The Villa, Jonathan and the war of words
Former President Goodluck Jonathan, last week, fired some salvos at his successor, President Muhammadu Buhari, prompting the administration and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to take issue with the former leader. Group Politics Editor, TAIWO ADISA, examines the Buhari/Jonathan exchange this time.
IN recent months, former President Goodluck Jonathan is fast becoming the alter ego of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Though a former military leader, General Abdusalami Abubakar (rtd), had queried the party’s credentials as the main opposition party, it appears that Jonathan is set to fill the void left by his party and his recent declarations are giving credence to that.
While addressing the party’s non-elective national convention in August, Jonathan revved up the opposition ante by reeling out some key achievements of his five-year administration while pointing out the ills of the successor government. He declared that the government had been ruling with propaganda and lies.
Last Thursday, Jonathan appeared to continue what he started in August when he used the occasion of a courtesy visit paid to him by one of the National Chairmanship aspirants of the PDP, Professor Tunde Adeniran, to shoot direct arrows in the direction of the ruling party.
While taking the Buhari’s government to the cleaners, Jonathan said that the government of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was being run on lies and propaganda. He told Professor Adeniran and his campaign team that he was impressed at the unity that had returned to the PDP and the calibre of persons showing interest in its leadership positions, adding that such a development was a pointer to the fact that the PDP was a government in waiting in 2019.
He said: “The PDP administration for 16 years did well and will continue to do well but this administration has done nothing. They deployed propaganda and lies at a professional level. In the power sector, we did well to revive it. A state governor attacked our government, saying that any serious government should be able to fix the power challenge within six months. “Today, APC has been in power for how many years now? Fortunately the then governor is in the APC government as a minister. There is something in the PDP.”
While promising to open up on how he lost the 2015 election soon, the former president said that the PDP, while in power, recorded giant strides.
“We need a competent, reliable and courageous national chairman who would lead the party to victory come 2019.”
In September, Jonathan had taken a similar swipe at the comments attributed to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, which indicated that some opposition figures were behind the endless secession campaigns mounted by the Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).
Jonathan, in a statement on is behalf by his former Special Assistant on New Media, Reno Omokri, said that insinuations by Mohammed in a September 17 statement that the IPOB was being sponsored by opposition elements were a fallacy.
He stated that the veiled reference to the Jonathan administration in the statement and claims that IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu preached peace and unity under Jonathan’s administration was a recourse to the propaganda mode of the 2015 campaign era.
He said that the statement was an indication that the current administration was yet to exit propaganda mode two clear years after gaining power.
He said it was also wrong to claim that the opposition was sponsoring Kanu adding that such assertions were “clear indication that the present administration has not left propaganda mode for proper agenda mode two and a half year into their tenure.”
Jonathan had stated in September: “If the government in which Lai Mohammed serves knows which opposition members are sponsoring IPOB, then they should identify them, arrest them and then prosecute them.
“Ever since Lai Mohammed made his ill-advised statement, a principal member of the All Progressives Congress government and the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, has come out to say that the actions in the South-East are troubling and some of them are unconstitutional.Is he also sponsoring IPOB too?
“It is our suspicion that Lai Mohammed is talking from history seeing as he criticized the Jonathan government for banning Boko Haram in a statement he released on June 10, 2013, even though the Jonathan government had gone through due process before proscribing that murderous sect.
Perhaps Lai Mohammed thinks everybody is like him and those he represents.”
He said further: “Let me say again to Lai Mohammed: the time for propaganda is gone the time for blaming Dr Goodluck Jonathan for all the unfulfilled promises of the APC government is over. Nigerians are no longer buying it.
“Rome may not have been built in a day, but from day one you could see evidence of builders building up Rome. But what have we seen in the last two and a half years of the Muhammadu Buhari administration? “We see a government that from day one has been blaming instead of building.
“Finally, I seize this opportunity to remind Lai Mohammed that under the Jonathan administration the Ministry of Information had annual ministerial briefing where the media and civil society groups interrogated cabinet ministers on the activities of their departments 100 days briefing was given to Nigerians on the government’s vision and one-year briefing was given to the nation on government activities.
“An elaborate midterm briefing was also given by that government to the country on the achievements of the administration.Lai Mohammed should think about these as information minister and know that he is minister for information, not minister for propaganda.”
In his prompt reply to Jonathan’s attacks, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, took to the Twitter via @femadesina where he declared that ‘trust’ was the difference between Buhari and Jonathan. He said that Nigerians trust Buhari, and that the trust element was responsible for their refusal to protest the hike in pump price of petrol from N87 per litre to N145 per litre.
Adesina said: “When petrol went to N145 under PMB, Nigerians held their peace, unlike when they shut the country in 2012. The difference is trust. Simple,” while comparing the scenarios when Jonathan in 2012 increased fuel price from N67 to N97 per litre.
Spokesman of the ruling party, the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, also fired back in defence of Buhari, insisting that the incumbent administration does not run on lies and propaganda.
Abdullahi said, “I doubt that President Jonathan actually said these words you have reported because he would be exposing himself to reactions that would not be edifying of his status as a statesman by so doing. Secondly, I know the former president to be of even temperament.
“Only a few days ago, I read that he was counselling his party on the choice of chairman and publicity secretary. Statements like these wouldn’t represent an example of the kind of attitude he was canvassing. But if he truly said that, I would say, with due respect, that he may need to commission a more dispassionate study of how and why APC won the 2015 presidential election.
“To say that APC won the election simply by deceiving the people would be too simplistic and may even be interpreted as an insult to the millions of Nigerians that voted the APC into power.”
Not wanting to allow the matters end there, Jonathan’s office would issue another statement again through Omokri, who debunked Femi Adesina’s claim that Nigerians trust Buhari.
In a more direct manner, Jonathan said it would amount to another category of lie to claim that Nigerians trust Buhari, adding that the fear factor was at play.
He claimed that the same opposition persons who sponsored protests against his government in 2012 were behind the hike in pump price in 2015, adding that Nigerians did not rise in protest for fear of military crackdown.
The statement read in part: “When Femi Adesina says that it is because of trust that Nigerians did not rise up against the Buhari administration when it increased the pump price of petrol from 87 to 145, he betrays a deep ignorance and arrogance.
“First of all, it was not Nigerians that rose up again the Jonathan administration when that government increased the price of petrol on January 1, 2012. It was actually members of the All Progressive Congress who sponsored the protests. Nigerians have not so soon forgotten how Malam Nasir el-Rufai led other chieftains of the opposition to the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park, Ojota, Lagos, where they attracted crowds by inviting top musicians to perform, and giving out free food and drinks.”
He added further shots thus: “The truth is that the reason Nigerians did not come out to protest against the fuel price hike by the Buhari administration’s from 87 to 145 was because of fear. Pure and simple.
“On December 15, 2015, the Nigerian Army, under President Muhammadu Buhari’s command, killed 347 unarmed Shiite men, women, children and infants and buried them in a mass grave as revealed by the panel of inquiry instituted by the Kaduna State government. The excuse given by the military for this massacre was that the Shiites had blocked a road during one of their processions and this allegedly affected a trip by the Chief of Army Staff.
“After killing his followers and destroying their place of worship, Sheikh Ibrahim Zak Zaky, the spiritual leader of the Nigerian Shiite community, was illegally and unconstitutionally detained and has not been seen or heard of in public since December 15, 2015.
“So, when the Buhari administration increased the pump price of petrol, Nigerians wisely reasoned that if the Buhari administration could kill 347 unarmed Shiite men, women, children and infants for blocking a road, it would be suicidal to give them an opportunity to do the same thing to them on a wider scale.
“Under the Buhari administration, human life has become so cheap that the military and security services routinely kill innocent Nigerians whether, it be Shiites, peaceful demonstrators or IDPs at the Rann IDP Camp. To say Nigerians trust an administration that publicly boasted that it would not tell Nigerians how much of their own money the president spent in treating himself in London when the State House Clinic cannot boast of ordinary Panadol (by his own wife’s testimony) is to speak a lie.
“Nigerians can judge the nature of the man whose number one campaign promise was that “no Nigerian Public official should receive medical treatment overseas at public expense”. For him, lies are cheap even if they are expensive for the Nigerian public who has to pay the price.
“Nor have Nigerians forgotten the promise to end corruption when the $25 billion Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation scam is ringing in their ears along with the denials by the vice president that he never approved any contracts. How can they trust a government that has still not released or acted on the SGF’s grass cutting contract after six months? In the five years that he governed Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan spent N16 trillion. The economy grew. The naira was stable. We had the greatest expansion of infrastructure since the Gowon years and inflation was in single figures.
“In the two years that President Muhammadu Buhari has ruled Nigeria, he has spent 15 trillion. We have had recession. Naira collapsed. Inflation has gone back to double digits and the only infrastructure that he has started and completed is the Daura helipad. So, Femi should spare us his propaganda and accept the truth that he is the mouthpiece of a murderous regime sustained by propaganda and surviving on corruption.”
Right now, we can say that where the PDP slips in its opposition roles, Jonathan fills the void. How long will the brickbats last?