Jonathan’s bill of rights or failures?
It remains a puzzle of governance in Africa why those we entrust with leadership do not creditably acquit themselves like their counterparts in some nations of the world. Before our politicians get power, we are enthralled by their resonant visions of an equitable society that would be an all-powerful response to the mockery that the black man would irremediably chafe under the affliction of inept leadership. But once they are in office, they often fail to translate such grand dreams into reality. After they leave office, they regain the trajectory of articulating how a great society should be run.
This is the problem of a nation whose leaders do not really prepare for leadership. They are imposed on the citizens by themselves, others or circumstances. It is only when they are thrown up by circumstances or other people or they bulldoze their way into power that they start to learn about what they should do while in office. Of course, this is in the rare case of when they learn at all. Most times, our leaders do not bother to learn about the real issues for which they are in office.
Rather, once they get to office, they become not only enamoured of it, they are pre-occupied with how to sustain themselves in their position to the detriment of good governance. This is when they think of the next election and how they would return to their offices. It is when they would globe-trot, marry more wives and take more chieftaincy titles. It is because our leaders only remember the right things they should have done only after leaving office that the country would remain undeveloped or even retrogress.
But the real tragedy is that such leaders do not behave in a manner that shows that they regret frittering away some opportunities to do great things for their country. For instance, ever since former President Olusegun Obasanjo left office, he has been behaving as though he were the only Nigerian alive who could proffer solutions to the seemingly intractable problems of the nation. It is in the same mould that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has caught the limelight by canvassing the restructuring of the country as the solution to its myriad of problems. If they had used the opportunities they had to do what they are talking about now, they would not need to push them into public consciousness now.
Ever since he left office, former President Goodluck Jonathan has been silent. Even when it seemed he would react to the persistent insinuations of his complicity in the corruption charges hanging over many of his aides, he has avoided being embroiled in them. But he broke his silence on Monday when he spoke in London. Indeed, Jonathan’s speech brims with stellar ideas about how to run a society that is underpinned by a clearly defined bill of rights. Jonathan wants such a bill of rights to be similar to the British Magna Carta established some 800 years ago, and the one introduced by America’s Founding Fathers.
Jonathan claims to be expressing ideas he arrived at after “learning from my experiences.” But Jonathan did not tell us at what point this learning took place. Was it before he took public office? Was it while he was in public office? Was it after he left public office? If Jonathan knew all that he spoke about before or while he was in office, then he failed by not putting them into practice as his dismal performance has shown.
No doubt, as President Muhammadu Buhari has often acknowledged, Jonathan’s concession of defeat at the last presidential election saved the nation from a possible crisis of political transition. Jonathan was right in praising himself for this. However, Jonathan betrayed himself as only reading a well-written speech by somebody other than himself by praising himself for how he fought corruption. For if he had really reflected as he claimed he did and he had written the speech by himself, he would have realised the need for him to be silent about this since it is now clear that he never really fought corruption. Jonathan cannot claim to have fought corruption when he refused to send away from his government those over whom there were charges of corruption. If Jonathan did not make money available to anyone as he claimed, was it ghosts like the perennial ghost workers in government that made the billions of naira available for his officials to share among themselves?
Our past leaders who failed the nation have the courage to speak glowingly about themselves and their eras because the society does not sanction them for their failures while in office. If Jonathan had been arrested and prosecuted for corruption like his aides, he would not be talking about how he fought corruption. He is free now to talk about corruption because Buhari is prosecuting a skewed anti-corruption campaign that excludes some people.
Jonathan envisions a society where there would be equality. But how would such a society have emerged when Jonathan encouraged a system that made only a few people billionaires while the majority are consigned to abject poverty? It is because the nation’s resources have not been fairly distributed that crises persist in the Niger Delta and other parts of the country. Jonathan missed the great opportunity to ensure justice and equity for the people of the Niger Delta.
And now the Buhari government and his political party are latching on to the notion that if the Jonathan government really believed in the national conference report, he should have implemented those parts that were within his power to execute. And while it is good that Jonathan encouraged education by establishing federal universities in 12 states that did not have such opportunities before, the fact remains that such educational opportunities would not translate to much as long as there is no equity in the society. It is because there is no equity that the thousands of graduates churned out by the universities that he has created do not get jobs.
Thankfully, if Jonathan had only learnt all these grand ideas he shared with his audience in London after leaving office, he has an opportunity to work towards their realisation through his Goodluck Jonathan Foundation. But while doing this he should not give the impression that he has done so much for Nigeria and that it is out of the experience of the great legacies he has bequeathed to his country that he is helping other nations.
Nigerians cannot forget so soon how his tenure as the president turned to a blight on the citizens. Jonathan’s public recollection of his achievements in office must be mediated by the consciousness of his Bill of Failures and that if he had governed strictly by his now much-cherished Bill of Rights, no Nigerian would not be proud to declare as he put it, ‘ Civis Nigerianus Sum’ – I am a citizen of Nigeria.