Jonathan Handing Presidency To Buhari On A Platter Of Gold


By Alfred Obiora Uzokwe

These days, President Jonathan seems to have come to terms with the fact that presidential campaigns are not for the soft-at-heart or the fainthearted. It is also good to see that he is no longer timid but has been delivering his own attacks aimed at Buhari, even if on the defensive. When the campaigns first started, he seemed excessively deferential to Buhari.

The problem, though, is that the statements that Jonathan makes on the campaign trail tend to deepen the belief by some that he is somewhat clueless about what really matters. It is one thing to respond to a campaign attack or to make an attack of your own but it is important to ensure that the things you say make sense, are effective and are capable of creating doubt about your opponent. Nigerians are looking for Jonathan to specifically tell them why, after 6 years in power, they still have to re-elect him. They want to hear the specifics of what he did to move the nation forward and what he plans to do if re-elected. They want to hear tangible reasons why he feels he is better than his challenger and why his challenger is bad for the country. Nigerians want to know why he should be given 4 more years to fight corruption when he has had 6 full years without tangible results. Unfortunately, so far, he has not been to make the case. He says things that are rather peripheral or even tangential to the issues at hand and does not display enough grasp of the issues Nigerians are grappling with and care deeply about.

For example, most Nigerians believe that the bane of the nation has been endemic corruption and so want that cankerworm excised. That was why Nigerians jubilated when the EFCC was first born under Obasanjo. They relished watching on TV as Obasanjo paraded some of the corrupt officials although he later turned that into a witch-hunt. But one would not know how badly Nigerians want corruption rooted out of the system by listening to President Jonathan. Jonathan was once quoted as saying that “stealing is not corruption”. Then he said he is averse to building prisons to house never-do-wells. He is also skewering Buhari for jailing people who defrauded the nation and was quoted as saying that Governor Jim Nwobodo was jailed for stealing funds akin to what you use to buy a car. The impression this writer and many have developed, based on the utterances of Jonathan, is that he has no appetite to fight corruption. By continually castigating a former head of state for daring to fight corruption, he seems to be signalling that he will not pursue that and EFCC will remain docile under his watch. If I were him, I would actually be saying that Buhari and I agree that corruption should be fought and that I will keep fighting it. Unfortunately, he has lost credibility on that issue.

Most Nigerians still remember that General Babangida was and is still despised for what he did when he was in office. It was under his watch that Dele Giwa was killed and many media houses silenced in one way or the other. Corruption basically became institutionalised under Babangida and inflation ran amok. He annulled the freest and fairest election in Nigeria that was won by Moshood Abiola in 1993. IBB has tried to come back a few times as a president but Nigerians roundly rejected him. One would think that with this type of resume, any politician would keep far away from Babangida. No, that is not Jonathan. He has, by his statements, started portraying Babangida as a saint to the chagrin of many Nigerians, including this writer. During one of Jonathan’s campaign rallies, he took time to recite the reasons that IBB adduced for overthrowing Buhari and said it was for the same reasons that Nigerians should reject Buhari. So Jonathan is now using a former corrupt dictator’s reasons for staging a coup to back himself up. If he says that Buhari was draconian in his time and used IBB’s utterances to justify that, he seems to be implying that he is in bed with IBB and his actions that include corruption, annulment of the election, the killing of Dele Giwa and heavy-handedness. Jonathan is trying to legitimise IBB. This does not make sense.

During a speech recently, Jonathan said Buhari cannot even remember his phone number and yet wants to rule Nigeria. If he makes that statement in the United States, senior citizens would come after him because it smirks of age discrimination. As if that was enough, Jonathan made a statement that was so hyperbolic that even a kid would wonder what he was thinking. He said that part of the reason why the army was failing in the anti-terrorism fight was that Buhari did not buy a single rifle for them when he was in power 30 years ago. It not only sounds unbelievable but childish especially when he says that it is the reason why he, Jonathan, cannot fight insecurity. First of all, by that, he is admitting that his administration has failed in the fight against terrorism. Also, laying the blame on the doors of a head of state that ruled 30 years ago for just 20 months before being booted out of office, is a wild stretch. What Jonathan does not realise is that by saying that, he actually indicts his own party, PDP, which has, since Buhari’s ouster, had the presidency for 15 years. He is inadvertently making the case of why PDP should not be re-elected, including him as part of them. He could simply have made a case that he has been doing his best to fight insurgency, cite examples of some of the successes that the army has made and say he has been equipping them and the battle will continue to be ramped up until insurgency is rooted out. Frankly, the president and PDP seem to have the foot-in-mouth disease.

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These days, attention has been shifted to Buhari’s school certificate and Jonathan’s camp are expending a lot of energy talking about school certificate for a man that has been the head of state for 20 months and has had training in army War College and other places. This issue will eventually amount to nothing. Let’s face it, the poor Nigerian does not care about his certificate and so expending time that Jonathan should be using to frontally attack this guy’s deficiencies on inanities makes him look silly.

The other week, PDP again expended a lot of energy and political capital asking for Buhari to show his wife, something this writer thought was trivial and had no bearing with governing Nigeria. For some reason, PDP thought they would get political mileage out of it and spent the time they should spend on hammering Buhari on economic issues on it. Eventually, Buhari brought out his wife. Someone sent me a cartoon that showed a picture of Buhari’s wife side by side with Jonathan’s wife. Jonathan’s wife seemed to be looking at Buhari’s wife in awe and the writing was, “chei, there is God o”. In other words, Jonathan’s wife was awe-stricken at the beauty of Buhari’s wife. I recall that the person that tweeted the Buhari wife picture to me simply said, “this woman is beautiful-o; this Buhari get taste–o”. So that ended a silliness that raged for weeks, a time PDP could have used to hammer Buhari on important issues.

On the converse, Buhari seems to be landing very effective blows. He simply talks about the economy that has gotten worse under Jonathan and says he will fix it. He has not truly said how he will fix it but says he will. He says he has fought corruption before and will fight it again. He says there is insecurity in the nation and he will fight it. He has not said how but says he will in simple sentences. He says the roads are bad and he will fix them. He says the office of first lady will be abolished because it is costing too much to Nigerians. These are populist statements that resonate with Nigerians and that is why this guy is making inroads. No complexity in his statements, In fact, one could argue that he over-simplifies things but that is the language the generality of masses speak and understand.

With the way Jonathan and PDP are going, if he loses the election, and it seems he is poised to, it will not be because Buhari is a superior candidate; it will be because of poor messaging by Jonathan. It will also be because of an incumbency that has little to show for the six years he was in the saddle. After all, Buhari has no clue how to fix the economy. Buhari’s utterances show that he does not seem to fully understand the mechanics of macro and micro economics. For example, Buhari was quoted as saying that he “will stabilise oil price”. How would he stabilise oil prices that market forces are dictating? This is the type of issue that Jonathan and his handlers should be nailing Buhari on but they are not doing it. Instead, they want to see Buhari’s wife and his certificates. What a shame. They are poised to hand the presidency to Buhari on a platter.

If I were Jonathan, I will go back to the drawing board, re-craft my message so that while responding forcefully to APC and Buhari on all counts, he will tell Nigerians specifically why they should re-elect him in spite of the poor state of the economy and why specifically Buhari is bad for Nigeria. HERE I STAND!

•Uzokwe is author of Surviving in Biafra – The Story of the Nigerian Civil War. E-mail:• or

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