The sinner-saint, Rasputin
BARRING some minor spiritual and temporal dissimilarities, Jonathan is almost our own version of Russia’s Grigory Yefimovich Rasputin -the 18th century semi-literate ‘peasant-divine’ -or should we say the ‘sinner-saint’- with a mystic of outward ‘spirituality’ concealing a lecherous, influence-peddling personality that was to put Russia on the brink of disaster. Rasputin was the self-proclaimed ‘holy man’ from one of the coldest Siberian outskirts with an inexplicable ‘spiritual sleight of hand’ that earned him the friendship of ‘Russia’s last imperial family — the Romanovs — a relationship that was to wreck the dynasty’s prestige and inevitably set the stage for the Russian Revolutions of 1917.
Reputed for his ‘alleged’ healing powers but also notorious for his ‘scandalous sexual exploits’, Rasputin came from a little-known Pokrovskoye village to Saint Petersburg in 1903 as a ‘humble pilgrim by rail’, and they said in no time he was to owe his acclaim as a ‘divine’ to the ‘fad for spiritualism, exoticism and popular religion’ which was prevalent in Russia at that time’. And although he was not ordained, yet Rasputin enjoyed the favours of prominent members of Russia’s orthodox church, -not because they believed he was truly ‘divine’ but because the mystic of his spiritual influence over the king could benefit the Church.
Autocrat and protector
They said that Rasputin embodied the simple ‘peasant faith’ in the Russian monarchy –even at a time of uprising against it- and that the Emperor himself saw this ‘faith’ of a rustic mystic as ‘chief support of his dynasty and the main justification of his role as autocrat and protector of his people’. Moreover Rasputin seemed ‘uniquely able to alleviate the incurable illness of Alexis’, heir to the throne, and on occasion he had even ‘intervened successfully to end dangerous attacks of bleeding.’ Just as, in randy moments of eminent lust too, he was also uniquely able to take down his high society preys –not excluding the empress herself, without the prying eye of unsuspecting public.
It was in this uncanny ability to effectively enchant the spiritual and the temporal or to beguile both the sacred and the profane, that Rasputin earned himself the disreputable nickname ‘sinner-saint’ and the fitting alias ‘the saint who sinned’. A two-faced Rasputin was able to hold his own by exuding the divine to con the spiritually gullible and by radiating the libidinous to sway the amorously flirtatious. The Seventies’ pop group, ‘Boney M’ did an allegorical number on him as ‘lover of the Russian Queen’ with a chorus describing him as one who ‘used to teach the Bible like a preacher, full of ecstasy and fire’; but that he was also a kind of ‘wheeler-dealer many men reviled’ .
Jonathan, our Rasputin
Rasputin was not any more endowed materially or any more ‘sinning’ spiritually than a ‘shoeless’ Jonathan who came also from a little known Otuoke village in Bayelsa State, -a humble peasant-pilgrim of the democratic search for ‘greener pasture’. He rode almost effortlessly on the crest of the humility of his person and the privation of his simple, modest background, to secure the sympathy of an ethno-religiously sentimental electorate and to gain political power, by which he was to take Nigeria to the precipice by laying it bare almost as booty of war for the aggrandizement of partisan and patriarchal kinfolk.
Although unlike Rasputin, Jonathan is enviably literate with even a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) to boost, his approach to matters of state and politics, had put him less than a semi-literate Rasputin who, – it must be conceded – in the very art in which he excelled, namely spiritual manipulation, Rasputin knew his onions with the gumption of a professional con artist. Jonathan, –rather than being a master political chef who should know his every onions- ironically was himself a terribly exploited ‘onion’ by the many selfish cooks of his political party to garnish their well-oiled steak.
But our Jonathan was a different kind of ‘peasant-divine’. Unlike Rasputin, he did not seek power. Power sought Jonathan. He had it thrust on him –almost willy-nilly- by those who claimed they saw the hand of the ‘divine’ in his candidacy. Jonathan did not have the mystic, let alone the cabalistic comportment of Rasputin. And although he did not have Rasputin’s obtrusive sure-footedness in the con-art of easily passing off as ‘holy’ or ‘divine’; Jonathan’s self-effacing reticence, his near nervous introversion, garnished with a timorousness that can pass for the meekness of a lamb, all combined to give him a Rasputin aura even if without the street wisdom of Rasputin. And all these were defended by his supporters merely as the reflex leap of the ‘Jonathan innocence’ –a virtue which they said even he had no control over.
In the days of his Acting Presidency up to the early period of his Presidency, Jonathan was still an innocent tail wagged by these medley of uninspiring attributes; until the hawks and the hyenas of his political party suddenly began to discover the silver lining inherent in the Jonathan style of profligate, Father-Christmas kind of attitude to governance. And when every covetous knee in PDP shamelessly began to bow before Jonathan’s imprudence, and when every greedy mouth in PDP pretentiously began to eulogise the ‘heroics’ of a grossly under-performing Jonathan, it was then that the man lost his rustic, Otuoke innocence, and suddenly gained the manipulative Rasputin image of an outwardly-benevolent ‘divine’ but who was always sneakily in pursuit of the politically devious. It was at this point that we began to see a Machiavellic Jonathan who would have no qualms projecting the desperate idea that ‘A thing worth having is a thing worth cheating for’.
Jonathan suddenly became adept at saying one thing and meaning another. He would say for example that his ambition was ‘not worth anyone’s blood’ but he would look the other way as his kinsmen threatened violence if he was not elected; he would speak of ‘free and fair election’ even as his party the PDP was openly perfecting plans to cheat; he would preach the virtue of inter-ethnic respect but would not reprimand especially his wife when she insulted others; he would be the sing-song bird of ‘internal party democracy’, but would threaten to ‘bring down all’ unless PDP governors nominated him. Jonathan would sermonise about ‘electoral merit’ and ‘credentials’ as the veritable democratic selling points of candidates but he would have ethnic champions and religious foot soldiers drive his campaigns on the altars of ‘good luck’ and ‘good omens’; he would be exposed by Wikileaks admitting to America’s Sanders that the North’s agitation for zoning was legitimate, but he went to Canada to call pro-zoning northerners “tribalists afraid of competition”.
As we made our bed…
We had an opportunity to vote for ‘cause and effect’ –as in to be empirically clear-headed about the choice of those who governed our national affairs; but we chose instead to vote for ‘luck’ and ‘good omens’. Concerning Jonathan, many Nigerians elevated ‘faith’ above ‘knowledge’ and ‘belief’ even above ‘good deeds’. We accepted that Jonathan did not have to be good, or even hold any promise of being a good leader. It was sufficient only that he had the anointing. I once observed in a previous piece that ‘in the days of Yar’Adua’s health debacle we made the case for Jonathan’s ‘acting capacity’ ‘as though that was the long awaited elixir for the many sicknesses of our nation. Jonathan himself was heralded (especially by us the media) in the fable of a Daniel coming to judgement. He was cast in the glowing epic of an avenging angel cruising on a chariot of fire, brandishing the proverbial Sword of Damocles and poised to right the many wrongs of Nigeria”
“Many of us moved by motives of different kinds, naively pontificated about Nigeria’s rare, divine good luck in having for the first time, a rustic and innocent mystic called Ebele Jonathan, who alone not only knew the drudgery of a ‘shoe-less’ childhood and the taste of kindergarten poverty, but one who now had the enviable fortune to ‘move this great country forward’ -or at least to shove it beyond its ‘shoe-less existence’! Many of my colleagues threw caution to the winds and without blush celebrated the advent of a renaissance of ‘Jonathan ideas’, which they said were about to fecundate our land, to make it grow forth, and bear fruit once again!”Everyone said that the Zodiacs must be favourably at work in the political affairs of this young Doctor and that if God had personally seen him through five political rivers –LG Chairman, Deputy Governor, Acting Governor, Governor, Vice President, who was ‘man’, mere ‘mortal’ man, to stand in the way of his Acting Presidency? And so the Shagaris and the Gowons were scurried to NASS by a torrent of media-induced public display of hyper-patriotism, to beg lawmakers to agree to devise any legislative device in order to give Jonathan ‘Acting Capacity’ –so he could move Nigeria forward! And soon we voted to make him President. And look where he has moved us, like Rasputin did Romanov’s Russia, forward!