By Sufyan Abbas Mohammed
For about two years since he left office, former President Goodluck Jonathan had deliberately avoided public comments on domestic issues; concentrating instead on his international assignments. This usually involved international speaking engagements as well as travelling the world to receive various awards, over his exemplary roles in deepening democracy in Africa.
In one of such engagements following constant prompting, he had to explain to the international media that his reason for avoiding passing comments on development in Nigeria was to allow the succeeding administration the opportunity to concentrate on delivering on its mandate, without distraction.
And, true to his words, despite all the attacks and charges of impropriety against his administration, Jonathan had refrained from either making public statements or directly engaging the Government of the day.
However, the imperative of solving the ending crisis in his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) may have finally brought the ex-President to call an end to his self-imposed political hibernation.
In the past two weeks Jonathan has been involved in shuttle diplomacy, trying to reconcile all the dissenting and conflicting interests in the PDP, especially concerning the two factions laying claims to the leadership of the party.
The respect the former President commands within the ranks of the party became evident in the gusto with which all the factions began to troop to his house, as though they have been waiting for his intervention.
And like magic, his mediation began to yield results as a glimmer of hope now rules in the firmament of a hitherto hopeless situation. In a matter of days, Jonathan became a rallying point for the two factional leaders, the Governors, Forum of former Ministers, Board of Trustees and all the relevant organs of the party, that hitherto never saw eye to eye.
Following his recent meeting with the governors the party has not only announced the option of a political solution, against the ongoing debilitating litigation process that is yet to yield agreeable results, but has already in pursuit of the option
The bid to hold a national convention in June is obviously an outcome of the ongoing consultations led by the ex-President.
However, if Jonathan’s intervention has boosted hope in the future of his party, it may also be right to say that it has increased the intensity of the plot against him by his perceived detractors.
So far, many recent negative stories and actions against the former President are being interpreted by his supporters as part of the design to discredit the ongoing peace process by drowning the positive vibes already generated by his interventions.
So distasteful have the negative stories in circulation being passed off as the outcome of his consultations with PDP stakeholders been, that the ex-President has many times being forced to debunk them through his media adviser, Mr IKechukwu Eze.
Also some of his supporters have protested what they see as a renewed onslaught against his close associates in the name of anti-corruption probe. The most recent of such cases was the storming of the country home of Jonathan’s loyalist and PDP youth leader, Mr. George Turnah in Kolo Creek, a community that is just next door to Otuoke, the country home of former President in Bayelsa State.
The latest of this augury which is making many PDP members conclude that some powerful people in the society, especially members of the APC-led Government are out to thwart the PDP peace move can be seen in the developments around a recent publication in the Guardian of London alleging that the ex-President Jonathan rejected an offer by the British Government to rescue the kidnapped Chibok school girls.
Their conviction is coming from the fact that Jonathan’s denial of the claim immediately elicited a reaction from the Federal Government through the Information Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed who quickly dismissed his rebuttal as “unnecessary distraction” and asked the former President to stop finger-pointing.
In a statement issued in Abuja Mohammed seemed to have celebrated the claim in the UK paper in the following words: “Two-and-a-half years after that statement, we have been vindicated by the report that claimed President Jonathan rebuffed an attempt by the British government to help rescue the girls.”
A PDP stalwart Mr Tony Ugwuoye who saw this as an affront wondered why the Federal Government would promote an unconfirmed foreign newspaper report against the words of a former President, even without any investigation.
Ugwuoye concluded that if the party had any doubt about the involvement of the ruling party in the travails of PDP, Lai Mohammed’s statement erased completely that doubt, stressing that the Information Minister threw away patriotism when he mindlessly defended a foreign newspaper against a former President of Nigeria.
He said: “It appears the Minister of Information Lai Mohammed gets his kick from jumping at every opportunity, no matter how unpatriotic, to launch a broadside on the administration of former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Or how else can one explain the fact that the ex President’s denial of a claim by United Kingdom-based newspaper which accused his Government of turning down an offer to rescue the Chibok girls and admonition to always verify their reports, would, in the words of Mohammed, amount to an “unnecessary distraction.”
Ugwuoye said further: “It will be recalled that Jonathan’s Media aide Mr. Ikechukwu Eze had dismissed the claim by the London Observer as false, insisting that Jonathan invited and collaborated fully with the major powers who deployed their intelligence officers to work with Nigeria’s security operatives, and those of her neighbours, in the bid to rescue the abducted school girls. In the statement, Eze had accused the UK newspaper of playing politics with the matter by ‘unfairly promoting their own pride, against our own national interest.’
“It is therefore surprising that Nigeria’s information minister would against good conscience, eagerly rise in defense of a foreign newspaper over an unsubstantiated report that put his own country in bad light, even without the benefit of diligent investigation.
Except that concerned official is idle, it is obvious that the least expected of a committed high ranking government official is to focus on the genuine concerns of fellow country men over increasing hardship in the land, rather than act like a meddlesome interloper, on matters extraneous to his work.
“It is only a confused head of a nation’s dysfunctional communication architecture that will continue on a path of unimpressive propaganda, even after Nigerians has justifiably dubbed him a ‘serial liar.’
Towing this line, an online newspaper, EveryDay.ng described the Information Minister’s comments as inexplicable, stressing that “Mohammed ‘s statement smacked of a busybody attitude and a guilty conscience to have gotten involved in a matter in which Jonathan was careful not to mention names.”
It is instructive that the British High Commission in Abuja has debunked the report by the London-based newspaper, which accused the government of President Goodluck Jonathan rejecting the offer by the British Royal Armed Force (RAF) to help rescue over 200 Chibok schoolgirls, when they were kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014. ThisDay reported Wednesday that in response to inquiries by its sister broadcast station, Arise News Network, the British High Commission in Abuja on Tuesday dismissed the allegation as “false”.
Speaking on this development, a public affairs analyst, Collins Ugu, urged Lai Mohammed to be more patriotic and show more circumspection in the conduct of government affairs, adding that the era of “endless propaganda, blackmail and grandstanding should have been over for him, especially since he quit the position of speaking for a political party after the 2015 campaigns.”