Book: The Essential Goodluck Jonathan

The Essential Goodluck Jonathan

Author:  Femi Ajayi 

Book Reviewer: Okezie O. Nwankwo 

I AM highly delighted to be called upon to review this all important book to commemorate the birthday of my boss, my mentor, my leader, my president and the pride of Africa – Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan. In the academic world book reviews entails three critical aspects. One, is a deconstruction of the main theory, assumptions, views and conceptions. In this case, a deconstruction of the Ajayian theory of The Essential Goodluck Jonathan. Two, is a reconstruction or reappraisal of the theory and conceptions. And three, is a commendation and recommendation of the book. In other words, these three stages encompasses the content, style and merit of the book.

But you all will agree with me that this audience contains more of administrators and technocrats rather than the academia. So I will be looking at the book from an administrative and technocratic point of view rather than an academic cum theoretical perspective. So, from now on, I will be speaking more as an administrator/technocrat rather than an academician. However, this does not mean that I will not bring my scholarly background to bear on the book as the case may be.

Well, let us proceed straight into the book review proper. Your Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen. The Book, The Essential Goodluck Jonathan authored by Otunba Femi Ajayi, is divided into segments spanning 72 pages. It begins with an Introduction where the author highlighted what he referred as a bold, if you like an audacious attempt at a personality profile of a simple but multi-dimensional person who has become a puzzling riddle and enigmatic character in Nigeria’s social space and political stage. The book is a passionate but critical and indepth analysis of the person, passion, mission, vision, politics, policies, principles and philosophy of the man and the leader Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. The book seeks to unmask, understand, explain and project the essence of the real GEJ. Rather than a dated historical biography, this is a timeless personality analysis of Dr. GEJ based on his expressed visions and stated missions. It is a window into his thoughts, sayings and deeds; his ideas about critical issues and situations and his candid views and opinions on specific subjects of human interest. The author believes that the true essence of a person is reflected and deducible from his ideas and ideals, his visions and missions, philosophy of life, thoughts, words, actions, deeds, principles, beliefs and religious inclination. The essence is also manifested in his passions, love for humanity and country, spirituality and spiritual disposition. It was against this background that the book presents the essence of Dr. GEJ, the man, the leader, the pacific politician, the environment activist and development practitioner to the reader, the audience and the public through his (Jonathan’s) expressed and demonstrated personality, philosophy, world-view, policies, politics, pronouncements, precepts, psychology, programmes, projects and practices.

In the second segment, the author gives the book a Theoretical Foundation arguing from the existentialists and essentialists philosophers who posited why man exists and the true essence of man and posed a question to the reader, who gets the credit or blame for Goodluck Jonathan’s widely acknowledged values? Is it his creator, God who gave him his nature (essence) which inevitably defines and determines all his actions according to the essentialist philosophers? Or is it Goodluck Jonathan himself who upon his existence created his own values and gave meaning to his life as posited by the existentialists? However, notwithstanding the philosophical polemics, the book, The Essential Goodluck Jonathan is an amalgam of the personality traits, psychological disposition and principles of the man GEJ.

The third segment looks at Goodluck: Much More Than Good Fortune. Here, the author posits that there is no denying the fact that Dr. GEJ has become an enigma that all manners of political watchers have been trying to unravel. A political phenomenon that all sorts or categories of analysts (be it professional or amateur) are attempting to deconstruct. Like it is with all enigmatic phenomenon, the products of such analyses have ranged between the banal, the simplistic and the sublime. While most of those analyses have been downright mundane, subjective, sentimental and largely based on impressionistic observations, only a few have been nearly objective or based on empirical evidence. Central to most of the stories on GJ (the man and the leader) is the place of destiny and providence in his meteoric rise to political stardom and the highest political office in the most populated black nation in the world. Like it happens with all difficult-to-understand phenomenon, there are several fables and old wives’ tales on parade. But the GEJ that the author knows, not the one in the fertile imagination of ideologues of unmerited favour, is a divinely-rewarded honest, hard-working and dedicated person. While not denying the touch of providence and the hands of destiny on his life, the book seeks to demonstrate the limits (fallacy) of the unmerited favour theory. It is to show that while this gentle giant might be favoured by benevolent spirits, he has been doing many things right to encourage God to continue to propel him forward and upward the ladder of success. It is therefore important for us to realise that no matter our God-given talents, situations in life or circumstances of birth, what we become in life at the end of the day is largely an outcome of the result-oriented choices we make daily. Good luck may have aided him and contributed to his getting to the top, yet he needed and employed hard work, dedication, good values and great virtues to stay there. The sages agree that in every successful undertaking, there is a part of humanity just as there is a crucial part for divinity. It was good fortune that made Goodluck, the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State but he needed more than mother luck to survive the muddy, murky and difficult political terrain in Bayelsa. It is on record that Dr. Jonathan deployed his quiet diplomacy, mediatory skills and conciliation acumen to stabilise the conflict-prone and crisis-ridden communities of Bayelsa to promote lasting peace. Despite all the marginalisations, deprivations and provocations he was exposed to as a deputy governor in Bayelsa, his legendary patience, uncommon perseverance, dovelike disposition, meekness, even-handedness and level-headedness most probably endeared him to both God and man and thus ensured that he laughed last. It was not sheer good luck that made him survive as Vice President during the cabal-driven and hijacked presidency of the then sick President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua (May his gentle soul rest in peace). From being Executive Governor of Bayelsa (one of the richest states in Nigeria), Goodluck became a Vice President without any budget of his own under the guise of one presidency. He was given great responsibility without commensurate power or resources. He could not dispense any political patronage. He stoically endured the contempt, oppression, relegation, intimidation, provocation and disempowerment by the Turks that hijacked the Yar’adua Presidency.

The fourth segment of the book looks at the New Genre of Politics introduced by Dr. GEJ. Here, the author posits that Dr. Jonathan’s persistent advocacy and practice of ethical and virtue- driven politics have caused him to be associated with a new genre of politics. He has disproved those who believe that there is no morality in politics and that politics is for scoundrels and scumbags in the society. While most politicians see political tolerance, religious temperance and mutual respect as unattainable ideals or at best weaknesses in a serious politician, Goodluck has demonstrated by words and works that you do not need a violent disposition to be an effective leader and achieve positive results. He is thus an authentic apostle of politics without bitterness and credible practitioner of politics without thuggery or any form of violence. My boss, President GEJ will say, “Politics should be about problem-solving, value-addition and welfare promotion rather than conflict-creation”.

The fifth segment of the book projects him as a Leader not Ruler. Here, the author establishes that Goodluck is a transformational leader who works with and for the people rather than a ruler who reigns over the people. His transformational essence is discernible from his Pan-Nigeria perspective as well as his soft power approach such as dialogue across political divides and discourse transcending party differences. Incidentally, hawkish politicians mistake this democratic disposition for weakness and prevarication. He is a leader and a facilitator who believes in participatory governance and prefers to negotiate the solution and the way forward with his followers rather than impose solutions. He does not subscribe to the Philosopher King concept of the leader as an expert who should lead the people by the nose. Goodluck is a leader who resonates with the people and whose enthusiasm for participatory development is infectious. He would rather lead by example than ask people to “do as I say, and not as I do”. GEJ symbolises responsible, reliable and responsive leadership.

The sixth segment of the book sees GEJ as a Sound Planner and Result-Based Manager. Here, the author argues that Goodluck is a very thorough and rigorous professional. He is a stickler for systematic, scientific and sound planning, who believes that an idea must be theoretically sound before it can be practically feasible. He points out that “the process must be right if the product is to be good and reliable.” Dr. Jonathan does not believe in merely throwing money at problems; he is a preacher and practitioner of result-based management, RBM, formerly referred to as management-by-objective, MBO. This is why he initiated the on-going silent revolution in MDAs where work-planning and provisions for monitoring and evaluation have become a prerequisite for budgetary allocation and release of funds.

The seventh segment of the book talks about Goodluck as A Humane Personality Par Excellence and credits the general out pouring of goodwill to this scientist-turned-politician to his likeable personality. If we define humaneness as sensitivity to human suffering, Dr. GEJ is very high on the Humanity Index and has a very high humaneness coefficient. He is easily moved to positive action by human suffering. It is therefore not by accident that he enjoys goodwill right across the country among a broad spectrum of Nigerians, irrespective of class, creed, tribe, tongue, or religion.

The eighth segment sees GEJ as An Accomplished Scholar. The author argues that there is no denying the academic brilliance  of GEJ. Surely, he could not have earned the Second Class Upper in Zoology and attained excellence in his Masters and Doctorate Degrees in Fisheries and Hydrobiology through good fortune. He must have rigorously applied himself to his books, regularly attending lectures and tutorial classes, diligently did his practical projects, and creditably did his research and wrote his thesis. He did not just wait passively for mother luck to drop the cherished certificates on his laps. Therefore though Goodluck might have been a beneficiary of divine partiality at one time or the other, yet we must admit, even if grudgingly, that he has not only worked hard, he has also worked right, and worked smart to get to the top. This level of education and commitment must have prepared him for leadership. Little wonder his loyalties to his bosses and his legendary patience have become reference points in Nigerian politics. He has patience as a virtue. GEJ has become a symbol of political tolerance and religious temperance. He is an apostle and practitioner of political propriety, due process and the rule of law. All through his stint in the Civil Service, academic career and political engagement, Goodluck has proved to be a force for good. He is a man of substance and a leader of sterling quality. Even Goodluck’s harshest critics would admit that he is a good-natured man with a heart of gold.

The ninth segment sees GEJ as a Believer in Generational Justice who believes that “the greed of the current generation of Nigerians should not be allowed to jeopardise the need of future generations”. An unrepentant believer in global partnership, he advocates the diversification of Nigeria’s development allies and trading partners to include not-so-popular newly industrializing countries. Nigeria, he asserts, should be “friend to all and enemy to none”. GEJ, through divine favour and by dint of hard work and his God-given virtues, has become a national brand with global appeal. He is a symbol of hope that would be celebrated in any society where hard work, honesty, dedication and propriety are valued. It is therefore not enough to simply covet the favours and blessings that God richly bestowed on President GEJ, it is also important to emulate the good virtues and great values that continue to endear this great guy and gentle giant to our heavenly father (God) and majority of his fellow men and women. While we should thank God for Dr, Jonathan’s numerous political feats, we should also give him credit for being a willing, ready and faithful tool in the hand of God to add value to the lives of Nigerians.

In the tenth segment, the author, Femi Ajayi describes GEJ as an Advocate of Core Competence in Public Sector. He sees him as a consistent and unrepentant advocate of core competence in public sector. He believes that the public sector must do everything to attract and retain capable and competent professionals in its service. According to  GEJ, all arms (legislature, executive and judiciary) and all levels of government (local, state and federal) need loyal and committed staff with the right capacities and competencies. Little wonder he canvasses for “a knowledge-driven and knowledgeable public sector since the quality of governance is as good as the quality of the civil service”.

The eleventh segment of the book looks at GEJ as a Vanguard of Moral Values in Politics. He believes that politics is a vocation that deals with advancement of human progress and welfare and should not be seen as a dirty game meant for desperate and unscrupulous actors; it should be regarded as a noble preoccupation. He is a promoter of decency, fairness, justice and level playing-field in the political contest. He campaigns for one man, one vote, one woman, one vote, and one youth, one vote. He is not interested in winning at all cost and by all means, hence, he admonishes that: “As a matter of urgency and utmost patriotism we must work relentlessly to ensure that votes count and those who get elected are true reflections of the choices and free expressions of the will of our people”. Have you ever heard such incredible statement by a President of Nigeria before? He insists that “we are in a democracy where the will of the people must prevail over the arbitrariness of a few”; pointing out that “the strength and staying power of our democracy is dependent on how much we as a people can build a political culture of free, fair and credible electoral contests”. Making a strong case for electoral equity and justice in the building of a virile and sustainable democracy, he notes: “the stronger the boat of our democratic journey, the more it is able to meet the challenges of its voyage and deliver on its social contract to citizens”.

The twelfth segment sees Jonathan as a Case for Social Marketing who advises that politicians who want to win elections should popularize themselves by selling their visions, programmes and projects to the electorates rather than hope to buy votes, rig elections, intimidate voters or shoot their way into political offices.

 The thirteenth segment sees GEJ a Promoter of Due Process and Rule of Law. A political propriety personified!  A stickler, if not a fanatic, for procedures and processes. He is an adherent of due process and the rule of law. He says for the product to be good, the process must be right, so he does not subscribe to cutting corners. He prescribes: “For our democracy to be virile, it must be genuinely competitive and strictly rule-based”.

The fourteenth segment sees Goodluck as a Pragmatic Politician who does not believe in winner-takes-all approach. Politics need not be a zero-sum game where the gain of one party translates to automatic loss of the other. He reveals, “I believe in politics of give-and-take”. All can be winners in the political game or contest.

The fifteenth segment sees GEJ as a Democrat’s Democrat who is an advocate and practitioner of politics of inclusion. He believes that the political umbrella is big enough to accommodate and cater for the interest of all. He decries the politics of exclusion where some critical stakeholders and key players are tactically excluded so that the privileged few that are chosen can have enough of the cake to eat. Therefore, he affirms: “As a democracy, we are constantly reminded that we serve the people only at their pleasure. Thus, when the people feel strongly about an issue, we have had to thread the path of caution and returned to the drawing board of consultation”. This is a perfect example of the principle of inclusivity.

The sixteenth segment looks at Jonathan as Long-Suffering and Easily-Forgiving. While he recognizes that he has many political rivals and even detractors, yet he categorically states: “I have no enemies to fight and no personal scores to settle”. Goodluck lives by the biblical principle of leaving vengeance to God.

The seventeenth segment sees GEJ as an Apostle of Free but Responsible Media whose strong belief and support for the freedom of the press is not in doubt. The speed and readiness with which he embraced, and signed into law, the Freedom of Information Bill is an eloquent testimony to his conviction in the people’s right to know, to express themselves and to freely hold opinions. He advocates that the mass media in a developing country and a fledging democracy “be pro-poor, people-driven, people oriented and development- focussed” and such socially committed press “should use their well- deserved freedom to promote transparency, accountability, equity and gender balance in governance as well as extend the frontiers of sustainable development and participatory democracy”.

The eighteenth segment of the book portrays GEJ as a Public Welfarist Extraordinaire. Those who know him intimately are aware that he is a community welfarist by nature. Believing that the welfare of the people should be the supreme law, he subjects every proposal, every policy, every programme and every project to the public welfare test. They command and compel his infectious enthusiasm when they are sure to lead to the greatest good of the greatest number of people. For Dr. GEJ, governance is for advancing people’s welfare and development is all about achieving people- oriented outcomes. Little wonder, whenever the scientist-turned-administrator is discussing programmes, projects and joint ventures with private or public sector partners, he asks vital questions like: How many new jobs will the project create? How many people will be trained? How many indirect employment opportunities will be generated? How many new business outlets would be created? How much wealth will the venture generate for the country? He insists that “the most important duty of government is to respond to the genuine needs of its citizens and strive to meet them”.

The nineteenth segment of the book looks at GEJ as a Quintessential Nation-Builder. Even his most uncharitable critic would agree that GEJ is a quintessential nation-builder. In his words and actions he makes conscious, continuous and consistent attempts to promote patriotism, loyalty and commitment to the Nigerian project. He is forever urging and canvassing “a new spirit of national consciousness and reawakening towards collective ownership of the Nigerian project”. An unrepentant advocate of religious tolerance and unity-in-diversity, GEJ calls upon “all Nigerians to remember that if God did not will it, we will not be together today as a country of muslims, Christians and Traditionalists. If God did not will it, we will not be together as a people of diverse ethnic groups; if God did not will it, we will not be Nigerians”.

The twentieth segment sees GEJ as an Apostle of Peace whose essence as a political actor (both as a leader and politician) is evidently best typified in his soft power approaches and pacific orientation. He says:” I have come to launch a campaign of ideas, not of calumny. I have come to preach love, not hate….” Assuring his political opponents: “we are not sworn enemies, we are not irreconcilable foes. We are neighbours who, sometimes offend each other but we can always sit down to talk over our differences. Pleading passionately, he recalls: “Our founding fathers sacrificed so much to give us Nigeria. They did not dream of a country where brothers would be killing brothers and sisters killing sisters. They did not dream of a country where neighbours and friends would exchange bullets in places of handshakes”. He pleads that we should not allow unbridled quest for power and political office to become a threat to our country’s national security and economic prosperity.

The twenty first segment looks at Goodluck as Pro-Youth Empowerment and Employment. He is downright and decidedly pro-youth. Both when he was a governor in Bayelsa State and now as a President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he remains an unrepentant champion of youth empowerment and employment. He admonishes that “all barriers to basic education for the girl child, and the Almajiris, especially in the North: the area boys in the South West as well as the boys-school-drop-outs in the South East must not be allowed to remain blights in our aspiration for full access to education”. He states: “the Almajiris, the street boys, the street children and other disadvantaged members of our energetic and burgeoning youth population must be supported to fulfil their human potentials so that they can play their part in the realization of Nigeria’s national aspiration for advancement and development”.

The twenty second segment portrays GEJ as a Champion of Local Content. He has made local content development the cornerstone of the Federal Government’s Economic Transformation Agenda. This is not surprising at all. He has been championing the cause of local value addition, increased indigenous participation as well as local ownerships and control of the petroleum sector before local content advocacy became the vogue. Expectedly, his administration ensured speedy enactment of the Local Content Act. As he envisaged, the Nigerian Content Act has led to more job creation and wealth generation.

The twenty third segment looks at GEJ as a Crusader for Education and Capacity-Building. He is a long-standing and time-tested fan of the Late Tai Solarin (re-knowned educationist and social crusader), GEJ is not just an advocate but an activist for functional and qualitative education as well as need-based technical and vocational education. He reflects, “as a former school teacher, I know that it is not enough to create jobs; we must develop human capacity and train the generation of Nigerian children with better competencies and skill. This will grant them the edge that they require to compete in a skill-driven global economy”.

The twenty fourth segment sees GEJ as Pro-Poor but Anti-Poverty. In his words and deeds, pronouncements and practices (actions), GEJ is clearly pro-poor and decidedly anti-poverty. He is of the firm belief that “true progress and development can only begin when all our citizens, without exception, move out of abject poverty and marginal existence. President GEJ regularly admonishes all cadres of public servants saying: “In the comfort of our offices, let us not forget that majority of our people live below the poverty line and that many of the things we take for granted are in fact the long unfulfilled dreams of many of our country men, women and children”. He urges the whole of Africa to take drastic measures to get out of pervasive poverty and beggarly existence, stating: “Africa must turn its begging bowls into baskets of prosperity and opportunity”.

The twenty fifth segment describes Goodluck as an Ally of the Private Sector. Despite his belief in strong governments and effective states as pre-requisites for successful and sustainable modern states, he is a long-standing and time-tested advocate of the efficacy, efficiency and effectiveness of the private sector. Little wonder, he concurs with what private sector apologists say: “government has no business in business”. Government, he states, should concern themselves with “provision of the right policies, the appropriate regulatory framework and an enabling business environment”. The private sector should not just be allowed but be encouraged to be “the prime mover and main driver of the economy”.

The author concluded the book with a POSTSCRIPT, his Testament on GEJ. Where he publicly confessed his affinity and partiality towards the jolly good fellow called GEAJ since divine providence brought them into contact about 33 years ago. Since then, he has known no harm that he has done to anyone, nor any ill-feeling that he has expressed towards anyone. Among the human species, he considers GEJ a rare gem and special breed. GEJ has remained amiable, warm, humorous and simple as he was over three decades ago. He is warm, accessible and approachable despite his very high office. GEJ is a good man and a great leader with good intention and lofty programmes for Nigeria.

In conclusion, this book is a must read for every Nigerian who desires to know President GEJ better, his person, his passion, his mission, his vision, his policies, politics, principles and philosophy. It is a must read for every politician who wants to learn the virtue of politics and how to play politics without rancour or bitterness. It is a must read for every public servant and technocrat who desires to learn the rudiments of hard work, commitment, loyalty and patience to get to the top. It is a must read for everyone in the private sector who wants to take advantage of the right policies and enabling business environment which President GEJ has created to enhance their business and create wealth. Finally, it is a must read for the academic community who wants to leverage on the virtues of GEJ to teach our youth that greatness is accessible to everyone irrespective of your background, religion, tongue or tribe.

Devoid of typographical errors, this book passes both the academic, intellectual appraisal and the administrative, technocratic reappraisal. The content is expository, the style is lucid and the layout is impressionistic. One of my Professors at the University of Ibadan use to say, you don’t defend a lion, you release a lion. So, Your Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, permit me therefore to release the book titled THE ESSENTIAL GOODLUCK JONATHAN authored by   Ajayi to the politician, public servant, administrator, technocrat, businessman, the academic community and the reading public to the glory of God.

— Dec. 15, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT


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