AN AFTERNOON WITH EX-PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN

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PEDULUM By Dele Momodu, Email: dele.momodu@thisdaylive.com

PENDULUM BY DELE MOMODU

Fellow Nigerians, after my chance meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari last week at the Presidential Villa, it was the turn of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, two days ago, on November 9, 2017, to be my host. The only difference is that the meeting with President Jonathan had long been in the offing but had not materialised due to several factors.

First, I was considered an enemy of the Jonathans because of my support for President Buhari. No one remembered my audacious support for Jonathan in 2010 when I risked everything to defend Jonathan’s right to become the Acting President in the absence of his boss, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. President Yar’Adua was then mortally ill and on an interminably long medical sojourn in Saudi Arabia, and some dubious, but influential, clique had chosen to govern by proxy in his absence. Anyway, that was then.

In the 2011 Presidential race, President Buhari and I, and many others, lost the elections to Jonathan. It was a baptism of fire. I was somehow happy though that a quintessential minority candidate won that election. However, I became worried when the Jonathan government started floundering and waltzing from one crisis to the other. The fuel subsidy conundrum, for me, was the height of it. I participated in the demonstrations that nearly incapacitated Jonathan in the early days of 2012.

Subsequently, I took it upon myself to be an unofficial, unpaid special adviser and consultant to Jonathan on political matters. I wrote copiously on how the government was frittering away its massive goodwill and equity. Of course, the Jonathan supporters did not want to listen and hearken to my sincere opinion and I was endlessly insulted for speaking out my mind.

By 2014, I was just too sure that the Jonathan government was heading for a cataclysmic fall. I wrote an article, ‘In Search of Mathematicians’, in which I analysed that the opposition Party was going to thrash the ruling Party. Again, I was called names my parents did not give me, but it was only a matter of time before my doomsday prophesy came to pass. One of the greatest tragedies of power is how acolytes often mislead the big boss. I have no doubt that Jonathan is a gentleman who meant well for our country but he was surrounded by several malevolent people who capitalised on his plain humility, abject simplicity and imagined weakness to wreak havoc on the nation.

Since then, I have longed to chat with him and ask a few questions about his tenure as President. My previous approaches had been resoundingly rebuffed. Realistically, I did not expect Jonathan to be too comfortable with vociferous members of the opposition like me. But I did not give up.

As fate would have it, I ran into one of our mutual friends, a very significant member of Jonathan’s kitchen cabinet, weeks ago. The man had wondered why I wrote an article predicting the possibility of Jonathan returning to contest the Presidential election in 2019. Most of my readers had said the notion was preposterous and that it was an impossible and unreasonable proposition. The more I watched events unfold the more I felt Jonathan’s second coming was not impossible and unrealisable. His man informed me that his former boss nursed no such ambition and promised to arrange a meeting so I could hear this from the horse’s mouth.

My thesis, though seemingly absurd, is not without reason. Firstly, I do not see the possibility of any Northerner defeating President Buhari in 2019, if he decides to run. Buhari is the most popular personality from the Northern part of Nigeria today. He is, as a matter of unassailable fact, regarded and treated as a cult hero. The North would not want to risk certainty for uncertainty by supporting someone else from outside power. If the PDP chooses to present another Northerner to run against Buhari, the Party would have presented a second term to Buhari on a platter of gold because the South would have nothing to fight for and may present a lukewarm attitude to that election. My view, is that the 2019 Presidential election would be fought principally on the account of ethnicity and religion like most of our previous elections.

Secondly, a Presidential candidate needs to lock down four out of the six geo-political regions in Nigeria. Buhari had always found it tough to do this. On his own, he can boast no more than two regions. Naturally, a strong Southern candidate will give him a run for his money, if he also commands cult followership from his zone. There are few people in this mould and, whether one likes it or not, this includes Jonathan. The Southern candidate would obviously have a decent foray in the North Central and South West zones as well as a few of the battleground States in the North West and North East. Buhari has always found it difficult to replicate a similar decent incursion into the Southern axis apart from the South West.

Thirdly, age and health will be substantial factors in 2019. Buhari would be 76 and has been very ill in the recent past though, thankfully, he is much better now. Jonathan, like most of the other strong Southern candidates, will be under 65 and seems virile. He is one of the few who can draw on his experience and achievement to offer comparative analysis to Buhari, project for project.

It was with this mind-set that I approached former President Jonathan two days ago after he personally phoned to reconfirm our appointment for that day. I was deeply humbled by this simple gesture. By the time I meandered my way to his understated but elegant office, I didn’t know what to actually expect from him. He had some visitors from the Bible Society of Nigeria who had come to present him with the biggest Bible I ever saw, written in five languages English, Hausa, Yoruba, Ibo and Efik, all in one holy book. He asked me to give him a few minutes to attend to these visitors and I gladly obliged.. When they left, I was ushered into his personal office.

The first thing he said was, “Dele, I must thank you for your level of professionalism. I read your column regularly and must commend your maturity and objectivity. Even when I disagree with you, I still enjoy your style.” “Thank you, sir…” I replied. He was ostensibly excited about the visit from the Bible Society of Nigeria and showed me the massive wooden book that was jealously protected in a beautiful casket. He then lectured me (once a lecturer always a lecturer) on the history of the Holy Bible in Nigeria. That done, we settled down to serious discussions.

I was thinking of how to proceed with the conversation. I decided to start by telling him my mission. I just don’t want to write abstract articles anymore. I want to use the incredible access God has given me to virtually everyone, low or high, to set a roadmap for our dear beloved country. It is my duty to give my readers authoritative information as much as possible. I’ve taken it upon myself to go behind and beyond the regular news to educate and entertain my passionate followers.

I started with harmless, innocuous and easy questions. How has he been coping outside power? He said he was fine because he never expected to be in government forever. He was particularly proud that he left power without any bloodshed. He appreciates the intervention of very influential and well-meaning people who brokered the democratic initiative. He feels good and at peace with himself for honouring his word and his bond.

Does he feel harassed by the Buhari government? He said he expected some of the unfolding events since the government came into being on the platform of anti-corruption mantra. “You do not abandon a winning formula easily…” He said he accepts his foibles and weaknesses and has learnt very useful lessons from those shortcomings. “But we did very well on the whole…” he insisted.. I was touched by his candour. He believed that if he had won his second term in 2015, he would have consolidated on the gains of that “imperfect” first term. But that did not happen. He says his love for Nigeria would never make him wish failure for Buhari or any other future government. “I have had the rare opportunity of leading our country at very critical moments and did my best. I’ve left the rest to posterity to judge,” he said matter-of-factly.

Now to the delicate terrain. “Sir, will you run in 2019?” I fired the shot from the hip. I’m not sure he anticipated this important question at the time it came. “Contest again? No. People come to me every day saying they want me back. I’m always moved to tears whenever I go out and see the huge crowds shouting GEJ, we want you, even in the North. Instead of getting swollen headed, I actually reflect on my achievements and mistakes and feel humbled and feel very sober… I have never been a man of inordinate ambition. I’m a man of very modest means. I hardly travel because of the logistical costs. I’ve played my part and I have moved on.”

“What if your party decides to invite you again?’ I probed deeper. “Are you not aware that our Party has zoned the Presidency to the North, and the Chairmanship to the South?” he queried. I gave him my permutations but he insisted that the two major Parties are highly inclined to produce candidates from the North. “Even Fayose that has declared his interest may face big challenges because of the decision of our party…” he opined.

“So there is no way you can ever contest again?” I fired again and he returned the fire instantaneously, “I’m not God but I sincerely doubt the possibility…” he said with finality. I dropped the subject as it was not my intention to put him on the spot, like that.

“How will you rate the Buhari government so far?” another tricky question, I felt. “What do you think Dele?… You are their friend…” I kept mute “Honestly speaking, they have tried in the area of security and fighting corruption, even if they’ve tilted more towards us… But we did a lot in our time in the area of agriculture, transport, managing the economy, rule of law, free and fair elections… Only Nigerians can judge… It won’t be fair of me to pass verdict so soon on my immediate successor… I knew they would hit brick-walls on some of their promises, especially the school feeding program and the payment of N5,000 to unemployed graduates… We worked on feasibility studies on them in the past and realised Nigeria could not afford it… It is always the job of opposition to over-promise but reality of governance is always different…”, he said, animatedly.

I could see and feel this was his forte. He spoke confidently and eloquently about the art and science of governance. He said the figures are still fresh in his memories. I decided to digress again. What does he think about Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s chances. “He can’t get the APC ticket. If Atiku gets our party ticket, he would compete well. He’s always a passionate politician. But he would have to reach out to our boss, Baba OBJ, the boss of all bosses. We’ve all learnt at different times that you ignore OBJ at your own peril. OBJ has the magic wand, respected at home and abroad…” speaking like a penitent student. Experience, they say, is the best teacher.

If PDP picks a Northern candidate, where does he expect the running mate to come from, I asked. “Strategically, since Professor Osinbajo is already running with Buhari, the South South and South East, remain the most fertile grounds. And there are many brilliant people there waiting for the chance. The Governors control some of the richest states in Nigeria except Lagos…” he posited.

With time far gone, I requested for some pictures with him. He accepted with his usual equanimity. I invited my protégé, Mr Ohimai Godwin Amaize, aka Mr Fix Nigeria, who was a prominent member of the PDP Youth Wing who was really elated to meet Jonathan again, to do the honours. We took several pictures.
As we exchanged goodbyes, I looked back at President Jonathan and wondered what fate might have in store for him in the future …

  • Toate Ganago

    I once read a piece by this writer and vowed never to return to his piece again but the headline caught my attention and I thought he was going to open the hood of the former President. Dele Is what is wrong with most Nigerian writers and journalists. For Dele, I would suggest you visit a man I so much miss when I was an avid newser, and he is TIm Rusert of the Meet the Press. At least, learn how to dig deep into the heart of a Politician to glean and probe hard questions. I thought the writer was going to ask Jonathan about his not developing his Niger Delta, cleaning up Ogoni and the entire Niger Delta geography, the alleged corruptions which his wife is embedded in. Dele Must have wasted his money if he paid with his hard-earned money and time going to play softball with the former President.In a nutshell, he only went to Jonathan to know whether he was nursing any second coming ambition. This was a big yawn!

  • Sean William

    Jonathan never learns, why let a paid opposition piper and a mischievous mercenary come within two poles of you?

  • nuelsymbol

    This interview is not rich enough by not asking for his comments about the loots of his Minster of Petroleum – Mrs.Allison Madueke and the money squandered by Dasuki. What has he gone to say here ?

  • Mystic mallam

    Dele Momodu, removal of fuel subsidy in 2012 was the final straw for you. You and your cousins organised marches and city shut downs against the removal in 2012, and spineless Jonathan succumbed to your blackmail. That irresponsible act of your and your tribesmen cost nigeria trillions of Naira and ruined the future of several young people for quite a while to come. Knowing what you know now about the subsidy, as if you didn’t know before, why are you and your fellows not apologising to the rest of us before you keep assaulting our peace and tranquility with your meaningless interviews?

    • Don Gratias

      So true, so apt

  • moribund9ja

    Nigeria under Jonathan will looted dry again. That is my only fear. He neither believes nor fights corruption.
    It is very strange. Look at the loot during his tenure.

    With Tinubu still backing Buhari, Buhari will floor any Challenger in if he contest 2019

    • Magnus0071mg

      Jonathan did not fight corruption is one of the lies that have been peddled around to chastise him Indeed the corruption scandals of the Buhari regime have been more than those experienced during the Jonathan era And he made sure those caught resigned Only Abba Moro was left off the hook Please check the records
      Finally Jonathan regime worked with the British establishment to get a conviction on Ibori In order to ensure corruption is reduced he introduced the TSA IPPIS and the BVN This have been the template to fight corruption by preventing access to the till
      Jonathan was in the position Obama was when he ran for second term If Romney had won Obama legacy would have been decapitated never mind the work done in getting the US out of recession Even now Trump have done everything to wipe out his name as a worthy President The same effort is being undertaken here by Buhari to wipe out Jonathan as worthy President He name is mentioned when there is dirt but never when it is glorious
      And many more

      • moribund9ja

        You are talking as an alien from another planet.
        It is really surprising that you are unaware that public theft was a major legacy of Jonathan era. Is that a classified information?.. It is the public domain for goodness sake. The corruption that Buhari is fighting today is 90% Jonathan era corruption. Look at the loot all over the place.

        Even Jonathan himself openly admitted being helpless at the time, saying corruption is incurable in Nigeria, thereby coming up with all manner of postulations about how corruption should be defined….hence his famous saying that “stealing is not corruption”

        We have more important things to discuss…

        • Magnus0071mg

          You runaway and call names when facts are used to interrogate your wrong narratives You even try to minimize the discourse by pulling clichés like “stealing is not corruption” taken out of context Even if we interrogate that cliche it true But to the haters it an anthem but it does not tell anything but only tickles you
          Have laid my stand bare you have no counter so you storm out in order to hide your naivety

          • moribund9ja

            Confidently ignorant..
            Read Simon Kolawole today’s piece ..” What do Nigerians want” . He wrote about Jonathan corruption era. You can call him naive too, …monkey.
            Stealing is not corruption, but it’s your mother… Mumu

          • Magnus0071mg

            Hey man I’m not a monkey but a gorilla And my mama is dead she aghost now I’ve come to haunt you and take you out of your naivety You are a small nut
            Now seriously I read article of columnists not to be guided but to see if they tell the truth Most don’t Boy I’ve been around since the London and Ibadan conferences on independence and I read uncountable books on personalities war and politics Am sure I do not need a Kolawole as a guide Maybe greenhorns like you do That why your understanding is limited to the last election and your little knowledge of the kinetics at play in today’s Buhari Nigeria

          • Fairgame

            Simon Kolawole is not naive. He is a hopeless psychophant who is incapable of telling truth and being objective.

          • Kanu T

            You don’t need to be insulting. How does a Dele Momodu article involve someone’s mother?. Talking about that quote; he was quoted completely out of context, Nigerians like to read headlines and run away to gossip.You can insult my mother too because I can tell you stealing is not corruption because you can be a thief and not be corrupt and you can be corrupt without stealing.If you have contextual understanding of the English language.GEJ postulated institutional fighting of corruption which is the best.TSA and BVN are good examples. The major purpose of TSA is to cut government spending and prevent corruption.This government is merely window dressing and screaming with the EFCC.We need strong institutions not strong men period.

        • onyema22ohaka

          How is your principal buhari fighting kwaruption with all that is unfolding daily and weekly about his him and his co-travellers?

        • ‘ned

          And Buhari understood corruption so well that he told the whole too that Abacha did not steal Nigeria’s money. Perhaps Corruption is not stealing then.

          The way we turn a blind eye to the fault of the leaders we adore! The shortcomings of the preset notwithstanding, the only comment you have about it is that it will win again in 2019. Not about our wanting something better or addressing the ills plaguing our society.

          The same thing people did during Jonathan;s time about re-election being a goal in itself and the then ‘objective’ Nigerians condemning it is happening now with the ‘objective’ Nigerians looking at re-election as an end.

          Do you know the number of displaced Nigerians due to activities of Fulani herdsmen, the failure of the economy, the lawlessness in the land, replacing Babachir with his first cousin, Burutaigate, Dambazaugate, etc.

          You see that you are not interested in good governance. You are more interested in the person you support. In that light, you are no different from those you condemn including Jonathan.

          • moribund9ja

            I have not supported Buhari .. Buhari is a failure too.
            I only said that Jonathan era was riddled with corruption.. @ned, true or false?

          • ‘ned

            My issue is in your analysis vis the two personalities, one corruption and the other re-election prospects. Per corruption being rampart under Jonathan, I see the same with Buhari. If we have another government probe this government, we will see a lot exposed.

            However, in order not to speculate, I only need to look at Babachir, Dambazau, Burutai, recently the MOD, tell me about a government being riddled with corruption. Add Maina to the mix and we are in for more than riddled. For a government that has sworn to deal with corruption that is so rich.

        • The Light

          My friend why are you accusing Jonathan of corruption when corruption actually started by the military regimes. The north and the military are responsible for all our sufferings today. Buhari hates anything non muslims and non north. He just pray with fire. Did Jonathan also responsible for Boko Haram?

  • Political Affey

    I am surprised that you did not link how this government is running the country with
    the hardship Nigerians are experiencing and the loss of hope for CHANGE. We are so used to commenting about personalities in Nigerian politics that we often forget that their purpose is to serve the people. They are ignored as if they are some inanimate objects.
    For fear of not churning something out on the backpage on Saturday, we are told of your trip to see Buhari. Then of course, you slotted in your usual topic, Jonathan, to whet the appetite of his die hard followers. On the substantive question of where Nigeria really is and where it is heading, nothing. Meanwhile you have already leapfrogged onto the next dispensation of 2019, as if the current political landscape has not been disfigured enough.

  • amebo

    Jonathan must indeed be very dumb to grant you Momodu audience, the same way he was dumb to visit Obasanjo in Abeokuta. I really don’t know the problem with Jonathan. Very soon, he will play host to Tunubu.

  • Dele Awogbeoba

    “He can’t get the APC ticket. If Atiku gets our party ticket, he would compete well. He’s always a passionate politician. But he would have to reach out to our boss, Baba OBJ, the boss of all bosses. We’ve all learnt at different times that you ignore OBJ at your own peril. OBJ has the magic wand, respected at home and abroad…”

    How insightful that the #ool eventually learnt.

    • MDG2020

      If to you GEJ is a fool, then take a critical look at yourself and the mass-all-round-failure you represent and tell the the description that fits your miserable life at 62yrs of age.
      Yeye dey really smell in yorubaland.
      da, get a life or move back to Osun state. You are a waste of space and mass!

      • Sean William

        You personally know the idiot then! Great!!

    • cookie

      Afonja… idiot.

  • KWOY

    Probabaly Jonathan was a dumbo, which is why he opens his mouth wide to Yorubas at every opportunity. And to talk about the objectivity of your articles is the height of it!

    And in case he does not understand: The connection with the international community is that it does not want a spread of terrorism from Nigeria. And since the north which can make it possible with Boko Haram & the Yoruba press that can give it international advertisement are all settled and silent, in addition to the fact that Buahri is a better politician who knows better the use of NNPC, INEC, the Military & Police to elections, Buhari is unstoppable in 2019!

    Meanwhile he ruled out the factor of Tinubu & the quest for VP, which he anchored on Yoruba marginalization. He ruled out the factor of the Yoruba press, which now is struck both by humiliation & by powerlessness. Out of humiliation the Yoruba & ist press will continue to Support Buhari even beyond 2019!

    • BankyMons

      I always find your posts very insightful!

  • KWOY

    Probably Jonathan is a dumbo? …. Or otherwise he would not be openning his mouth wide to Yorubas (from Adeniyi to Momodu) at every opportunity!

  • ychukwuka

    Is this an interview? if the only thing next election will present is Buhari, Osinbajo, Atiku, Lamido….. as contestants, may the country split into countries. What a country; what a ‘jounalist.’

  • Father Jay

    Your article lacks objectivity about the real situation of things in Nigeria. You are bit soft on these high and mighty people who put this country in this present state. You should atleast be the mouth piece of the suffering poor masses Mr Momodu.Call a spade a spade Mr Jonathan failed and Mr Buhari is failing….God will save this dieing country!

    • RumuPHC

      I wonder why it is difficult to speak truth to power in Nigeria especially in the presence of power .

      It appears Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Gani Fawehimin are the only Nigerians that managed this feat.

      Past and present Nigerian leaders are mere mortals: why do men fear men?

      • Olufemi Bello

        Dr Tai Solarin and Dr Bala Usman did speak to power too.

        • BankyMons

          And what IBB blessed Dr Tai Solarin’s heart, tell Nigerians what happened after that.

          • Olufemi Bello

            Dr Solarin was made the chairman of People’s Bank . There is no record that Tai was corrupt but his workers stole the bank blind. The Marardona (IBB) himself has achieved his aim. IBB wanted Tai ,the great critic to know what he IBB was going through as Nigerian leader. End of story.

          • BankyMons

            And what about the gold watch and the throwing away of his signature ‘shorts’ once he became the People’s bank chariman (against his own very words)?

          • KlasJ

            He only wore the ankara agbada made for the anniversary of Peoples Bank to the ceremony as the Chairman of the bank.

            What is wrong with that and did it translate to throwing away his signature shorts?

          • onyema22ohaka

            Did you expect him to wear his signature shorts to work in “a corporate environment”?

          • BankyMons

            Of course and why not? It was his own words never to were trousers until every Nigerian child is in school. And it was a community bank not Citi bank he was chairing.

          • nuelsymbol

            Plain facts

        • American Abroad

          As a matter of fact, so did Fela Kuti, Ayodele Awojobi, Sam Amuka (yes, him), Chike Obi, Chinua Achebe, Mike Iyorshe, Aminu Kano, Joseph Tarka, Dangiwa Umar, Salihu Ibrahim (yes too, him), Hameed Ali (revisionism notwithstanding), Michael Imoudu, Akanu Ibiam, Udo Udoma (Egbert, not son), Patrick Wilmot, Kayode Eso, and on his good days, Shaka Momodu. History just isn’t a “Nigerian” thing.

          • Olufemi Bello

            Thank you. So many of them in their different ways and methods. We have not thought about those poor and silent civil servants who speak to power in their memos.

  • Fidelis A.

    Janus face, self idolatry, cant, hypocrisy are now your fort. Dele, you are someone any man of conscience should avoid. I am no fan of Jonathan (will never be one), but the way you go about your trade is despicable. You should have shame at least, ……… I just tire for you.

  • Abia_Man

    GEJ and his wife Patience was slandered, ethnically baited, and physically threatened by Dele Momodu, and muslim south western politicians. All to continue the theft of the oil/ gas deposits in GEJs native Niger Delta. The Southwest saw themselves as the new oil block billionaires and pipeline smuggling millionaires after supporting GEJ in the first election. As soon as he moved to remove fuel subsidy and threaten their legal and illegal robbery, Dele, Tinubu and his fellow blood suckers in Punch, Premium Times, and Tribune struck.
    Today, even the blind can see the truth. GEJ policies on the fuel subsidy alone would have saved Nigeria at least 20 billion dollars and created hundreds of thousands of jobs for every region.
    I don’t totally blame Dele Momodu because the only economic success he understands is photographing the gold, silver and mansions of people from outside the Niger Delta who get rich robbing the Niger Delta. So deregulation in the oil sector like GEJ and Diezani were trying to do must have seemed like the end of the world.
    Time has proven GEJ a better man and manager than Buhari, Fashola, Tinubu, yourself and others who hide under the Petroleum Act and other unitary laws to to loot. Enjoy your change.

    • Don Gratias

      So true, so profound

    • Sean William

      Wow!! Abia_Man, very ably articulated. Thank you. Dele is a shameless and mischievous mercenary.

    • Akins

      “Today, even the blind can see the truth. GEJ policies on the fuel
      subsidy alone would have saved Nigeria at least 20 billion dollars and
      created hundreds of thousands of jobs for every region” . You should stop deceiving yourself.How do you know that the money to be realized them will be used to create jobs or buying more private jets?