2015: Men, forces that will stop Jonathan by CHIDI OBINECHE (The Sun)
The tapestry of the 2015 presidential elections is gradually taking the shape of a two horse-race, with President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and a candidate, (ostensibly of Northern extraction) of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, slugging it out. Unlike the 2011 elections where Jonathan contended with a myriad of lack-lustre opposition candidates and forces, there are clear indications of an emerging fierce, hotly-contested battle that will ultimately test his might, popularity, and try his soul. But while the men opposed to his return to power, strategize, and fine tune their methods and tactics, a vortex of forces have crystallized to inject more pep to the inhibiting factors. These men and forces have clawed their way to illuminate the issues behind the elections, as well as an intriguing post-election outlook.
Jonathan, in obvious optimistic acknowledgement of the emerging vista, underscored it in his last democracy day remarks when he said “All these distractions were planned to bring down the government. Since they failed, terror will also fail. Forces of darkness will never prevail over light. I call on all Nigerians to continue to pray, and with God on our side, we shall overcome”.
A growing march of opposition to his second term bid for power has found breadth in an opposition movement that has recently metamorphosed in a constellation of core groups, with the APC serving as the rallying point. These men and groups are as vociferous as they are tenacious. They deploy tendentious propaganda, and a nimble pro-activeness to stoke the people’s consciousness, creating despair, and presentiments in the minds of the people.
They include, a former President, leaders of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Aggrieved Ijaw leaders, Civil society groups and the labour movement. Until recently, four of the six former heads of state were sharply opposed to his second term ambition.
In a deft political maneuver and engagement, only Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is yet to swing his support. The journey towards the realization of this objective formed one of the reasons while his erstwhile political adviser, Ahmed Gulak was unceremoniously relived of his appointment. So far, Jonathan has demonstrated immense courage, and tenacity of purpose in containing the ex-leaders, even as plans are afoot to rein- in the remaining dissenting voice. Respected clergy men, traditional rulers, and at least seven elder statesmen close to Obasanjo have been railroaded into the project. Initial advances to him were repelled. However, his obduracy is being gradually watered-down, given his considerably reduced criticisms of Jonathan’s government of recent.
Jonathan’s election managers are also reaching out to the “recalcitrant” leaders of NEF. No dice has yet been cut in the offensive, but there is hope that “they will soon be reined-in”, a source close to one of the Jonathan’s support groups told “Sunday Sun”. NEF is about the only remaining influential Northern group that is yet to assent to Jonathan’s 2015 return bid.
At the home front, Jonathan is contending with an array of prominent Ijaw leaders, whose disdain for his continued hold on power is as complex as they are confusing.
They include former Petroleum Minister, Prof Tam David West, Chief Alagbo Graham Douglas, supporters of Henry Okah’s Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), and of course, leaders of the APC in his zone, with Governor Rotimi Amaechi, and ex-governor Timipre Sylva at the apex. The latter vividly approximates the axiom of the fly that is perched precariously on the scrotum. A slam on it may result in smashing the scrotum with it. One of the Ijaw leaders often alleges incompetence as the main reason for his opposition to his comeback bid. But Sunday Sun findings reveal that his alliance with, and support for the presidential ambition of a former military head of state formed the nucleus of his opposition to Jonathan.
The political disagreements between Jonathan, on the one hand, and Amaechi and Sylva are too well known, and have formed the thrust of his homeland resentment.
The duo are working tirelessly to firmly implant the APC in the zone, with the motive of embarrassing Jonathan at home during the election.
But the president of the Ijaw Professionals Association, Arch Amakpe Kentebbe, has however dismissed the efforts of Amaechi, and Sylva as “falling short of standards of patriotism” adding however, that in a democracy they are entitled to their views and choices. He said, Jonathan is doing a good job and that is why the forces are gathering against him, “If he was not doing a good job, he will not have these forces gathering against him. He will overcome them. They are myopic people from a small segment of the population, he explained.
Although the PDP, and Jonathan’s election managers have worked hard in out-clawing the APC’s stranglehold in 18 states, about 10 serving governors will still be arrayed in opposition to him, the highest number ever since 1999.
The role and influence of serving governors in Nigeria’s electoral history are instructive and legendary. This, perhaps informed the drive and desperation of Jonathan in this regard. Although, it has been stridently denied, the governors of Borno, Yobe, Kwara, Ondo, and Anambra states are on their way to the PDP to galvanize support for Jonathan.
Civil society groups and the labour movement have shown tremendous apathy and disenchantment with Jonathan’s leadership style and are believed to be working towards aborting his dream. Leaders of the PDP have often accused these two groups of being lackeys of the APC, an accusation they have denied. The labour movement in particular has not made any move or statements injurious to the President’s ambition, but the body language, disposition and association, show the contrary in the buildup to the election next year. In the Ekiti governorship election of June 21 this year, the labour movement openly worked against the interests of the president’s party, and have also taken sides with the opposition on a number of issues.
About nine key forces may torpedo Jonathan’s dream if not adequately addressed. They include the handling of the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency in some parts of the North, anti corruption battle, alleged single term pact, possible legal ambush, choice of running mate, controversies, internal disenchantment in PDP, local media opposition, and lop sided appointments.
His name sake Jonathan fields, a philosopher, elaborately enunciates the principles of the embattled man to overcome odds.
He wrote: “let’s face it – the leap of faith required to follow a dream is usually accompanied by guts, wrenching, knee quaking, soul shaking fear” Regrettably, his confronting the monster of insurgency has been largely perceived as lacking in guts, but profligate in knee quaking, and soul shaking fear. The perception may be faulty, but the vast majority of Nigerians are hanging on to that thin line of argument to push for the emergence of a macho- man, preferably of a military background to prosecute the war against terror.
Those who are favourably disposed to this strand of opinion hinge it on the complexity of the raging insecurity and the history of insurgencies.
Elder Asu Beks a prominent Ijaw son and leader of Ijaw Peoples Assembly differs. He captures it this way: All the wars in modern history have been successfully prosecuted by men with vision. Look at Wiston Churchill of great Britain and Eissen Hower of the U.S.A.
A President with vision understands the dynamics and rubrics of insecurity, and takes on the challenge as the tempo and circumstances dictate. Jonathan is well equipped to overcome the challenges and shame his critics.
For good or bad, the insecurity problem will be at the core of the 2015 elections, and will determine the thrust of support for Jonathan by a preponderance of voters. The Hydra-headed monster of corruption is also a formidable force. The opposition has latched on it as a campaign factor to stir anger and anti- Jonathan sentiments in the minds of people. Founder and National chairman of the United Nigeria Progressive Party (UNPP) Chief Chekwas Okorie, has even canvassed the stoppage of salaries for staffers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) , and ICPC ( the Independent Corrupt Practices and Allied Offences Commission) for redundancy.
“I think their salaries should be stopped. They are redundant.” He told Sunday sun
The President’s alleged mysterious single term pact looms large ahead of his re-election.
Obasanjo first fired the Salvo in his speech at Eagle square, Abuja in March 2011, during the grand finale of the PDP Presidential rally that brought Jonathan to power. He said “we are impressed with the report that Dr Goodluck Jonathan has already taken a unique, and unprecedented step in declaring that he would only want to be a one term president. If so, whether he knows it or not, that is a sacrifice, and it is statesmanly. Rather than vilify him and pull him down, we as a party should applaud and commend him, and Nigerians should reward and venerate him”.
Since that opening salvo,, those opposed to him have vicariously highlighted this speech.
Niger state Governor Muazu Aliyu Babangida, in the hey days of his trenchant criticisms of Jonathan, took it up from there: “I recall that the time he was going to declare for the 2011 elections, all the PDP governors were brought together to ensure that we are all in the same frame of mind. “and I recall that some of us said, given the circumstances of the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua,and given the PDP zoning arrangement, it was expected that the North was to produce the President for a given number of years. He was also said to have committed himself to one term in Kampala, Uganda at the time.
“Even when Jonathan went to Kampala in Uganda, he also said he was going to serve a single term.
… For now, President Jonathan has not declared for a second term ambition, and we must not be speculating based on those who are benefiting from the campaign. I think, we are all gentlemen enough. when the time comes, we will all come together to see the right thing to do”.
Another Northern governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso joined Babangida . “I have a copy of the agreement, and some of us have come together to enforce the agreement. We will soon release a copy of the agreement to the public to prove a point that we are not just raising the alarm. I think the right thing is for the president to stick to the agreement. Some of us were almost stoned for sacrificing the interest of the North for the South-South.” About 20 governors were said to have signed the agreement, prior to the party’s primaries in 2010. Also included, were members of the party’s National Working Committee, NWC, then, led by Chief Okwesileze Nwodo, Chief Tony Anenih, and the then Minister of Defense, Dr Haliru Bello.
Second Republic member of the House of Representatives Dr Junaid Mohammed adds more flavor to the agitation against the President’s aspiration. He said, “Even without the promise or deal, said to have been entered into by the governors with the President in 2011, an ordinary reading of the constitution at face value, will indicate that Jonathan cannot avail himself of another term in 2015, simply because the constitution provides for two terms for anybody, notwithstanding the intervening circumstances.
“Secondly, the constitution provides for people taking the oath of office only twice in their lifetime. Now, how this president can proceed to take oath of office three times is something I cannot understand, and they are unwilling to subject the matter to the Supreme Court for interpretation”.
While Jonathan is smarting from the single-term imbroglio, some PDP leaders are seething with anger and nursing secret grudges against him over what they term as his “inclination to selfishness and betrayal of members and the party’s interest for his own convenience”. The anger is most pervasive in Edo, Anambra and Ondo states.. An Edo PDP leader whose name is withheld told Sunday Sun that “The man may not have things easy with aggrieved members of the party like us, who have worked very hard in the past at various times to ensure the success of his presidency.
He uses and dumps members anyhow for his selfish interest, especially during times he was supposed to stand and defend the collective interests of the PDP and loyal members of the party’s interest.
“Look, many of us who are aggrieved are just keeping our cool and playing along with him until the appropriate time. Now that the campaigns are starting, and he is eager to come back, and the North is not disposed to him, he would have no choice than to fall back on us for one support or the other. Then, we will either have the choice of taking our pound of flesh, or back him for the sake of the party’s interest.”
“But I doubt if the man knows the level of animosity and ill-feelings towards him by members of PDP like us, who are unhappy because of the way he had dealt with us when it mattered most”.
A chieftain of the Anambra PDP (name also withheld) corroborated him, in reaction to the president’s alleged involvement in the loss of PDP to the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA in the November 16, 2013 governorship election in the state. “There is nowhere in any presidential democracy, where a sitting president of a ruling party would mortgage the electoral interest of his party for that of opposition”.
The choice of a fitting running mate also constitutes a clog in the wheel of his ambition. There has been doubts over whether he will retain the Vice President Arch Namadi Sambo. Sambo has been accused by several Jonathan’s supporters of deficient in grassroots politicking even in his Kaduna base, and lacks the clout to galvanize enough support for Jonathan’s candidature in the North. Some have even proposed his replacement with any serving governor from the North West, except governor Yero. The dilemma in making a choice is double-edged. If he retains Sambo, those opposed to the choice may work against him, and capitalize on Sambo’s alleged weaknesses. If he changes him, the uproar and backlash may be difficult to contain, and may indeed add to his headache.
Jonathan has in many ways than one, portrayed himself as not a skilled crises manager. According to Abraham Lincolm, “the dogmas of a quiet past are insufficient to the stormy present”. From the Nigeria Governors Forum,( NGF) crises, impeachments of governors, Good governance tour, to constant brushes with his aides, committing of gaffes, to Mrs Jonathan’s blabs, large doses of inertia which creates poor public perception have been thrown up.
It does not end there. His pardon of his former boss, ex governor Dieprieye Alameiseigha, and that of a rapist homosexual ex-major Bello Mogaji angered the international community. Mogaji was convicted and sentenced to 5 years for sodomy by a military court in 1996. He was said to have had sex serially with 4 students of Army Cantonment Boys Secondary, Ojo, Lagos state. (Mohammed, Joseph, Emmanuel, and Isaac).
The local media is also aghast at the president’s predilection towards the foreign media, and may likely dissolve into portent opposition to him.
Also of interest to his re-election dream is the nature and direction of his key appointments. For instance, there is a sweeping general belief in his stronghold in the south that he panders more to the North, especially the North West in all his key appointments. Former Anambra state governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife sums it up “The Minister of Defense- North West, National Security Adviser- North West, Inspector General of Police- North West, Chief of Defense Staff- North Central. What is left?”
As a riposte to some of these appointments, the South East PDP is up in arms with the IGP (Inspector General of Police) and by extension the president over the recent top police postings. The Ndigbo cultural society, a socio-political group also joined the South East PDP to condemn the postings. The group’s president, Chief Udo Udeoogaranya observed that “Ndigbo predominantly occupies two Geo-political zones of South East/ South South in Nigeria in addition to millions of residents in Lagos state and substantial residents across all other states of the federation. That they could not get a single police zonal command out of the I2 zones in the federation is totally inacceptable”.
Rather than be his oyster, Jonathan’s skewed appointments may turn to his albatross as he may end up losing his strongholds, while not holding firmly to the appeasement areas.
His assiduity, management of critical issues of governance in a 21st century Nigeria, deflation of the forces ranged against him, will prove decisive in the outcome of his dream.