Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Jonathan’s political debacle

After weeks of some wretched attempts to bend the truth in plain sight of the facts, former President Goodluck Jonathan finally found his balls and admitted that he had ditched his party, PDP, for its rival, APC. Ordinarily, there is nothing unusual about that. We may howl but no one should not crucify him for it. After all, such movements are now the well-oiled tradition in our national politics. By changing political parties, the politicians remake themselves because old lies and failures are passed away and everything is new, even if scrappy.

His action can be justified on the grounds that Jonathan merely exercised his constitutionally guaranteed right of association, which right also implies his freedom to ditch a political party that no longer serves his personal, political interests and hanker after the lure of greener pastures in another political party. Personal interests trump all other interests, no matter how conspicuously we wear the badge of patriotism. So let it be with Jonathan.

Freedom of association can and are usually exercised for noble and ignoble purposes. Jonathan left little room for anyone who may wish to logically defend his wretched action. He chose to exercise his freedom of association in an ignoble manner. Jonathan is no longer an ordinary Nigerian. He is a major political leader and a major national leader in his own right. When such a man acts in a manner that betrays what is assumed to be his guiding political principles, he puts a huge question mark on his integrity and trashes decency in public office.

There is no way we can put it less brutally: Jonathan’s defection is not just a tragedy but a multi-faceted and multi-dimensional tragedy. I am trying to sound intellectual, you, see? He has betrayed the political party on whose platform he served as a deputy governor and later governor of Bayelsa State; vice-president, and later president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He owes the party that has done so much for him a moral obligation to commit himself to its survival and its possible return to power, if not now, then in the future. In ditching the party, he rubbishes his integrity and betrays himself as selfish, myopic, and narrow-minded.

He has betrayed the trust of his own people by choosing to serve his own political interests rather than be the man around whom they should rally for political guidance and direction in pursuit of their political and other interests. He forgot that even out of power, he remains relevant as a political leader, an ethnic champion, and a beacon to his own people in particular and a man whose pronouncement in our national affairs is almost oracular. In defecting to APC, he chose to be a politician rather than a statesman. He put his political interests above those of his own people.

Part of the tragedy of his defection lies in the fact that he allowed himself to be recruited into APC with the lure of his becoming its presidential candidate positioned to succeed Buhari in the forthcoming general elections dangling before him. The lure of political power is so irresistible that it often causes haemorrhage in reasonable thinking and rational thoughts. The power mathematicians engaged in the manipulation of political power in our country, reasoned that Jonathan is a safe bet. He is a pawn in a reluctant power shift by the north. If he succeeds Buhari, he will serve only one term and give way to his northern successor who will serve eight years. He will thus deny the south its full entitlement to two terms of four years each. He will be an interim president in a mock attempt at mealy-mouthed justice and fairness. His action does not enhance power shift. It gives it a short shrift.

Perhaps, Jonathan has forgotten that Buhari holds him in contempt. During his 2015 campaign to succeed Jonathan, Buhari said Jonathan “has no capacity for anything.” In recruiting him to the new northern cause to pay lip service to power shift, what has changed? Why has the former president suddenly become the man the president’s party now so badly wants? Is the party that made the sun set on his political ambition in 2015 now willing to rehabilitate him? And why is Jonathan so willing to rubbish himself in a nation whose political certainties are crass uncertainties? He fits the political game plan, and he is willing to go along to get along. Pity with capital P.

His defection is injurious to our party politics. Defections are the bane of our party politics. A man like Jonathan should commit to staunching this quadrennial haemorrhage, if not madness. The recycling of our politicians should not be the defining character of our national politics. As I have repeatedly observed here and elsewhere, our political parties are swaying in the wind. A man like Jonathan cannot but commit himself to catching the wind in order to help in building a strong political party, complete with a well-defined ideology. So long as political leaders like him choose to sway in the wind in search of political fortunes and relevance, so long will our political party system remain weak and weakened; and so long will our political parties remain patch works of political interests that bring men and women together for the singular purpose of capturing power.

His defection is injurious to our nation’s entitlement to a corpus of former leaders with the moral integrity to act as the conscience of the nation; men able to speak up when they see things are going wrong; men who act alone or in concert to guide the ship of state through the choppy waters when political intolerance, injustice and unfairness buffets it.

His defection is injurious to his own sense of moral and political leadership. He has denied himself the right to be an example that others should follow in forging moral leadership on the anvils of personal integrity. He has sold his integrity and his soul for a mess of a promised political pottage. He does not deserve our condemnation. He deserves our commiserations.

Dan Agbese
Dan Agbese
Dan Agbese was educated at the University of Lagos and Columbia University, New York. He holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science degrees in mass communication and journalism. He began his journalism career at the New Nigerian Newspapers, Kaduna, and has edited two national newspapers, The Nigeria Standard and the New Nigerian. He and his three close friends in the news media, Ray Ekpu, Yakubu Mohammed, and the late Dele Giwa, founded the trail-blazing weekly newsmagazine in Nigeria, Newswatch, in 1984. He held various editorial positions in the magazine and was Editor-in-Chief of the magazine. Agbese is a well-regarded and respected columnist in Nigeria. He wrote popular columns for the Nigeria Standard and Newswatch magazine. He is the author of Fellow Nigerians: Turning Points in the Political History of Nigeria, 1966 - 1999; Nigeria their Nigeria, Ibrahim Babangida: The Military, Politics and Power in Nigeria, Footprints on Marble: Murtala H. Nyako, The Six Military Governors Voices of History, Conversation with History and three journalism textbooks, Style: A Guide to Good Writing, The Reporter's Companion and The Columnist's Companion: The Art and Craft of Column Writing. He has also contributed chapters to several books on Nigerian politics. Agbese's much-admired style of writing has been the subject of a thesis by students in the University of Jos, the University of Ibadan, and Benue State University.


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