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How clueless is “this Jonathan Guy”?

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By Uche Ugboajah
One of our main virtues as a people is the ability to latch on to something 'trending', as the social media language would prefer.   If a new brand of car is about to be manufactured, be sure that Nigerians would be among the first set of people to place orders for the product. If a fashion style, say a new winter boots, are in vogue worldwide, you will not miss it even under the scorching sun of Lagos streets.   And if a slang, verbal expression or nuance gains currency, be sure to get your ears suffocated with their usage out of context.

Those conversant with the social media will agree that one word that has been over-flogged by users in the discussion involving the performance of President Goodluck Jonathan in government is “clueless”.   The adjective, which suggests lack of the faintest of ideas, methods and solutions to a problem, is being freely bandied in the internet to deride and discredit the PDP government as a failure in dealing with the many problems of the country.

The main opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), and its allies in the civil society packaged the word and gave it a new meaning during the petroleum subsidy strike in the morning of Jonathan's presidency.   Ever since, many unsuspecting and innocent internet users have found the word attractive to insult their elected president whenever an evil mind, intent on wasting his life and those of others, detonates a bomb, whenever the lights go out, when natural disasters like flood strike, when the Super Eagles lose a football match, and even when their wives over-salt their pots of soup.   That is how clueless this guy Jonathan has become!

Even if one condescends to the opposition's inelegant language, could Jonathan be really clueless on the problems and the issues of the Nigerian state?   The answer is NO!   Those going about mugging the president fall into at least three categories.   The first group are bad losers, drunk and seething with an overdose of jealousy and bad blood so much so that they have forgotten that the period of electioneering is over.   They feign ignorance of the fact that Jonathan is no longer the PDP presidential candidate but the President popularly elected by Nigerians across ethnic and other social barriers and therefore deserving of the respect of all citizens, irrespective of political affiliations. Members of this group are still wondering why Nigerians would prefer Jonathan to them and, instead of cursing their luck at the polls, prefer to curse Jonathan and seek any means to put him down as clueless no matter the issue being discussed.

The second category of those denigrating the president is a group with a very poor sense of national history.   Happy members of this group, in their mischief, conveniently overlook the fact that Jonathan has only effectively been in the saddle for less than three years.   Yes, the President was deputy to his late boss whom he served loyally until fate put him in the saddle in an acting capacity until the fate again beckoned on him to serve out the Umaru Musa Yar' Adua term after his demise. And if critics are fair, they will admit the fact that the interregnum that Jonathan completed the term of the late Yar' adua was fraught with too much turbulence, intrigues and deliberate acts to sabotage Jonathan as President by those who were late in coming to terms with the reality of the succession politics in a democracy.   That Jonathan managed to stabilize the system during that era does not hint of a clueless president but an underrated personality.

What this means is that Jonathan can only be fairly judged by his performance since 2011 when he was elected by the Nigerian people.   This is so because, he traversed the length and breadth of this country, day and night, seeking the votes and in the process making promises of what he would and would not do if elected president. So to pretend that all the problems that confront us as a nation started with the Goodluck Jonathan Presidency is a huge fallacy.   Before Jonathan, there have been about thirteen former presidents – some of them military and others civilian – at different times that in their own capacities grappled with cumulative problems of the country, of course, with varying degrees of success.   The electricity generation and distribution problem, for instance, did not start today and so also corruption.   Yet, the comments in the media and discussion on-going in the internet tend to suggest that Jonathan created these problems!

The third category of those bad-mouthing the Jonathan administration include the league of “former these and former that”, to borrow from Ukpabi Asika of blessed memory.   In this category, one shockingly finds former presidents both in the military and civilian dispensations, former governors, ministers and failed politicians who are kicking themselves for failing to do what Jonathan seems to be getting right now.   These people cannot understand why “this Jonathan guy” is getting higher public approval ratings than they did; why he seems to be resolving what has been the myth of electricity in the country; why, in spite of their roadblocks, rebased figures are confirming the Nigerian economy as the largest in Africa under “this Jonathan guy”; and why and how the President continues to renew hope in the Nigerian state while forging a global coalition against terror, the worst security challenge our nation ever faced since the civil war!

Thus, while other climes and systems have found the general media and social media in particular as veritable platforms to transform their systems, some of our people goaded by a blind and selfish opposition groups see, Facebook, Twitter and other social media as anonymous fora to abuse the leadership of the country.   Yes, these platforms exist to stretch further the frontiers of freedom of expression and ideas and can even provide an authentic feedback mechanism for the leadership from the citizens especially in a country like ours where official attempts are made to shield leaders from the harsh social realities by hangers-on in the corridors of power. Rather than avail ourselves of these tremendous policy alternative advantages that the social media portend, what is sadly obtainable is the free hurling of abuses and insults on people in authority.   It is sad to read some of the undignifying comments in these media about a president elected by the generality of our people, and his immediate family. That some of them come from younger people in a country where respect for the elderly is a moral ethos is even more reprehensible.

Even some of our brightest minds that are respected the world over revel in denigrating the Nigerian President at any given opportunity abroad. If they believe that will shore up their reputation then their brilliance is perhaps overrated.   How I wish they get to hear the opinion of their foreign friends behind their back!   Even then, they would have succeeded in damaging their country by providing stereotypes to an international community that derives pleasures in holding our nation and people in derision. That is probably why a failed American politician like John McCain can refer to an elected Nigerian President as “some guy”.

Back home, for how long must we continue to disrespect the President who is not only our leader but the sym bol of our nation? Whereas the British wake up every morning singing God Save the Queen, we on our part wake up cursing and lynching our leader verbally.   Sometime ago, Jonathan remarked at a function organised by the Nigerian Bar Association that he is the most criticised president in the world today; but if you ask me, he was only holding back: he is the most abused president.   What good do we expect from a president we neither respect nor encourage?

Ugboajah wrote from Abuja