President Jonathan: From a weak President to a dictator

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Goodluck Jonathan

By Charles Igbinidu

“If democracy is to thrive in Nigeria, we need to focus on building very strong institutions at all levels of government that will promote the rule of law and able to hold every public official accountable to the people.”

President Goodluck Jonathan
It is utterly amusing how in a twinkle of an eye President Goodluck Jonathan has in the eyes of opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) politicians metamorphosed from a clueless, toothless bulldog and weak president into a dictator.

Prior to the June 6, 2014 gubernatorial election in Ekiti State and the impeachment and removal from office of former Governor Murtala Nyako, Dr. Jonathan was portrayed by the opposition politicians especially people like Mallam Nasir El rufai, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso as so weak that he is even afraid to exercise his presidential powers.

The perceived soft approach to the handling of the Boko Haram insurgency in some parts of the country was also pronounced as evidence that the man at the helm of affairs at the federal level was weak.

It is also pertinent to mention that the depiction of President Jonathan by the opposition as weak has been accepted as gospel truth by many Nigerians

I have severally heard some Nigerians on the streets of Lagos say that if Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was still the president of Nigeria, the Boko Haram problem would have been a thing of the past. Some even go as far as saying that Obasanjo would have done to Boko Haram what he did to Odi people.

For the benefit of those who do not know, the Niger-Delta militancy started and blossomed during the tenure of former President Obasanjo. Unlike the Boko Haram insurgents who focus mainly on attacking innocent civilians, the Niger-Delta militants attacked oil pipelines and security personnel. In one of their engagements with security men, the militants killed about 12 soldiers. Obasanjo was so infuriated that he sent soldiers to flush out the militants.

Unfortunately for the people of Odi when Obasanjo’s soldiers got to Odi, the militants had expectedly escaped, they embarked on a mission of indiscriminate burning of houses, raping and killing of women and children. There was no evident of a single militant that was killed. It is on record that Obasanjo received scathing criticisms for the action. Many newspaper editorials were written to condemn the action. It did not also surmount the militancy issue rather it exacerbated it. It is therefore funny that some Nigerians today allude to it as something that should be copied.

For those Nigerians that always make reference to Odi, what they are saying in effect is that, if Boko Haram terrorists attack and kill some military officers in a village in Borno State, the President should send soldiers to raze down the village, maim and kill innocent people.

Let us go back to the issue of transformation of President Jonathan to a dictator. Opposition politicians started the re-characterisation in the aftermath of the Ekiti election which was a huge debacle for APC.

About thirty-six hours before the election, some APC governors including Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State and Adams Oshiomhole of Edo were stopped by the military from entering Ekiti state. APC claimed that the governors were on their way to Ekiti to participate in a mega rally before the election. Information gleaned from PDP stalwarts however states that there was no planned rally, rather the governors were on their way to Ekiti to make the security measures put in place by the Federal government ineffective.

I am inclined to believe the PDP version because there is no evidence that any APC rally took place in Ado Ekiti 24 hours before the election.
President Jonathan is also virulently upbraided by APC for the large number of security personnel present in Ekiti state during the election. They claim that the goal was to intimidate their supporters. There is however no shred of evidence that the military intimidated or in any way circumvented the election process.

The latest singsong of APC is that the President should stop the use of military personnel for future elections. The question is, why is APC so scared of the use of military men for security purposes on election days? Soldiers were used to provide security during the gubernatorial election in Edo and Oshiomhole of ACN, now part of APC won. There was no noise.

I therefore align myself with people who see APC’s current bellyaching about the use of soldiers in Ekiti as part of their recurrent tactic of denigrating institutions and individuals whenever election results do not favour them.

The removal of former Governor Murtala Nyako from office by the Adamawa State House of Assembly and the impeachment notice to Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nassarawa State has given APC gladiators more fillip to accuse President Jonathan of dictatorship.

The first salvo was fired by diminutive former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Nasir el-Rufai who accused the President of being the mastermind of the removal of Nyako. His position, which the leadership of APC has been re-echoing, is amusing because the man at the centre of the storm clearly stated that the president had no hand in his ordeal. It on record that Nyako stated before he was removed that a coalition of politicians from Adamawa state were responsible for the impeachment process.

It is also noteworthy to mention that Nyako had been having a running battle with members of the State House of Assembly. In 2008, late President Umaru Yar’Adua had to personally intervene to forestall Nyako’s impeachment.

Nigerian politicians are indeed a very special breed. The fluidity of their positions on issues are always influenced by selfish interests.

When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was the President, he was widely berated for being brash, abrasive, crude, un-listening and dictatorial. His military background was blamed for all his weaknesses and dictatorial tendencies.

Obasanjo was also condemned for his aversion to allowing democratic processes to be followed to their logical conclusions. Instances of this, were the use of the Ribadu’s EFCC to harass his opponents- the impeachment and illegal removal from office of Governors Joshua Dariye, Rashidi Ladoja and Ayodele Fayose. To many Nigerians influenced by the media rhetoric of the opposition politicians, Chief Obasanjo was a disaster and the worst thing that could ever happen to Nigeria.

President Jonathan came with a different approach, he was portrayed as indecisive and weak but with the fortunes of the APC appearing to be dimming, the perception that the opposition wants Nigerians to have of Jonathan is that of a dictator.

In conclusion, let me re-echo President Barack Obama’s admonition that African nations need to move away from having ‘strong men’ to build strong institutions.

If democracy is to thrive in Nigeria, we need to focus on building very strong institutions at all levels of government that will promote the rule of law and able to hold every public official accountable to the people.

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