Adios Umaru Yar’Adua…..Bienvenido “Saint” Goodluck Jonathan

 The shenanigans that engulfed the nation’s political landscape was brought to an abrupt end last week. The death of President Umaru Yar’Adua drew to a close, the political uncertainty that eclipsed the nation for almost six months. Whatever anyone says, one thing is certain, President Umaru Yar’Adua is gone.

The questions about him turning up at next Friday’s Jumat service or jogging up and down the stairs are now history. A new chapter has now been opened in the nation’s history book from the 5 May 2010.

Whether Umaru Yar’Adua is a good or bad leader is now totally irrelevant. Engaging in endless discussions dissecting the Yar’Adua administration or personality will not put food on the table of 150 million Nigerians. Writing hypocritical and sycophantic eulogies about Umaru Yar’Adua or portraying him as “least corrupt” Nigerian President will not provide jobs for the 21 million unemployed youths roaming the streets of Lagos, Port Harcourt or Zaria. To describe Umaru Yar’Adua as an “epitome of humility” or Apostle of “Rule of Law” is now redundant statement. It’s not our tradition to speak ill of the dead, however, heaping unnecessary and hypocritical praises on the dead also makes no sense!

Our attention should therefore now be focused on the “new chapter” that is currently being written. We cannot change what is gone. However we do have an opportunity to shape the future. 

We need not remind ourselves that the system that produced Umaru Yar’Adua as President is still very much alive and kicking. It’s Umaru that is dead not the “system”. And while the masses hue and cry over Yar’Adua’s death, the system is busy oiling its machinery and gearing up for the next election.

So what has changed? If Nigeria can be described as a car travelling on the highway, one can say that only thing that has changed in the last six months is the car driver. The car is still very much the same. We have a “new” reluctant driver, who seems to have no sense of direction. This new driver is been guided by the same old GPS system. The same system that has been in operation for the past 11 years, without taking us anywhere.

Since Goodluck Jonathan assumed office, praise-singers and adulators have been busy heaping praises on him. The calls for him to contest the 2011 election have been coming from left, right and centre. But, why all these unnecessary praise singing? What has Jonathan done in the last three months that makes him more worthy of the exalted office of the President than Dele Momodu or Omosule? What policy has he implemented that makes him the “messiah” we have been waiting for? Yes he reconstituted the Cabinet and “sacked” the INEC Chairman Maurice Iwu. And so! The decision to sack the Cabinet and Iwu were only coincidental with public agitations. There were not really taken in the public interest. Let’s not be deceived, Jonathan needed to break the backbone of the cabal that held sway during the Yar’Adua administration and consolidate his hold on power. Also, while he thinks about his next move, he needed to make sure that he’s in absolute control of whoever is in charge of INEC. 

As I write, any criticisms of Goodluck Jonathan are now perceived by the Pro-Jonathan loyalists as symptoms of “Pull Him Down” syndrome.. When the issue of allegations of corruption against his wife, Patience, are brought to the public forum, the Jonathan apologists are always quick to remind us that “no Nigerian politician is clean”. When we ask that allegations of corruption against Patience be fully investigated, we get told that “he who is without sin should cast the first stone”(!). When we say, Goodluck Jonathan has no moral right to fight corruption, they reply, “nobody is a saint”. 

I have no issues with GJ apologists, as everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. However, I find it quite nauseating that those who are not interested in the allegations of corruption against Patience Jonathan are the same people asking that James Ibori should be sentenced to death by firing squad. Those who say “he without sin….”, are the same calling for the probe of Yar’Adua cabal. These are the same people calling for the investigation of allegations of corruption against Gov. Fashola. We cannot say we want leaders with integrity, but turn around to say “no Nigerian politician is clean”. The minimum that can be demanded from any leader is “integrity”. 

I heard someone say recently that “Nigerians should now be satisfied because Jonathan is now the President”. Let me say this. The clamour for transfer of power to Goodluck Jonathan was a matter of principle and not personality.. It was not about Goodluck Jonathan becoming President. Just as the June 12 pro-democracy activists will tell you that the June 12 struggle was not just about MKO Abiola. It was about support for rule of law and democratic sustainability. At that time, it was imperative that we adhere strictly to provision of the Constitution. So for anyone to make such a statement is not only patronising but insulting. 

Let Goodluck Jonathan run for the office of the President if he chooses to. After all it’s his prerogative. And thank God we are in a democracy. However, one thing is clear, we are watching. Let him not use the power of incumbency as a rigging tool. Any attempt by his administration to fight corruption must be transparent and genuine. The EFCC should not once again be turned into a tool for fighting perceived political enemies. His appointment of the next INEC Chairman should not be for the sole purpose of perpetuating himself in power.

There’s no doubt, one thing Pres. Goodluck Jonathan has in his favour right now is public goodwill. It’s therefore important that it takes advantage of this, positively. There’s enough time between now and next general elections for him to lay good solid foundation for credible elections and infrastructure development. If he provides decent power supply and appoints credible people at INEC, Nigerians – irrespective of tribe and religion – will line up behind him come 2011. 

The question on everyone’s lips now is, will this new driver dump the GPS system and take us to a new destination? You will have to agree with me that the new driver himself was a passenger cum co-driver. He had no plan to be in the car in the first place, hence his reluctance to take over when the car was about to crash. So taking an independent decision devoid of interference from the GPS system will be a tall order.

Seyi Osiyemi