Is President Jonathan Intellectually Challenged?

Since independence fifty odd years ago Nigeria has never produced a popular President in the mould and character of say a Bill Clinton or Barack Obama (the present charismatic occupant of the White House) whose oratorical power and intellectual depth resonate among majority of Americans and effortlessly command global attention. During his eventful 8-year presidency (tainted in the tail end by the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal) ex-President Clinton was once described by the vigorously independent American media as “the post-modern President” of the free world. The United States is blessed with great leaders and institutions that make the system function effectively without encumbrances from any quarters are well grounded. So no President messes up with the democratic system and goes away with it.

Before the Obama phenomenon siezed America and beyond few years ago George W. Bush was in power in Washington. He defeated Al Gore who was Clinton’s Vice controversially in 2000 to emerge the 43rd president. His more eloquent father George Bush was defeated by Clinton as he sought a second term. The Bush junior was known to be smart but not gifted with the power of the garb. Grammatical correctness was not part of his attributes. But he remained a great leader who confronted evil (as represented by the modern-day terrorists) and came out triumphant.

In Britain, the owners of the Queen’s language, Prime Ministers or the Queen herself are not expected to make any mistake while communicating in the great language of their forebears. We have had great Prime ministers like Sir Winston Churchill, Tony Blair and the current occupant of 10 Downing Street in London David Cameron. Down here in Africa we have had great leaders who communicated very well in English language like the living legend Nelson Mandela, Jerry John Rawlings, Emeka Anyaoku and Festus Mogae. Nigeria has produced a Nobel laureate and we have many great men and women doing us proud in English language.

Among the civilian Presidents we have had thus far I think the late President Yar’Adua fared better than the rest in terms of appreciable grammatical grasp. Let’s forget about the military dictators that had taken their turns to loot the treasury, kill and destroy, the military intellectual Liliputians like the late Gen. Sani Abacha and Ibrahim Babangida. We have many pseudo-intellectuals in the north which constitutes in itself a huge national problem.

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s demeanour is somewhat less presidential than should be expected. He has achieved greatness by providential streak of goodluck which is rare in the African political history, a dark history fraught with coup d’etats, assassinations, kleptocracy and dictatorship. His beautiful wife, Patience, is impatiently becoming an embarrassment to his presidency by her undiplomatic manners and attitudes unpresidential. Dr Jonathan is not dictatorial by his very nature and perhaps that is what the likes of IBB are exploiting to push up their political pedigree.

Mohammed Haruna is an established columnist with ‘The Nation’ newspaper in Nigeria. In his column of last week Wesdnesday entitled “A Dangerous President” ( he had declared thus in the opening lines: “If anyone has doubted whispers in opposition and diplomatic circles, and even in some government circles that in Goodluck Jonathan Nigerians have been saddled with an incompetent, incoherent, dissembling, confused and therefore dangerous president, his vehement denial that the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) was responsible for the bombs that went off in Abuja on October 1″…. Quoting extensively from the President’s different media interventions Haruna mockingly declared: “Putting aside the president’s apparent poor grasp of grammar and syntax, you’ll need more than an average Intelligence Quotient to make sense of all this”.

Mohammed Haruna, the popular columnist, was apparently very angry with President Jonathan for two distinct things he said or did of late: to wit, the hasty exoneration of MEND from the novel bomb blast on October 1st that killed dozens of our innocent compatriots and maimed scores of others. After much cogitation I think the President was right by declaring that MEND should not be blamed wholesale for the tragedy because the terror act bore the signature of everything that tended to bring Jonathan to national ridicule on our 50th independence anniversary celebration in Abuja. The truth is that the numerous enemies of the President especially from the North led by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida are politicising the bomb attacks in order to score cheap political points.

Again Haruna, the Arewa champion, was totally against the President for ever contemplating contesting the 2011 presidential election, a ‘crime’ which zoning in the PDP was meant to correct ‘selon lui’. That is, President Jonathan ought to abide by the PDP zoning rules without trying to exploit any loopholes to improve himself presidentially! The issue of the PDP zoning arrangement is over-heating the polity quite sure but we cannot afford to sacrifice merit on the alter of mediocrity which is what zoning amounts to. The north has held us down for too long, so we should be saying in unison that enough is enough!

Mohammed Haruna is an intellectual of repute, a syndicated columnist with two Nigerian national newspapers. So his views carry enough weight as he enjoys wide readership at home and online. He has had intellectually-bruising encounters with the only African Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka and Dr Olatunji Dare, a Tuesday columnist with ‘The Nation’ who happens to be one of my favourite columnists. Mallam Haruna cannot claim to be more intelligent or more educated than President Jonathan; his sickening anti-South pro-North sentiments in his writings must be condemned here without equivocation. His bias and resentment for Goodluck Jonathan is all obvious. While we in the South were busy toiling against odds to graduate from the Ivory Towers the northerners were busy scheming to join the military as illiterates. That is why today they are finding it difficult to cope with the mental fire-power of Southerners since coup plotting has become out-dated.

And in a critical piece dated April 17th and captioned “Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, That Was Embarrassing!”
( the online blogger based in America Farooq A. Kperogi had sought to ‘dismantle’ the President by x-raying his American sojourn’s grammatical blunders. For Mr Farooq ‘Grammar’ (sorry Kperogi) who takes time out to lecture ‘villagers’ on how best to be English language-compliant: “I had never heard Jonathan speak before. I’d just assumed that being a Ph.D. and a former lecturer, articulateness in speech would be the least of his problems. How wrong I had been. His performance at the (American) Council on Foreign Relations was a disaster of epic proportions. Let’s not even talk about his CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour. That was a dismal fizzle. No Nigerian who wants to retain his national self-esteem should watch it”.

Mr Kperogi (who recently accused the President and his entourage mischievously and sensationally of ‘murdering’ journalist(s) without any tangible proof) then went on to list the President’s grammatical ‘sins’ or Freudian slips seeking to correct them and passing damning judgement on the President’s intellectual capacity! Though unlike Haruna Kperogi cannot be accused of being a Jonathan hater but both of them share similar intellectually-stimulating attitude of superiority complex towards President Jonathan.

President Jonathan is a product of the Nigerian universities, an academic environment polluted today with sex scandals, intellectual laziness and sub-standard academic input and output. While ‘Babangidaism’ bastardised and corrupted the academia in his desp

otic long distance race to nowhere we are calling for the brain drain phenomenon in the Nigerian tertiary institutions to be halted in the interest of the new generation of scholars. A quick intervention from President Goodluck Jonathan could go a long way in ameliorating the dangerous situation starring us all in the face.

President Jonathan may not be a ‘mafian’ or a killer much like Gen. Ibrahim Babangida; he may be sometimes unpresidential or unstatesmanly in his utterances; he may be a ‘mugu’ commanding sophisticated scoundrels in Nigerian politics; he may be less eloquently-gifted than one or two of his predecessors but one thing is sure: President Jonathan means well for Nigeria; yes, he is a patriot who desperately wants an opportunity to re-position Nigeria for greatness that has eluded her for fifty giddy years, the greater part of which were wasted by marauding military elements from the north. This is a gospel truth majority of Nigerians have connected with and the wind of change is blowing his direction on this score! An Ibrahim Babangida or Atiku Abubakar or Gen. Gusau or Gov. Bukola Saraki cannot stop him; only Nigerians can in the polls if we believe that he is much worse a candidate than Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.

The last time I checked the original version of MEND never announced when or where they intended to strike. They struck without warning taking the security apparatus unaware. So when this apparently fake faction of MEND decided to ‘alert’ the security forces of their intention to plant bomb and detonate same hours before actualizing their threat then there is every tendency that politicians were masquerading behind ‘MEND’ to mend Jonathan’s ways or try to intimidate him into abandoning the 2011 course he is headed.

According to the real leaders of the original MEND (Tompolo et al) Henry Okah hiding in South Africa is not the leader of MEND but a mercenary, a terrorist, a gun-running criminal attempting to blackmail the powers-that-be into reaching a ‘deal’ with him. This much is clear given his antecedents and no discerning mind is fooled by his desperate attempts to paint Jonathan as anti-north and anti-northerners.

Is President Jonathan intellectually challenged? No, I don’t think so. No sane mind can ever question the academic credentials of a genuine Ph.D holder. He may have little problems speaking perfect English. He may be uninspiring in his delivery of same. He may be accused rightly or wrongly of lacking iron will and being clueless sometimes in crucial matters of state but we can never accuse him of lacking vision about a new Nigeria in the works. After all Jonathan can speak Ijaw language better than English as his mother tongue. Like the Afro-Juju musician Shina Peters who in the heat of the “soonest recover” controversy dutifully went to the studio and came out with a smash hit that sang to his critics: “grammar! grammar! grammar no be my language!”

Written by
SOC Okenwa
Join the discussion

  • The Chinese, Japanese and Germans can be excused because English is not their official language. English is Nigeria’s official language so every educated Nigerian should have a good command of the language.

  • Please, as Africans we should stop judging people’s intellectual capacity on they ability to speak English or a foreign language that is alien to us as Africans. The Chinese, japanese and Germans who are accomplished in techonology and science do not need to be fluent in English to provide basic infrastructure for their population. The likes of Mohammed Haruna and Mr kperogi who pride themselves on their abililty to communicate in a foreign Language that was forced on their forebearers live in false consciousness. Please ask them if they have been able to articulate policy framework that is useful for their compatriots. These so call intellectuals who masquarade themselves in Newspaper columns in Nigeria should get a life and read more about the founding fathers of great nations such as china, US and Britain. The Chinese philosopher, Confucious is widely respected and all is work was in his indigenous language.

    The important test in leadership is having vision and political will to inspire people. A good leader who has vision understands the need to bring substantial and lasting change for all regardless of race, religion or geopolitical zones, as he puts competent and sound people in the right place to provide good service.

    Intelligents on the basis of good command of English without good sense of vision, hunger to serve and nation building willl lead no where. I personally believe that our school curriculum should also include the option of teaching people in their mother tongue. I guarantee you that it will improve understanding of subjects and better equip people in terms of information and invention.

    Long live Nigeria and may the right people lead us to prosperity.