In Remembrance of Jonathan

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DIALOGUE WITH NIGERIA BY AKIN OSUNTOKUN, Email: akin.osuntokun@thisdaylive.com

“Jonathan built 125 almajiri schools, with boarding facilities, libraries, sports arenas, free tuition, free school uniforms and casual wears. This was simply to give life meaning to these kids deliberately neglected by their parents and society. Sadly, Buhari’s first assignment in week-one in office was to cancel this development that incorporated Islamic and modern Western education and permanently took these neglected children off the street.

“Not a single voice from the North asked questions on why Buhari’s government is discontinuing the Modern education for almajiri and throwing them back to the street.

“With the arrival of COVID-19 and the kids still living on the street, they became the most vulnerable in the North and a majority of them have not been lucky as they are COVID-19 positive. This public health challenge was the reason the Northern governors’ meeting remembered that the children have their own states and parents. In a country that have no regards to data or information management, it is apparent that some of these kids cannot be matched to any state in the North or the Niger Republic, therefore the reason, they are being shipped to the South, mostly South-east.

“All that the kids need now is to be appropriately tested and treated in the states they are currently living rather than sending them to villages/families they may hardly recognise as some of them were ‘thrown’ out homes at four to six years. Whatever, these former GEJ Alamajiri pupils will never forget the wickedness the politicians and their educated brothers and sisters (that choose silence) meted out to them. They deserve better”.

Nothing better captures the yawning utility gap between the incumbent Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari and that of his predecessor, Jonathan Goodluck than the excerpts above. It wasn’t the case that the former had a better alternative for this Northern nay Nigerian eyesore, he has none at all other than casting them out into the streets. I remember the Almajiri question was posed to him at the Kadaria/Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) townhall meeting pursuant to the 2019 presidential election. Typical of the fashion the whole night went and obviously struggling with poor health, the president had nothing to say other than waive it away with a response whispered to him by his stand in deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, that it was the responsibility of the local governments. The question that then begs to be asked is: has he since, summoned the concerned local government authorities to give them the marching orders? To wait here for a response would amount to waiting for Godot.

The sort of priority that seems to be of greater concern for our president is of the kind of bearing down on Nigerians who refuse to remain (like a lamb taken to the slaughter house) sitting ducks for the assault of AK 47 wielding rampage of our fulani kinsmen. This is a government that fosters crisis where there is none and beats a retreat when confronted with the real deal. Given the alacrity with which he threw the books at Amotekun, why has the fidgety Attorney General not deem it fit to enforce the fundamental human rights of the almajiri in the face of the Northern states governors wanton impunity of resorting to internal deportation? Or is it the case that his attention is completely captured by the prospects of what can be done with the latest tranche of the bottomless Abacha loot? Anyway, God dey.

The social media stratosphere was recently seized of another round of Jonathan nostalgia video clips contrasting his presidential stewardship with that of his successor. Flash back 2014: Not really looking like a president who is not having a good time but like an unappreciated leader whose indulgence we routinely take for granted. He confessed, once again, his forbearance with our rowdy and censorious proclivities. ‘I’m the most abused and insulted president in the world but when I leave office you will all remember me for the total freedom you enjoyed under my government’. In presaging the contrast that may come after him, he is in the elevated company of President Barack Obama. ‘You Republicans who could not wait to see the end of my eight years in office, how do you like me now? Taunted the former American President.The gap between Jonathan and Buhari is somewhat reminiscent of the one between former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump. Now let me quickly enter the caveat, in anticipation of the mischief of those who have a negative vested interest in columns of this nature that I should not, thereby be deliberately misunderstood as equating Jonathan with Obama.The point I make is that

the statesman/leadership deficit of President Donald Trump vis-a-vis Obama corresponds to what we now know of President Buhari relative to former President Goodluck Jonathan. If the contrast is less stark between the latter couple in some respects, it is crystal in the potential of the big man in aso rock to trip Nigeria over the edge into political cataclysm. Under him, it has become difficult for us to differentiate between a Daura vision of Nigeria from a Tunnel vision.

Riding the triumphalism of the hollow rhetoric of killing corruption before corruption kills Nigeria to power in 2015, credulous Nigerians wilfully blinded themselves to his glaring inadequacies especially his unconstructed nativist nepotism. Like Trump, he could shoot anyone dead and the hero worshippers would only shout Sai Buhari. So smitten with him were Nigerians, that all of us pleading the restoration of federalism aka restructuring were muscled into playing defensive.The equally misled but potent international community enablers couldn’t really care less for Nigerian federalism if the bargain was the alighted nemesis of corruption welding the sword of damocles.The backdrop of the corruption stigmatised Jonathan government provided the perfect counterpoise. He wasted no time cashing down on the waiver generously lavished on him to enact the most lopsided presidency ever visited on Nigeria. Whenever the issue of the political regression is raised, craven supporters and calculating partisans rush to the barricades pleading the ouster clause

that a Nigerian President should be afforded the privilege of wanton parochial discrimination and be allowed to work with people he can trust; that there is nothing wrong in the Nigerian Presidency becoming a daura writ large affair.

To put it in the ringing solemnity, only he can muster, Bishop Matthew Kukah lamented ‘No one would have imagined that in winning the Presidency, General Buhari would bring nepotism and clannishness into the military and the ancillary security agencies, that his government would be marked by supremacist and divisive policies that would push our country to the brink. This president has displayed the greatest degree of insensitivity in managing our country’s rich diversity. He has subordinated the larger interests of the country to the hegemonic interests of his co-religionists and clansmen and women.The impression created now is that, to hold a key and strategic position in Nigeria today, it is more important to be a northern Muslim than a Nigerian’.

Those who insist that this behaviourial lapse was in violation of the notion of Nigerian nationhood and should not be allowed to stand were indignantly censured as ‘corruption fighting back’. As it turned out, corruption didn’t abdicate the occupancy of the villa in the first place (it has only dug deeper), let alone fighting back. Brimming with barely concealed contempt for his fawning fans and fanatics, Buhari had since stretched the inch he was given to yards and miles in utter disdain of the rest of us. We have now gotten to a stage in which the government of Nigeria by Daura plus and for Northern Muslims, has been presently reinforced with the induction of ambitious girlfriends (ask the first lady) into the villa diners club. She was then immediately empowered as a Nigeria wide distributor of raw cash less fifty per cent distributor’s commission and less forty percent handling charges. And there was the audacity of Mr Mamman Daura, who in habitual ummeritted arrogance, couldn’t find any commensurate encomium to lavish on his protege, the late Abba Kyari, than a contemptuous belittling of all who serve his younger than him Uncle- as collectively and individually inferior to the latter.

Never seen such oddity of a blind man presuming to condemn the sighting capability of the a one eyed counterpart. Was he not the eighty years old nephew jostling for residency rights at the Aso Rock Villa with the lady to whom such privilege was assigned by the marriage act?

Unlike embittered Nigerians who rue the day Jonathan meekly did the right thing conceding power in 2015, I believe the former president and Nigeria (at large) are the better for it. If he had remained to contest the result of the presidential election, all hell would have been let loose, nationally and globally. The secret manipulators of the Boko Haram insurgents (the falcon who no longer heeds the falconner) would have escalated the terror to such manifold proportions, that would put the Nigerian civil war to shame. Always a whipping boy and soft target for the media and the intelligentsia, Jonathan would wake up daily with his appetite for breakfast ruined by the media mobilisation of outright revolt of public opinion. In the end, if he (literarily) managed to survive the avalanche, he would be haranged out of office with a looming prospect of jail or exile to Papua New Guinea. In the interim, Pope Alexander would be treated to the visit of high powered Nigerian delegates petitioning him to fastrack the canonisation of Buhari.

But God is not mocked, hence his contrivance of the demystification of Buhari and a bird’s eye view (for those who still have eyes to see) of the danger awaiting Nigeria on present evidence. Partly on account of his own opaque stewardship at the Petroleum Tax Fund (PTF), under the criminally unsurpassed General Sani Abacha, the president took to absolving and exonerating his benefactor of all charges of corruption. He ceaselessly reels the obtuse exoneration- even as he keeps receiving the proceeds of the theft secreted away by his ill starred role model. Since the Internet never forgets, newspaper banner headline bearing his longstanding character witness to the owner of the Cayman islands account has been making the circulation in the social medium-size by side with the vindication of Jonathan.