Hailers and the political mercantilism of Jonathan’s transition hours

My Transition Hours book by Goodluck Jonathan

As recently as Saturday, January 25, 2019, it was impossible to think there would be a ‘Judicial Penkelemes’ and nobody imagined suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria and appointment of another without a recourse to National Judicial Commission (NJC).

Only on Thursday, February 7, 2019, former President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the desperation of some African leaders to hold on to power, a situation that has brought avoidable woes to people on the continent.

Jonathan spoke at a one-day peace conference themed, ‘Peaceful Elections and National Development’ organised by the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation (GJF).

His words: There is a vicious cycle in Africa where the struggle for political power leads to conflicts that bring up poor governance and create hardship which fuels the struggle for change of leadership, thus creating further conflicts and poor leadership.

“This breed of politicians often ignores the fact that to be patriotic is to love your country and be prepared to live and die for her honour, reputation, freedom, progress and the ascendancy of the common good. You can restore destroyed infrastructure almost to its former state or even better, but you cannot easily repair people’s psyche, reconcile aggrieved persons and restore hope in a nation, once they are damaged in destructive leadership struggles.”

Two months earlier, on November 30, 2018, Jonathan had launched his new book, My Transition Hours, which details the place of power in modern Nigeria narrative.

The events of this modern Nigeria at its most destructive height are captured in Jonathan’s 194-page memoir. These absurdities are manifestly present for all but the dumbest of bigots to avow.

Yes, memoir.

The book qualifies as a memoir, because the voice is first person singular: I, not we, one, or you. The memoirist, Jonathan, is the main character. His thoughts and feelings, reactions and reflections are revealed in the book.

Jonathan provides enough context — background information — for the reader to understand the events of the story. The context, the great phone call is woven into the story in such a manner that the reader envisions the action.

A reader can imagine the setting – where and when the memoir is unfolding, the relationships between the characters and the dialogue, which sounds like these people talking, both what they would say and how they would say it.

The pace is slowed down so a reader can enter the story and live it, moment to moment, with the characters. There isn’t unnecessary information: Jonathan leaves out what a reader doesn’t need to know, which suggests why the book is not a dizzying journey into a romanticised narrative.

The conclusion is deliberate: it represents a writer’s decision about how to leave his or her readers. The writer isn’t acting as a reporter: the writing is subjective, the writer’s truth. It tells Jonathan’s story from his own perspective. In a dignified tone, the memoir leaves out far more of the country’s sordid history it chooses to recall.

Now the book: John Dramani Mahama, former president of Ghana (2012 – 2017), was not shocked when, on May 17, 2018, he was reading a Nigerian newspaper and the headline that caught his attention was ‘my re-election not worth spilling of blood.

These were the words of a Nigerian governor from the ruling party. The words reecho the immortal statement of Jonathan in the run up to the 2015 general elections: My political ambition is not worth the blood of any citizen.

In his forward to My Transition Hours, Mahama points out that the creed and bedrock of Jonathan’s political career and the foundation of his celebrated ‘phone call to his opponent, Buhari, in the 2015 election, is gradually becoming a mantra in Nigeria politics.

Bar a few African leaders, power is abused in the continent without recourse to the people and a whole lot of lives are lost from avoidable power mongering.

“Politics in Nigeria and some other African nations is conducted like primitive war. All that matters is winning the election. It is so Machiavellian that the end justifies the means. All is deployed, both fair and foul means,” Jonathan says.

Convulsed by the need to write his account of 2010 to 2015, Jonathan details a history that is past and futuristic. He uses the book to reveal those things he kept from Nigerian people since his defeat in the 2015 presidential election.

Suffice it to say that everyone had waited for him to provide insights into what happened before, during and after the election, and why he took the path of honour to quit his position as president rather than hang on to contest the election outcome up to the Supreme Court.

The rich, stimulating narrative is divided into 15 chapters, with each one of them reflecting on a theme. There is a place for acknowledgement, prologue, epilogue, references, index and forward.

The book, which bills itself as a personal account of Jonathan’s stewardship in the heady days, details events leading to the phone call to Buhari. It also details the intrigues that almost scuttled his emergence as president when Umaru Yar’Adua died.

The book lucidly covers epochal moments in Jonathan’s five-year reign as president. It also covers virtually every major issue that is historical, political, economical or strategically to the continued existence of Nigeria as an entity.

The memoir features a lot of strong statements that goad the reader into thinking, especially its conclusion on this generation of politicians, who typify treachery and double standards.

With increasingly militancy of hailers and wailers and political mercantilism, the memoir is a perfect fit for the over heated political space, as it is experienced orgiastically.

Drawing historical documents, diaries and letters, Jonathan mines a memoir that celebrates patriotism, especially in a continent, where government has become ‘fraudulent’, while political leaders are ‘pathological liars’ and prostitutes.

Chapter one is themed, Reflections. The seven-page chapter looks at Jonathan’s emergence in Nigeria’s political trajectory. It reveals his birth, childhood and family background, which is humble.

The chapter also looks at the rivalry between founding fathers and the regions they represented. This rivalry, painfully, led to the Civil War that consumed millions of lives between 1967 and 1970. The same unhealthy rivalry, the book points out, existed in 2010, with ethnic blocs struggling for power to allocate resources in the country; such blocs include, Northern Elders Political Leaders Forum (NEPLF) and Southern Nigeria People’s Assembly (SPLA).

Jonathan observes in the opening pages, there were governors who were rounding off their eight years tenure and were blinded by ambition. Some governors wanted to be vice president whilst others strived to be the president. If I contested none could realise his ambition.”

In chapter three, it looks at Politics and Patriotism: The Fuel Subsidy Dilemma. Though sobering, the chapter explains the role politicians played in demonising his government’s attempt to stop the fuel subsidy in order to score cheap political points.

The seven-page chapter concludes that most of the country’s politicians are not patriotic. They are not driven to serve the interests of the people. They want to be served by the people who elected them. They have a one-track mind that tells them that nothing matters in political life other than dubious enrichment through appropriation of the treasury, public property, and willful seizure of national resources.

It is from chapter four that the book begins to get more interesting. In practically 11 chapters, it explores the power play in Nigerian politics and the democratic experience filled with conflicts and crises.

While pointing out that the vaulting political ambition, as well as lack of support and commitment by some of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors ‘who engaged in duplicitous activities designed to enhance their political careers, Jonathan insists: “As they jumped ship in preparation for the 2015 elections, only very few of this lot, if any at all, bothered about what the PDP did or did not do in terms of delivering our campaign promises. Their opposition to my re-election was principally driven by personal ambition.

In page 59, Jonathan says, “they raised a chorus of Jonathan Must Go. They crafted a pseudo activist image. They loaded the campaign space with a lot of unproven corruption allegations. Whatever their mind could think of, their mouths readily expressed.

Jonathan also accuses Barack Obama, then President of the United States, of unnecessary interference in the 2015 presidential election.

In page 64, he notes: “I can recall that President Obama sent his Secretary of State to Nigeria, a sovereign nation, to protest the rescheduling of the election. John Kerry arrived in Nigeria on Sunday, January 25, 2015 and said, it’s imperative that these elections happen on time as scheduled’.”

Continuing, in page 65, he asks, “how can the US Secretary of State know what is more important for Nigeria than Nigeria’s own government? How could they have expected us to conduct elections when Boko Haram controlled part of the North East and were killing and maiming Nigerians?”

In the 194-page memoir, Jonathan espouses the message of hope and patriotism: the country is greater than an individual. This is the sense of pride Americans have. The book concludes Nigeria should build a nation with heroes. People whose love for country should be alive.

Jonathan states: ‘My personal principle drove me to take the decision and I’m a fulfilled man today as a result of putting the interest of my country ahead of my own.’

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