Jonathan at 60: A Statesman’s Quiet Entry into the Diamond Pantheon

Former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, marks his 60th birthday this
week.  Many other politicians, especially those of his soar-away
status, would otherwise seek to bring down the sky, to loudly let the
whole world know they have entered the Diamond pantheon.
But in his characteristic modesty and exceptional self-effacing
disposition, ex-President Jonathan had resisted all entreaties to mark
this important milestone, in a formal ceremony. Quiet commemoration
had always been his style until a successful foray in politics and
national leadership peeled off his cover, like the proverbial gold
fish.
On November 20, the very day of his Diamond Jubilee, Goodluck Jonathan
will be in his country home in the sleepy idyllic ambience of Otuoke,
his village, in the wetlands of Bayelsa State, surrounded only by
family members. There might also be a handful of close friends and
well wishers who may personally call to offer their felicitations and
prayers. But that is as far as it will go, as there will be no formal
dinners, banquets or spectacle linked to this event.
For him, the quiet time with family on this occasion, will also serve
as a welcome break from the grind of an unending run of international
engagements, as the world continues to seek his attention. For
instance, in a time span of about a month, beginning from September
this year, ex-President Jonathan had had a busy run, beginning from
Malaysia where he delivered a keynote address at a World Peace Summit,
and Greece where he served as a key panelist and main media attraction
at the 2017 Rhodes Forum Dialogue of Civilisations; to South Africa
where he moderated the main session at an education conference that
brought together many former African heads of Government. Two weeks
ago, Jonathan was just getting ready to travel to Liberia as head of
the National Democratic Institute Election Observer Mission to the
Presidential run-off when the supreme court of Liberia suspended the
process.
There is no doubt that ex-President Jonathan is being courted and
serenaded like an A-list celebrity by the rest of the World,
ostensibly because of his great achievements and deep democracy
footprints while in office, even if the story is different at home. If
some Biblical verses equate the former President’s post office
experience, they have to be those sections that dwell on how a prophet
is without regard at home, and how the world did not understand the
mission of Christ until they hung Him on the Cross.
Since Jonathan left office on May 29, 2015, he has remained a hot item
on the global invitation list, winning numerous awards, performing
electoral duties and speaking at several high profile international
events. It appears an appreciative world can’t get enough of his aura
and attractive narrative; that of people-centred governance and
politics without bitterness; both rare commodities in African
corridors of power.
No matter how some people may view his time as President, the truth is
that the Nigerian political space may not remain the same for a very
long time after the tenure of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Dr. Jonathan at
60 casts on the public space a bright ray of light that illuminates
the dark recesses of the nation’s dirty and divisive politicking. It
is an account of the life of a man who has been there, seen it all and
done it all, and at the end of the day, gave it all up for the good of
the country.
The former President is by all accounts, a child of destiny. This is
because at 60, Jonathan’s leadership experience, political trajectory
and record of achievements, uniquely surpasses that of any other
political actor in Nigeria. He had uniquely been Deputy Governor,
Acting Governor, Governor, Vice President, Acting President and
President. Amazingly, he wears no air of self-importance around him,
despite his astounding and exceptional political odyssey. Goodluck
Jonathan has remained enigmatically human and humble.
There is no doubt that Jonathan emerged from the crucible of Nigeria’s
leadership pressure-cooker a better and stronger man. In his wake, he
left a united and peaceful country. Under his watch Nigerians remained
happy, proud, united and prosperous, at least up to the time he left
office.
After his record-breaking stint in governance and massive
infrastructural development across the country, Jonathan’s engaging
days in the Nigerian political space did not only positively impact
the nation but also changed the narratives of politics in Africa.
He remains today the most adored and recognizable face of all the
living African statesman; not just because of his exceptional
accomplishments and the ease with which he gave up power, but also as
a result of his rare candour and selflessness.
Today, without equivocation, he is seen all over Africa as the apostle
of free and fair elections; the one who stripped a continent of that
unprogressive affliction of a long-existing sit-tight syndrome. Even
his traducers admit that it is a rare privilege for a past
Commander-in- Chief and President of Nigeria, a nation hitherto
reputed for flawed elections, to easily emerge as the toast of the
international community, especially in the area of democracy and
electoral reforms in Africa.
Never in the history of party politics in Nigeria had a level playing
field been created, by the main actors in a race in which they were
involved. Ex-President Jonathan did that effortlessly by reforming the
electoral system and ensuring that only those with proven competence
served in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
I had pointed out in another piece that those who make light of
Jonathan’s historic telephone call to concede the 2015 presidential
election to his rival, President Muhammadu Buhari, even while the
votes were still been counted, fail to realise the import of that
gesture, in a clime where the roots of democracy are still very
fragile. That conclusion, in my view and in the estimation of majority
of Nigerians, remains the truth. President Muhammadu Buhari himself
could not hide his joy when this happened. In one of his numerous
commendations of Jonathan’s rare gesture, he said: “What I will say is
since the telephone call you made you have changed the course of
Nigeria’s political history. For that you have earned yourself a place
in our history, for stabilising this system of multi party democracy
system and you have earned the respect of not only Nigerians but world
leaders.”
Early this month, United Nations had commended Jonathan for the
electoral reforms he initiated during his tenure, and for his good
works towards promoting peace and stability in Africa.
Ambassador Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the United Nations Special
Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa who lead the
UN delegation to solicit the former President’s support for the world
body’s peace effort across Africa, also prayed that “the institutions
Jonathan built and the high standards he established in organising
credible and peaceful elections are maintained and sustained in
Nigeria.”
Two years ago, just before Tanzania’s presidential election, The
Guardian of Lusaka wrote a perceptive editorial, advising local
politicians not to go below the standards already set by Jonathan. It
said: “Jonathan’s voluntary handover of power to the opposition wrote
a new chapter for Nigeria’s democracy, given the fact that it is rare
for sitting presidents in Africa to hand over power to winning
opposition parties.
 “It must be said that Jonathan rewrote the narrative of Africa’s
leadership struggles by selflessly handing over power to the
opposition, despite obvious reasons for contestations, a road if taken
would have not only prolonged the transition process, but would have
also heightened the tension in the land.”
We must not lose sight of the essence of the foundation of our peace
today and the new model of patriotism which Jonathan symbolises.
Nigeria must consolidate and imbibe this rare spirit of selflessness,
tolerance and the love for a country, if our country is to make
meaningful progress.
Jonathan emerged from the obscure village of Otuoke and beat all odds
to become the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If
anything, this shows the smile of the Almighty over a man is no
respecter of tribe, background, time and space.
 At 60, Jonathan’s life symbolizes the Nigerian dream. The echoes of
the now iconic aphorism “My ambition is not worth the blood of any
Nigerian”, backed by a rare courage in statesmanship; has become the
clarion call for responsible citizenship and patriotism. That is the
foundation that has made Jonathan a reference point for democracy and
good governance; it is his legacy that will outlive all of us that
witnessed this change.
More importantly, as he marks his birthday and the world continue to
celebrates his legacies in style, it is expected that his example will
stir up new passions amongst the younger generation; that a life of
true sacrifice for the cause of the nation is worth it after all.
As the former President devotes his time and post-presidential life to
inspiring more co-operation and commitment towards improving our
societies, and making a change in the lives of the ordinary people in
our various countries, through the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, there
are obvious signs that forces out to extinguish the touch he lit, are
at work. However, in the face of extreme provocation, he has remained
incredibly calm and unfazed.
Despite the desperate efforts that feed into the plot to put the
former President and his former appointees under unnecessary pressure,
there is no doubt that history will be kind to him for all he has done
to uplift the status of his country and people.
*Mr. Eze is media adviser to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, President, Federal
Republic of Nigeria (2010-2015)

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