Truly the end of a thing shall be better than the beginning thereof! In America today and to people around the world, Abraham Lincoln is celebrated as that towering president that ended the horrendous institution of slavery in America through his Emancipation proclamation of 1865. But the truth of the matter is that there is the Abraham Lincoln that the world knows and celebrates today, and the Abraham Lincoln that wasn’t talked about.
Abraham Lincoln supported the Black Codes in the state of Illinois; under this law black people were essentially denied their humanity and had to pay in order to enter the state. It is no secret that Lincoln voted for the slave trade and strongly supported the Fugitive Act of 1850 which mandated that states had to return runaway slaves to their masters upon their discovery and that anyone found to have helped facilitate the escape be criminally charged. As a result of the draconian law, many free black people were illegally kidnapped and sold right back into slavery – one of which was Solomon Northup who the movie 12 Years a Slave is based on.
The million dollar question is why have we neglected to talk about all these negative aspects of Abraham Lincoln? My sense is that we probably have because we either lack a sense of history or we have a selective grasp of history where we decided to focus on Lincoln, the Emancipator. The Abraham Lincoln that the world knows and talks today is the Lincoln of the last 2 to 3 years of his life.
In like manner, it is my sense that Nigerians and the world will probably remember the last moments of President Goodluck Jonathan. If we were to focus on the negative aspects of the President Goodluck, the list will be endless. Under his administration, corruption rose to stratospheric levels! The presidential pardon he granted Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, the former governor of Bayelsa state who was convicted of money laundering and embezzlement of the state treasury, was seen in Nigeria and abroad as an endorsement of corruption.
The same administration that slapped a bunch of corrupt crooks on the wrist, vilified and later fired Lamido Sanusi, the former Central Bank governor who blew the cover on the $20 billion stolen from the Nigerian oil sector. It is extremely difficult to forget the controversial dictum of President Jonathan “Stealing is not corruption.”
Another colossal failure on the part Jonathan’s administration was the inability to decimate the terrorist group Boko Haram that has wreaked untold havoc on innocent citizens in the northern part of country since the inception of his administration. The tepid approach of his government to the reality of the over 200 Chibok girls that were kidnapped, and the inability to rescue them, will forever remain an unpardonable sin against humanity.
No doubt, there have been instances in the past that I have personally been ashamed of being a Nigerian simply because of the cluelessness of Jonathan’s administration. But come yesterday, I couldn’t have prouder of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. He conceded defeat at the past presidential election which made him the first incumbent president to have lost an election. This honorable act of Jonathan averted the prediction/rumor credited to the Central Intelligence Agency that Nigeria will break up in 2015. The courageous act of President Goodluck sutured together the unity of Nigeria; had he not conceded defeat, there would have been a full-blown war in Nigeria whose carnage would have dwarfed that of Nigeria’s civil war between 1967-1970.
Although, President Abraham Lincoln preserved the union, it was through military intervention that cost the lives of 620,000 Americans died in the process. On the other hand President Goodluck Jonathan preserved the unity of Nigeria without a single bullet, but by respecting the wishes of millions of Nigerians at the ballot. President Jonathan may have lost an election, but he has won heroism that can never be achieved by presidential powers! If history is any predictor of future events, this will be the moment that he is most remembered for; we will undoubtedly forget all of the atrocities and corruption that his administration is culpable.