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No, Jonathan Wouldn’t Have Been Better!

By Farooq Kperogi, Ph.D. Twitter: @farooqkperogi At perilous times like this when Buhari’s incompetence races to the rooftops, Goodl...

By Farooq Kperogi, Ph.D.

At perilous times like this when Buhari’s incompetence races to the rooftops, Goodluck Jonathan minions crawl out of their miserable woodworks and try to promote the annoyingly tendentious assertion that Jonathan would have been better than Buhari; that he would have husbanded the economy better; that he was hounded out of power not because he was ineffectual but because he was Ijaw (he is, in fact, Ogbia, which isn’t even linguistically related to Ijaw) from Nigeria’s deep south, and so on and so forth.

That’s a transparently false and fraudulent narrative. The truth is that Jonathan was a desperate, unrelieved disaster. Four more years of his weak, venal leadership would have been indistinct from what we’re witnessing now. It was his disastrously incompetent presidency that cursed Nigeria with a Buhari succession. Buhari’s unexampled electoral triumph in 2015 was not so much an endorsement of him as it was a repudiation of Jonathan.

I have as much contempt for anyone who supported and wanted to reelect Jonathan in spite of the proven disaster that he was as I have for anyone who defends and campaigns for Buhari in spite of his demonstrable incompetence. Given Jonathan's unendurable ineptitude, it was reasonable to expect that a 70-something-year-old man who had seen it all and who had been fighting to get back to power would reflect on his past mistakes and try to correct them if given another chance— if only to bequeath a legacy that will outlast him. I frankly thought Buhari’s monomaniacal obsession with regaining political power (which even caused him to cry publicly) was inspired by a desire to redeem himself after his failed, short-lived stint as Head of State in the 1980s.

Alas, he had other intentions, which we couldn't have known because we aren't clairvoyant. It’s now obvious that Buhari’s whole motivation for wanting to be president again is plain, unvarnished self-love. He simply wants to enjoy the perks, privileges, and attention of power. The shame is on the person who deceived, not on the person who genuinely trusted.

But the beauty of periodic elections—if they're free and fair, that is—is that they give the electorate the chance to correct their mistakes. I hope Nigerians will correct their Buhari mistake in 2019, as they did their Jonathan mistake in 2015.

To desire a return to Jonathan because Buhari has turned out to be a total disappointment is reactionary and boneheaded. It’s like desiring to return to the frying pan after escaping into the fire. It’s the same difference. Rational people avoid both—if they can. And the structures of electoral democracy guarantee Nigerians the power to do that.

There was nothing about Jonathan’s days as president that is worth sentimentalizing. I know Nigerians are notoriously amnesic, but Jonathan’s presidency was also marked by incessant petrol shortages and birdbrained responses to economic challenges. Jonathan was reviled because he was incompetent, the same way normal, straight-thinking, non-partisan people deeply resent Buhari because he is incompetent and insensitive.

But Nigeria’s biggest drawback is unreasoning attachment to silly ethno-regional and religious loyalties, which ensure that Buhari is still actively defended in the Muslim North and Jonathan is celebrated in the deep south, the Southeast and parts of the Christian North. We will continue to be stuck on the edge of the precipice, and even fall off, if we don’t snap out of this backward mindset.

The “Human” Side of Buhari?
There is, perhaps, no clearer, more direct admission that Buhari is an inhuman and insensitive, not to mention thoroughly incompetent, president than the fact that his own media team has decided to show Nigerians a documentary about his “human” side—amid one of the most crippling petrol shortages in the history of the country.

The fact that the presidency now wants to show us Buhari’s “human” side is prima facie evidence that even he himself— and the people around him— know only too well what we’ve been saying all along: that he is an inhuman, if inept, reverse Robin Hood who robs the poor to enrich the rich.
If he were not anywhere close to this description, the presidential media team wouldn’t have had the need to show us his “human” side, whatever the heck that “human” side is. This is where the late British journalist Claud Cockburn’s memorable quip about never believing anything “until it’s officially denied” is relevant.

If Buhari were “human,” we wouldn’t need a badly produced, hagiographic documentary to know that. We would feel it in his policies. We would see it in his eagerness to talk to us in moments of national distress. We would sense it in his efforts to soothe the hurt that his policies so cruelly inflict on the poor and the vulnerable. We would discern it from the compunction he shows for all his broken promises.

You can’t have a president who precipitously jacked up petrol prices by a higher margin than any president has ever done in recent time, which triggered one of the worst recessions in the history of the country, and not conclude that he is inhuman. You can’t have a president who has denuded the poor of all subsidies while increasing same for himself, his family, and his elite friends and not conclude that he is inhuman. You can’t have a president who has made citizens of his oil-exporting country to pay more for petrol than even Americans (and yet be unable to guarantee availability of the product), and not conclude that he is inhuman.

You can’t have a president who fraudulently doubles as the petroleum minister but who doesn’t even have the common decency to address the anguished citizens he supposedly governs on why they can’t have access to petrol after paying an arm and a leg for it and not conclude that he is inhuman. That’s why they need to show us that, in spite of his manifest lack of “humanness,” he has a “human” side. What an own goal!

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