•Says ex-president surrounded himself with bigots
From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima has said the greatest undoing of former president Goodluck Jonathan was his display of bad governance, lack of political sagacity and will power.
He also insisted that the ex-president fumbled in his handling of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnap saga.
Speaking at the unveiling of a book written by the spokesman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bolaji Abdullahi: ‘On a platter of gold: How Jonathan won and lost Nigeria’ in Abuja, yesterday, Shettima claimed that Jonathan surrounded himself with assorted crop of religious bigots, tribal kindred and all sorts of reactionary elements.
Chronicling those he referred to as ethnic and religious bigots that Jonathan surrounded himself with, Shettima listed Asari Dokubo, Chief Edwin Clark, Tompolo, Oronto Douglas (late), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor among others.
“I dare to say that sheer display of bad governance, lack of political sagacity and will power squandered the enormous goodwill Jonathan commanded and subsequently got him voted out of the office.
“Within the short time of his ascendancy, to paraphrase the author of this book, he went from a man who controlled the populace to the clueless, from the most followed president on Facebook in the world to the most cursed president.
“Dr Jonathan’s political profile rose within a short time and in a spectacular manner due to the poor handling of the most important issues affecting Nigeria at the time such as the fuel subsidy scandal, the Boko Haram insurgency and the general feeling of insecurity, particularly with the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls, the crisis in the then ruling party, the PDP, Jonathan left much to be desired.
“And it brought his image down in an alarming rate and perfected the imagination of Nigerians, real or imagined, even beyond our shores that he was insensitive to the plight and suffering of most people.
“Thus, his fairytale rise to power and honeymoon with Nigerians was quickly forgotten and it culminated in the unprecedented defeat of a sitting president by an opposition candidate in Nigeria. Although his manner of conceding defeat earned him a lot of praise and hero status, even his most ardent supporters knew he should have ended in a much better circumstances.
“It goes beyond reasonable doubt that the leadership of President Jonathan represents a turbulent period in our national life, has and will continue to shape, good or bad, the fortunes of our country,” he said.
While recollecting his encounter with Jonathan in handling the Chibok school girls kidnap saga, the Borno governor noted: “When the Chibok girls saga started, they made the president to believe that there was no abduction; that the Chibok girls were kidnapped by the governor of Borno State ostensibly to embarrass the Jonathan administration and he believed that line of story.
“I was in Chibok, my wife was in Chibok and there was a global outcry on the issue but Jonathan was in a world of his own created by the clowns and also the misfits around him. I wasn’t invited to Abuja until nearly three weeks later and even when I was invited to Abuja, I was quite thrilled that at last I was getting the attention of my leader.
“I was asked to come along with the Commissioner of Police, the Divisional Police Officer in Chibok, the Commissioner for Education, the military commander in Chibok and the Director of DSS.
“We were all ushered into the Villa. Sadly, when the president came in, he was still in that mood. He started threatening the school principal: ‘Principal, you must tell me where the girls are. Commissioner of Police, you have to tell me.’
“He immediately ordered the arrest of the principal, the DPO, Commissioner of Police and the Director of DSS. He said they must produce the girls. In this very unfortunate saga, MD Abubakar, the then IGP arrested them, took them to the Force Headquarters and informed them; ‘Lady and gentlemen, I cannot hurt you because I am a man of conscience. I will let you go based on self-recognition.’ And they were released to go back to their duty posts but I was shocked, I was quite taken aback because I thought solutions were going to be found to a very serious national challenge. Instead, the president was still of the mindset that those girls were not abducted and that goes to show the quality of leadership in this country,” he said.
Speaking further, Governor Shettima said: “Incidentally, the Brigade Commander in Chibok, was an Ijaw man, one Capt. Godknows. And because they know the president is such a very unsophisticated simpleton, he is such an honest man, they knew that if they had brought in the man, they would have gotten him confused.
“So, they deliberately refused to bring the Brigade Commander in Chibok and that made the president to lose a true perspective on the issues. But we have to give it to him, that by conceding defeat, he saved the nation from the precipice.
“There was a time he wanted to remove me at all costs. In the Federal Executive Council, they were all speaking in the same tone that this Borno governor must be removed for embarrassing the government; that I was the problem.
“However, two Nigerians stood out. He sought the opinion of Mohammed Adoke Bello, the then Attorney General who told him, ‘Mr President, you have no power to remove even an elected councilor.’ Then he sought the opinion of other Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in his team, the Minister of Special Duties, Tanimu Turaki. And Turaki also told him that ‘Mr President, you have no power to remove a sitting governor’. And that was how the matter died,” he narrated.
On the claim that Jonathan surrounded himself with ethnic and religious bigots, Governor Shittima argued: “If you look at Obasanjo, hate him or love him, you have to respect him for not only believing in the Nigerian project but also by surrounding himself with men of quality.
“If you mention Obasanjo, the names that literally come to mind are those of Oby Ezekwesili, Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu, Nasiru el-Rufai, Nuhu Ribadu, Bukola Saraki and other quality Nigerians who had the capacity to add value to the system.
“Obasanjo, take it or leave it, among those people, the only Yoruba person was Femi Otedola and he was not even deep in the power circuit. But when you think of President Jonathan with all due respect, he surrounded himself with an assorted crop of religious bigots, tribal kindred and all sorts of reactionary elements- Ateke Tom, Government Tompolo, Oronto Douglas (late), Asari Dokubo, Edwin Clark, Ayo Oritsejafor among others.
“And because he is such an honest man, recently, he confided in Sen. Ben Bruce that his major undoing was his poor relationship with the Borno governor. That is GEJ for you. We are wishing him the best of luck in his retirement years. He can redeem himself by serving God and humanity, by serving Africa. We are wishing him all the best,” he said.
Speaking at the event, Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, said in his two encounters with Jonathan, he did not look like someone who was desperate for power. He added that he was however not someone that was prepared for leadership either.
“I like to share one or two things that will probably summarise the former president Jonathan. I remember when I was a senator then and I came across this issue of fuel subsidy and the way the country was losing close to about N1.3 trillion. In the history of this country, I don’t think of any singular kind of level of corruption as huge as that.
“I had a motion already that I wanted to present on the floor of the Senate. I felt as a member of the ruling party at that time, it was only proper I discussed it with the president first, maybe some action can be taken so that I can step down the motion.
“I booked an appointment to see Mr. President, I went with my paper, I started with the background of how people bring in petroleum products. I said Mr. President, in the past, people used to get award letters from NNPC to bring in PMS, DPK, and make 10, 20 per cent profit.
“I said sir, they have taken it to another level; now, they get an order to bring in products, they don’t want to make 10 or 20 per cent any more. They will get an offer to bring in a cargo of 20,000 litres, they will bring in 5,000 to be stamped for 20,000 and instead of making 10 per cent, they make 10 times the amount. I was thinking the president would get very agitated. He said, ‘Senator Saraki, you know this oil business is very oily?’
“I was stunned and taken aback but in a way, that was Jonathan. In a sad way, that was who he is. In the second encounter, I recollect the day I decided to contest for the presidency. I felt that I didn’t want Jonathan to hear it as news, so I booked an appointment to see him.
“I went to the Villa he said, ‘come in, come in, how can I help you?’ I looked at the president of a third world country and said, ‘Mr. President, I came to tell you that I am going to be contesting for your seat.’
“Jonathan looked at me and said, ‘Oh, okay, good luck, good luck.’ If it were any other person, maybe I would not have left the Villa but that again sums up Goodluck Jonathan. I think it is us Nigerians that produce the kind of leaders we get.
“No matter what you say about him, I don’t think he was someone who was desperate for power, he was not someone that was prepared for leadership. Yes, by misfortune or fortune, I keep on saying, we all know the right things but we don’t do it, we find ourselves sometimes blaming individuals, blaming others than ourselves,” he said.