Reducing The Nigerian Presidency To A Niger Delta


With the men that we have seen in the last few weeks since President Jonathan commenced his PDP nation-wide rallies (read, campaigns),I am surprised if there is anything again to be expected from this lack-lustre group whose speeches make me wonder how some of them even got elected into public positions in the first place. At best, the President himself only manages to stutter a complete repetition of what he had said on a previous occasion so much it makes one suggest that he needs some serious handlers, if he can ever make it through his party's primaries or even go past that stage. This is serious business and I just imagine where our dear President is placed side-by-side with, say a Sule Lamido, to debate issues before PDP's delegates in the pursuit of the Party's presidential ticket.

I am reminded that the President was hardly allowed by erstwhile President Obasanjo to woo Nigerians directly with logic, persuasion and panache in each of his previous electoral contests. On one of those occasions when the onus rested on the then VP candidate, Jonathan, to speak to Nigerians when the nation had been awash with the rumor of former President Yar'adua's death at a South-west campaign ground, those who remember the picture of Jonathan delivering a speech at that campaign would agree with me that if he had been alone on that ticket, the fate of the election would have been decidedly determined there. Of course, you could tell in what direction that decision would have gone; a big NEGATIVE.

To some watchers of the events that played out then, Jonathan was merely a learner; a naïve school teacher, who had stumbled into Bayelsa Government House as a Deputy to an overbearing military-cum-cultural General, D.S.P Alamiesegha. So, his naivety or even complete timidity was to be excused, but five years after he has held the forte as President, one is surprised that our President is still such a slow learner in matters of public-speaking and the suave comportment and finesse that go with it. Take a look at any of President Jonathan's past public-speaking sessions and you will be surprised how much he has refused to learn these past years. He inspires no confidence and still carries on his shoulders the baggage from years of hewing trees and cutting wood over there in his native good Bayelsa State.

This President surely needs help; especially, with the current assemblage of men that accompany him to “campaign” grounds these days. Take, for instance, the speeches of Anenih each time he takes the floor in a rally venue. Some of us who remember him as a Party Leader of the past years can only attest that he should be anywhere in Uromi, but certainly not at a campaign or rally ground. At best, these days the man looks like he is just waking up from sleep each time he struggles to speak to an audience that is, usually, as bored as it is indifferent. Alongside the speeches of our President, Anenih's words lack bite and punch, so much you never can get any “quotable quotes” from the voices of men of such social and political stature as you would glean from the voices of such leaders across the world!

Enters Governor Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, the almighty Chairman of the PDP Governors' Forum, who has, of late, begun to see himself as a new ”sage” of the present political era after the like of Azikiwe, Balewa and Awolowo. How so mistakenly has he so appraised himself that I wonder if he ever realizes how childish, if not banal, he sounds most of the time.

To Governor Akpabio, President Goodluck Jonathan is God's chosen one who must not be spoken to, let alone being criticized. Governor Akpabio seems to revel so much in the present euphoria of an unexpected limelight that he, sometimes, forgets that power is such an ephemeral commodity that one could sleep and wake up to realize that the power is gone. Again, in his obsessive bid to “protect our own” from the darts of the critical world, as he seems to have given himself a duty to demify the President these days,

Governor Akpabio forgets that not even David, one of the elects of God, was immune to criticisms and challenges. In fact, David saw so much hostility that even his own son contributed to his grief.

Standing behind the President in every rally these days, if you have noticed, is the towering figure of the Governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson. In fact, the way Dickson stands behind the President these days would certainly give one the impression that he is in a strong bid to wrestle the position of ADC to the President from the Kogi State-born hunk who occupies the position at present. Someone once reminded me that Dickson was formerly in the Nigeria Police and in the course of such service to fatherland must have been ADC to one of the big guys of his day in the Force. Well, I did not know much about him and I could not have seen that face behind anyone in the past before now to warrant a fair comment here.

However, I did garner such facts that he was in the Police and later was a Commissioner of Justice in Bayelsa before making it to the Green Chambers of the National Assembly as a Lawmaker before luck and Jonathan smiled upon him with the “gift” of Governor; which he “won” after the ambition of political heavy weights, like former Governor Sylva and NDDC former strong man, Timi Alaibe, had been sacrificed on the altar of screw-minded political manoevres from Aso Rock. So, you can understand why the former “police bouncer” would rather stand behind President Jonathan, even when it is all obvious that he is now a “confirmed” Governor. And again, you could tell that, given the circumstances of his making it to Bayelsa Government House, Dickson might, sometimes, forget that he is really Governor. For me, that is only natural. Remember the tale of the young elephant tied to a tree that would not go beyond the circumference the rope had allowed even when the rope was removed!

In any case, all of what I have written above does not worry me as much as the continuous attempts of the kinsmen of President Goodluck Jonathan to turn the struggle for the Nigerian Presidency to an ambition of just the Niger Delta people. Even the new PDP National Chairman, Adamu Mu'azu, who again has not begun to impress with words as some of us had earlier expected, I am sure will never buy into that mindset. No single group can make any of its own President alone without the tacit collaboration and support of other parts of Nigeria. Ask the Yoruba. President Jonathan needs to move with men of aura and presence, men who can turn a crowd, however rented or procured, to the frenzy of a rally; men who can say things we, journalists, can proudly quote and quote again; men who sound convincing, who can reason on their feet and present very sound logic without the aid of a written material.  Up until now, we are yet to see such men with Jonathan.  Even his Vice President, Arch Namadi Sambo, is not anywhere near a campaign figure.  For me, he should go back to his Technical Drawings and Studio.

It is the absence of this kind of men that continues to give an edge to Governors Rochas Okorocha, Adams Oshiomhole and even Rotimi Amaechi, who alongside his lieutenants, presents better evaluation of facts, better logical processing of internalized information and freer, more dignified attitudes to issues of debate and controversy than a stuttering, arm-waving Jonathan. We need such men with President Jonathan or else the present journey to the State House may really appear farther than it really is.

Ako Benson Agu and Nwachi Frank are Abuja-based Journalists from where they wrote in (07031327940).