Between Buhari and Jonathan

Exchange Of Status... Five Days To Go

WHILE the outcome of the last presidential election has been largely analyzed along the lines of the obviously differentiating, personal qualities and strengths of President Muhammadu Buhari and his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, in reality, both men have more in common than many people realize.

Understanding their common circumstances and traits enables us to appreciate why one acted the way he did in office, and while the other will act the way he would in the next few years. It underlines why certain problems arose for the nation to solve, why some became intractable, and why new ones may well emerge sooner or later.

This sort of exercise enables citizens to characterize their leaders and identify their place in history. But it is not just for historical purposes only, it lends itself as a tool of governance, emphasizing opportunities and threats to a successful tenure in office.

Take their origins. Jonathan comes from a town, Otuoke in Bayelsa State (no offence intended) whose name was literally not in the map, until he emerged in the national scene. Buhari, on the other hand comes from Daura, in Katsina State.

Notable though it is, it remains on the margins of power equation, in both the northern part of Nigeria, and the country as a whole. Both Buhari and Jonathan do not lay claim to such an illustrious pedigree as a rich father or grandfather, with over-flowing means and hugely beneficial political connections.

Neither of them was born with a silver spoon in the mouth; some will say, they were both born with no spoons at all. They either worked their way up to prominence, or they were pushed by the invisible hand of fate, on the path to national acclaim, sometimes, against their personal wishes and desires.

When he became Head of State in 1984, then Gen. Buhari was neither central to the planning of the military coup that ousted the Second Republic of President Shehu Shagari, nor actively involved in its prosecution. This same hand of fate sought him out where he was based, so that when he was secretly flown from Jos into Lagos shortly after the coup, only very few people knew or believed he would be the new Head of State. And the same reasons for seeking him out in 1984 – his integrity, his discipline, and the respect of his colleagues – were again the same reasons why he became the flag bearer of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), at the March 2015 presidential election. Like Buhari, Jonathan neither had the ambition nor desire to run for the office of President – or it seems, any office at all, for that matter.

Yet, somehow, he kept climbing from deputy governor, to Vice President, and eventually President. He will go down in history as the only Nigerian that has gone that path to power without really craving it. Which is strange because political thinkers believe that you cannot be President of any country unless you desire it above everything else.

Similarly, Buhari had tacitly retired from politics after three failed tries at the Presidency, when he announced he would not seek that office again, but had to be encouraged to get involved one more time, as the one person capable of winning hearts and minds across the country. Therefore, if Jonathan was an accidental President, so is Buhari.

They are obviously men of different constitution, yet they are both political outsiders in the power equation of Nigeria. Many people, especially former governors of the South-South states, laughed off the possibility of Jonathan becoming Vice President, and later President.

Some of them are still rueing that disposition. Many people also, especially the core political elite of the North, failed to reckon with the Buhari myth until it emerged that he would be contesting the election against President Jonathan who had become vulnerable, and therefore, beatable at the polls. Jonathan essentially operated as an outsider.

He was never sincerely embraced by any group, including his South-South zone. He learned to govern without trusting much in people. And as he got deeper and deeper into the usual Nigerian quagmire, he also became more and more isolated, courting only few close associates, and therefore, robbed himself of the wise counsel that would normally come from a wider loop.

And the longer this situation lasted, the more difficult, indeed impossible, it became for him to build coalitions across political and regional lines – something that is imperative in our circumstance.

Any outsider eventually becomes a loner. President Buhari, the political outsider, naturally has the tendency to be a loner. He has shown that he is less inclined to be hurried by anyone or anything. He is likely to consult more widely, but he is less likely to act according to other people’s scripts. And he may not readily show his own scripts either.

This may lead to an old problem he had in office last time around, when he gave the impression that he was listening to his colleagues, but acted as if he wasn’t hearing at all.

This was also a major observation which some people made about President Jonathan: He always sought the opinion of many people, but their inputs were usually indiscernible in his decisions.

Jonathan left the Presidential Villa the same way he came in. There was so much hope and goodwill that here was a young, healthy, educated, full fledged civilian to lead the nation. And when he left, people seemed to think that he had redeemed himself simply by accepting defeat.

History may well read the outcome of his tour of duty with some diffidence, although he clearly was never able to grow bigger and dominate his environment. As for Buhari, essentially conditioned in the Jonathan circumstantial mould, events in the next few months and years will tell whether he is able to spring pleasant surprises on Nigerians and break out of his set frame. Otherwise, we may have to settle for what my friend, Sonala Oluhmense once described as change of promises in place of promises of change.



11 Comments
  • What you failed to see and mention is that the similarities are merely superficial but the differences between the two wholly fundamental. How this escaped your searchlight is curious to me except you are engaging in mere theatrics or display of language. Buhari might have been ‘rigid and uncompromising’ as his colleagues once accused him, but he was rigid for a cause, for principles and values which he hold dear and no one, not even among his enemies has impeached him about this. I cannot see or attach any set of values or principles with Jonathan or his very corrupt government. If he was devoted to any ideals or principles his government failed to show us what those values were. As a matter of fact historians will have
    difficulty to even try to understand any values or set of principles which governed that most- corrupted government other than self-aggrandizement and primitive accumulation.

    • PlusOne

      My friend, corruption in Nigeria is clearly endemic — from parents, families, friends bribing teachers to get hold of exam papers for their children or love ones to gain advantage where little or no effort has been put into studying, through to University clerks handed money to get round the country’s stifling bureaucracy in schools or is it policemen taking money and turning a blind eye on blatant crimes, where do we start or draw the line, perhaps not just on GEJ’s attempt to ut things right.

      It is at its most blatant, perhaps, in the oil industry, where 136 million barrels of crude oil worth $11 billion (£7.79 billion) were illegally siphoned off in just two years from 2009 to 2011, while hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies were given to fuel merchants to deliver petrol that never materialized – remember, this started even before the days of GEJ.

      Whether the country is ruled by civilians or soldiers, who invariably proclaim their burning desire to eradicate civilian corruption, it makes absolutely no difference, IBB, OBJ, GEJ, PMG / GMB. All we need is a Gerry Rawlins in Nigeria and every man, woman and child may understand what being selfless for your country really should be.

      Buhari, did he once overthrow a democratically elected government, what do you call that – crime. Was he married to an underage girl, what do you call that crime. So, before we nail GEJ, lets fully examine the facts and put our perspectives right.

    • chudi

      Yoruba’s always have nothing good to say about Jonathan .Is he more corrupt than OBJ and Tibubu who you worship and revere like demigods

    • Ray Effiom

      Idowu, I would not like to defend Jonathan but you are not honest with yourself.I know that he was not politically sophisticated out of principles.. That is typical of you lot. Very dishonest, tribalistic inward-looking and parochial. You lot have given Nigeria a bad name everywhere. You are talking of “self-aggrandizement and primitive accumulation”. as if corruption started with Jonathan. You failed to tell us about your traditional leaders like Obasanjo, Abiola. just to name two. You (Yorubas) top the league table of corruption in Nigeria and the whole world knows that. When they talk of Nigerians being corrupt it is considered a shorthand for Yorubas. You can take a loan to throw a party and” spray” money only to go home and “drink gari”. Currently there is list of corrupt Nigerians going round the world showing names of those who have stack of Billion dollars in Europe (stolen cash), Jonathan’s name is not even there. Obasanjo tops the list and he is a deviant too. Yes, Jonathan is from a minority tribe and had no one to defend him. All his lieutenants were from you lot who betrayed him and looted the treasury. He gave too much respect to people. Had he named and shamed them they could have respected him. Look at Osinbajo, a professor of law is now gloried errand boy for Buhari. “You no get shame” if money is concerned. I challenge you to build a league table of corrupt Nigerians from the past 16 years to find the truth that you lot are the GREATEST

      • hassan

        Why bring OBJ in? I suppose the comparison centres on GEJ and PMB? Do you now condone GEJ’ s lethargic and corrupt regime because his predecessors too were same? Why bother aspire in the first place if you cannot deliver? Please Others before him may be found wanting but the fact still remains that GEJ concurrently failed us and dashed our hopes and I think Idowu has it spot on

      • You are evidently ignorant and i will not waste time on you. Rather than address the issues at stake you raved and raved going on rampage insulting an entire race just because of an opinion expressed by an individual. That’s how ignorant you are and most of your kinsmen who contribute on this platform. It is quite easy to know a person who has got nothing upstairs- they always leave the issues to address personality and abuse whole tribe and regions just to confuse.
        Yorubas are tribalistic yet you cant stay in your hometowns without going to those Yoruba land to make your money. Your allegation of corruption is stupid because anyone knows which region is over represented in Jonathan effete government, Perhaps you have heard of these names: Aruamah Ette, Iweala, Oduah, Dizeani etc. Do they sound like Yoruba namrs? No wonder you were dazed and traumatized when Jonathan was booted out like a shivering, rain-drenched hunter returning from an ill-fated expedition.
        The results of the Probes will soon be released and you will see the nakedness of GEJ government and its super Jezebels

    • opam

      Set emotions aside and look at corruption strictly and you find that Buhari is more corrupt than Jonathan. Buhari ranks 1st among modern Nigerian leaders in corrupting the nation. Financial indiscretion pales in comparison to human rights abuse and suppression of basic freedom of speech. Objectively speaking, Buhari should not be mentioned in the same breath with Jonathan. Without Buhari, the 2nd Rep would succeeded and democracy would advanced more in the nation. Buhari knew of IBB’s coup, but allowed it because to him stopping it and dealing with the plotters appropriately would have wiped out northern officer corps. The future of the north, to him, is supreme to the future of the entire nation. Buhari’s intervention gave us IBB and Abacha, both of whom did horrible damage to the nation. Jonathan did not violate the constitution, the supreme law of the land; Buhari did. That, my friend, is the height of corruption. Live a million years, Buhari cannot do for democracy what Jonathan did in only 6 years in office. Thanks to your Buhari, there is slim to no chance of achieving the only change that we need, fiscal structural change. Overall, therefore, I submit to you that Buhari is part of the problem with Nigeria. You can take your defense of him to people of greater gullibility.

  • Bola Jude

    Nigerians are ascribing to Buhari more than who he is. Is unfortunate that majority have decided to be mere praise singers and blindfolded and those that happen to be the political class of this nation are ardent and unrepentant criminals, if not how can it be that a 73yrs old man like Buhari with such controversial past is the only credible man out of over 170 million Nigerians to rule this nation. It is a shame to Nigerians and this can only happen in Africa and Meddle East countries. Buhari for whatever intention he has for Nigeria or impression he wants to correct is not qualified to rule this great nation. Am not a judge and will never be but no one can cover truth forever. One thing we fail to understand is that corruption does not only mean looting of treasuries, it include every other crimes. 11 appointments, 10 out it from North and praise singers says they are not serious positions but that tells us the mind set. Let me rest it here, God is not asleep, He knows everyone’s heart.

  • Ray Effiom

    Eluem, I have just checked in the” International Book of Names” and your name is not there. I wonder if you are a person.. A typical mentality that people like you exhibit who must have been abroad for two months. The mentality that Mungo Park came to Africa and “discovered” the Nile River. The Nile River was there before the Scot wandered into it. If people were stupid enough not to put the name would that make it not to have existed?. I don’t quite follow what you are trying to put across here. Buhari was seemingly successful as a military ruler where it was possible for him to ignore many procedures and steps because of the gun. Now there is no such fear and Baba is spent, a senior citizen should have a rest. This is 2015 the 21st century he is not cut for now. He is a smart guy but he will soon find out that he is too slow and should be smarter.. As a Nigerian I pray that he succeeds. But I doubt it. He is scared not to be called a dictator and might pretend to “accept” advice. He is head strong too. But could be easily manipulated and lacking in confidence and with other obvious flaws he is likely to be taken advantage of by the smart Caucasians. Is a jungle out there and everyone looks after the number one, SELF. They have put him there so that he could do their bidding.. The immediate one was his instructions for army to remove all checkpoints. Since then , have we not experienced more bombings. Naira is 350 for £1 in London

    • Sazzyth

      Ray, The writer of the article is the Managing Director of this newspaper. He is indeed a real person!

  • Izeze is right.

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