Between Abati’s Curious Ghost Stories and Goodluck Jonathan’s Fairy Tales

by Peter Claver Oparah

When I saw Reuben Abati, former Special Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan’s article on demons and ghosts that took over Aso Rock when he was there, I honestly took it as the lighter side of Nigerian discourse. I knew Abati, right from his days as a Columnist with The Guardian newspapers, maintained a weekly satirical column where he entertained his readers with satirical sides of our daily national life. But on reading the hair-raising stories Abati recounted in the piece, I knew he was dead serious. Don’t ask me if I believe his story. Am I mad? At this age? I equally find it hard that people will believe the gory narrative of Abati that certain deadly ghouls reside in the nation’s seat of power, wrecking havoc both on the lives of men that pass through there as well as the affairs of the country, which have suffered irretrievable damage by successive occupants of Aso Rock.

Reuben Abati

Reuben Abati

On better reading of Abati’s article, I ended up with the inescapable understanding that Abati was trying to introduce a spiritual angle to the gregarious failure of the government he served. Abati was only trying to awe us with ghost stories for us to resign to the bunkum that the failure of the government he served, which led to its deserved electoral defeat last year was not natural. It was spiritual. The Jonathanian failure was caused by spirits. It was beyond his human capacity. Who can wrestle with ghosts? Who can wrestle with unseen powers, which, according to Abati wrought such damages as castrating the male occupants of Aso Rock and forcing their spouses and other sundry female occupants to resort to using dildos, visit illnesses and death on the men and women in power and force those who were charged with governing the country into making huge wreckage of that charge, among the many havoc Abati painted?

If we remember very well, one of the most glaring areas of Jonathan’s dereliction as president was on security and the ravage caused by Boko Haram insurgents was the hallmark of that failure. It was so serious that Boko Haram seized close to a third of the country’s landmass, killed thousands of Nigerians in its bloody trail, maimed thousands and damaged properties worth billions of dollars, carted hundreds of innocent school children to captivity and constituted real danger to the nation’s seat of power in Abuja where it picked easy targets for ceaseless bombing. What was Jonathan’s response to this audacious challenge? Boko Haram members were ghosts according to Jonathan so who can fight ghosts since ghost fighting is not one of the requisites for aspirants to the country’s leadership? So Abati’s was just a mere rehearsal to what was a standard belief in the regime he served; weave a supernatural narrative around the problems facing the country and exculpate yourself from possible inaction. He intended his ghost story as an excuse for the failure of the regime he worked for.

But how does one explain Abati’s principal, Goodluck Jonathan’s display this week when he addressed a gathering at Oxford? Jonathan came spruced up for an outing- one of the syndicated outings he has been desperately soliciting for since he was thrown out of power. He painted such a rosy picture of Nigeria under him that you would have been forgiven if you believe he was talking of the Garden of Eden.

To Mr. Jonathan, he transformed Nigeria to an Eldorado which was flowing with milk and honey. He said he worked for the next generation of Nigerians and not the next election, that CNN told him that Nigeria was the third fastest growing economy in 2015 (and you wonder why not the fastest growing in the world?). Mr Jonathan further said he fought corruption without making noise and that Sambo Dasuki his National Security Adviser did nit steal the $2.1 billion for which he is facing trial at moment. It was a fine polish to himself and his regime. How Jonathan hopes to mend his tardy image from this outing remains to be seen but one should admit, he made good dabbing so much talcum on his not-so-pleasant image. I don’t know whether he meant his to have much more value than a fireside story.

But let us interrogate Jonathan’s claims a little. We must work with the hard evidences surrounding his claim of performing an economic miracle here for the six years he was in power. A recent Vanguard (a Nigerian newspaper beholden to Jonathan and his interests) report revealed that under Jonathan, Nigeria made a revenue in excess of N51 trillion. This figure surpasses the revenue for the period all other regimes were in power. It was at a period Nigeria sold crude at the highest ever price of $140 a barrel and exported more barrels per day than at any other period in our history, as there were no avengers seeking to avenge their electoral defeat. What did Nigeria get from that monumental accrual? Apart from Jonathan’s hollow stories, what tangible gain did Nigeria get from this providential windfall? Our infrastructures were completely degraded as roads collapsed, health and educational sectors witnessed untold atrophy, power sector collapsed, poverty ravaged the land, internecine corruption reigned supreme-despite Jonathan’s hollow claim of fighting corruption. What thrived under Jonathan which was exactly what his growth story was all about was an untamed fight by Jonathan’s cronies to corruptly steal these huge accruals as Jonathan practically liberalized corruption, claiming that stealing is not corruption.

The period when we received the highest accrual from oil was paradoxically the period when our infrastructure collapsed totally. The period when Jonathan claimed he grew Nigerian economy was the period when several millions of hapless unemployed Nigerians flooded every available stadia and open spaces to seek for 3,000 uniform jobs and many were trampled to death in the struggle for space that ensued. The period when Jonathan claimed he turned Nigeria to an Eldorado was the same period the country’s power sector ground to a halt throwing Nigeria to prolonged darkness for most parts of his six years sojourn. It was the period the petroleum sector waltzed in unending sleaze and graft as it became a conduit fir stealing the nation’s resources without remorse. The period Jonathan claimed he was growing the economy through yet undisclosed means, was the period when the country’s treasury was bankrupted even in the face of growing oil revenue. It was a period when the $62 billion foreign reserve built by Jonathan’s predecessors when oil was not as princely priced as it was under Jonathan, was depleted to a paltry $28 billion even with oil prices maintaining an all-time high price regime.

The period Jonathan claimed he was doing magic here was the period price of oil was going so high in the international commodity market yet his finance Minister claimed she borrowed half a trillion Naira to pay federal civil servants’ salaries and 23 States were bankrupt and were owing salary arrears running into years. That these states were bailed by the President Buhari regime at a time oil price nosedived to as low as $27 per barrel tells of the type of economy CNN told Jonathan he was building to the third fastest growing in the world in 2015 when he exited power.

On Jonathan’s claim that he worked for future generation of Nigerians, well the future is already here and Nigerians are already reaping the fruits of Jonathan’s efforts in the vandalised country he handed over to President Buhari. We are reaping the fruits of his reckless plundering of the excess crude account, his purloining of the foreign reserves, the ghastly looting and irresponsible wreckage he and his mandarins visited on the country’s economy. He needn’t solicit for hand clappers on this as Nigerians, already in the dubious future Jonathan worked for them by allowing a holistic plunder of the nation’s treasury, are already clapping fir him.

As for not working for the next election, we need to ask Jonathan why what remains of the nation’s treasury was emptied when Jonathan was seeking reelection. We need to ask him why the nation’s landscape was littered with dollars and pound sterling as his desire to continue in office overwhelmed his rationality.We need to ask him why he completely purchased the nation’s media and turned it into a brazen hatchet for his re-election bid. We need to ask him why he stoked a deadly ethnic rivalry and very deep religious division as he dreamt of more years in power. We need to ask him why he sponsored various ethnic militia groups, unleashed them on innocent Nigerian citizens while seeking reelection. We need to ask him why he impudently postponed the election when it was certain that he would lose and relocated to Lagos where he was personally sharing dollars to induce the electorate. Did the idea of not working for the next election occur to him after Nigerians adamantly rejected him on March 28, 2015? He needs to come clear on these.

Jonathan claimed Sambo Dasuki did not steal the $2.1 billion security money he placed under him. Serious? It is fortuitous to ask if Jonathan believed himself in this assertion, as in his other assertions. For the period the inquest into the monumental corruption that occurred during Jonathan’s watch lasted, there has been this attempt to weave a thin cloak to shield Jonathan from questions he should be answering over these corrupt acts. But it seems that Goodluck Jonathan is misrepresenting this to mean he was deaf and dumb to happenings that occurred under his feet while he was president. As the buck stops at the president’s table, it is untenable that Jonathan should pretend he didn’t know the huge corrupt acts that happened under his watch. I think he is pushing his luck too far and needs to be taken in to answer questions. Since he knows to much as to know that Sambi Dasuki didn’t steal this huge amount, even in the face of monumental evidences and earth shaking confessions that run contrary to his mischievous claim, the security agencies must see the need to take up Jonathan to tell us all he knows of not just the amount Dasuki and co stole but the huge corruption cases that happened under him. That seems the way to go as Jonathan goes about hauling diets in an attempt to sustain a deceptive clean persona that lives in the mud.

Jonathan claimed he fought corruption silently, without making noise about it. Though he did not elucidate on this, that statement in itself reveals Jonathan as the chameleonic simpleton he has been largely seen as. It is still beyond contemplation to fight such a rugged monster like corruption quietly and for Jonathan, corruption remains a beloved pet project, which he fed and nurtured for the six years he was in power. Jonathan was to give what neared a legal seal to corruption when he uttered, in one of his several moments of embarrassing simple-mindedness that stealing is not corruption. How them could he have fought corruption; either loudly or quietly? As gory tales of mind boggling corruption that happened under Jonathan continues to shell out, it is a wry joke fir even Jonathan himself to entertain the belief that he has any repulsion to corruption.

But then, as has been his norm since he was sent out of power, Jonathan roams the globe looking for cheap laurels to claim and seeking audiences to talk to with his flawed rehabilitation story. Is he under the impression that it is not the same international community he readily patronises that treated him with such unprecedented ignominy while he was in power? Is it not the same international community that broke every norm in diplomacy to dismiss Jonathan as a corrupt, clueless buffoon who has no capacity to govern any forward-looking nation on earth?

During the capture of the Chibok girls and the international outrage that followed the Jonathan government’s inaction of that vile action, Hilary Clinton, then US Secretary of States and now Democratic presidential candidate in next month’s American polls, lambasted Mr Jonathan as running an utterly corrupt regime which has squandered Nigeria’s oil wealth. At the same period, former Republican Presidential Candidate, Senator John Mc Cain has described Jonathan’s government as a ‘non-existent’ government. Earlier before then, world renowned economist and Founder of Washington based Free Africa, Prof. George Ayitteh has dismissed Jonathan as a meretricious mediocrity and a joke. As recent as last year, The Economist, in reviewing the Buhari regime after eight months in power, had summed as follows; “In the eight months since Mr Buhari arrived at Aso Rock, the presidential digs, the homicidal jihadists of Boko Haram have been pushed back into the bush along Nigeria’s borders. The government has cracked down on corruption, which had flourished under the previous president, Goodluck Jonathan, an ineffectual buffoon who let politicians and their cronies fill their pockets with impunity”.

Truth us that Jonathan wasted a golden opportunity to make Nigeria great through a combination of compulsive corruption, ineptitude, weakness and lack of clue. The unputdownable truth is that Jonathan and his government tossed Nigeria’s providential chance to achieve progress and the wonder is if Nigeria will ever get such providential opportunity again in its tortured history. What we are doing today is living with the debris of the Jonathan wreckage. We are left with the aftermaths of the comprehensive vandalization Jonathan visited on the country and the Buhari government is doing its utmost best to contain the many after effects of the Jonathan brigandage.

You wonder what Jonathan wants to achieve my scavenging the international space to reel out his spruced-up, rehabilitative stories. Little wonder that his audiences are always Africans, mostly Nigerians who are always mobilised to venues for such empty displays to cheer him on. So does Jonathan, even in his legendary simple-mindedness, think the international community did not know the parody he ran in Nigeria for six years? Is he thinking they don’t know the elephantine corruption he visited here as his reign lasted? Is he under the feeling that the international community have forgotten just how he practically collapsed the country with the combined blitzkrieg of corruption, cluelessness and impunity?

Back to Abati’s ghost stories, it is obvious that his attempt to weave a spiritual alibi for the failure of the government of his principal runs contrary to Jonathan’s self-marketed claims of superlative achievement. If we believe Jonathan, would we still believe Abati when he claims that a conclave of ghosts resided in Aso Rock to negatively influence performance of those in power? If we believe the rosy picture of Nigeria which Jonathan hawks about, would we still believe Abati when he claims that witches and wizards were responsible for the embarrassing shortfalls of the regime he worked for? How could we believe Jonathan’s story of superlative performance and still believe his Media Adviser regal the nation with stories of demons that prevented the government he worked for from making impacts on the lives of the people through its policies? If we believe Jonathan’s self-rendered story of turning Nigeria into the tenth wonder of the modern world, how would we still believe as Abati weaves fairy tales to explain the obvious under-achievements of the same Jonathan regime he served? Either way you see it; either from the Jonathan self-adulatory gaffes or from Abati’s curious ghost stories, the fact remains that Nigerians were served the shortest end of the stick during the time Jonathan reveled here.

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