Written By Andrew Essien
In a couple of weeks, the reign of President Goodluck Jonathan will effectively come to an end, but like him or hate him, certain characters have come to define his presidency and they will be missed after May 29.
Tanimu Sani, a 39-year-old mai suya in the Federal Capital (FCT), upon seeing one of the president’s many posters in his trademark dark-coloured, south-south dress and Fedora hat which, until very recently, dotted some parts of the FCT, wondered whether the monies allocated to the presidency for the upkeep of the number one citizen of the country was very small so much so that it would reduce the president to be repeatedly wearing the same dress, even when he had to travel abroad on foreign assignment.
Sani was even more disturbed with the fact that cartoonists could draw anything and put such hat on it and people would identify it as a semblance of the president. It was a herculean task convincing Sani that the president does not lack the wherewithal to get the dress of his choice but that the style was just a signature of sorts for the president.
As Nigerians made their choice at the just concluded presidential polls which ended President Jonathan’s tenure, he (Sani) may heave a sigh of relief that, at least, for the next four years, a new style of presidential dressing will emerge.
Sani’s dilemma about certain features that have come to mark the Jonathan administration does not end with the president alone; it cascades down to almost every facet of the administration and Nigerians will surely miss these dots after the handover of power by the incumbent to the incoming administration of General Muhammadu Buhari (retd). These include but are not limited to:
PRESIDENTIAL MEDIA TEAM: Nigerians will miss the loquacious Doyin Okupe, Reuben Abati and the entire presidential media team who feverishly, and sometimes ferociously, defended the president and his presidency to such a point that they could stake their lives in defence of the policies of the administration, whether popular or otherwise.
Dr Reuben Abati was a newspaper columnist and chairman of the Editorial Board of The Guardian before he was appointed special adviser to the President on Media and Publicity. His regular press briefings and, often times, serial press releases in defence of the president will be missed.
Mr Doyin Okupe, employed mid-way into the tenure of the administration, was always going for the opposition’s jugular. According to reports available at the time, he was brought on board when the presidency felt that Abati was not hitting hard at the opposition. He had predicted that the opposition party would not last up to one year. He even told Nigerians to call him a bastard if the party did. Not only has the party lasted; it is forming the next government and throwing Okupe out of his plum job. Soon after he came in, he was tagged the ‘attack dog’ of the president but he said he preferred to be called “the attack lion.” Lion or dog, the common factor is attack.
DAME PATIENCE JONATHAN: Nigerians would certainly not forget Mrs. Patience Jonathan so soon. Analysts argue that she has had more impact on the Nigerian polity than her husband, the president. However, come May 29, 2015, Nigeria will get a new first lady but Dame Patience or Mama Peace, as she wanted to be addressed, will not be washed down memory lane in a hurry.
From her speeches to her grammar, from her twining glasses to her dance moves, the first lady had a way of putting smiles on the faces of Nigerians, or causing them some light-heated embarrassment. The now popularized “Na only you waka come?”; “There is God oh; “My fellow widows” and “I want to commend the doctors and nurses for responding to treatment” are some of Nigerians’ all-time favourite quotes. With a new first lady, Mrs Jonathan will be saved from the often preying eyes of the media and get some rest. But there will be no forgetting the Dame Patience. Those who know her more closely say behind her public aura of a go-getter.
MRS NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA: For her constant defence of the economy, churning out figures to show growth indices of how wonderfully well the economy performed under the present government and the style of her head-gear, the ankara-wearing minister will be missed.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala is arguably the most powerful person in the government of President Jonathan, combining two portfolios – minister of finance and coordinating minister for the economy. She was in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government where she also played a prominent role. Top was the Paris Club debt exit in which Nigeria was forgiven tens of billions of dollars in foreign debt.
What will definitely be missed about her is her dress sense. Always decked in well-made ankara dresses and low haircut in and outside the country, with her head tie often positioned at a ‘jaunty’ angle, she has been able to distinguish herself amongst her peers as a top draw technocrat of international standing. She was even a contender for the World Bank presidency which she lost to America’s candidate. She had been vice president of the body before being invited home to work for her country.
MRS DIEZANI ALISON-MADUEKE is the first female president of OPEC, elected at the 166th OPEC Ordinary meeting in Vienna on 27th November, 2014. She was first appointed Nigeria’s minister of transportation on July 26, 2007. She was moved to Mines and Steel Development in 2008 and in April 2010 was appointed minister of Petroleum Resources. She has been enmeshed in controversies over the running of the sector and for allegedly squandering so much on private jet maintenance, a claim she rejects.
All the same, Nigerians will miss her suave carriage and stories of her flamboyance, real or imagined.
FEMI FANI-KAYODE: Described as one of the attack dogs of President Jonathan, Femi Fani-Kayode was the spokesman of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation in the just concluded general elections. When he was in the APC, he made scathing statements about the president and PDP but he later defected and was subsequently rewarded with the portfolio of the spokesman for the PDP presidential campaign team.
Many are of the opinion that he has a very caustic tongue which he graciously deployed in the service of the PDP. As presidential election results were being announced, he was said to have claimed the PDP had won in several states, leading with between two and three million votes.
The claim fell like a pack of badly arranged cards when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) eventually announced the results and declared the opposition’s candidate, Muhammadu Buhari winner. He was one of those who were perceived to have waged a hate campaign against Buhari but all came to naught as his principal lost and now he will be out of the plum job soon.
CHIEF EDWIN CLARK: This elder statesman is the acclaimed national leader of the Ijaw nation and the alleged political godfather of President Jonathan. He literally turned himself to one of the president’s media managers and defenders. Anyone that criticized the president got a reply from the Ijaw leader.
He was the first to fly the kite over Jonathan’s re-election bid. He was of the opinion that this was a golden opportunity for the minority oil-rich region of the country to rule and, hence, the opportunity must be fully utilized. In fact, he threatened fire and brimstone should the president be stopped from having his way.
Because of the influence he commands in the Jonathan administration, his expansive mansion has been a Mecca of sorts for those who wanted one favour or the other from the president.
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