Former president, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s book My Transition Hours launched the other day to coincide with his 61st birthday is a welcome literary contribution to the record of public service at the highest level in Nigeria.
We congratulate Jonathan on his birthday. We also commend him for ‘putting pen to paper’ to give account of some – certainly not all – of his actions in government.
Nigeria has had many persons in high office at different levels of government but only a fraction of them has written about their life in service, even fewer have, in their work, risen above self-justificatory treatise to reveal ‘the good, the bad, and the ugly’ sides of being a leader.
For whatever it is worth, My Transition Hours will shed some light on what Jonathan said and did – or failed to say and do – as Nigeria’s No.1 citizen.
Of course, the contents of the book will, as do such writings, trigger reaction from as many persons and interests as feel affected one way or other.
Indeed reactions have begun to register in the public space. Within 24 hours of the launch of Jonathan’s book, the governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, speaking through his media adviser Isa Gusau, summed it up as an ‘elementary book of tales.’
Mr. Shettima focused specifically on the author’s account in respect of the abduction of the Chibok school girls and the former president’s handling of it.
Shettima concludes that, “what has become very clear is that the former president decided to sit on facts in his custody while he published, in an elementary standard, a book of fiction designed to pass guilty verdicts on anyone but himself, with respect to the open failures of his administration to rescue our daughters, and in tackling the Boko Haram challenges.”
The Muhammadu Buhari administration that succeeded Jonathan’s has nothing but scathing words for Jonathan’s narrative in My Transition Hour.
Buhari’s senior special assistant in charge of media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu derided “Dr. Jonathan’s hollow boast that he, not President Buhari introduced schemes such as the Biometric Verification Number (BVN), Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Integrated Personnel and Payment Information System (IPPS).”
Shehu noted Jonathan’s “efforts to blame everyone but himself for his failures” and posited that “the former president had nothing to say about his own achievements (in office).”
Certainly, more comments will come. And just as well. Writing many years ago on the multiplicity of news media ownership, American author and editor E.B. White suggested that there is a good in a multiplicity of sources of information “each peddling its own belief.”
They “expose each other’s follies and peccadilloes, correct each other’s biases” such that the reader eventually can distill the truth from “the editorial bouillabaisse.”
Dr. Jonathan has published his own account; it is to be hoped that concerned persons and anyone simply interested in getting to the bottom of matters will not only comment verbally but put them in writing and in the public domain.
That response will certianly enrich both public discourse and knowledge.
In other words, more books on a book such as this will also serve to expand and improve understanding of the why, wherefore, and how, of people, places and events that shape history of the nation.
If reading is hard work for many, writing is even harder work for most people because, as in the case of Jonathan’s book, it requires recollecting, thinking through, and finally writing his experience in political leadership, especially as it affects the re-election bid he lost while in office.
Besides, it takes a measure of courage to write knowing that whatever is put on paper becomes record for posterity.
Not every Nigerian leader has summoned up that courage to write an account of stewardship and face the consequent, not often palatable reactions it may generate.
Out of such writings and the attendant reactions, truth may begin to emerge. And, nothing heals the soul of a nation, nothing enables a reconciliation of its contradictions, as facts that nurture some truth.
So, by writing this book and contributing to the pursuit of truth and reconciliation, Jonathan has done himself and the nation a favour.
It certainly adds to the body of knowledge on his presidency, and on the governance of Nigeria at a particular time in its history.
We would urge other leaders and indeed every Nigerian with a worthwhile experience to share, to, as it is done in modern societies, write for the sake of educating the public. Our society can only be better for it.
Meanwhile, the nation is still waiting for books of so many former leaders. Certainly, most of them have didactic tales to tell the nation. It is hoped that we are not ‘Waiting for Godot.’
A Guardian Editorial