Opinion: The Return of the Prodigal President



Jesus, in one of his parables in the Gospel of Luke, told us of a man who gave his two sons their inheritance before his death. The younger son, after wasting his affluence, went starving during a famine. He then returned home with the intent of begging to be hired…. The rest of the story is known to many. As cruel as that man’s fate turned to be, history has this pattern of re-enacting itself.

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President Goodluck Jonathan
And so shall it be when a story is told about Nigeria. That once upon a time, there lived a man who had the throne (of the President) thrust on his laps: He never negotiated for it, but providence made him become the president of the most populous black nation in the world, even as he was of a minority extraction.
Or how could one imagine that a man, who had a tremendous amount of political capital as a Vice President in 2009, got ‘elevated’ and made the President of the republic upon the death of his boss, has squandered same extravagantly within the span of just six years of occupying the highest position in the land!
The term Capital is habitually associated with economics. Some even opined that capital cannot traditionally apply to anything outside of economic pursuit. However, I am one of those who believe that there are cultural, social, and political capitals.
Political capital may refer to the trust, goodwill, love and influence a politician has with the public and within prominent political circles. It is an indispensable ‘asset’ for a successful political career. It was the invisible currency that was mobilised for the President by various structures and organisations to win the 2011 election.
To demonstrate the enormity of supply of this ‘asset’ at President Goodluck Jonathan’s disposal then, Nigerians rallied around him to ascend to the Presidency upon the death of his boss, despite the ‘game-plan’ by some cabals to cling to power and deny him of the right of accession. Nigerians rose in unison in his defence – the civil society groups, political leaders, legal luminaries and many more from various walks of life.
The events of the time, complicated by the ‘scheming’ of his adversaries to ‘ditch’ him, made Nigerians believe him as a loyal deputy who stood by his boss until the last moment without publicly making moves for succession. His appearance as a well-behaved innocent schoolboy bullied by the ‘cabals’ got him more sympathy than due.
Many Nigerians saw him as a ‘fresh’ air: a different breed, exactly what Nigeria just needed. Of course, every nation longs for a philosopher king and for most of us who had lamented the low academic qualifications of our past presidents, the idea of having a Nigerian Plato was irresistible: thus entered the first Doctor of Philosophy for presidential position: we all fell for the certificate.
Apart from the certificate, many Nigerians were determined to cage the arrogance of some who believed they are ‘born to rule’. There was virtually no better way of expressing this than to support a president from a minority ethnic group. More so, he was seen as a man ‘not desperate for power’ and probably ‘too decent for intrigues’: a man many thought would understand their feelings being himself the son of a canoe-maker who attended school barefooted.
His emotive narration of his background which ran thus: “In my early days in school, I had no shoes, no school bags. I carried my books in my hands but never despaired; no car to take me to school, but I never despaired.” It was tactically made into a political gain. That his work experience was so modest – an education inspector, a lecturer of few years, and an environmental-protection officer – did not matter to Nigerians who erroneously took him for a messiah.
One thing about political capital is that once acquired, it must be expended. Some politicians spend theirs prudently, while some are prodigal about it. Our president, unfortunately, falls into the second category as all the above mentioned ‘assets’ were squandered by him on account of ineptitude, myriads of unpopular, corruption-motivated policies and a deceptive transformation agenda.
During his national broadcast on January 1, 2012, shortly after the waves of support for his emergence, he gave Nigerians a bitter ‘New Year gift’ in the form of subsidy removal on petrol, which took the pump price of PMS from N70 to N140. This was a total contradiction to his predecessor who reduced the price of the same product from N65 to N60 after due diligence established that Nigerians are being ripped off by the oil marketers even at N65! But Nigerians would not lie low as the protracted nationwide strike which followed jolted the president whose threat to unleash violence led to a hurried compromise.
Again, he demonstrated rawness in the aftermath of the re-election of Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State as the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum against his preferred candidate, Jonah Jang, who is the governor of Plateau State. The President’s action belied his statement that he had no hand in the intrigues targeted at dethroning Amaechi, who won the election by 19 to 16 votes. He not only received Jang and his group but has always referred to him as the winner of that election and vowed to do everything within his power to ensure the ‘tenure’ of a defeated candidate.
The cliché that ‘you do not negotiate with terrorists’ is only a rhetoric as multiple negotiations are tactically put together behind closed doors. An experiment with this highly sensitive approach again exposed the weakness of the President and his team as the ‘negotiated’ ceasefire with Boko Haram not only turned abortive, but left scores of Nigerian soldiers dead in surprise attacks by the insurgents!
In sheer display of insensitivity, Mr. President told Nigerians protesting the kidnap of the Chibok girls to direct their protests to Sambisa Forest where the terrorists are domiciled. While his antics to make political and ‘religious’ gains from national security issues like the menace of Boko Haram is noted, statements like this is akin to hitting the people who stood by him in 2010 below the belt.
Mr. President promised a group of diplomats in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that: “If I’m voted into power, within the next four years, the issue of power will become a thing of the past. Four years is enough for anyone in power to make a significant improvement, and if I cannot improve on power within this period, it then means I cannot do anything….” Blaming his failure on sabotage, vandalism, lack of gas and the ‘cabal’ in the industry will not change the fact that Nigeria is still being lit by generators.
Added to the President’s demonstrated lack of idea and competence at taking the nation out of the woods is the unabashed looting of public treasury by his aides. Former CBN Governor’s letter on the missing 20 billion dollar is still unresolved. Added to this was an open letter written by OBJ alleging him of plots to put the nation into a conflagration: all of these are deficit to his political capital
Oil theft on our waterways has risen to an unprecedented height despite a N15 billion waterways security contract to an ex-militant, Government Tompolo (a kinsman of the President): Isn’t this a colossal waste and a simple ‘settlement’ contract?
The desperate pursuit of another term in office has virtually blinded our number one citizen from observing scruples in appointments. Identifying with thoroughly corrupt elements has remained a theme in virtually every inch of his administrative sojourn.
Or how else could one explain his appointment of Salisu Buhari (an indicted certificate forger who was impeached as Speaker of the House of Representatives) into the Governing Council of a foremost university like the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. What lessons are there for the youth in this kind of appointments? The same way he supported the emergence of an EFCC/CIA-wanted drug baron as Chairman of his party in one of the geo-political zones south of the country.
In the middle of reports by foreign media that our President ranked sixth among the rich presidents of the world, he came up with a somewhat ‘ingenious’ strategy of using proxies to pay for his presidential nomination form to conceal his financial worth even as he failed to declare his assets or respond to those reports. Was this intended to mimic General Muhammadu Buhari and again rob unwary Nigerians through another undue sympathy?
Nigerians have suddenly realized that President Jonathan is no longer the same man they voted for in 2011. He had it all and wasted it all. He had the opportunity to govern, the chance to make a difference and the time to transform the nation, but he unfortunately blew all away.
The Prodigal President, just as he came begging in 2011, has returned, demanding from the same people he has so far frustrated with his actions and inactions to re-hire him for another four years that will perhaps be filled with excuses and failures.
Ibrahim Ola Balogun

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