12th March, 2013
By Theophilus Ilevbare
The pesky ambition of President Goodluck Jonathan to seek a second term in office was given the green light by an Abuja High Court ruling. Though he has remained coy – a loud silence to me – on his ambition to seek re-election, his body language, actions and inactions have suggested he is set to run for a second term. He seem to be fully persuaded for 2015 by the trappings of Aso Rock, the lure of power, fame, a horde of sycophants and hangers-on whose only interest is another four years of the continuous milking of the cash cow – Nigeria.
We all can recall, on the first of January 2013 residents in Abuja woke up to behold the posters of Jonathan in their neighbourhood, the strongest indication of the new year that he will contest in 2015 at a time Nigerians were trying to grapple with the stale air of his administration. It was no mistake that the same posters resurfaced in Abuja, less than 24 hours after the election of Tony Anenih as the BoT chairman of the PDP.
No one will believe the tale that Mr Jonathan will not contest the forthcoming election. The recent repositioning of the PDP field marshals and foot soldiers in the Board of Trustees (BoT) and the PDP Governors’ Forum, carved out of the NGF, are strong indications that the ground is being prepared for the forth coming elections. The unanimous election of Tony Anenih to double as the chairman of the money spinning NPA and BoT of the PDP on one hand and Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom state, loyal servant of the PDP as the chairman of the newly formed PDP Governors’ Forum, on the other hand, is a loud political statement in itself. The formation of the PDP-NGF was in a bid to whittle down the influence of the chairman of the NGF, and Governor of Rivers state, Rotimi Amaechi. The PDP wing of the NGF was apparently formed to promote the interest of Jonathan’s second term ambition within the ranks of the PDP governors. With the PDP machinery in motion, and more billions needed to keep it steamrolled, we should expect more frivolous white elephant projects in the coming months. Not surprisingly, a diffident President Jonathan in 2011 has shown lately, with his deft political alignment that he knows his way around his party and he is capable of playing politics dirty.
Advertently, his rumoured ambition has been amplified in decibels from the ruling party. The party’schairman, Bamanga Tukur has been effusive about it, declaring Jonathan is free to contest the election on the platform of the party. With the appointment of the PDP election mercenaries to key government agencies, fictitious multi-billion naira projects awarded and those on the cards, delibrate non-implementation of budgets, the party is sure to be armed with a war chest for 2015.
For incumbent President Jonathan to renege on a gentleman arrangement, written or verbal, he entered with his PDP cohorts from the north raises integrity and credibility questions. The fact that Mr Jonathan has not denied the existence of an agreement, speaks volumes.
Needless to add, am not a proponent of zoning. Overtime, zoning has become insidious and the aftermath disastrous for our fledging democracy. The likes of Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu should realise that zoning as a political philosophy is as of today, pernicious and inconsistent with the changing political landscape and must be jettisoned. For second term seekers, performance in office, character, proven track record and merit should be subject to competitive forces that will throw up a competent winner at the polls. The office of the president or any other elective public office is nobody’s birth right, everyone has the right to contest. The way to eliminate mediocres from leadership positions is to create a level playing ground for all aspirants where the worst prepared and least capable candidate is weeded out by the most competent aspirant.
The jostling for 2015 is uncalled for. It has already overheated the polity, breeding unnecessary tension. The NGF has been polarised along party and regional lines, the PDP is a house divided against itself, the National Assembly is crossed with the executive. In the months to come in Jonathan’s administration, all hope is virtually lost on his ability to deliver on whatever remains of the dividend of democracy that was promised.
Nigerians, and particularly the opposition must be vigilant and not get carried away by the perpetual contrived internal crisis in the PDP. Make no mistake about it, they aren’t fighting just yet, ignore the Nollywood movie playing out between the presidency and the NGF. Sooner rather than later, Jonathan will have dinner with the governors like he did with Obasanjo.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is practically impossible to stop a Nigerian political office holder from running for a second term. It is futile dissuading Jonathan from contesting. Cast your mind on Obasanjo’s second term debacle in 2003 for a better understanding of the scenario playing out this time around.
For a president who was quoted as saying one term is enough to make meaningful impact on the lives of the people, it is not so difficult to see why even his kinsmen are opposed to his second coming. Convincing the rest Nigerians to vote him again will be an uphill task, even those who said they voted for Jonathan rather than PDP in 2011 will have a rethink. Opposition parties should rather start mapping out strategies on how to defeat him at the polls.
In the light of his poor performance, unfulfilled promises, the slow pace of his administration, his preposterous fight against corruption and the growing apathy of Nigerians against the PDP for their failure to bring the country out of the woods since 1999, it makes Mr Jonathan an easy candidate to beat in a free, fair and credible elections. The opposition and those opposed to his candidature need not lose sleep, but close ranks to sensitise and strategise on how to oust him through the ballot. With the new drift towards a two party system like what is obtainable in advanced democracies, political analysts are predicting a keen contest, maybe the most keenly contested in recent time.
Jonathan should indeed be allowed to run for 2015 presidency, his scorecard should speak for him. The changing political terrain and the seeming uncertainty the emergence of APC has brought to the mix will deepen our democracy and strengthen the opposition parties when dynamic democratic forces throw up the best candidate; the people will ultimately be the better for it. There is nothing to fear about the incumbent’s candidature, as it will not be the PDP against the numerous minor opposition parties, as it was in time past, but an epic battle between two formidable political parties.
The die is cast, the race has begun in earnest with Jonathan as a presidential aspirant! The only option left for the opposition is to raise their game. Their alliance has already changed the political terrain, disturbing the “smooth sail” the PDP would have had.