The contents of the book have triggered a fresh discourse on the Jonathan presidency as individuals and groups react to some of the claims in the book.
“Life will either shrink or expand based on your decision to have courage.”
–Shannon L. Alder
After three years, six months and 22 days of handing over power, former President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, GCFR, last Tuesday, gave a full account of his stewardship with the public presentation of his book ‘My Transition Hours’ in Abuja. The book dwells on the policies and programmes of his administration. It clears the air on several controversial issues that defined his presidency such as Boko Haram insurgency, Chibok School girls’ abduction, fuel subsidy and alleged pervasive corruption, among others. It also extensively reviewed the conduct of the 2015 presidential election, providing insight into why he lost the election and conceded defeat even before the final announcement of results.
Expectedly, the contents of the book have triggered a fresh discourse on the Jonathan presidency as individuals and groups have continued to react to some of the claims in the book. He has received bashings from those who think he was economical with the truth or twisted facts in some sections of the book. But he appears to enjoy a great deal of goodwill from Nigerians for the singular act of accepting the 2015 presidential election result and handing over to President Muhammadu Buhari.
At the launch of the book, which also coincided with Jonathan’s 61st birthday celebration, the crème de la crème of this country across party lines gathered to honour him. And all of them, who had the opportunity to speak, had good words to say about him mainly as a result of his decision to throw in the towel when it mattered most.
President Buhari, who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, described Jonathan as a patriotic leader of the country, declaring that he would rise again and that his best days were still ahead. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo commended him for his exemplary leadership to Nigeria. Former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar told him: “You made history by saying you love Nigeria more than you love power.”
Former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, also lauded him for saving Nigeria’s democracy by conceding defeat, adding that “he never wanted anybody to die.” To former President of Ghana, Dr John Mahama, Jonathan remains a lesson to other African leaders that “power is transient,” and that “we must leave power one day.”
It was indeed tributes galore for Jonathan at the event. And what other honour does a leader deserve than being seen and projected as a role model by even his contemporaries? The truth is that Jonathan chose peace against violence; humility against stack arrogance, and stands in a better stead as a leader today. He demonstrated that he is a true democrat and in so doing deepened Nigeria’s democracy. He refused to join the league of sit-tight African leaders even when he had the ‘resources’ to circumvent the system and do so.
Tim Hiller in his book, ‘Strive: Life is Short, Pursue What Matters’ says, “we keep what we give away.” For relinquishing power, Jonathan has kept his honour. He is today an intercontinental statesman. Those who say that history will be kind to him are only stating the obvious as it is already beginning to manifest. As the country heads into another presidential election in some few months, the expectation is that the major gladiators in the race, President Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), will play by the rules and put the country first before self. Jonathan has already laid a foundation in that regard, which they should build upon.
Nonetheless, Jonathan was not infallible while wielding power. The reality is that like every mortal, he made some costly mistakes, which contributed to his defeat at the poll. But he seems not to have accepted that, given that a good part of ‘My Transition Hours’ was devoted to blaming everyone, but himself for his defeat. It will amount to a high dose of self-deception if he doesn’t change that mindset. He needs to indulge in serious retrospection to unearth his missteps and then be better equipped for the roles which destiny has handed to him in the international stage.
Born on November 20, 1957, Jonathan holds a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) degree in Zoology, Master of Science (M.Sc) degree in Hydrobiology and Fisheries Biology and a Ph.D degree in Zoology from the University of Port Harcourt. He worked as an education inspector, lecturer and environmental-protection officer before joining politics in 1998 as a member of the PDP.
He has had a very robust and successful political career having served as Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State (May 29, 1999 – December 12, 2005); Governor of Bayelsa State (December 12, 2005 – May 29, 2007); Vice President (May 29, 2007 – February 9, 2010); Acting President (February 9, 2010 – May 6, 2010); and President (May 6, 2010 – May 29, 2015). He is currently engaged in promoting peace, democracy and development in Africa through the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation where he serves as Chairman.