Clark, the father, Jonathan, the son, By Reuben Abati

I have tried delaying the writing of this piece in the honest expectation that someone probably misquoted Chief E.K. Clark, when he reportedly publicly disowned former President Goodluck Jonathan.

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I had hoped that our dear father, E.K. Clark, would issue a counter statement and say the usual things politicians say: “they quoted me out of context!” “Jonathan is my son”. That has not happened; rather, some other Ijaw voices, including one Joseph Evah, have come to the defence of the old man, to join hands in rubbishing a man they once defended to the hilt and used as a bargaining chip for the Ijaw interest in the larger Nigerian geo-politics.

If President Jonathan had returned to power on May 29, 2015, these same persons would have remained in the corridors of power, displaying all forms of ethnic triumphalism. It is the reason in case they do not realize it, why the existent power blocs that consider themselves most fit to rule, continue to believe that those whose ancestors never ran empires can never be trusted with power, hence they can only be admitted as other people’s agents or as merchants of their own interests which may even be defined for them as is deemed convenient. Mercantilism may bring profit, but in power politics, it destroys integrity and compromises otherwise sacred values.

President Jonathan being publicly condemned by his own Ijaw brothers, particularly those who were once staunch supporters of his government further serves the purpose of exposing the limits of the politics of proximity. Politics in Africa is driven by this particular factor; it is at the root of all the other evils: prebendalism, clientelism and what Matthew Kukah has famously described as the “myownisation of power”. It is both positive and negative, but obviously, more of the latter than the former. It is considered positive only when it is beneficial to all parties concerned, and when the template changes, the ground also shifts. As in that song, the solid rock of proximity is soon replaced by shifting sands. Old worship becomes new opportunism. And the observant public is left confounded.

Chief E.K. Clark? Who would ever think, Chief E.K. Clark would publicly disown President Jonathan? He says Jonathan was a weak President. At what point did he come to that realization? Yet, throughout the five years (not six, please) of the Jonathan Presidency, he spoke loudly against anyone who opposed the President. He was so combative he was once quoted as suggesting that Nigeria could have problems if Jonathan was not allowed to return to office. Today, he is the one helping President Jonathan’s successor to quench the fires. He always openly said President Jonathan is “his son”. Today, he is not just turning against his own son, he is telling the world his son as President lacked the political will to fight corruption. He has also accused his son of being too much of a gentleman. Really? Gentlemanliness would be considered honourable in refined circles. Is Pa E.K. Clark recommending something else in order to prove that he is no longer a politician but a statesman as he says?

As someone who was a member of the Jonathan administration, and who interacted often with the old man, I can only say that I am shocked. This is the equivalent of the old man deleting President Jonathan’s phone number and ensuring that calls from his phone no longer ring at the Jonathan end. During the Jonathan years, Chief E. K. Clark was arguably the most vocal Ijaw leader defending the government. He called the President “my son”, and both father and son remained in constant touch.

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