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Goodluck Jonathan: Time to reflect on failure

Goodluck was the author of his own bad luck

The controversial Enugu-based Catholic priest Father Ejike Mbaka claimed in his New Year message that Goodluck has brought us bad luck. Now, as the defeated president plans his retirement in his village of Otuoke from 29 May, he should take time to reflect on how he brought his current misfortune on himself.

The man’s life had been a reflection of his name until this (s)election. He was first plucked from obscurity to become Diepreye Alamieyeseigha’s deputy governor in Bayelsa State in 1999. The big job in the state then landed on his lap when the governor was impeached in 2005.

From around 2006 a raging insurgency flared in Niger Delta, with militants demanding a share of the oil wealth extracted from the region. In typical Nigerian “turn by turn” style, it was decided that the militancy could be appeased with someone from the region becoming vice president. And Goodluck was elevated from governor to the second most powerful job in the land.

The president Umaru Yar’Adua then died in office in May 2010 and once again Goodluck found himself in a job that he never plotted to have, never dreamed he would get, and never had any plans on what to do when he got it.

Goodluck knew from when he became president that he had two elections left in him. The first was in 2011 when he was still an unknown quantity and many Nigerians were willing to give him a chance, especially as he never looked like he was that desperate for the job, unlike former vice president Abubakar Atiku, to name but one.

Goodluck had no record to run on in 2011 and offered nothing but hope and a break from the “do or die” criminality of the Olusegun Obasanjo regime. But he should have known that the game would be different in 2015. There would be five years in which to judge him.

He had five years to win the hearts and minds of Nigerians by making a positive difference in their lives, by living up to the requirements of the constitution that the security and welfare of Nigerians should be the primary responsibility of government.

Instead, Goodluck made the security and welfare of himself, his family and his cronies his only responsibility, while every other Nigerian was left on a wing and a prayer.

It was probably his bad luck that the Boko Haram movement that started in 2002 as a minor local difficulty in the northeast would become a full scale war under his watch. But his handling of the conflict was not about luck, but poor judgment, a callous disregard for the lives of ordinary people and criminal negligence. The worst indictment of his rule was his silence for about two weeks after over 200 girls were kidnapped in Chibok by the militants. The girls are still to be rescued, but the president’s inaction was damning.

He would later compound issues by claiming he had “underrated” Boko Haram. How you could “underrate” a group that was killing civilians and soldiers in large numbers, bombing police and army barracks, a UN building, churches, motor parks and controlling parts of Nigerian territory, remains a mystery that I doubt Goodluck could explain to himself.

As the (s)elections approached Goodluck decided to stop “underrating” Boko Haram and kicked off a coordinated military effort with the support of neighbouring countries. If he is capable of reflection, he should reflect on whether he would be tasting defeat now if serious military action against the militants didn’t wait until there was a (s)election round the corner.

The inertia against Boko Haram was matched by similar failures to act decisively for over four years in the areas that matter the most to Nigerians, power supply, crumbling infrastructure, unemployment, etc. As we were endlessly being told that we were now the biggest economy in Nigeria, many of our people were going to bed hungry in homes without electricity. The man himself claimed in 2011 that four years was enough to time to sort out power supply problems. They got worse under his watch.

Instead of electricity, we got hot air and as the elections approached there was a mad rush to “commission” projects. It was too little, too late to stop his tenancy of the presidential villa in Aso Rock from being revoked.

To be fair to him, Goodluck was no different from other Nigerian rulers in terms of failing to deliver on the hopes and aspirations of Nigerians. But the other civilian rulers always had a trick up their sleeve. They always ensured through systemic electoral malpractices that the opinions of the people didn’t matter.

Just like he did little about Boko Haram, electricity, unemployment, healthcare and the welfare of Nigerians, Goodluck also did little about fixing the elections like others before him. Now he has been left with nothing to do. And it was all of his own making.

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