March 4, 2021

On Jonathan, Buhari’s ‘semi-illiteracy’

Prior to the 2011 elections, I wrote an article querying the credentials of President Goodluck Jonathan who was being promoted then as the first PhD president. In the piece, I mentioned that I spent time scouring the Internet, searching for Jonathan’s contributions to scholarship; that despite his stint as a teacher, it was curious that there was little linking him to the academia.

His campaign team, ironically, vigorously promoted his PhD as a reason he deserved our vote but avoided attempts to subject this much-vaunted qualification to inquiry. Since 2011 however, one or two co-written academic papers with Jonathan’s name on them have surfaced online and the man’s supporters have distributed them with much triumphalism. What they miss is that the contention about Jonathan’s PhD is not so much about whether he passed through a process that culminated in the award of the degree but why his self-expression is often antithetical to what is expected of someone who has acquired the highest possible educational certification. It is worse that his degree was awarded in a discipline that is neither popular nor understood by many Nigerians. So often, you have ignorant people reducing a PhD in Zoology to training in taking care of animals in the zoo! You cannot totally blame them though.

For the 2015 reelection campaign, his adulators and apple-polishers have returned to his possession of a PhD as part of his unique selling point. The PDP national secretary, Prof. Wale Oladipo, earlier this week voiced this when he enjoined Nigerians not to vote for the All Progressives Congress candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, because he is a “semi-illiterate.” Oladipo, to make his point, even summoned the same jaded religious tropes that the Jonathan camp – frequently bereft of either ideas or imagination – resort to to seduce the feeble-minded Nigerians: “God has decreed….”, “God has decided…” bla bla bla as if that baloney will reduce the number of generators polluting the Nigerian atmosphere.

Since Jonathan is not a fresh candidate, and he is running against the same main contender as in 2011, why is Buhari’s comparatively “lower” educational attainment coming up? Nobody needs to be reminded about Buhari’s lack of university education. If Buhari has failed to transcend his Fulani roots and remains parochial; if his attempts at coming across as a cosmopolitan and a pan-Nigerian candidate look cosmetic and fail to convince even his most rabid worshipper; if his joining Twitter feels both anachronistic and incongruous, the certificates he did not acquire cannot – or should not – be held responsible.

Jonathan has a PhD, yes, but when he speaks, you cringe at the simplicity of his thoughts and wonder if he needs an interpreter between his mind and his audience. You begin to understand why his teachers have not publicly identified with him; why his former students have yet to surface to share a moving testimonial about his teaching career; and why even the University of Port Harcourt that produced him must shudder when he makes his famous gaffes. The only student who ever talked about his teaching career is the woman who later became his wife. According to Patience Jonathan, he took interest in her because she was such a brilliant student!

I suspect the PDP is descending into this banal sophistry at this time for two reasons: one, they are intimidated by the profile of the APC VP candidate – Yemi Osinbajo – who happens to be a university teacher like Jonathan but is far more distinguished. Two, the PDP is desperate. They have run through the entire gamut of issues they want to sell to us and are now deflecting attention with inanities. They have, sadly, taken photoshopped graphics from the Internet and sold them as evidence of their transformation agenda. They scream that Jonathan built 125 Almajiri schools but grow quiet when you ask for accessible documentation to verify their claims. They talk about Jonathan’s transformation in the area of railways but they themselves have yet to ditch their private jets to travel in those 20th century locomotives. They praise Jonathan’s achievements in the area of education but their children school abroad.

All the figures they have bandied – from the never-seen-before achievements of the Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Akinwunmi Adesina, to that of the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, have been disproved and shown to be anything but real. The Jonathan administration, in summary, is like the man’s religion itself – built on a tissue of lies. You would think people who have such unsavoury records of performance would slink into the night and reappear after the election. No, they hang around and talk glibly about “semi-illiteracy” as if that redeems their failures.

If the PDP has so much confidence in its administration’s achievements, it should prove it by bringing out the campaign promises of 2011 and let us put a check mark to the ones its man has achieved. The party should tell us, in an unambiguous language, what happened to the 7-Point Agenda of Yar’Adua/Jonathan regime. It should explain why Boko Haram, a rag-tag army of religion-crazed maniacs that lack the intelligence to make the simplest battle formation, keeps defeating trained soldiers of the Nigerian Army. It should explain why soldiers consistently mutiny; why their wives have echoed the similar complaints as their husbands – that their failures on the battlefront is because that they are poorly equipped for war. It should tell us why, after all the monies spent on security and the extra $1bn it received, soldiers still complain they lack the weapons they need to confront Boko Haram. It should tell us why those soldiers should be sacrificed on the altar of their collective impotence and pot-bellied corruption. And truthfully tell us if the government is still searching for the Chibok girls. It should tell us about the fuel subsidy and why Nigerians are still paying that obnoxious money even as the price of oil is crashing on the world market. It should tell us what became of the various reports on corruption and why so much money has been reported “missing” in this government and no one has been held accountable. It should also tell us why kerosene sells for more than N150 per litre when government claims it is subsidising it to sell for N50/litre

If it has occurred to the party that it could possibly win the elections, then, it should let us discuss the issues that matter to our Nigerian lives post February 2015 elections. The time is short and we do not have enough time to thrash these issues, so the earlier we start, the better. And, hopefully they will let the conversation flow without impeding it with their now overplayed strategy of ethnic-, religious-, and now, certificate-baiting.


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