The two dominant dictionary definitions of “mendacious” are, “given to lying” (as in: “a mendacious child”) and “intentionally untrue” (as in: “a mendacious statement”). President Goodluck Jonathan has lately shown himself to be an embodiment of both meanings of the word, that is, unblushing, barefaced lies and intentional falsehoods.
He told four brazen lies in one week! But he gave a new, curious, “punny” meaning to “mendacious” when he transformed himself into a lying spokesman for MEND, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which claimed responsibility for the terrorist attacks on Abuja during Nigeria’s October 1st celebrations.
“We know those behind the attack and the persons sponsoring them,” the president was quoted to have said. “They are terrorists, not MEND. The name of MEND that operates in Niger Delta was only used. I grew up in the Niger Delta so nobody can claim to know Niger Delta than [sic] myself, because I am from Niger Delta.”
|President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria|
There is nothing to add to their excellent interventions, except to say that it speaks to the quality of mind of our president that he would engage in a visceral, primitive defense of an organization that had warned of its attacks well in advance of the act, that has been labeled a terrorist organization by many agencies, including the TerroristPlanet.com, and that British intelligence officers knew would launch attacks days before it struck.
Jonathan’s argument, which he is obviously too incompetent to make effectively and coherently, appears to be that MEND members couldn’t possibly want to sabotage his presidency because he is a Niger Deltan like them. Only northerners who are embittered by his treacherous jettisoning of the power rotation clause in the PDP constitution could be responsible for this heinous crime. In any case, he seems to be saying further, only Muslims can be terrorists and MEND members are non-Muslims. Or what else could he mean when he said, “They [the bombers] are terrorists, not MEND.”
Even the president admitted that, among many violent acts against innocents, on March 15, 2010, MEND detonated two bombs a short distance away from the venue of a two-day “post- amnesty” dialogue organized by Vanguard Newspapers in Warri. The meeting was packed full of Niger Delta leaders. Again, like the October 1 attacks, MEND’s Jomo Gbomo sent out emails warning of the attacks days before they occurred. But, according to a new, curious Jonathanian logic, that wasn’t terrorism. Or, better still, if that qualified as terrorism, then it wasn’t carried out by MEND. MEND and terrorism are like (Niger Delta) oil and water; they don’t mix.
The president wonders why no one has investigated the Warri attacks, and implied that it’s because there is a conspiracy to rope in MEND and Niger Deltans in terrorist acts. But the last time I checked, Jonathan was in Aso Rock when these incidents occurred. Whose responsibility is it to order an investigation? This man has got to be way more clueless and intellectually barren than I thought he was.
Similarly, what do we make of the bombing of Jonathan’s own private residence in his hometown of Otuoke in Bayelsa State by Niger Delta militants on Wednesday May 16, 2007? Many people don’t seem to remember this.
|A grainy picture of President Jonathan's bombed house|
Now, if his own people bombed his own personal residence at the point that he had just been elected vice president (at that time unparalleled in the history of the Niger Delta) and in spite of being a Niger Deltan like them, what would stop them from doing so now that he is president? Well, perhaps, it was some northern “Boko-Haramish” terrorists who bombed his home and told Niger Delta militants to claim responsibility for it. Remember: Niger Delta (or MEND) and terrorism are mutually exclusive.
Jonathan’s curious positional transmogrification from the president of Nigeria to a MENDacious, bumbling, bigoted spokesman for daredevil terrorists is obviously actuated by politics and by unreasoning ethno-regional chauvinism of the kind that has no parallel in the annals of Nigeria’s presidential politics.
But this man is so incompetent and so intellectually impoverished he can’t even tell a simple lie effectively. Even MEND must be ashamed of him.
When I once called attention to the fact that this man is shockingly incapable of stringing together a phrase that is not a mockery of the English language, few people thought I was harsh and disrespectful. I think it’s an outward manifestation of an inner absence of substance if someone with a Ph.D., any Ph.D., (and who so loves the English that his first and last names are English!) ironically has the dubious honor of being the worst violator of the most basic rules of English grammar among Nigeria’s presidents and heads of state.
But Jonathan’s lack of basic intelligence is not his worst foible. His most disabling impuissance is that he is so incredibly insecure and diffident that he surrounds himself with people who are just as incompetent as himself, people who validate and normalize his crying ineptitude. Just look at his speeches; they are either shamelessly plagiarized or riddled with embarrassing, cringe-inducing errors. His Facebook status updates are excellent specimens of how not to write English. Even memos to the National Assembly from the President’s Office are interlarded with avoidably ugly proofreading errors. In one memo, for instance, “acting president” (Jonathan’s title at the time) was spelled “ACTIIING PRESIDENT.”
But if his problems were merely one of grammar, he could be forgiven. Unfortunately, they’re worse than that. His advisers and assistants appear to be a bunch of provincial, inexperienced, knee-jerk jerks. For evidence, look at Jonathan’s catalogue of embarrassingly childish policy summersaults in the few months that he’s been president. He was told to ban the national team. Although that was a decidedly thoughtless thing to do, he went ahead and did it. When FIFA threatened to suspend Nigeria, he was told to reverse himself, and on and on.
Now, some asinine “bush man” adviser told him to exonerate MEND of complicity in the October 1 attacks even before investigations have commenced and, like a thoughtless automaton, he did it. Now the country is on fire. At least half the people Jonathan leads now see him as a vicious partisan that they can’t trust with their safety. That is dangerous.
Well, we can’t do anything about President Jonathan’s obvious cognitive deficiencies. It’s pointless trying to straighten a dry, bent stick; it will break. But the President can be advised to surround himself with competent, cosmopolitan, sophisticated policy and PR experts. He is no longer the governor of Bayelsa State. Nor is he some powerless vice president. And, courtesy of Nigeria’s rare brand of politics, he might be president for the next four years—if the country still exists. He has a choice: does he want to be Nigeria’s president or a MENDacious president?