Book Review: “On A Platter of Gold: How Jonathan Won And Lost Nigeria By Bolaji Abdullahi”

Was the assertion correct that Jonathan, not the PDP, lost the election, correct? Well this trajectory might attempt to answer that question.

“At the birth of the fourth republic in 1999, the PDP won 21 States. By 2003, the party’s rampaging electoral army had captured the entire South West minus Lagos, and brought the number of states under its control to 26. This number increased to 28 after the fair or foul election of 2007, a period which the party seemed to reach its apogee. In 2011, 28 states shrank to 23. Now with this parting of ways, the PDP was left with only 18 states.” Pg 284

I have worked in the news media, for the past year and some, and there’s very little about the intrigues of the current admin that I’m not aware of. If not in depth, at least enough to hold a judgement either way on the successes or failures of the President Muhammadu Buhari led government.

However, I only became deeply interested in Politics since the past few years, and I admit to not knowing enough about previous governments as I normally would be comfortable with, hence my insatiable hunger for memoirs and tell-all books, especially ones that cover a span of governments since our turn into this democratic dispensation.

Still, I approached On a Platter of Gold with caution. Written by someone in the opposition party as at then, one would of course be justified for keeping a healthy amount of salt nearby when digesting the ‘revelations’ in the book. Suffice to say, I half expected a hack job.
I was pleasantly surprised.

The first word I’d employ to describe the book would be ‘honest’. I had read Segun Adeniyi’s brilliant book – “Against the run of Play” last year, and I had an idea of some of the nuances of the stories, and the actors predicted within, so I expected the narrative from an APC member to be from a biased narrative. Again, no, that didn’t happen. It isn’t a hack job on Jonathan, and isn’t a praise-singing exercise for the APC either.

The book begins grimly, in the presidential villa immediately the presidency realized that the election had been lost. The drama was an extension of the story Segun Adeniyi had told of the advice to the president to concede. However, it goes a lot further. It explores the multitude of advice that also came for the president to not concede either, with the players and the actions they advanced.

Few would realize it, but the country came very close to full blown chaos with that loss by the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan. Bolaji Abdulahi goes deep into the minutiae of this near escape, without holding back, naming the perpetrators, and describing their actions. The villains haven’t got the condemnation they deserve, and neither have the heroes got as much credit as they should have. Osita Chidoka, and Bello Mohammed Adoke, both come in for deserved mention in the narrative.

Rumours of a plot by Security chiefs also abounded around 2015, especially on social media, and we the watchers were treated to different conspiracy theories that seemed, in the cold analysis of reality after the dust had settled, very fanciful, like our collective minds had taken flights of fancy in the frenzy of elections. However, Abdullahi shows us, in the book, that it wasn’t as much a fanciful notion, as we thought. As clichéd as it sounds, there really was fire behind this smoke. Plenty of fire. Apparently, the conspiracy theorists weren’t raving mad.

And the inevitable question, ‘How much was Jonathan aware of?’ 

The two most used buzz words in describing Jonathan during his administration are ‘clueless’ and ‘weak’. How valid are these descriptions? Bolaji dismantles the latter, and reinforces the former. For a president whose Security Chiefs ran rings around him with the insurgency fight, arms procurement, and most importantly, the alleged plot to seize power in the  aftermath of the defeat by the APC, few could argue about the cluelessness of Jonathan (insert President Buhari’s awareness level joke here if you like). I have however always thought that his supporter’s willingness to accept this moniker is to perhaps shield him as much as is possible from being responsible for actions that he should be held accountable for (but that is another story).

On a Platter of Gold deals extensively with the different shenanigans run in and around the president, including and not limited to the Sure-P programme, and the exit of Christopher Kolade, and the credibility his exit took away from the programme.
As to the weakness appellation, credited to Jonathan, this book deconstructs it. Very often Jonathan made some head scratching decisions, firing some who most people expected him to keep, and keeping people he was expected to fire, despite being under immense pressure.

Jonathan’s stubbornly poor handling of the of the breakaway faction of the PDP governors, and his refusal to back down on the Onyinlola as secretary general issue point to a wilfulness rather than a lack of, as well as his decision to heed the less strident calls of advice to call the President-elect to concede rather than leave ambiguities that would create platforms for post-election conflicts, all point to strength and sureness of purpose, rather than weakness. However, it almost seemed like the wrong decisions every time he made them.

To paraphrase the author in the book, Jonathan was weak when he needed to be strong and strong when he needed to appear meek.

How did the 2011 elections affect that of 2015? How quickly did someone lose so much goodwill barely four years after winning very convincingly at the previous polls? The ‘gentleman agreement’ pre 2011 to only serve one term? Or his performance in the years succeeding the 2011 victory? Which one was more instrumental? Where does the author lean? The author makes a very persuasive argument that, contrary to perceptions held by a large number of the Nigerian population, the 2011 elections wasn’t really a North vs South elections. It was more a ‘Split North vs a united South.’ And a ‘North’ whose power brokers didn’t rally around their own challenger, Buhari.

What changed pre 2015? What permutations decided the swing, from hero, popular president, to villain, whose biggest praise in the aftermath of the elections, was for his honourable concession phone call?

Like militant herdsmen, like Boko Haram. Boko Haram was clearly a defining factor in the Jonathan presidency, as the militant herdsmen seems to be one for the Buhari Presidency. It is said that the group’s strengthening during his time may have been responsible for his supporter’s disenchantment. This much is unarguable, however, how much of it was inevitable, and how much did Jonathan bring to hasten? This is also something that Bolaji Abdullahi treats in depth in the book. Aside giving the readers a quick run of history, with the formation of the group and how they became militant, Abdullahi also attempts to chronicle the Jonathan government’s bungling of the war against insurgency. Fairly, he does point out areas where the Jonathan government’s hands were tied, especially with the blockading of arms purchase by the United States government.

Nonetheless, there were many times that the former president displayed disdain for optics and played right into the hands of opposition. One of the most unbelievable series of actions, aside the albatross, Chibok was the rally in Kaduna after the bomb blast in Nyanya.

“However, perhaps more than the bomb blasts, what would outrage Nigerians even more, were the images of President Jonathan at a political rally in Kano the very next day. Words like “Insensitive”, “irresponsible” and “wicked” were freely hurled at him as Nigerians watched the president dancing to the music of popular Local Singer, Sani Danja, even as emergency workers were still picking up body parts at the scene of the Nyanya Blast” pg 202

Bolaji doesn’t exactly absolve the opposition for their actions in the lead up to the elections as well. He subtly points out their complicity in the subsidy removal saga which, as with all things in life, was the singular action that made a previously respected finance minister to become a sort of pariah amongst her previous idolizers. The vociferousness of the opposition, served as a really strong bulwark against constructive and forward looking conversations on the subsidy removal in 2012. The government, as expected, backed down from that process, and rather than the right thing being done, merely postponed the inevitable and kicked the ball down the road for his successor

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Review: On Platter of Gold, A Book By Bolaji Abdullahi
“They pointed out that the 2012 budget had allocated N1billion for feeding the president and the vice president in the year. This inspired some placards, which asked whether the president ate Louis Vuitton rice or Gucci beans. And when on 3rd January a protester was shot and killed in Ilorin, this image went viral on various social media platforms, further fuelling the smoking rage all over the country. Seeing the anger that was provoked by the death of one protester, others began to post images of other ‘casualties’ that were not even related to the protests. This further enraged the protesters and portrayed the government as repressive” pg 117

The 2015 election was very divisive, and the dirtiest of slurs were used in the lead up to the polls. Contrary to what a number of people have said today as regards our unity and the current president, evidence points to the 2015 elections as being responsible for the current level of division in the country, especially along ethnic and religious lines. This is what happens when politics is played with desperation. And the book attempts to paint this picture without being exceedingly dramatic, and is convincing enough to ensure that the reader isn’t scoffing at the postulations contained.

Exceedingly well researched, original and precise, Bolaji Abdullahi writes with really good diction; elevated, yet very relatable. This ensures that the book will be enjoyed by the historian, political pundit and the literary purist as well.

Like the Macbeth quote in reference to Jonathan – “If Chance may have me King, why, chance may crown me without stir”, On a Platter of Gold doesn’t need much embellishment to convince that it deserves its place on the shelves of Nigeria’s better political chronicles. It’s already headed there.

Jonathan Denies Knowledge Of Cambridge Analytica Use

Nigerian former President Goodluck Jonathan “wasn’t aware” of any use of Cambridge Analytica by his party in the country’s elections, his spokesman said Thursday.

The Nigerian government is probing claims that Cambridge Analytica, a British-based political consultancy, illegally used Facebook data in past election campaigns for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

In a press statement released Sunday, the Nigerian government said it was probing whether the firm broke the law to wage “a campaign to perpetuate discord and hack into personal records of the then leading opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari.”

The campaign also included “anti-election rallies” and a gory video depicting Buhari as an Islamic fundamentalist on a quest to enforce Sharia law in Nigeria, said the statement.

“He wasn’t aware of it,” spokesman Ikechukwu Eze said on Thursday, referring to former president Jonathan.

When asked about the probe, Eze replied: “The best thing to do is to wait for the conclusion of the investigation.”

Jonathan was elected president in 2011, losing to the present incumbent, Buhari, in 2015.

Regulators in Britain and the United States are investigating claims that Cambridge Analytica unlawfully used Facebook data for political ends in a mushrooming privacy scandal that has cast the spotlight on data protection.

The firm has been tied to electoral campaigns around the world, including for US President Donald Trump and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

2015 Elections: Osinbajo Accuses Goodluck Jonathan Of Spending N150b

The Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has accused former president Goodluck Jonathan of using the country’s N150b to set the 2015 elections in his favour.

Osinbajo disclosed this at the old banquet hall of the presidential villa, Abuja during the 7th presidential quarterly business forum for private sector stakeholders, describing the sharing of the nation’s money as incredible, stressing that it can only happen in Nigeria.

Hear Osinbajo: “In one single transaction a few weeks to the the 2015 elections, sums of a N100 billion and $295 million were just frittered away by a few.

“When you consider that in 2014 as the minister of finance has said that oil price was an average of $110 a barrel and only N99 billion was spent on power, works and housing and when we talk about the economy we talk as if these are normal by every standard.

“Nobody should talk about the economy when you have this kind of huge leakages and huge corruption. Corruption that completely makes nonsense of even what you are allocating to capital projects.

“We saw from the presentation of minister of finance that N14 billion was spent on agriculture in 2014, transportation N15 billion, so the total spent on infrastructure in those three years were N153 billion and in two weeks before the elections N150 billion was essentially shared.

“So, if your total infrastructure spending is N150 billion and you can share N153 billion, that is completely incredible. That sort of thing doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. And when we are talking about the economy, we must simply understand that that is the problem.

“I must ask again what was wrong with the Nigerian economy and what do we need to do to correct the flaws. There are several issues many of which have already been articulated but I want to talk about what I think is the biggest problem which for some reason we hardly talk about when discussing our national economy.

Osinbajo admitted that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari had not completely dealt with corruption in the country, but he said it had demonstrated enough political will to reverse the situation.

 

History Is Repeating Itself- Wole Soyinka

 

Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka has admitted that history might just be repeating itself on the issue of the Dapchi school girls adoption.

While speaking at a dialogue organized by Ripples Center for Data and Investigative Journalism in Lagos, Soyinka revealed the reaction of former Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan to the abduction of schoolgirls in Chibok during his tenure.

Soyinka said Jonathan told him that the abduction of the schoolgirls was his own business and he should deal with it. He said Jonathan believed the opposition was using the abduction to discredit his government, and it wasn’t until three weeks after the incident that Jonathan acknowledged that over 200 girls had indeed been abducted in Chibok, Borno state.

Soyinka said:

“I reached out to former President Jonathan, and protested, chiding him severely on his reaction over the abduction of the Chibok girls. I said to him; ‘you want to be accepted as a political leader, and you do not even accept as your duty to be there, at the scene of the disaster?’ And I asked him, did you actually utter those words attributed to you?  His response remains a riddle to me till today.”

He continued: “His exact words to me, not easily forgotten I assure you, were ‘Kampala tie niyen,’ meaning that is your own Kampala.”

With history repeating itself in Dapchi where schoolgirls were recently abducted, Soyinka said that rather than visiting the affected areas, Buhari should speak to people’s security needs, and bring perpetrators to book. He said that failure on the part of government has been the reason the country is yet to get over the security challenges.

 

Jonathan Hosts Obasanjo To Private Dinner

Immediate former President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, Patience, are hosting former president Olusegun Obasanjo to a private dinner in their home in Bayelsa State.

It would be recalled that Obasanjo fell out and publicly rebuffed Goodluck Jonathan whilst the latter sought re-election in 2015. Obasanjo’s opposition to Jonathan is considered by political pundits as a contribution to Jonathan’s failure to win the hotly contested elections that ushered in the current President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

Upon arrival to the state, Obasanjo, who was received by the state governor, Seriake Dickson, in company with some top government officials in the state, inaugurated a government specialist hospital in the state and unveiled the Bayelsa Heliport which was renamed after the first military administrator of the defunct Rivers State, Alfred Diete-Spiff.

Obasanja said “20 years ago when I came to Bayelsa for campaign, there was no space to gather people, but today, there is great difference.

“Yes, for full development to take place in Bayelsa, there must be accessibility in terms of transportation, communication and health care delivery.

“I must tell you, for six hours I am here, I have seen something to convince me that Bayelsa is already in transformation stage.

“The health facility here is second to none…

“The foundation of any human mind is education. A leader who does not give his people quality education, will perish with his people.

“The root cause of militancy is lack of education, if you don’t build schools, that means you have to prepare for unstable society.

“The only investment that lasts and that does not need repair is education”.

Jonathan, Do Yourself A Favour: Keep Quiet!

By Akin Fadeyi

Each time we mouth the cliche “our heroes past”, I wonder if we dig enough into the enormity of sacrifices made and how some of those heroes moved against established norms of debauchery for which they paid dearly – the supreme price.

Each time I introspect on the events of the 1970s, I shudder at the brutal murder of General Murtala Ramat Mohammed.

Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman, a historian of repute, in his seminal 1979 book For The Liberation of Nigeria had this to say: “Muritala was casual about his security”. “He distanced himself from imperial grandeur and did not move into the official residence of the Head of State in Dodan Barracks”.

But the one that piqued me most is premised on my discovery that Murtala “came to understand the essential features of Nigerian society especially the public institutions, and acted on this understanding to change them and make them serve the common people”.

Muritala thus constructed a model of contemporary Nigeria and mustered the courage to attempt to change it. General Mohammed established a link between the accumulation of wealth and public service. He was murdered while attempting to break that linkage, having realised that “abuse of public office was central to the chaos, indiscipline, confusion and whole underdevelopment of Nigeria”.

Simply put, AN ATTEMPT TO FIGHT CORRUPTION KILLED MURTALA MOHAMMED.

Muritala wasn’t perfect. He had his issues, ranging from hot temper to risk taking in a bizarrely daring manner. He was tough and described as erratic. But seriously, it is only a positively crazy man that can rule Nigeria. For this I’m at home with these weaknesses, and they cannot blight my admiration of him as a genuine Hero.

Fast forward to our era. I can’t help being bemused each time I hear Goodluck Jonathan say no Nigerian president can match his achievements. Then I’ll check what time of the day it is and wonder if it’s a weed smoking time. What achievements? Achievement of soiled hands? Achievement of looking the other way while the treasury was being looted? Achievement of alleged exploitation of Nigeria’s dire security situation to “clean out” the arms deal budget? There’s no other definition for blood money!

Jonathan is one peculiarly fortunate individual who sprang from obscurity and poverty and leapt into the rare ascendancy of a most coveted office. Despite being a minority, he beat the odds and became president. (Whatever “minority” means in a supposed state with equality).

One would therefore have expected him to practically “kill” himself in pursuit of a well-designed ambitious growth agenda, raise the quality of life of the people, confront corruption, and etch his name in gold. I dare say, he would have won his reelection without rigour. Instead, today, he has not just been sent out office, he’s struggling in defence of a very dark impression that he allegedly helped himself to some of Nigeria’s cookie jars.

Worse still, it’s obvious he fell for the sidekick tricks of his “domestic appendage”, a civil servant who today is shamefully laying claim to multi million dollars without answering the germane question of what manner of business brought such “blessings”.

So why is this man always throwing himself into space to defend such an administration full of heaving and sighing?

If you’re good, you’re good and your work will speak for you. The only thing speaking for the past administration are eye popping tales of unprecedented sleaze. Changing this narrative is a tall order.

Because of the circumstances surrounding our ethnic sensibilities, GEJ is already “granted immunity”. He therefore ought to maintain a stoic silence to earn some respect, not throwing himself in the ring every time to advertise a continuum of sheer chicanery.

GEJ put Nigeria in a quandary. And when the various chapters of the story of “our heroes past” are being written, to deserve a place at all, he will require unheard-of historical benevolence.

Akin Fadeyi is the Convener of the Corruption Not In My Country Project.

Diezani Forced Jonathan To Sack Me- Stella Oduah

Former Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, has accused former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani-Alison Madueke for being the reason ex-President Goodluck Jonathan sacked her.

She made the claim in an upcoming book, ‘On a Platter of Gold: How Jonathan Won and Lost Nigeria’, written by the spokesman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bolaji Abdullahi, who also served under Jonathan.

According to Oduah, Jonathan called her to explain herself after the news about the $1.6million BMW armored cars bought for her by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) was reported.

She revealed that Alison-Madueke and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, were present at the meeting.

“I thought she had my back. I did not know at the time that she was actually fuelling it and orchestrating all the media attacks,” she told Abdullahi.

“I knew all along that Diezani could not deal with having another female around who had the kind of access I had to the president. But she went too far.

“She thought I was the one who leaked the issue of private jet that put her into trouble with the House of Representatives (Diezani was accused of spending N10 billion on chartered jets). For her it was payback time.”

“Diezani was paying people to keep the story alive. At the same time, she was whispering in [the president’s] ears that he had to take action,” Oduah said.

 

 

Goodluck Jonathan Denies Collecting Funds From Controversial Pension Fund

Former President Goodluck Jonathan has said he did not receive any money from the controversial pension fund. He said there was no iota of truth in reports that he was paid N5b monthly from the money.

This was revealed by his media adviser, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, who gave the  explanation in Abuja on Saturday while reacting to a statement credited to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), published in a national newspaper last week.

The chief legal officer of the federation was said to have told a Senate ad-hoc committee that an “ex-president was taking N5bn monthly from the Pension Fund.”

Eze dismissed the claim as “a blatant lie hurriedly cooked up to divert the attention of the general public from the raging ‘Mainagate’ and other embarrassing scandals.”

He added, “We believe that the story was concocted as part of the unfolding grand design (by the Buhari administration) to always dodge responsibility and blame every evil act taking place in the present dispensation on the past (Jonathan) administration.

“In the first place, we do not believe that Malami made such a claim because he is in a position to know that it is simply not true.”

 

APC Congratulates Jonathan At 60

The All Progressives Congress, APC has congratulated former Nigerian President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan on the ocassion of 60th birthday.

Bolaji Abdulahi, the APC’s National Publicity Secretary in a statement described the former leader as a patriotic whose humbleness has contributed to the country’s socio-economic.

The party said Jonathan demonstrated love for the country during the 2015 Presidential election.

The statement reads: “The All Progressives Congress APC warmly congratulates former president, H.E. Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on his 60th birthday.

“We join well-wishers in celebrating a statesman whose life and politics have been defined by patriotism and humility.

“The APC recalls the commendable and exemplary conduct of Dr. Jonathan before and after the 2015 presidential election, which demonstrated his patriotism and love for Nigeria.

The Party urges Dr. Jonathan to remain steadfast to the positive ideals he stands for and continue to support the development of the country. The Party wishes Dr. Jonathan many more happy, healthy and rewarding years of service to the nation”.

Buhari Praises Jonathan As Ex-President Turns 60

President Muhammodu Buhari has joined other well-meaning Nigerians to celebrate his predecessor, Dr Goodluck Jonathan who will turn 60 tomorrow.

In a statement issued by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the president, Mr Femi Adesina praises the celebrant feats of rising from his humble beginning to the topmost post in Nigeria.

The former president who rose from deputy governor of Bayelsa state to become the first citizen in the country ruled for six years as president.

“President Buhari joins members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), professional colleagues, associates of Dr Jonathan, and his family in celebrating the unique history of the Nigerian leader, who within a short period rose from being a Deputy Governor, Governor, Vice President to becoming Nigeria’s President for six years”, Adesina wrote..

“President Buhari believes Dr Jonathan’s foray into politics and ascendency to the highest political office in Nigeria from a humble riverine background testifies to the greatness and inclusiveness of Nigeria’s democracy, and serves as an invitation to all those with interest to add value to the nation.”

“President Buhari prays that the almighty God will bless Dr Jonathan with good health, wisdom and strength to continue serving the country.”

An Afternoon With Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan

By Dele Momodu

In the 2011 Presidential race, President Buhari and I, and many others, lost the elections to Jonathan. It was a baptism of fire. I was somehow happy though that a quintessential minority candidate won that election. However, I became worried when the Jonathan government started floundering and waltzing from one crisis to the other. The fuel subsidy conundrum, for me, was the height of it. I participated in the demonstrations that nearly incapacitated Jonathan in the early days of 2012. Subsequently, I took it upon myself to be an unofficial, unpaid special adviser and consultant to Jonathan on political matters. I wrote copiously on how the government was frittering away its massive goodwill and equity. Of course, the Jonathan supporters did not want to listen and hearken to my sincere opinion and I was endlessly insulted for speaking out my mind.

By 2014, I was just too sure that the Jonathan government was heading for a cataclysmic fall. I wrote an article, ‘In Search of Mathematicians’, in which I analysed that the opposition Party was going to thrash the ruling Party. Again, I was called names my parents did not give me, but it was only a matter of time before my doomsday prophesy came to pass. One of the greatest tragedies of power is how acolytes often mislead the big boss. I have no doubt that Jonathan is a gentleman who meant well for our country but he was surrounded by several malevolent people who capitalised on his plain humility, abject simplicity and imagined weakness to wreak havoc on the nation.

Since then, I have longed to chat with him and ask a few questions about his tenure as President. My previous approaches had been resoundingly rebuffed. Realistically, I did not expect Jonathan to be too comfortable with vociferous members of the opposition like me. But I did not give up.

As fate would have it, I ran into one of our mutual friends, a very significant member of Jonathan’s kitchen cabinet, weeks ago. The man had wondered why I wrote an article predicting the possibility of Jonathan returning to contest the Presidential election in 2019. Most of my readers had said the notion was preposterous and that it was an impossible and unreasonable proposition. The more I watched events unfold the more I felt Jonathan’s second coming was not impossible and unrealisable. His man informed me that his former boss nursed no such ambition and promised to arrange a meeting so I could hear this from the horse’s mouth.

My thesis, though seemingly absurd, is not without reason. Firstly, I do not see the possibility of any Northerner defeating President Buhari in 2019, if he decides to run. Buhari is the most popular personality from the Northern part of Nigeria today. He is, as a matter of unassailable fact, regarded and treated as a cult hero. The North would not want to risk certainty for uncertainty by supporting someone else from outside power. If the PDP chooses to present another Northerner to run against Buhari, the Party would have presented a second term to Buhari on a platter of gold because the South would have nothing to fight for and may present a lukewarm attitude to that election. My view, is that the 2019 Presidential election would be fought principally on the account of ethnicity and religion like most of our previous elections.

Secondly, a Presidential candidate needs to lock down four out of the six geo-political regions in Nigeria. Buhari had always found it tough to do this. On his own, he can boast no more than two regions. Naturally, a strong Southern candidate will give him a run for his money, if he also commands cult followership from his zone. There are few people in this mould and, whether one likes it or not, this includes Jonathan. The Southern candidate would obviously have a decent foray in the North Central and South West zones as well as a few of the battleground States in the North West and North East. Buhari has always found it difficult to replicate a similar decent incursion into the Southern axis apart from the South West.

Thirdly, age and health will be substantial factors in 2019. Buhari would be 76 and has been very ill in the recent past though, thankfully, he is much better now. Jonathan, like most of the other strong Southern candidates, will be under 65 and seems virile. He is one of the few who can draw on his experience and achievement to offer comparative analysis to Buhari, project for project.

It was with this mind-set that I approached former President Jonathan two days ago after he personally phoned to reconfirm our appointment for that day. I was deeply humbled by this simple gesture. By the time I meandered my way to his understated but elegant office, I didn’t know what to actually expect from him. He had some visitors from the Bible Society of Nigeria who had come to present him with the biggest Bible I ever saw, written in five languages English, Hausa, Yoruba, Ibo and Efik, all in one holy book. He asked me to give him a few minutes to attend to these visitors and I gladly obliged.. When they left, I was ushered into his personal office. The first thing he said was, “Dele, I must thank you for your level of professionalism. I read your column regularly and must commend your maturity and objectivity. Even when I disagree with you, I still enjoy your style.” “Thank you, sir…” I replied. He was ostensibly excited about the visit from the Bible Society of Nigeria and showed me the massive wooden book that was jealously protected in a beautiful casket. He then lectured me (once a lecturer always a lecturer) on the history of the Holy Bible in Nigeria. That done, we settled down to serious discussions.

I was thinking of how to proceed with the conversation. I decided to start by telling him my mission. I just don’t want to write abstract articles anymore. I want to use the incredible access God has given me to virtually everyone, low or high, to set a roadmap for our dear beloved country. It is my duty to give my readers authoritative information as much as possible. I’ve taken it upon myself to go behind and beyond the regular news to educate and entertain my passionate followers.

I started with harmless, innocuous and easy questions. How has he been coping outside power? He said he was fine because he never expected to be in government forever. He was particularly proud that he left power without any bloodshed. He appreciates the intervention of very influential and well-meaning people who brokered the democratic initiative. He feels good and at peace with himself for honouring his word and his bond.

Does he feel harassed by the Buhari government? He said he expected some of the unfolding events since the government came into being on the platform of anti-corruption mantra. “You do not abandon a winning formula easily…” He said he accepts his foibles and weaknesses and has learnt very useful lessons from those shortcomings. “But we did very well on the whole…” he insisted.. I was touched by his candour. He believed that if he had won his second term in 2015, he would have consolidated on the gains of that “imperfect” first term. But that did not happen. He says his love for Nigeria would never make him wish failure for Buhari or any other future government. “I have had the rare opportunity of leading our country at very critical moments and did my best. I’ve left the rest to posterity to judge,” he said matter-of-factly.

Now to the delicate terrain. “Sir, will you run in 2019?” I fired the shot from the hip. I’m not sure he anticipated this important question at the time it came. “Contest again? No. People come to me every day saying they want me back. I’m always moved to tears whenever I go out and see the huge crowds shouting GEJ, we want you, even in the North. Instead of getting swollen headed, I actually reflect on my achievements and mistakes and feel humbled and feel very sober… I have never been a man of inordinate ambition. I’m a man of very modest means. I hardly travel because of the logistical costs. I’ve played my part and I have moved on.”

“What if your party decides to invite you again?’ I probed deeper. “Are you not aware that our Party has zoned the Presidency to the North, and the Chairmanship to the South?” he queried. I gave him my permutations but he insisted that the two major Parties are highly inclined to produce candidates from the North. “Even Fayose that has declared his interest may face big challenges because of the decision of our party…” he opined.

“So there is no way you can ever contest again?” I fired again and he returned the fire instantaneously, “I’m not God but I sincerely doubt the possibility…” he said with finality. I dropped the subject as it was not my intention to put him on the spot, like that.

“How will you rate the Buhari government so far?” another tricky question, I felt. “What do you think Dele?… You are their friend…” I kept mute “Honestly speaking, they have tried in the area of security and fighting corruption, even if they’ve tilted more towards us… But we did a lot in our time in the area of agriculture, transport, managing the economy, rule of law, free and fair elections… Only Nigerians can judge… It won’t be fair of me to pass verdict so soon on my immediate successor… I knew they would hit brick-walls on some of their promises, especially the school feeding program and the payment of N5,000 to unemployed graduates… We worked on feasibility studies on them in the past and realised Nigeria could not afford it… It is always the job of opposition to over-promise but reality of governance is always different…”, he said, animatedly.

I could see and feel this was his forte. He spoke confidently and eloquently about the art and science of governance. He said the figures are still fresh in his memories. I decided to digress again. What does he think about Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s chances. “He can’t get the APC ticket. If Atiku gets our party ticket, he would compete well. He’s always a passionate politician. But he would have to reach out to our boss, Baba OBJ, the boss of all bosses. We’ve all learnt at different times that you ignore OBJ at your own peril. OBJ has the magic wand, respected at home and abroad…” speaking like a penitent student. Experience, they say, is the best teacher.

If PDP picks a Northern candidate, where does he expect the running mate to come from, I asked. “Strategically, since Professor Osinbajo is already running with Buhari, the South South and South East, remain the most fertile grounds. And there are many brilliant people there waiting for the chance. The Governors control some of the richest states in Nigeria except Lagos…” he posited.

With time far gone, I requested for some pictures with him. He accepted with his usual equanimity. I invited my protégé, Mr Ohimai Godwin Amaize, aka Mr Fix Nigeria, who was a prominent member of the PDP Youth Wing, who was really elated to meet Jonathan again, to do the honours. We took several pictures.

As we exchanged goodbyes, I looked back at President Jonathan and wondered what fate might have in store for him in the future.