12th October 2010
RUN JOHNNY RUN
President Goodluck Jonathan is best known, perhaps, for his unique fortune of being in the right place at the right time. Coming from a family of canoe makers, his meteoric rise, seemingly by accident, to the uppermost echelon of Nigerian society has been nothing short of serendipitous. As a public officer who has never been elected to any major public office in his own right, President Jonathan has taken full advantage of the opportunity fate thrust upon him by parlaying his advance in politics into an existence that is way ahead of the hopes and expectations of ordinary people.
There really is little doubt that President Jonathan is a man blessed with good fortune. But while some may consider his opportunities as an attribute to the quality that his name speaks of, I see his fortune as a burden of opportunity that saddles him with an overwhelming predicament. A predicament that sways his future legacy on the brink of distinction or damage; a choice in which he can completely re-order the damaged value system of this nation and usher in a paradigm of hope for the future of Nigeria, were he to take it. Herein, at this very point in time, President Jonathan has a very extraordinary chance to have his name written in gold, to become Nigeria’s first political hero for many a generation. To stand as a symbol that pays mind to a pertinent chronicle, one who shows a perceptive ability to perceive the consequences of his actions and one who sets an important precedent. He has the opportunity to transform himself into a completely dignified elder statesman with global respect and the greatest legacy had he remained an uninterested umpire and a silent spectator in a democratic revolution that that will ensure every one vote counts in 2011. But that legacy can only be claimed by him if he were to dig very deep into his reserves of courage, foresight and resistance against the enticement of skulking ambition and the incitement of wanton Svengalis that fall into a sort of hagiographic rapture whenever they hear the mention of the his name.
Luck may have given Mr Jonathan the advantage, but from the foregoing, it would appear that this is as far as the advantage goes. Because all of a sudden the heroic, empathetic, rational and unwearied silhouette that President Jonathan cut in the final days of President Yaradu’a seems to be vanishing. Mr Jonathan’s luck put him in a position where, before, during and after the passing of the late president, he represented a great patriot and a gentleman who was not politically greedy or biased. We admired the manner in which he endured the accusations, acrimony and contempt meted out to him by a megalomaniac first lady and the way he resisted scrutinising her rapacious voracity. We trusted his statesmanship in not taking power at a time when the power was rightfully his. When the hawks and vultures that surrounded the former president exposed a ruthless vehemence in their hunger to cling onto power, President Jonathan reacted with patience, calm and clemency. The fact that he has made no attempt to bring to justice any of the cabal and their insatiable appetite for almost causing anarchy in this country, demonstrates the decorum and dexterity of a man for all seasons. Some of us marched for him, wrote for him, stood by him and were ready to fight for him because we believed in him. He endeared himself to Nigerians in every way a leader possibly could.
But alas, unfortunately, reminiscent of a preceding handful of leaders before him, President Jonathan materializes as another one who is vulnerable to the allure of accolades and susceptible to an inordinate ambition. It is an ambition that seems to have a way of diminishing our leadership’s ability to rise above the lure of continuity. For any incumbent president in Nigeria, the temptation for contesting for the presidency must be very high and it must be very difficult to restrain one from doing so. Somewhere between the assumption and departure of public office, the spirit of every leader that resides in Aso Rock, save a couple, seems to get lost in the pursuit and possession of power at its extreme. A preoccupation of incumbency and ‘tazarche’ clouds the better judgement of our leadership. One thing that we are familiar with in this country and indeed all over the continent is that it is very rare for a President to leave the office voluntarily. They are often either removed physically from that lucrative and cosy office, disgraced out or they drop dead.
It is unfortunate, that with his declaration of active participation in the 2011 elections, President Jonathan has lost his chance to set the kind of record former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela did. Today Nelson Mandela remains a saint in Africa, a global symbol of hope and a legend of our time, not solely because he sacrificed his personal freedom for his people for 27 years, but also because he served only one term as president and withdrew diplomatically from politics and public life. As a popular President in South Africa, Mandela had the opportunity and genuine popularity to hang onto the South African Presidency for another term of his office but he had the force of courage to serve only one term. In so doing, his brief presidency avoided undermining the laudable legacy and reputation he had built in his decades of captivity. It really would have been possible for Nelson Mandela could have undone his good work, rubbished his image and damaged his place in history irreparably had he continued in office longer than he had. Mandela may not have experienced the kind of luck President Jonathan did in the course of his lifetime, but when the fortune of life and the chance to lead his country presented itself to him, he didn’t misuse it but instead nurtured it in a way that makes him one of the only true leaders that Africa has ever produced.
Had Mr Jonathan embraced the kind of resilience exhibited by Mr Mandela, he would have achieved the maximum that history can judge or reward him for and as a result of his selflessness, sometime in the near future, Nigerians may have stood up to request for his return by virtue of his impressive reputation of voluntarily relinquishing power.
Already the tide is beginning to flow against Mr Jonathan. With recent events where he degenerated to the valley of constituting himself into a megaphone of militants and his rather reactionary and premature denial of the existence of a zoning arrangement within his party despite the fact that he is product and a beneficiary of such characteristic, Mr Jonathan has started his journey on the slippery slope of villinary.Without a doubt, it is the constitutional and inalienable right of Mr President to run for the presidency. However, notwithstanding any that Mr. Jonathan may have, if the president had a strong interest in his legacy, instead of focussing on the immediate political prize, he would not allow his ambition for power to drag him into a situation that will become unsuitable for that legacy. No matter the reward that lies at the end of his quest for another term in the presidency, with the pitfalls inevitable for every incumbent African leader that contests for a continuation in office, I am sure the prize will be worth the cost.
One of the greatest legacies a leader could ever leave is his ability to know when to leave power before power leaves them. If Mr Jonathan chose not to run for the 2011 elections but oversaw and ensured a free and fair process, he would, without a doubt emerge as the greatest African hero after Nelson Mandela and he would have the greatest legacy to be told for generations of Africans to come. For those who are in a position to advise and encourage him, if they truly had his personal best interest at heart, they could ask him to run; not towards the polls, but to “run Johnny run” as far away from Nigeria 2011 as possible.
Article Written By Hannatu Musawa