Presidents usually become the subject of criticism when they leave office. In this wise, Goodluck Jonathan has had his own shares of such verbal attacks. However, the dismissal of his six-year reign as president by his godson and Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, was most uncharitable, writes Segun James
When history comes to assess the tenure of former President Goodluck Jonathan as leader of the most populous black nation in the world, how will it judge him? From what angle will the judgment come? Whatever the angle this may take, as his reputation is being assailed at every corner, Jonathan was dealt the most unkindest cut when his political godson, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson allegedly described his six years as president of Nigeria a waste. Dickson regretted the six years administration of Jonathan, describing the period as a wasted opportunity for the Ijaws. The governor however, recanted claiming that he was misquoted.
Although Dickson never out rightly dismissed the former president directly, he instead vented his scathing accusation on the ministers and other presidential aides from Bayelsa whom he said were after selfish interests, thus losing the unique opportunity of attracting development to their domains.
But following the uproar that greeted the governor’s statement, Dickson quickly issued a rejoinder saying that his statement was taken out of context by political enemies.
He insisted that contrary to what was used by the media, his words were never directed at the person of the president but at those from the state who had the opportunity to develop the state but were busy playing politics with the development of the state and people.
The governor even went further to meet the former president at his country home in Otuoke with the video of the event to show he at no time said the words as ascribed to him.
Whether Jonathan believed him or not, it is not clear. What is certain however is the fact that the relationship between the two had not always been like this.
Dickson, the governor of Bayelsa state is by all standards a political godson of President Jonathan. Although both of them were friends before the advent of the 4th republic, they belonged to different political parties, before political circumstances brought them together.
While Jonathan pitched his camp with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and eventually became the deputy governor of the state, Dickson on his own pitched his tent with the Alliance for Democracy (AD). He became the state chairman of the party; and against all odd, the AD produced a senator in the 2003 election when the then governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was the lord of the Bayelsan political manor.
*The truth is that Dickson and Alams were never good friends. Yet Dickson and Jonathan maintained their friendship. This friendship continued until Alams was impeached and Jonathan stepped into his shoes. In the midst of the turbulence that followed, Dickson left the AD and came to the side of his friend to weather the political storm that followed the impeachment of Alams together.
At the end, a grateful Jonathan compensated his friend with the position of Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General of the state. That was when the relationship changed from mere friendship to that of godfather and godson.
Their closeness and love for each other blossomed, and when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo decided that all electable positions in the state should be harmonized between Jonathan, whom Obasanjo had selected as the state governorship candidate of the PDP and Chief Timi Alaibe, Dickson was forced to jettison his ambition for the senate for a seat in the House of Representatives.
Between these times, the situation changed. Jonathan became the Vice President, and ultimately, the president of the federal republic.
That was the situation until 2011 when the president decided that his successor in office as governor, Chief Timipre Sylva would not have a return ticket.
As usual, the president once again remembered his godson, and before long, Dickson had become the Governor of Bayelsa.
That was five years ago. But now, the cord that binds their friendship seems to have snapped. No thanks in part to the wife of the president, Dame Patience Jonathan but more especially, the battle within the PDP where Dickson may have pitched his tent with the Ali Modu-Sheriff faction as against Jonathan who is aligned with the Ahmed Makarfi’s group.
Mrs. Jonathan and Dickson had never liked each other right from *their days in Yenagoa. As president’s wife, she wanted her godson, Dr. Peremobowei Dudafa as deputy to Dickson.
Dickson rejectehd the nomination out rightly. He was quoted as saying that he would not want the decisions of his government taken at the kitchen of the State House. That was the decision that sowed the seed of enmity between the governor and the president’s wife.
Reacting to the controversial statement which was credited to the governor, a group, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) South-south League, apologised to the former president, describing the statement as a betrayal of trust.
The group in a statement signed by the chairman, Mr. Ariolu Tebidapa and secretary, Mr. Akpan Ibibio, also said Dickson’s statement was a misrepresentation of facts and an attempt to ridicule Jonathan’s achievements.
According to the group, “We are concerned PDP members from the South-south geopolitical region who still believe in the party, and your leadership as the national leader of our great party, as well as your great achievements during your reign as president.
“However sir, we were swept off our foot with shock in the wake of a recent comment credited to none other than your own governor, Dickson, saying ‘your six years at the presidency was a waste to the Niger Delta region’. This, we consider, as a betrayal of trust and an insult on your person considering that this is a misrepresentation of facts and an attempt to embarrass you considering your achievements nationwide and as one who was President of Nigeria and not a regional president.”
The group likened Dickson’s action to the parable of the talent in the Bible. “Reflecting on this story, it pictures you as that master and our regional (South-south) governors as those servants where you left the development of the region in their hands. And now that you are back home to settle accounts, we can see other governors giving good account of their stewardship, inviting you to commission projects and paying salaries up to date without complains.
“While that one who has refused to invest the opportunity and talent which you have given to him, has failed to develop his state and can’t even pay salaries. He is the one today calling you names and blaming you for his failure even with the enormous resources at his disposal,” it said.
The group also apologised to the former president on behalf of Dickson, while also pleading with him as a leader and father not to join issues, but rather forgive him in case he comes back like the ‘prodigal son.’
“As we all know, this period has never been the best of time for our party, so we should be mindful of black legs who may want to create further disaffection within the party in order to achieve their selfish agenda of selling our party to the ruling party at the centre,” the group warned.
As the nation’s political clock ticks rapidly toward 2019 and the PDP continues to be in disarray. Those close to the governor had hinted that Dickson had some time ago lamented that the leadership crisis rocking the PDP posed a great danger to the practice of democracy in the country, and that the former president’s handling of the crisis had further pushed the party towards the precipice.
The source said that even though most members have resolved to reconcile whatever the decision of the party, Dickson and his people may abandon the PDP if the decision goes against Sheriff.
Following the protracted crisis that engulfed the party in the wake of the report presented to the party’s leadership by the Dickson’s reconciliation committee, the centre has still not held.
At that time, Dickson had lamented that the imbroglio in the PDP had robbed the party the opportunity to provide a virile opposition to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Dickson said relying on the court to resolve internal party crisis was an indictment on the political class and a show of its immaturity.
He said: “I think the right question should be: what is the future of Nigerian democracy? The tragedy of our democracy today is that we neither have a strong political party in government nor a strong political party in opposition”, he told newsmen.
“You all know the efforts we in my committee made to reconcile the various tendencies in PDP so that the party could come back on stream to play its role as a credible opposition platform. As a matter of fact, Nigeria’s democracy is worse for it.
“Unfortunately our party has not been playing the role of an opposition party because of the needless crisis plaguing us. What is happening in PDP is a great danger to Nigeria democracy, but I still believe that all hope is not lost. But what is happening in PDP is unfortunately also happening in APC.
“For our democracy to be secure, we need a strong party in government, strong cohesive united party in government, pursuing their democratic agenda as well as a virile party in opposition. But so far our democracy is weak because of the absence of these. There is crisis in APC, it is brewing and nobody is talking about it.
“The sooner we in the PDP salvage our platform that is terribly suffering a lot of de-marketing the better for our democracy. It is unfortunate that a political party has to go to the judiciary to resolve its internal problem that is essentially political.
“Relying on the court to resolve internal crisis is an indictment of the political class. It is an indictment on the democratic credentials of all players.
“My belief, my views might be in the minority, but my belief is that the judiciary is being over worked and labored unnecessarily by political actors of all parties. We have abdicated our responsibilities as political players, we have surrendered too much to the judiciary, we have involved the judiciary in too many unnecessary political issues, and thereby exposing it to ridicule. We are not helping the judiciary.
“Political leaders who are key players in the democratic system should show the maturity, the political temperament, the credentials to be able to recognize and solve problems within themselves and see politics as essential element of democracy, which is a market place of ideas.
“We all do not need to belong to one political party, even within our parties there are tendencies. There should be contestation of tendencies but the irony in Nigeria is that politicians in Nigeria are more militant than the military.
“Honestly, politicians in Nigeria do not know how to argue or disagree amongst themselves. We don’t listen to ourselves, we can’t argue amongst ourselves. If you hold a divergent view, you are marked for destruction or blackmail, or tagged as being antiparty and this is so because our political actors and leaders neither have the skills nor the democratic temperament to drive the political process.
“These are partly the reasons why the crises in both PDP and APC are strong. In the US for example, you see all the tendencies playing out, Clinton on the centre of the Democratic Party, you have Bernie Sanders on the left of the Democratic Party and others. So also in the Republican Party, all marketing their ideas
“But I am confident PDP will still bounce back after the Supreme Court judgement but my view is that we had no business going to court. If PDP leaders had agreed to implement our template for reconciliation, a national unity convention would have held this month to elect a brand new leadership.
“The irony of it is that the judiciary does not reconcile, it only adjudicates. Even after the Supreme Court judgement, the party will still hold a convention and embark on aggressive confidence building and reconciliation. So what is the real reason for going to court? As for me and my committee, we shall not give up on PDP. Reconciliation is ongoing, court or no court.
“After the judgment, I will address party faithful. People should stop decamping from PDP or leaving PDP to form new political platforms.
“I was opposed to Senator Ali Modi-Sheriff when some of my colleagues and others brought him. I didn’t like that; I thought that our party needed a fresh face to craft a fresh message after losing power at the centre. Losing election is bad but that is not the end of the world for a party or for a politician.
“Unfortunately those who brought him for whatever reason fell apart with him. And when the Appeal Court upheld Sheriff as Chairman, I as a product of the law, as a law-abiding citizen adhered to the Court Judgment by duly recognizing him as Chairman and the same people said I was a Sheriff man.
“As politicians we shouldn’t be law breakers or hold the Judiciary in contempt. We should not personalize judicial pronouncements by selecting the verdicts to respect! Why should a politician for example want to pocket his party?
“Why should you be the one to select the National Chairman and Secretary and all the other posts? That they must be in your pocket for you to be a member of that party, does that make sense, is that not madness? If that is the thrust of a politician then you can go and form a political party of your family and be in charge. But once it’s a national party, it is an aggregation of all interests and top of which is the national interest.”
Today, Dickson is pitched in a battle of wits with the governor of Rivers state, Nyesom Wike over the issue of Jonathan. Wike has at different times accused Dickson of ingratitude and lacking in tact in his choice of words.
However, Dickson was said to be battle ready to fight Jonathan’s men to a standstill following reports that Mrs. Jonathan was eyeing the Senate either in Rivers state or Bayelsa, a move that the governor would resist by all means.
But with opposition coming from both the Jonathan camp and the APC, observers believe that the road is surely going to be strewn with a lot of political obstacles for the governor who will complete his second term in 2020; and is determined to install a successor who will watch his back when he leaves office.
But today, Dickson has said it to Jonathan’s face that he is his own man and he would not even listen to Jonathan as to what political direction he would go let alone where he would lead Bayelsa.
My views might be in the minority, but my belief is that the judiciary is being over worked and labored unnecessarily by political actors of all parties. We have abdicated our responsibilities as political players, we have surrendered too much to the judiciary, we have involved the judiciary in too many unnecessary political issues, and thereby exposing it to ridicule. We are not helping the judiciary