JONATHAN'S UNTOLD STORY
I can't help but get a feeling of dÃ©jÃ vu, as I see governors and state chapters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) fall over themselves to endorse Dr Goodluck Jonathan for the presidential race in 2011. Yes, we've passed through this road before. Without his coming out to say he would run as civilian president, we saw all the five political parties then affirming Gen. Sani Abacha as the sole candidate. No wonder Chief Bola Ige called them 'five fingers of a leprous hand.'
On such familiar road are we travelling again today, confirming to us that there is something sneaky, slavish, even contemptible about the average Nigerian politician. They love to ingratiate themselves to the man in power at the centre, no matter who it is - Abacha, Obasanjo, Yar'Adua, now Jonathan. The average politician is a groveller before power, a bootlicker, a toady. What a shame and pity. From Oyo to Plateau to Benue to Adamawa, everywhere, the PDP chapters are reportedly queuing up behind Goodluck Jonathan, because they love the smell of power. Power smells the same way as money. Cheap simpletons.
But we are not talking about Nigerian politicians today. Rather, we are talking about just one of them. The man, Goodluck Jonathan.
How did this topic come about? How did I get the idea to tell Jonathan's untold story? I'll tell you.
Dr Bibbi Oluranti writes a weekly column on health for this newspaper. He has done so since 2003. Oluranti, apart from being a medical doctor, is also a Christian of the Pentecostal stock, and a pastor. On Thursday last week, he breezed into my office like a gush of fresh wind, and we got talking about the state of the nation. He asked me: Do you think Jonathan is also David, the man after God's heart? Do you think he's the one we're waiting for, who will clean the rot in this country?
I pondered for few minutes. My mind did a quick processing of all the information it had in store about the biblical David and Jonathan. I then said: No, he's not David. Jonathan is not David. Jonathan is the one who could have been king, being the first son of Saul, but who was perspicacious enough to know that David, not himself, was the one God had ordained to be king.
Dr Oluranti agreed with me. And left shortly after. But for the next few days, I picked up my copy of the Holy Bible, and proceeded to study the story of David and Jonathan, as told from I Samuel chapter 13 to 31. What did I find out? Jonathan is a man of heroic faith, a courageous man, who showed self-sacrificing love. A man with a good spirit, a generous soul - but he had not been ordained to be king. Could that also be the lot of our own Jonathan? Despite endorsements from left, right and centre, will Jonathan be king in 2011? Is he ordained? Can the artifices of man ever thwart or re-direct divine ordination?
Our first introduction to Jonathan is in I Samuel Chapter 13, verse 2, where he led one thousand men into battle. He smote the garrison of the Philistines in Geba, and a great victory was recorded. In the next chapter, with just himself and his armour bearer, Jonathan slew 20 enemy soldiers in a single ambush. The deed was done on just half an acre of land. I tell you, Jonathan was a heroic one, a fearless soldier. He could tackle corruption, tackle electricity, have a go at all the endemic problems of the nation. But has he been ordained, destined to be king? Big question.
In the heat of the battle against the Philistines, Saul uttered a rash oath. 'Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening.' Jonathan did not know of the oath, and he went ahead to eat honey he had found in the forest. Saul ordered that he be killed, since he violated a sacred oath. But the soldiers stood their ground. 'God forbid, as the Lord liveth, there shall not a hair of his head fall to the ground.' Jonathan was widely loved by the people, who rescued him from sure death. We love this Jonathan too, don't we? A simple man. A sincere man. A man in whose life we have seen the grace and mercies of God. But is he destined to be king? Is he ordained to be president beyond May 29, 2007? Would he be tempting God by taking his fortunes in his own hands for the first time, having never won an election before? So far, his palm kernels have been cracked for him by the benevolent gods. Dare he attempt to crack them himself?
The next time we met Jonathan was when the young David brought the head of the slain Goliath, victoriously to the palace. It was the first meeting of the two young men, and instead of Jonathan being filled with jealousy and indignation, saying who is this upstart, where had he been when we went to battle all these years, rather, 'the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.'
And then, wait for it. See this significant action from the first son of a sitting king, who should be eyeing the throne after his father. 'And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.' Have you ever seen anything like this before? That was transference of the kingship. Your robe is your status as crown prince, but Jonathan gave it out. Do we have such a large-hearted, disinterested Jonathan here? Do we have such candid, dispassionate, unprejudiced person in Dr Goodluck Jonathan? Do we have a man who will swear to his own hurt, a man who will say let gentleman's agreement be conformed with, even if the heavens fall? Do we?
Jonathan loved David with a divine, inexpressible love, so much so that when Saul became envious of the young warrior, Jonathan sided with David, even while still being loyal to his father. So plain was Jonathan's love for David, that his father called him 'son of a perverse, rebellious woman' and sought to kill him. Jonathan escaped, and met David at a secret location where they renewed their covenant of faithfulness.
One great thing about Jonathan. He had the prescience, call it clairvoyance, to know that David would be king. 'And thou shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee.' And he went into a covenant with David, saying, 'the Lord be between me and thee, and between my seed and they seed forever.' Oh, if only all Jonathans could know the times. If only they could be like the sons of Isaachar, who understood the times. If only they had the ability to look into what Shakespeare calls 'the seed of time,' and are able to tell 'which grain will grow and which will not.' Then, they won't make mortal mistakes. Our Goodluck Jonathan needs such acumen and sagacity.
David was a faithful covenant keeper. Even after Jonathan had died in battle, along with his father Saul, and his two brothers, Abinadab and Malchisua, David sent for Mephibosheth, Jonathan's cripple son, and he set him up in the palace. Yes, agreements should be kept, even at the pain of death. Covenants should be respected, whether gentleman's or signed ones. To do otherwise is to be fickle and untrustworthy.
Jonathan, for the sake of the throne, could have joined his father in plotting against David. Saul even told him point blank: 'For as long as the son of Jesse (David) liveth upon the ground, thou shall not be established, nor thy kingdom.' But Jonathan was not moved. He knew that the heavens had chosen David above him, and he was willing to give up the throne. How noble! It's a great thing to bow to the sovereign will. May God give us such Jonathans.
Jonathan means 'the Lord has given.' Yes, it's the Lord that gives power, that gives the presidency. Jonathan had a filial right to the throne, being the son of a reigning king. But he gave it up. Can a sitting Jonathan also consider the peace and cohesion of his country, and perhaps not run for president, even when he has the clear constitutional right to do so? This is one of the ways in which we shall know those who can resist the allures and overpowering pull of power. That will be the true friend of his country, a friend that sticks closer than a brother.