Reflection on the existing number of books on President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan might well raise doubt about the desirability of adding to them. But since research does not stand still and its more assured results often take long to reach the handbook, there may be a place for a brief account of the man described severally by different people as a leader who is humble and simple to a fault. Yet, to read Rev. Father Charles A. Imokhai’s The People’s Choice, his lucid account of the life and times of the Nigerian leader, is to embark on a delightful journey.
Segmented into four parts, the 194 page book published by AuthorHouse, United Kingdom (February 2015), circulates how gorgeously a child from a humble state did swing across the gloomy and multitudinous chasm of the Niger Delta to become President of the world’s most populous black nation by divine providence. As a priest and religious thinker, who has worked for over forty-five years in Nigeria, Liberia and the United States of America in various pastoral and administrative capacities, fortified with a doctoral degree in social anthropology from the University of Columbia, USA, Father Imokhai has produced a book which will have a remarkable vogue and influence in Nigerian youth.
Like General Yakubu Gowon, former Nigerian Head of State who wrote the foreword to the book states, the book, in an easily readable format, tells the story of an ordinary farm boy’s rise from his obscure village in Otuoke, Bayelsa State to the pinnacle of leadership as Number One citizen of our dear country, Nigeria. And, like he also enthuses in his foreword, The People’s Choice is work in progress “because The Presidency under Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR is still unfolding.” The book which incidentally does not have on its cover the picture of its focal subject, would keep the prospective reader wondering who it’s talking about.
Yet on launching into the foreword, the reader is now confronted with the reality of the subject, the figure about whom has clustered the yearnings, the ideals, and the aspirations Nigerians have for themselves and their country. That symbolic Goodluck also stands between the reader and the book. Jonathan does not pretend about his humble background. We know what happened and we cannot undo that knowledge. We read The People’s Choice with a different eye. The present changes the meaning of the past. We can get the record straight, as historians like to put it, but the meaning of that straightened record is inextricably involved in the meaning we also try each day to discern in the confusion of the living present.
In reading through the book, it was painfully obvious that Jonathan deserves much more attention and approval than he is receiving. The book reveals so much of the President’s past which were shrouded in sheer rumor and blackmail. What we had had of his story, however, seemed not only fascinating, but certainly very much at odds with his image as an excruciatingly shy scholar whose clever but scientific mind supposedly spun archetypes like the wheels on a one-armed bandit. His scores and grades both in WAEC and GCE and in the university are astounding contrary to the mouthing of fifth columnists and bookmakers.
Written with a spare and disciplined prose style that serves the author so well, the book contains a blend of intelligent humane insight and passionate conviction. The narrative flow in linear and uncomplicated everyday easy-to-understand English. Couched in measured cadences, the author has caught perfectly an era that teeters between the beat and boozing cynicism of the fifties when Goodluck was born and the righteous amorality of the present. It is existing to rediscover our imagination of what life was and what it is presently. We found its potent qualities so amusing, reaffirmed and consolidated by the discriminating passage of time.
Again, the style is free-flowing and intuitive; the form is highly structured, even arbitrary. There is self-conscious allusiveness, symbolic and literary. But the book is conceptually methodical. The People’s Choice should not be read as a document of an era, however, but as a fine narrative of a Nigerian journey. Yet, like nearly all biographies, this is not a fully balanced work. There are the inevitable gaps occasioned either by a basic lack of material or by the author’s personal decision to limit research time which might have added further weeks or months to an already overdue deadline.
Interestingly, a peep into its four major parts and nineteen chapters: Jonathan, Goodluck, Education, Patience Oba, Teacher, Civil Servant; Gubernatorial Campaign, The Rise of Bayelsa State, Strategy for Developing Bayelsa State, Governor D. S. P. Alamieyeseigha, Unfinished Business: Bayelsa Partnership Initiative (BPI), The Vice President, The Good Die Young: The Vice President as Acting President, President Jonathan; The People: An Imperfect Union, The Multi-Parties’ Primary Saga; Democracy: A Process, Democracy: The result, and Conclusion, will reveal an acute attention to detail, refreshing perspectives on conventional subjects.
Given Father Imokhai’s treatment of the problematic of the Nigerian condition, The People’s Choice is a must read for all those who care deeply about the Nigerian testament, who are concerned about its debilitating circumstances, and who are committed to its future and the flourishing of its latent potentials. The book portrays President Jonathan as the incipient choice of the Nigerian people, and the disarming reality is that however complex the calculus of political action, at the end one has to live by one’s own convictions. One must finally March to the beat of one’s own drum. The mystery is that Goodluck remains a conundrum to most people. It is the grace of God.
Amor and Kidzu are, respectively, literary critics and journalists.
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