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Published On: Thu, Oct 10th, 2019

Jonathan: Sinner or saint?

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THURSDAY Column with Mohammed Adamu

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That the Jonathan government “was decadently corrupt” I said when I wrote ‘Jonathan: A Good Riddance’, “is not to be debated any longer. Nor should it be debated that virtually every one in that government had helped themselves scandalously to the public till. What continues to be denied though is that Jonathan himself, on whose desk the buck should have stopped, had a hand in that filthy bazaar; or that in the very unlikely event that he did not, at the very least he should have remorsefully borne responsibility for the humongous theft (and misgovernance) that happened under his permissive -or should we say negligent?- watch. Pro-Jonathans still insist that although his government was filthy-corrupt and ‘ineffectual’, Jonathan himself was un-sullied by the torrents of sordid feces which had bathed it, and that he bears no responsibility for all its policy misadventures. And Jonathan himself is so emboldened by this brazen, unscrupulous defense from his army of blind supporters, he has become himself a broken record of Musician, Shaggy’s lyric of intransigent self-defense: and so to every allegation of corruption, maladministration or policy miscalculation under his regime, he now sings like a broken record ‘It wasn’t me’.
….the ‘buck’ never stopped on one table under Jonathan. In fact the irony of it was that the ‘buck’ stopped on all ‘desks’ except President Jonathan’s. Jonathan was the only President we had who saw no evil, heard no evil and had virtually authorized no evil. He was a ‘saint’! Every evil done under Jonathan hadn’t his imprimatur: they stole from the arms vote, and he sang ‘it wasn’t me’; from the NNPC, ‘it wasn’t me’; from the CBN, ‘it wasn’t me’; Every humongous, mind-numbing heist pulled under the Jonathan PDP administration was by ‘others’ unbeknownst to President Jonathan himself. He did not approve money, yet money somehow was released; he did not authorize spending, yet money somehow was spent; he did not share money, yet ‘sharing’ of money somehow seemed about the only event that had taken place all through his six-year administration. But you dare not question ‘Saint Jonathan’! This week, as Jonathan appear to lock horns with former U.K. PM, Cameron, I revisit a piece titled ‘The Jonathan That We Created’, comparing him with a ‘sinner-saint’ from Russia’s pre-communist past, Rasputing.

Baring some minor spiritual and temporal dissimilarities, Jonathan is almost our own version of Russia’s Grigory Yefimovich Rasputin, the 18th century semi-literate peasant-divine –referred to as the ‘sinner-saint’- with a mystic of outward ‘spirituality’ concealing a lecherous, influence-peddling personality that was to put Russia on the brink of disaster. Rasputin was the self-proclaimed ‘holy man’ from the outskirt of cold Siberia with an inexplicable ‘spiritual sleight of hand’ that earned him the friendship of ‘Russia’s last imperial family of the Romanovs –a relationship that wrecked the dynasty’s prestige and set the stage for the Russian Revolution of 1917. Reputed for having healing powers but also notorious for ‘scandalous sexual exploits’, Rasputin came from a little-known Pokrovskoye village to Saint Petersburg in 1903 as a ‘humble pilgrim by rail’, and would in no time owe his acclaim as a ‘divine’ to the ‘fad for spiritualism, exoticism and popular religion’ prevalent in Russia at that time’. Although not ordained, Rasputin enjoyed the favors of prominent members of Russia’s orthodox church, -not because they believed he was truly ‘divine’ but because his spiritual influence over the king could benefit the Church.
They said that Rasputin embodied the simple peasant faith in the Russian monarchy –even at a time of uprising against it- and that the Emperor saw this ‘faith’ as ‘chief support of his dynasty and the main justification of his role as autocrat and protector of his people’. Moreover Rasputin seemed ‘uniquely able to alleviate the incurable illness of the Emperor’s heir-son, and on occasion they said had even ‘intervened ‘miraculously’ to end dangerous attacks of bleeding ’. Just as, in randy moments of eminent lust too, Rasputin was also uniquely able to take down –in addition to the Empress herself- St. Petersburg’s high society ladies without the prying eye of the public. It was in this uncanny ability to effectively enchant the spiritual and the temporal or to beguile the sacred and the profane, that Rasputin earned himself the disreputable nickname ‘sinner-saint’ and the alias ‘the saint who sinned’. A two-faced Rasputin was able to hold his own by exuding the divine to con the spiritually gullible and by radiating the libidinous to sway the amorously flirtatious. The Seventies’ pop group, ‘Boney M’ did an allegorical number on him as ‘lover of the Russian Queen’ with a chorus describing him as teaching ‘the Bible like a preacher, full of ecstasy and fire’; but that he was also a kind of ‘wheeler-dealer many men reviled’.

Rasputin was not any more endowed materially or any more sinning, spiritually, than a ‘shoeless’ Jonathan who came also from a little known Otuoke village in Bayelsa State, -a humble peasant-pilgrim of the democratic search for ‘greener pasture’. He rode almost effortlessly on the crest of the humility of his person and the privation of his simple, modest background, to secure the sympathy of an ethno-religiously sentimental electorate and to gain political power, by which he would lay Nigeria bare as booty of war for the aggrandizement of partisan and patriarchal kinfolks. Although unlike Rasputin, Jonathan is enviably literate with even a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) to boot, his often vacuous demeanor and clueless approach to matters of state and politics, had put him less than a semiliterate Rasputin who, contrarily, in the art in which he had excelled, namely spiritual manipulation, knew his onions with the gumption of a professional con artist. But Jonathan, rather than being a master political chef who should have known his ‘onions’ well, ironically was himself an ‘ineffectual’, terribly exploited ‘onion’ by the crooked cooks of his political party, the PDP, to garnish their steak. Reason Jonathan was compared to one of history’s human relic, Nero, who had fiddled at Anthium, while Rome itself burned.
But our Jonathan was a different kind of ‘peasant-divine’. Unlike Rasputin he did not seek power. He had it thrust on him by those who claimed his candidacy was ‘divine’. Jonathan did not have the mystic, let alone the cabalistic comportment of Rasputin. He did not possess Rasputin’s obtrusive surefootedness in the con-art of easily passing off as ‘holy’ or ‘divine’; but Jonathan’s self-effacing reticence, his near nervous introversion, garnished with a timorousness that can pass for the meekness of a lamb, all combined to give him a Rasputin aura even if without the street-wiseness of Rasputin. And all these were defended by his supporters as the leap of the ‘Jonathan innocence’ –a virtue which they said even he had no control over. In the days of his Acting, up to the early period of his, Presidency, Jonathan was still an innocent tail wagged by this medley of uninspiring attributes; until the hawks and the hyenas of his party began to discover the silver lining in his style of profligate –should we say father Christmas?- attitude to governance.
When every covetous knee in PDP began to bow before Jonathan’s imprudent munificence, and when every greedy mouth began to eulogize the ‘heroics’ of an underperforming Jonathan, it was then that the man lost his rustic, Otuoke innocence, gaining in its place the manipulative Rasputin character of an outwardly-benevolent ‘divine’ but who was always in pursuit of the politically devious. It was at this point that we began to see a Machiavelic Jonathan, now adept at saying one thing but meaning entirely another: Like his ambition ‘not worth anyone’s blood’, although he was mum while his kinsmen threatened violence unless he was elected; like his advocacy for ‘free and fair election’ while his PDP was perfecting plans to cheat; like his so called preachment for inter-ethnic respect while his wife was busy insulting northerners; like his sing-song over ‘internal party democracy’, while he was blackmailing PDP governors to make him candidate; like his sermonizing about ‘electoral merit’, while having his Ijaw ethnic champions and religious foot soldiers drive his campaigns on the altars of the ‘divine’; like his admitting to America’s Sanders (in WikkiLeaks) that the North’s agitation for zoning was legitimate, but then going to Canada to call pro-zoning northerners “tribalists afraid of competition”; and like his Ijaw militant group, MEND publicly claiming responsibility for Abuja’s independence day bomb blast, and Jonathan blatantly pointing accusing fingers at the North!

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