This book tells us that the blame for who made Goodluck Jonathan lose the 2015 election should go to Goodluck Jonathan.
Olusegun Adeniyi’s ‘Against The Run of Play’ is more than a story of how an incumbent President lost an election in Nigeria.
The book sheds some more light on the skewed and ideologically deficient politics that is the norm in Nigeria and how those who aspire to leadership positions in Africa’s most populous country do not have to pretend that they know how to fix problems–they just have to wear their religion and ethnicity like badges of honour.
Adeniyi’s story-telling is top notch here, as you’d expect from an author who has since mastered the art of penning political thrillers.
He introduces us to ‘Against the Run of Play’ with that moment when it dawned on Goodluck Jonathan that he had lost the 2015 presidential contest to his challenger, Muhammadu Buhari.
Incumbent Presidents don’t lose elections in Nigeria, but Jonathan did.
Jonathan’s concession phone call to Buhari was historic as well.
Adeniyi relays that moment when the rest of the population was apprehensive and uncertain about what will become of a nation whose elections are always marred by all kinds of primordial fault lines imaginable.
As Godsday Orubebe devolved into a meltdown on national and international television after results showed that his principal had been defeated, Jonathan was advised by his Attorney General Mohammed Adoke, then Aviation Minister Osita Chidoka and then Special Assistant to the President on Domestic Affairs Mr. Warimapo-Owei Dudafa to take the wind off Orubebe’s sail by congratulating Buhari.
It was a room full of aides and loyalists.
“By calling Buhari, you would have rendered whatever INEC is doing redundant”, pleaded Chidoka who was kneeling before Jonathan.
According to the book, “this school of thought won the day. At one point, Dudafa stood up and said loudly to Jonathan, “Daddy, anybody can say whatever they like but we are leaving this house on May 29. You have done your best for Nigeria and the people will appreciate your success.
Shortly thereafter, Jonathan got up from his seat and went into his study where he picked up the phone and asked ‘Control’ to get Buhari on the line. He spoke briefly with Buhari, in a rather nervous tone, and then came out to announce to those in the room that he had conceded and congratulated the APC candidate on his victory.
A relieved Chidoka asked, “Can I tell the world?”
“Go ahead, Jonathan directed, and Chidoka sent out a tweet from his mobile phone at exactly 5:23PM, Nigerian time.
And with that call, Jonathan pulled Nigeria back from what would have been a serious crisis, the ending of which nobody could have foretold.
Interestingly, that phone call to Buhari was where the plaudits for Jonathan ended in Adeniyi’s book.
In the chapters that followed, the reader is told in revealing details, how Jonathan’s series of unforced errors, cost him the 2015 election.
In “Against the Run of Play”, Adeniyi takes the reader through how Jonathan divided the PDP with his politics of bitterness and vindictiveness, how his fallout with then Rivers Governor Rotimi Amaechi benefited the opposition, how Jonathan allowed himself to become an ‘Ijaw President’ at the expense of the rest of the country, how Obasanjo fell out with the same Jonathan he helped propel to power, how Jonathan couldn’t rein in his powerful wife who was running loose on the campaign trail and picking fights with Tambuwal and Amaechi and how Jonathan made a promise not to seek a second term in office, only to forge ahead with breaking his promise with reckless abandon.
“I never said I was going to spend only one term…the question was always usually randomly asked and I never made any such commitment to anybody”, the author quotes the former President as saying in Chapter 12 of the book.
In the same Chapter, Jonathan blames the Americans, then US President Barack Obama, PDP Chairman Adamu Mu’azu , Jega, the media, the opposition and civil society organisations for his loss at the ballot.
Everyone else but himself.
Jonathan also pushed back against allegations that he was corrupt or that his body language was encouraging corruption.
“I am from the Niger Delta”, Jonathan barked, “I have no single oil block and my government never gave out any nor did we allocate the marginal fields. Yet people make all the noise about corruption. If the problem is that I failed to label Nigeria as fantastically corrupt, then I don’t think I should apologise for that.
“There was this blanket accusation that my body language was supporting corruption, a line invented by the opposition but which the media and civil society bought into and helped to project to the world. That was the same thing I kept hearing from the Americans without specific allegations”, he added.
In several portions of ‘Against the Run of Play', Jonathan comes off as weak, ineffectual, unnecessarily defensive and still living in denial, two years after he lost at the ballot.
He picked battles he didn’t have to pick, read the nation’s mood incorrectly most of the time, played horrible politics and couldn’t make up his mind or put his foot down when he needed to.
If you are a student of Nigerian politics, you’d find in this book an invaluable resource material.
There are a few typos here and there but we can put those squarely at the feet of the printer and his devil.
In an era when history is being expunged from the Nigerian school curriculum, Adeniyi has done us a huge favour by chronicling in lucid detail, all that transpired up until March 31, 2015 when the electoral umpire called the election for Buhari at Jonathan’s expense.
This is a book about high-wire politics and interplay of powerful forces in our land.
This is a book about politicians who dribble us without giving a hoot and who hold us hostage.
This book harks back to why this country has made little progress under the present crop of politicians and their cronies.
‘Against the Run of Play’ is a page turner.
Years from now, we’ll be thanking Adeniyi for blessing us with this rich piece of history.