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Hurrah! Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has found his voice again! After losing the 2015 presidential election and relinquished power to Muhammadu Buhari, Jonathan ran tail between his legs to his Otuoke village in Bayelsa state, faded out of the limelight and embraced obscurity. Spirited efforts by prying reporters to draw him out failed; the only time he made any worthwhile statement was when the news spread that he had run out of the country into exile.
He did not; he said; then returned to the country and quickly withdrew again into his shell. The wide publicity given the investigation of Dasuki-gate and the din of those demanding his probe and trial did not make Jonathan change his mind; he seemed bent on quietly enjoying his ‘retirement’ or of not ruffling feathers. On the few occasions that he spoke, he was terse.
Once, he told us he was under probe; on another, we learnt that his life could be under threat. By and large, however, Jonathan maintained sturdy silence, soaking the heat and absorbing all the punches thrown at him. He must have taken Isaiah 53:7 very much to heart – but that was then. Now, no more! Jonathan has suddenly found his groove and would have no more of keeping silent in the face of unbridled assault and unprovoked insults. I guess he will now return fire for fire, even if with some guile and subtlety.
Twice in a week the ex-President has spoken out in defence of his time and achievements in office. He said his embattled NSA, Sambo Dasuki, did not embezzle the 2.1 billion dollar arms fund for which he was being held. Repeated court orders that the man be released on bail have been spurned by the Buhari administration. Now we hear the man might be tried in camera; that is to say, in secret. Government is said to be afraid that the revelations that can pour out from the man’s mouth are able to drown many powerful Nigerian leaders. Even Buhari, we have learnt, will not be spared. Highly-placed traditional rulers and former Heads of State are said to have benefitted from the ONSA funds; some are even saying that the bullet-proof car reportedly sent the way of Candidate Buhari after he escaped a bomb attack in Kaduna could have had Dasuki’s signature. These must be what Jonathan is diplomatically or stylishly referring to.
Money meant for arms may have been diverted for other purposes; in bureaucracy parlance it is called “virement”, the type Buhari is asking the National Assembly for approval to do with the 2016 budget. Jonathan’s queer sense of reasoning is known to all: He has told us that much of what is called corruption by Nigerians is nothing but ordinary mill-of-the-run stealing. So, is stealing corruption and corruption, stealing? Egg-heads; please come to the rescue! The late Chief of General Staff Augustus Aikhomu, once made such interesting distinction between “misappropriation” and “misapplication” of funds! Because Nigerians get angry easily and flare up rather than ask for proper and dispassionate dissection of, and elucidation on, the various terminologies and their implications for national development, we lose a lot of lessons that can stand us in good stead.
Jonathan has spoken again, this time more frontally. The only other time he had fired straight from the hips like this is when he declared that his administration bought quality arms for the military and that it is those arms that he bought that the Buhari administration is still leveraging upon in the fight against Boko Haram. Hear Jonathan: “No matter what my critics (may say) about me, I ensured that there was both freedom of speech and freedom after the speech” Who says this man is not intelligent? His play on words here is as interesting as it is informative.
I must confess this is the very first time I would consider the distinction he so poignantly made: You can have freedom to say what you want to say, but may lose your freedom afterwards because of what you have just exercised your freedom of speech to say. In order words, you can get punished for exercising your freedom of speech. That, I am sure you know, is one sure way to curtail freedom of speech, for, as they say, once bitten (or is it beaten\detained?), twice or fore ever shy!
Added Jonathan: “Under my watch, not a single Nigerian was sent to prison because of anything they wrote or said about me or the administration. Nigeria had neither political prisoners nor political exile under my watch…” He is right. Many will say that had since changed and that there are people whose crime today is because they dare criticise this government. Now, the killer punches: “We gave institutions unlimited freedom and ensured that the NBA and other professional institutions were devoid of any government influence…Most of my principal aides in government hailed from different ethnic nationalities”. This is as direct a reference as it could be to the DSS “sting” operation against some judges and the lopsidedness of Buhari’s appointments.
Two reasons may suggest why Jonathan is coming out in the open to fight.
One: He may have felt the nose tightening around his neck. The Buhari administration had been dancing around Jonathan for a long time. The frontal attack on his wife, Dame Patience, may have, for Jonathan, taken the “handshake” beyond the elbow.
Two: The government of Buhari is floundering on many fronts; apart from the limited success against Boko Haram, there is nothing again cheery about Buhari. The economy is comatose and Nigerians have never before suffered like they are doing now. Opposition against Buhari is gathering and thickening on many fronts; erstwhile supporters are becoming sworn and implacable foes. Buhari is losing his hold; it is only natural that this is the right time for Jonathan to find his groove.