President Jonathan’s Uneasy Paranoia - by Ololade Ajekigbe

It’s just over two weeks to May 29, also known as Democracy Day in Nigeria. This time round, the circumstances are slightly different. Nigeria has a date with destiny. A democratically elected incumbent President who lost at the polls in his bid for a second term in office will be handing over power to another democratically elected one – the first time this would be happening in the country’s 16 years of democracy. As expected, many issues are coming to the fore, with the most pressing being the embarrassing problem of the scarcity of petrol which Nigerians have had to deal with yet again! Even though, as usual, this too shall pass, and the average Nigerian who has been naturally imbued with a never-say-die spirit will trudge on in spite of whatever is thrown their way.

In the meantime, President Goodluck Jonathan has for some bemusing reason been busy hiring and firing in a kamikaze fashion. To cap it all, earlier this week, Mr President gave us a glimpse into what his life has been like after losing the election, claiming that he had been deserted by some friends and allies, as well as his expectation to be persecuted by the incoming Buhari-led government. At a thanksgiving service organised in his honour last Sunday, Jonathan was quoted as saying “…for ministers and aides who served with me, I sympathise with them because they will be persecuted.” He also jokingly expressed optimism that his wife would not divorce him because of the “hard decisions” that he had to take as President of Nigeria, and his subsequent loss at the polls.

Jonathan’s utterance and body language smack of one who is paranoid. I looked up the word, “Persecution”, in the dictionary and found that it refers to “the unfair and abusive treatment towards a person or group of people” or “hostility and ill-treatment of a person or group of people because of race or political or religious beliefs.” Which makes me wonder if the President’s use of the word does not translate to going overboard. Why would anyone in a civilised world (more so the immediate past President of a country) be ill-treated or oppressed if he indeed has served his country meritoriously through the years? And assuming he was found to have been corrupt or aided corruption while in office, the proper channel to go through would be the courts where he would be prosecuted and not persecuted like he is suggesting.

First of all, I would like to welcome Mr President to the real world where it is not unusual for friends and even family to leave “their own” in the lurch when the going gets tough. Many years in the Ivory Tower must have created a smokescreen to that harsh reality of life for the soon to be ex-president. Maybe, the outgoing Commander-in-Chief has valid reasons to be paranoid. His less than stellar handling of the issue of the abducted Chibok girls and the Boko Haram sect siege in the northeastern part of the country which was allowed to escalate before taking a decisive measure did his reputation no good. If many were undecided about the widespread belief that the President was “clueless”, the Chibok girls’ saga set their opinion in stone. Under the Jonathan administration, insecurity was at an all time high.

Perhaps, Jonathan’s greatest undoing was his implicit support of corrupt government officials. I would imagine that what is generally seen to be his tacit protection of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, in the efforts of the House of Representatives to unravel the missing $20bn from the coffers of the state oil firm, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, remains an albatross which he cannot easily extricate himself from. The immigration recruitment scam which resulted in the death of some 15 young Nigerians whose only crime was a desire to be gainfully employed in a federal agency readily comes to mind, and the fact that the man responsible for a tragedy of that magnitude continues to parade himself as a minister is almost too much to bear. Let alone the huge blow Mr President dealt to the fight against corruption when he granted state pardon to his former boss and ex-Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who was convicted of stealing state funds.

The N24bn police pension fraud, economic downturn, epileptic power supply, high unemployment rate, mindless looting of the treasury and surrounding himself with sycophants who deceived him about the actual state of affairs in the country all along are enough reasons for Jonathan to believe he and members of his cabinet will have a torrid time after leaving office. And maybe they will, for karma is always waiting in the wings to strike.

On a lighter note, I will miss President Jonathan’s cool mien and legendary gaffes, not forgetting his wife’s good dose of comedy too. The State House will certainly not be the same without them.