The Upper Crust

Jonathan’s brand of freedom


With Uche Nnadozie

It is one of those things. Having a country where folks who have messed up big time in the past, come back in the future to seize the narrative. A times, I don’t know what motivates President Goodluck Jonathan. By every standard, he should know that there is hardly a government on earth that do not mess around with people’s freedom. His inclusive. But it appears he carries this false toga of the epitome of freedoms. He seems to see himself or his administration from a narrow blinking sight. The massaging that goes on of his ego has made him absent from his own body. He just doesn’t understand.

When on his facebook page last week, he sought to remind the nation of his December 2014 message by posting the following words: “I am the most abused and insulted president in the world, but when I leave office you will all remember me for the total freedom you enjoyed under my government,” he was trying albeit lamely to rewrite history. Because the Nigerian government had intimated of their resolve to begin to crackdown on “hate speeches”, the former president went to exhume the above statement in criticism of the current regime’s efforts or declaration to fight reckless speech. First, he appears not to understand the underbelly of hate speech…well, that is a story for another day!

Going forward, the former president has either forgotten or did not know how bad things became under him. On the other hand, he may not have understood the details of what freedom is all about. He could think for example that his administration was aiding freedom when it stopped Rotimi Amaechi from entering Ekiti state to campaign for his party for the 2014 governorship election in that state. The freedom of movement was perhaps not part of the freedoms that Jonathan was very excited about. Especially when he had applied similar methods to prevent the same former Rivers State Governor, Amaechi from gaining entrance into his own official government quarters in Port Harcourt.

I do not wish to go into the grounding of aeroplanes, prevention of protests by the Bring Back Our Girls movement, etc. But what is uncanny and uneducated about the whole episode of hypocrisy is that the former president through the military embarked on sabotage and outright seizure of newspapers around the country. Hello sir! When you seize newspapers, you do not only abridge freedom of expression, you prevent movement and kill businesses. Jonathan’s army did without shame impound newspapers for several days in many cities across the country. Oh, why did his government now pay compensation of at least N10 million to each of the main newspaper houses through the “robbing hood” of his government, Sambo Dasuki?

As if that was not enough, Jonathan’s State House expelled a foreign media correspondent from Aso Rock. All entreaties fell on deaf ears. It was the present government that reinstated the man’s accreditation. These are avenues to curtail freedom of expression, which the former president did not see and his statement ran away from. Selective truth telling is alive and direct in our body polity, especially with Jonathan. But we have in our hands, a former president who believes all he hears and accepts same to be based on truth. This is the same way he believed that stealing is not corruption just so that corruption, which had become synonymous with his administration does not mean that they had stolen all our money. The then president did not mince words to reject, blacklist and sack former Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Governor Lamido Sanusi for daring to link stealing with corruption in that fantastic $20 billion allegedly missing from NNPC accounts.

President Jonathan has not found his voice to mock the sort of embarrassment that his wife has become. The former first lady with many accounts funded in foreign currencies and Nigerian naira does not have to tell us how a permanent secretary earned such humongous finances. A civil servant and petty trader ended up with several billions in her account and our “humble”president could not encourage the media to dig deep to unearth just how rich and how she made it. This kind of patriotism from Jonathan could help expand media freedom in many ways than one. It will be one of those days too when Jonathan encourages journalists to report on all they know about his super minister of petroleum, Dieziani Alison-Madueke. After all, when the House of Representatives attempted to express themselves as the constitution requires by prying into what was going on under her watch, our dear freedom supporter came on national television to lampoon the legislature on behalf of Alison-Madueke. He told them to stay off!

This perception of Jonathan as a supporter of freedoms is a careful creation of the media and his media team. The media fail to interrogate him and his policies simply because of his commercial patronage of them. His media handlers, who are the conveyors of this commercialism are equally beneficiaries. But these are contemporary historical accounts. The ease with which people forget these infractions is telling. On the other hand, folks are easy to remember that President Muhammadu Buahari was a dictator in the 1980s and go ahead to cite examples. We just choose what we want to believe in. While Jonathan is a democratic dictator, folks pretend that all was well. Including when legislators had to scale high fences to access their offices for the simple reason that the plot to remove then speaker of the House, Tambuwal had failed. And there were instructions not to allow him and his supporters into the complex. Yet, that for some people is an example of freedom as enjoyed by Nigerians for which he is celebrating and reminding us of.

It’s time Jonathan began to atone for his many sins. I think that’s why he still has the freedom to insult our collective memory.


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