Governor Goodluck Jonathan: His Critics and His Friends

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

“In politics, your enemies can’t hurt you, but your friends will kill you” (Ann Richards).

There is something amiss in Bayelsa State. It is slightly difficult for me to lay my hands on what it is; but suffice to say that there seems to be a growing culture of intolerance: a culture where debates and dissents are frowned upon; a culture where second opinions are discouraged; a culture where people — mainly the political class — is uncomfortable with critical thinking and truth-telling. No one wants to be challenged intellectually, and no one wants his/her submissions debated or called into question — save for a select group of self-assured and intellectually liberated minds.

Praise-singing, bootlicking, hero-worship, exaggerated sense of gratitude and a culture of concordance is very much encouraged. Feeblemindedness and yessirism and a cult-like atmosphere is welcomed and appreciated. The truth is that no one who wants to grow intellectually would/should enjoy such. But that seems to be the case in Yenagoa (under the previous and current political dispensation).

Any one who criticizes the governor or the government is seen or considered an “enemy of the state.” Sadly, most people equate the governor with the government. For such people therefore, to criticize government actions is to criticize the person at the helm of the executive arm of government, in this case Governor Goodluck Jonathan. And even when criticism of the governor is warranted, such is usually taken as an insult, an affront on the person of the governor.

Jonathan GoodluckThe governor himself should tell his staff and proxies including his errand boys — as Winston Churchill told us a long time ago — “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” No governor, no civil servant, and indeed no human being worthy of anything should live a life devoid of criticisms. Criticism is part of governance and human existence. To now brand those who chose to exercise their civic duty as “enemies of Jonathan,” is to say the least, unpatriotic.

Wanton criticism or selective criticism is not healthy. Name-calling is not criticism. Personal abuse is not criticism. It does not augur well for the state or the people when invectives and mindless criticisms are directed at the person or performance of the governor. However, it is more dangerous for and to the wellbeing of the state, the people and the governor when criticism is discouraged or when those who criticize the governor are branded “enemies…hired hands…hatchet men”

Insulting the governor is a different matter, a matter that should be wholeheartedly discouraged and condemned. Criticism is not about spreading lies and innuendoes; it is not about questioning his person; and neither is it about hauling invectives at him when he makes mistakes in the discharge of his official duties. But to say we must not question his policies; to say we must not question his priorities or the types of people he bring into government; to say we must not call his attention to his repeated failings and fault; to say we must not caution him when he is walking on the wrong side of history, is totally unacceptable.

To say we must be silent when we know he is being unduly arrogant and snobbish and supercilious and weak; to say we must say nothing when he is being puppetized; to say we must allow him free reign when he is involved in criminalities — or knows his proxies and family members are engaged in criminalities and he says and or does nothing about it is to condone criminality and the bastardization of our state and land. We can not standby or blindly support him when he is wrong or about to go wrong. We must raise the alarm. We must criticize.

To His Friends and Supporters…

The idea that we must not criticize “our own” is totally unacceptable. If we can’t, if we won’t and if we don’t criticize “our own,” if we don’t call our leaders to order, if we don’t scold the young ones when they are on the wrong path, well then, we might as well stop claiming to be different. If we cannot criticize and call Ijaw men and women to order, then we lose the moral right to criticize others. In other words, what we find reprehensible in others, we must also find reprehensive in “our own.”

A thief is a thief is a thief be it an Ijaw governor or a governor of another state. If we are opposed to stealing and mismanagement and abuse of power by President Obasanjo and other governors, we must also be opposed to stealing and other forms of criminalities when committed by any and all Bayelsa State officials. If we agitate against the exploitation of our land and resources by the oil companies and the federal government, we must also refuse to be exploited, be used and abused by the political elite in Bayelsa.

Again and again and again we must find reprehensible whatever we find reprehensible in others. If we expect others to be above board, we must expect no less from our local leaders. In this and other matters therefore, there can be no double standard. Otherwise, we short-change ourselves and future generations.

Increasingly, what we now have in Ijaw land is a culture of thievery and hubris. Everywhere one turns, there seems to be excessive greed, indifference, acceptance and celebration of the third-rate, the bestowing of glory and praises on the undeserved; and looking the other way when crimes are being committed. The idea that because political leaders at the national level are rogues, therefore, it is ok for Ijaw politicians to be thieves is just beyond sensible compression. Why condone the iniquities of a man or the illegalities of a syndicate all because they are made up of jaw?

Each and every time he/she/they steal from our coffers, they take away from our people. They diminish the prosperity of our land, and stunt our growth. When money that should have gone to building schools and hospitals and for potable water is diverted into private accounts, no one but our people suffers. Whatever is sent to us should be used for the benefit of our people and land. There is no need to pilfer from the little we get from Abuja.

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