I read with utter disbelief, the recent comments credited to the new Ohaneze President-General, Chief Nnia Nwodo impugning the character of the immediate past-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR.
As an experienced politician and a man with an analytical mind, Chief Nwodo is expected to examine any subject of public interest critically before making comments. This is particularly pertinent when he speaks as the leader of the Pan-Igbo body, Ohaneze as his comments will be assumed to reflect the sentiments of the Igbos.
In Vanguard newspaper of February 12, 2017, Chief Nwodo said that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was not sincere – pointing to the Second Niger Bridge, Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway and Enugu-Makurdi Road as proof.
If he were the former President, how would he feel about such unsavoury comments? With his comments, Chief Nwodo shot an invisible, poisoned arrow at a Head of State under whose tenure the Igbos have had the best deal in post-civil war Nigeria. The facts are as clear as crystal.
Chief Nnia Nwodo and his likes should ponder these questions, among others: From the 1970s to the advent of the Jonathan administration, how many Igbos held strategic positions in the Federal Government? How many times did other past-Presidents and Heads of State of Nigeria visit the South-East geo-political zone, and with definite commitments? How many past-Heads of State accorded due protocols to such Igbo Elder Statesmen as Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu and Dr. Alex Ekwueme with a son’s reverential love for the father?
It goes without saying that it was President Goodluck Jonathan that restored the identity of the Igbos in the Nigerian Polity and Society. It was under Dr. Jonathan that Igbos for the first time since the civil war became service chiefs, namely: Inspector-General of Police, Chief of Army Staff and Comptroller-General of Immigration. Do we have such short memories to forget that under President Jonathan, Igbos were afforded the opportunities to serve as Ministers of Power and Finance; heads of AMCON, Securities & Exchange Commission, the Stock Exchange, among a number of other strategic positions? What is empowerment in the Nigerian Polity if not through such appointments? How does the current status of Igbos compare to the Jonathan era?
The Second Niger Bridge is one of the greatest legacies of the Jonathan administration, and for good reasons. In the first instance, it was President Jonathan that summoned the political will to get the project into the national scheme of things. His administration conceived the project, flagged it off and paid the initial N10 billion for work to commence in earnest. He was committed to completing the project, but could not for the simple reason that he lost the 2015 election, which he conceded with commendable grace and statesmanship. Even as Chief Nwodo chose to vilify Dr. Jonathan, it is indeed remarkable that his successor considered the project a worthy investment to pursue and conclude; and the ball is now in that court.
As the President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was close to the Igbos – as he was to other geo-political zones. Under him, quite a number of enterprising Igbos were afforded platforms to explore and express their talents and competencies. A case in point is his timely intervention in Innoson Motors’ spat with the Nigerian Customs case – compelling the ill-advised Customs to reimburse the entrepreneur all he lost from their high-handedness. Alas, such is human nature that some of the beneficiaries of Dr. Jonathan’s administration have joined in vilifying him after he left office. Thankfully, people of integrity like Innoson Motors still acknowledge the active support that the administration provided to indigenous entrepreneurship.
As the President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR would not hear about the Second Niger Bridge or even upgrading the Akanu Ibiam Airport, Enugu to an international gateway. However, as the Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu revealed, while Chief Obasanjo thought the upgrade of Akanu Ibiam airport rather senseless, President Jonathan gave approval for that strategic international gateway to the South-East. The same Dr. Jonathan started the International Terminal of the airport, which is now completed.
Regular commuters and transporters would concede that President Goodluck Jonathan invested substantial work on the roads mentioned by Chief Nnia Nwodo. As has become the albatross of public projects, some influential leaders of the Senate from the East appropriated most of the funds voted for the reconstruction of dual carriage roads in the East and diverted it to the building of the roads to their villages. This is a matter for another day.
Through his gestures to Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, President Goodluck Jonathan boosted the dignity of the Igbos and their sense of belonging. While alive, Dim Ojukwu was visited thrice in his Enugu residence by President Jonathan. When he fell ill, the President sent a representative to see him in hospital in London, even as the Nigerian High Commission paid almost a daily visit to him there. Has any other Head of State of Nigeria done such for us?
At his burial, Dim Ojukwu was accorded full military honours as a General — with Generals as Pall Bearers. Indeed, President Jonathan had to travel through the regular Airport wing, because the Presidential Wing was used to receive the remains of Ojukwu.
Beyond the Igbos, President Goodluck Jonathan did a lot to unite the South-East and South-South geo-political zones. Today, the pronouncements of authentic leaders from those zones demonstrate the depth of unity and cordiality among them. We should consolidate on the unity, acknowledge the role of Dr. Jonathan and reject efforts to degrade him.
Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is a source of pride to Nigerians and will surely live to become one of the greatest African leaders. The future holds pre-eminence for him. His traducers, like Chief Obasanjo, know this, but their malicious machinations to demean him will end in futility.
Jonathan is our own and we must guard him jealously. Rather than join in diminishing him, Ohaneze leadership should try and consolidate the new vistas of relationship his Presidency engendered between the South-East and South-South.
Akuchukwu is a post-graduate student of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.