Standing dubious charges against him were dropped, paving the way for his re-assimilation into the system. Today, he is vying for the presidency on the platform of an opposition party. So the ACN really have Jonathan’s compassion and sensibility to thank for this.
It is widely accepted that honesty and politicians are not the best of friends. The nature of politics is filled with dubious posturing, denials and strange alignments. It requires towing party lines, plenty of back patting and saying no when you mean yes.
When we look at Atiku’s work and political history, it is rather difficult to place him in the honesty category. A catalogue of accusations of embezzlement and corruption trail his legacy, right from his years with the Nigerian Ports Authority through to the Halliburton bribery scandal during his stint as vice president. It is fair to say that none of these allegations have been proven but neither have the beliefs and convictions in the minds of many that they are true.
Goodluck Jonathan is not totally untainted by insinuations of corruption. There have been stories about his wife’s involvement in one or two unbecoming activities while he was governor of Bayelsa State. Once again these are yet to be proven and nothing has been attributed to Jonathan himself nor has anyone or body instituted corruption proceedings against him. His tenure as vice, acting and president hold no known record of financial maladministration. The projects he has embarked upon in less than a year as president point to a well-intended use of the nation’s resources. A longer period of time at the helm of affairs will make for a fairer assessment of his honesty credentials.
If Atiku has ounces of humility, he has kept them well hidden. What is obvious to any observer is a great display of flamboyance bordering on arrogance. Just before the 2007 elections, I recall viewing a BBC interview with Atiku where he spoke ill of Nigeria and the government, one which he had been part of the last eight years. There was no trace of statesmanship in the way he conducted himself or in his choice of words. A senior political figure speaking so ill of his country is not a mark of humility. He seems to always be in a constant state of belligerence. To display such a trait when one is yet to be president, one wonders how this will manifest itself if one becomes president. Will peace reign then?
Jonathan on the other hand is a picture of humility. It took quite sometime to warm up to his nature of reservedness. I had always felt he was a bit lacking in confidence and too shy for governance in Nigeria’s shark-infested political waters. But with time I realized there was a certain allure about this trait. Perhaps because it is such a departure from the usual braggadocio, all knowing Nigerian politician we have become accustomed to. I also came to the realization that Jonathan’s quietude did not necessarily mean weakness or lack of mental strength. On the contrary, the decision, only a few months into his presidency, to sack Maurice Iwu and Michael Andoaaka from their post as INEC chairman and Attorney General respectively was as bold a move as possible. It was proof enough that there was more to him than meets the eye.
It was only a few years ago that Nigerians were treated to the very public feud between Atiku, then vice president, and his then boss Obasanjo as president. The media was saturated daily with accusations and counter accusations. It was all quite a torrid affair which caused a huge embarrassment to the nation. A lot of people at the time felt Atiku demonstrated gross disloyalty to his boss and party. The bone of contention if we recall was accusations of Atiku’s involvement in some shady deals with American businesses which remain unsolved to this day. Atiku and his supporters on the other hand blamed the whole fiasco on his disapproval of Obasanjo’s third term bid.
Sensing that the PDP squabble had dented his presidential ambition, he promptly switched sides and joined major opponents the AC, becoming its flag bearer, contending and losing in the 2007 elections. Less than 2 years after we witnessed a media staging of Atiku’s visit to Otta Farms to make peace with Obasanjo. A move that seriously irked the AC and deemed as grossly disloyal to the party since Atiku was still its flag bearer.
But Atiku had other plans and visions. With Yar Adua’s worsening health situation, he felt there might be an opening for him in the PDP’s presidential candidacy. The very party he had tumultuous battles with and so acrimoniously disowned not long ago. His gesture to make peace with Obasanjo and forge a way back onto the PDP seem now a very calculated and self-centred move. Please work out for yourselves if these actions commensurate with what true loyalty is meant to be.
As deputy to the infamous governor of Bayelsa State, Depreye Alamieseigha, Goodluck Jonathan remained loyal to the very end. Stories abound of how he was not particularly well treated by his then boss, but he remained loyal. As we all know, Alamieseigha was eventually incarcerated whilst Jonathan became governor of his state. It was perhaps this demonstration of patience and loyalty that endeared him to Obasanjo, who pulled him out of obscurity to become Yar Adua’s running mate for the 2007 elections.
Again as vice president to Yar Adua, Jonathan demonstrated immense patience and loyalty to the president before and during the saga that surrounded his illness. Even though he was being kept in the dark about many things including Yar Adua’s actual state of health, he never had a bad word to say about his boss. He never gave the impression that stepping to Yar Adua’s shoes was foremost in his mind. This act of loyalty and patience is a truly rare quality amongst Nigerians, let alone our politicians. I believe this is what endeared Jonathan to many within and outside Nigeria. Even after he had unwittingly won the hearts of many and was being beckoned to run for the presidential office in 2011, he took his time before making that commitment.
I firmly believe that disloyalty and unreliability go hand in hand. In other words if you are not loyal, it is almost impossible for you to be reliable. I am afraid that Atiku’s disloyalty to his then president and two political parties in ACN and PDP places him in the unreliable category. However he could be relied upon to rock the boat wherever he goes. He would definitely give a good fight as he demonstrated during his show of defiance against Obasanjo’s third term bid. I believe Atiku was right to be against a third term option. I felt that agenda would have set a bad precedence in Nigeria’s dicey political arena and opened the door to more problems in the future. I do hasten to add however, that I do not believe Atiku had these very concerns in mind.
In my books, Atiku’s history of actions and utterances scores very low in the reliability stakes. What Nigeria requires today is a leader who can bring people together, not separate them by inflammatory remarks and in fighting.
In a very short period of time Jonathan has demonstrated reliability to quite some extent. Again, the link between loyalty and reliability comes in to play here. It is a natural human instinct to rely more on those who are loyal than otherwise. For instance if Atiku decides to realign himself to the ACN, I doubt he will be welcomed with open arms. Due to his past actions, his reliability and motives will be vigorously questioned.
On the other hand Jonathan’s actions which saw the reduction of petrol queues and improved power supply struck a cord with many. It is not easy to endear so many people to you in such a short time without using tonnes of cash as bait, an act customary with politicians in Nigeria. Jonathan, like Babatunde Fashola, and Donald Duke before him, form a new breed of politicians whose actions form the basis of their adoration and adulation.
To doubt the bags of tenacity Atiku possesses would be to lie in the face of what is clearly evident. It takes a great deal of tenacity for Atiku to be around today contesting presidential primaries of the major party in Nigeria. The various accusations and insinuations seem to bounce off him like water off a duck’s back.
Tenacity is a vital quality to have in any situation, particularly politics. However it is greatly dependent on how and what it is used for. When used for positive objectives it has numerous benefits. Used negatively and it can be disastrous. I am not sufficiently convinced that Atiku’s tenacity is designed for positive use in the service of Nigeria. I can think of many personalities who have used their tenacity to serve the interests of Nigeria. People like Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Dora Akunyili, Babatunde Fashola, Godswill Akpabio, El Rufai and Nduka Ogbaigbuna to mention a few. These people, in their different disciplines have impacted positively on Nigeria’s development. Until Atiku begins to use his zeal and tenacity for positive purposes, I am afraid it remains a wasted quality of no use to Nigeria.
Nigeria has not really had as much time to fully assess Jonathan’s tenacity. He has been in the presidency for but a short time. Nonetheless to have come through the trying times surrounding the Late Yar Adua’s absence to be president today takes some doing. It is not for the faint-hearted. And I therefore suspect that beneath Jonathan’s peaceful and dainty exterior lies a well-camouflaged tenacity. The way many Nigerians have warmed towards his administration indicates that his brand of tenacity is intended for positive results.
When it comes to trust, Atiku is yet again tripped by his previous demonstrations of disloyalty and ship jumping, which invariably draws a question mark over his trustworthiness.
How do you trust a leader who publicly declares that there will be violence and pandemonium if people demonstrate their civic and democratic license. Thoughts and statements like this do not instill confidence and hope. How do you trust someone who says ‘if you don’t let me in I will break the doors and windows’! It begs the question ‘if he can do this whilst on the outside, what would he do when he is on the inside? Aside from this, how do you entrust the nation’s finances into the hands of someone who still has a weight of major financial impropriety hanging round his neck.
Ordinarily Atiku would have been and can still be an asset to Nigeria. But he will have to shed these negative attributes which show him as desperately power hungry, self-centred and opportunistic. Nigerians today are much more aware than ever before. The Internet and satellite television gives today’s electorate insights into other parts of the world where good governance has enhanced the living standards of the citizens. It is becoming increasingly difficult to hoodwink the masses like before.
It is clearly evident that Jonathan enjoys quite a high level of trust. He is by no means perfect and I am sure has shortcomings in some areas. But he has been smart enough to surround himself with people of good standing to sure up areas where he may be lacking. There’s a saying ‘ show me your friends, and I’ll tell you who you are’. Jonathan has employed the services of capable people with no known dubious records. Let’s start with Vice President, Namadi Sambo, a man with a good reputation and no known questionable baggage. And how about Dalhatu Tafida, former ambassador and DG of the Jonathan/Sambo campaign!
The Jonathan/Sambo team is filled with men and women of mostly good standing, all of which shows the direction he wishes to take Nigeria. The approval of this combination is quite wide ranging, cutting across tribe and religion. Good people with good instincts at home and abroad seem to trust a Jonathan administration to yield significant dividends.
My intention with these assessments is not to impose my views on everyone’s. We are all entitled to our own thoughts and opinions. In a true democratic process, people have the right to vote for the candidate of their choice. But I do have great belief and hope for Nigeria and would hate to see her lose the positive momentum she’s been gaining lately. It is crucial that our choices void of tribal, regional and religious sentiments. It is our duty to seek what is best for the whole nation rather than personal or ulterior goals. It is also vital that the choices we make domestically have a positive ripple globally to ensure and maintain crucial international relations. We all recall how Nigeria was in such a flux over President Obama’s choice of Ghana as his first port of call in Sub-Saharan Africa. Well, the reasons were no secret. The Obama Administration owed it to Ghana’s impeccable demonstration of effective democracy and stability.
They say that ‘every little action brings about an equal and opposite reaction’. Let’s take actions that bring about the right reaction. Our actions should demonstrate that we have turned the corner and are headed in the right direction, and have banished wayward politics of the past in favour of more productive and rewarding governance. It is imperative that Nigeria steps up to the plate and proves its greatness, not just by words and pronouncements but also by deeds and actions. The right leadership will accelerate our development and aid our cause.
Remember, true leaders do not wait till on the throne to show their leadership quality, it is the demonstration of their leadership skills that leads them to throne.
Raymond Belleh/London, England