Jonathan, APC and parable of ‘king’ Elephant

Niran Adedokun

Like flies perched on a festering sore, rumours that former President Goodluck Jonathan is a likely bride in the court of the All Progressives Congress for the 2023 presidential election have refused to go away.

Speculations started last November when a delegation of the APC governors visited Jonathan in his Abuja home on his birthday.   Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, who doubles as chairman of the party’s caretaker committee, led the team. The delegation also had David Umahi of Ebonyi, then newly defected from the PDP; Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi and Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa. Most importantly, Kashim Ibrahim-Imam, who can be described as the fixer in charge of the APC’s evangelistic mission to the southern part of Nigeria, was in the delegation. A subtle admission of that fact recently came upon Arise Television Morning Show after he joined a group that visited former Oyo State Governor Rasheed Ladoja.

In societies where politics is a vehicle for service to humanity rather than personal acquisition and aggrandisement, no one would bat an eyelid over the visit to Jonathan. In such environments, politicians relate across party lines without scruples. For instance, an account in former President Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope is a memorable talk of how inter-party relationship works.

After his election into the United States Senate in 2004, Obama wrote that he joined other senators at a breakfast meeting with President George Walker Bush.  As the meeting was ending, he heard the President yell his name, “Obama!”

According to Obama, after getting introduced to Laura Bush, the President led him to one side of the room and started: “… I hope you don’t mind me giving you a piece of advice… You’ve got a bright future, very bright. But I’ve been in this town a while and, let me tell you; it can be tough. When you get much attention like you’ve been getting, people start gunnin’ for ya. And it won’t necessarily just be coming from my side, you understand. From yours, too. Everybody’ll be waiting for you to slip…So, watch yourself.” Four years later, Obama was elected the first African-American leader of the most powerful country in the world as if Bush was clairvoyant.

But Nigeria is a country where a President would only invite legislators elected on his party, where only members of the ruling party populate state events and a winner-takes-all spirit reigns. When politicians visit members of parties other than theirs in Nigeria, it is usually to attain some selfish motive that generally has nothing to do with national interest or even the interest of the otherwise unlikely host. An example of this was when Chief Bola Tinubu led members of the APC to former President Olusegun Obasanjo in the wake of the 2015 elections. The friendship between members of opposing political parties in Nigeria is like the labour of the cat, motivated by nothing other than the capture of rats.

The conduct of politicians here compels people to take their words with a pinch of salt. Here is a country where leaders swear on their mothers’ graves and capitulate before sunset that same day. People deny that a tenure extension plan to which we were all witnesses was ever nursed in this same country.  In this country, people make electoral promises, including the country’s restructuring and would turn around to swear that they never said so. As a result, neither the denial of the APC nor Jonathan’s engagements in initiatives that promote democracy in Africa through his Goodluck Jonathan Foundation and the West African Leader Forum could assuage Nigerians’ concerns.

Of course, it is Jonathan’s right to seek a return to the Nigerian Presidency. It is just that life offers a lot of more honourable posts than occupying the Presidential Villa in Abuja. One of those places is where he found himself after handing over power in 2015. Having relinquished control when the world anticipated an upheaval in Nigeria, Jonathan wrote his name in gold and became a symbol of democratic decency in Africa. Conceding the elections while counting was on endeared him to many Nigerians so much that many chose to forget his perceived mismanagement of the country. Jonathan now goes in and out of Aso Rock like he never left. And despite all the misgiving of the past, he has become an unofficial advisor to the incumbent. It is doubtful that anyone whose days in office were as turbulent as Jonathan’s could come to more honour in a short space of eight years!

If these overtures genuinely exist, the second thing Jonathan must query is the motive of those who invite him to come back to the office. Even now, members of the Buhari regime still paint the Jonathan years as the era of the locust, waste, and misadventure. As close as he seems to be with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), the latter misses no opportunity to recall how crude prices in most of Jonathan’s years were at the highest, while Nigeria has nothing to show for it.

He is not the only one in the APC who sells that narrative; everyone conveniently forgets the battle of wits the past administration had with state governors, (many of whom are now ministers in the current regime) over the need to save for the rainy days! If members of the APC had and still have this impression of Jonathan, what then has he got to offer at this time? What could have changed? One of the theories flying around is that this proposal is being thrown at Jonathan as a strategy to ensure that power goes back to the North after he would have completed his four-year tenure in 2027. While that is neither here nor there, it is impossible to put such devices past full-time political strategists.

The man may be tempted to assume that the current tide of things makes his administration glow, but he would be mistaken. He had the opportunity to prove his mettle, he did his best and left the scene to loud ovations even from his worst critics. This moment seems to be one of victory for Jonathan and he must understand that such moments could be the most perilous.

As Robert Greene offers in his 48 Laws of Power, every man of power must know when to stop. When those who vilified you yesterday start to patronise you, the tendency is for the man to lose his guard, become comfortable, even overconfident about his own importance. It is at such junctures that danger lurks most.

Every time this APC/Jonathan issue makes the news, the Yoruba parable of the tortoise and the king comes to mind. The king of a village once took ill. After so many efforts, a powerful herbalist from another village was invited to consult the oracle. His diagnosis was that if the king does not eat from a special brew made from elephant body parts within seven days, he would die.

The king and his chiefs, worried about how to capture a big and dangerous animal like the elephant, threw the challenge open by offering a bounty. Half of the kingdom and offer of the king’s beautiful daughter’s hand in marriage would be given to anyone who brings in the elephant. The tortoise took up the challenge.

He requested that a deep pit, concealed with raffia and mats be dug and that a throne, fit for a king be set on the pit. He then went into the forest with all sorts of enticing gifts and food items. After three days, he met the elephant resting under a tree. After throwing some of the food at the elephant and paying obeyance, he informed the bigger animal that the king of a community had just passed on and he had been mandated to invite the elephant to be king. This information laced with panegyrics from the tortoise was sweet music to the elephant; he agreed to follow the tortoise with the caveat that the smaller animal would be dead if this story pans out to be deceitful. As they travelled, the tortoise would throw sweet words and delicious food at the elephant every now and then. And as they approached the village, the elephant could hear loud music and see the villagers dance joyfully. He reckoned that the tortoise was being honest and even relaxed more.

On getting to the throne, the elephant walked forward majestically and slammed his heavy body on it. Instantly, the ground gave way beneath him, and he fell into the pit. Village warriors descended on him with all sorts of implements, and within minutes, he was dead meat. The broth was prepared and presented to the king whose health was speedily!

  • Mr Jonathan should advise himself


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