by Sonala Olumhense
Today, President Goodluck Jonathan has 550 days left on his oath of office.
I would like to suggest resignation to him as a patriotic and honourable course of action, but I use both adjectives with a deep sigh.
When I first penned my first Countdown Calendar on his presidency, in July 2011, he had almost 1400 days. On November 27 of that year when I offered the reminder again, he had 1,278.
In the past two years, I did not bother to write the calendar at all in order to avoid sounding like a heckler. Today, with just one and a half years left, most of which will fall into the no-man’s land of preparing for the 2015 election, I think it is only fair to remind him again that Time does everything but wait.
What Mr. Jonathan does next, politically, could maim his legacy, or make it. In my view, the only way for him to make a significant impact on Time may be to resign his office, or at least resist the temptation to seek re-election. If he respects his country—and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)—more than he loves himself, he ought to consider these options.
For certain, nobody in the presidency will tell him that under his leadership, Nigeria is a defeated country and the laughing stock of the international community. Nigeria is defeated because Mr. Jonathan is defeated. And the irony and the agony is that he has been defeated more by his friends than by his opponents.
As he left for London last week for a meeting of the Honorary International Investors’ Council (HIIC), Mr. Jonathan held in his bag his latest defeat, by his own Minister, Stella Oduah. The HIIC aims to advise Nigeria on development issues, in the course of which it is heavy on political corruption and other challenges to investment such as crime, violence, poverty and political instability.
Mrs. Oduah has been embroiled for nearly two months in extremely scandalous corruption allegations that have taken on a life of their own internationally. But even while the thunderous allegations went off hourly like bombs on an old Beirut street, Mr. Jonathan neither fired nor suspended her.
Even when he finally succumbed and set up a presidential panel allegedly to probe the matter, he took the Minister with him on a foreign tour for the first of the panel’s two-week lifespan, along with a member of the three-man panel.
You did not need anyone to tell you the president was not really looking for the truth, and it is no surprise the panel has since receded into irrelevance, with no report, no presidential action, and no resolution. The Minister remains a member of the federal cabinet, and Nigeria is the butt of jokes around the world, many of them certainly heard by members of the HIIC Mr. Jonathan was due to meet in London last week.
Perhaps it was no surprise the Nigeria leader opted for the safety and security of a London hospital bed. Had that event been in Nigeria and he had to contemplate a hospital bed, I am certain he would have leapt off the ambulance into the conference hall like the Under-17 football captain Musa Mohammed after a crunchy tackle.
In other words, while Mrs. Oduah may well be innocent, corruption, incompetence and indolence again won the latest battle.
Regrettably, under Mr. Mr. Jonathan, they have won every conceivable ethical confrontation so far, and I challenge any presidency official to contradict this.
This is why no government official dwells on the Transformation Agenda ruse any longer. As I continue to say, there is neither transformation nor agenda, certainly none of an ennobling or positive character.
I have no love for the PDP, everyone knows, but anyone who tells Mr. Jonathan the PDP—old or new—can win the next presidential election is lying to him. Worse still, anyone who tells him he can win re-election is merely flattering him. Nigerians who voted for him in 2011 did on the basis of his potential, but also because of his ruthless armada of political promises.
Those conditions have changed drastically, and I do not see Nigerians falling for any further “I once had no shoes” stories. Mr. Jonathan’s demonstration of considerable weakness, along with his romance with the seedier dimensions of politics is certain to yield only grief at the polls. The PDP, like Nigeria, would have a far better chance with someone else that has a chance at seeking believability on his own.
Once upon a time, Mr. Jonathan dismissed WikiLeaks revelations about the corruption in Nigeria of which he was a part, as “beer parlour gossip.” At the time, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, also called the revelations, one of which involved her, “fiction.”
There is neither fiction nor gossip about Ministers who face extensive fraud allegations, just as there is neither fiction nor gossip about looming anarchy because a chief of state cannot summon the character to enforce discipline.
Not only is Mrs. Oduah neither “beer parlor” nor “fiction,” the menace she represents can damage Mr. Jonathan’s presidency irretrievably. She confirms the advancement of Nigeria’s lootocracy while Mr. Jonathan’s inability to act decisively confirms the worst possible advancement of his political impotence, and his defeat.
The quality of Mr. Jonathan’s defeat as a leader is even more pronounced when one considers that he is unable to identify the relationship between his inability to lead and his unsuitability for leadership.
I am prepared to cheer a leader who pursues the best interests of his country, but when a leader is dragging that country into the depths of despair, the only thing a citizen can do is ask to be set free. That is why I advocate for Mr. Jonathan a graceful, quiet exit.
Think about it: anywhere else in civilization, Mrs. Alison-Madueke, claiming to be “deepening reforms and rooting out corruption” would be one of those hilarious jokes to which you wake up laughing in the middle of the night, but not in Nigeria.
I have written elsewhere that Mr. Jonathan’s biggest fear on the corruption file is that he cannot control what might fall off the branches should he shake the tree. Nigerians who wonder about the future may want to keep in mind that during the street protests of 2012, the Nigerian leader actually sent armed soldiers into the streets in what I thought was a dangerous power-sharing arrangement with the military
And yet…and yet this is the year, 2013, that he promised Nigeria would see performance wonders from him. At his Media Chat in June 2012, he dismissed his critics as people who would be humbled in 2013. “No matter the abuse, we must plan. And after the abuse, people will see the results by 2013 and things will change,” he said.
Really? 2013 is all but over, and Nigeria is doing worse, not better. Mr. Jonathan may want to remember that it is the mark of a man to be able to look into the mirror and simply say, “No more!” No more recycling of hopes and promises.
Save yourself, Mr. Jonathan: resign. Alternatively, please remember that with 550 days, miracles are still possible.
Can you summon the character? I am not holding my breath.
– Follow this writer on Twitter: @SonalaOlumhense