By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, please allow me to set the records straight before I go into the main meat of this letter. On a personal note, I have no problem with President Goodluck Jonathan seeking a second term in office. It is his legitimate Constitutional right. It does not matter if he truly reached an unwritten gentleman’s agreement with some members of his political party, openly or clandestinely. When did it become a criminal offence for Nigerian politicians to renege on their promises? At the very worst, he would have committed a moral offence of being a reprobaterather than a gentleman who keepsto his words. Finito! But that is an act of indecorum which is not punishable under any of our Acts or Statutes.
My take is simple and straight-forward: let Jonathan run, if he wants to. It is cowardly to stylishly force him out of the race. The essence of democracy is to give every aspirant a chance except we can establish legal reasons to debar him. The Nigerian Constitution permits a President to run for two terms if he can win the presidential race twice. So be it. This Constitution is definitely superior to that of any humongous political party. If the President has decided to exercise that right, there is nothing anyone can do to stop him from running if he gets his party ticket which I suspect won’t be any problem for him given the way things work in Nigerian politics.
However, difficult as it may seem, there are options open to those who don’t want him to be the next PDP candidate if they are ready to fight all the way. But they can only achieve that through Constitutional means. Members of his party can decide to change him for another aspirant, and they are not in short supply, by ensuring he doesn’t get the party nomination during their National Convention. As far-fetched as this may seem, it cannot be totally ruled out if they can muster enough resources to match him dollar for dollar. The only snag in that calculation is that I’m not sure any Nigerian currently has access to such a monstrously deep pocket, as Alhaji Atiku Abubakar discovered on his night of the long knives at the Eagle Square in Abuja barely two years ago.
First, the law enforcement agents would be encouraged to lock up the delegates in their hotel rooms and ensure that no other aspirant can reach them. Two, the incumbent President would easily receive the support of every businessman worth his salt in Nigeria and beyond without even asking. The President of Nigeria has the power of life and death and would never waste any time before deploying it. He can turn a billionaire into a pauper overnight and turn a certified pauper into a billionaire before you pronounce Jack Robinson. No wise businessman ever fights government in Nigeria. It is an unwritten code you learn from kindergarten school.
Three, Mr President understands the weakness of most Nigerians. It is the special craving, craze and propensity for political appointments. That obsession is so insatiable that even at 80 many Nigerian politicians would sacrifice anything and everything to obtain government appointments no matter how degrading or demeaning. The reason is not far-fetched. Returns on investments are usually high in Nigerian politics. Economic recessions hardly affect them. Right now, most Nigerians are moaning and groaning, yet the politicians have no cause to complain. They are awarding themselves stupendous remunerations and allowances with infinite opportunities to globe-trot on very outlandish estacode. This is why most people want to be in the good books of the President including those who abuse him in public. At the right time, the President would call them in and speak the original dialect they all understand. Money!
I believe it is for those reasons some people want to elbow the President out before the race begins. My prediction is that Jonathan will get the PDP ticket again, no matter what it takes. And my advice to those who don’t want that to happen is to either support him or quickly leave the party for him. Unfortunately, there are not too many stronger parties in contention. The only one available for now, if and when it gets registered, is APC. But even here, there are formidable obstacles to scale. How easy would it be for our dear Atiku Abubakar to return to APC with all his former AC allies in firm control? How easy would it be for a Waziri Aminu Tambuwal to persuade General Muhammadu Buhari to jettison his voluptuous dream of ruling Nigeria again? How simple would it be for a Sule Lamido to risk all his investments in PDP and hope to upstage our own BAT, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu in APC? By what magic would Governor Babangida Aliyu control enough influence in APC? These are technical issues that those leaving PDP would have to confront sooner than later. It is a dilemma offering no easy escape route.
I see four clear options. The first is there will be the original PDP under the firm grip of Jonathan. But that Jonathan-PDP may become a shadow of itself if most of the Northern Governors, members of the Senate, House of Representatives and other State legislators collectively pull out and join the Obasanjo renegades in the South Westand leave the dry shell for Jonathan and his die-hard supporters in the South-South, South-East and parts of the Middle-Belt. That is the Second option. The third is for APC to risk a Muslim Muslim ticket in Buhari and Tinubu and hope to garner enough crowds from the North West and the South West.
The fourth is for Buhari and Tinubu to sacrifice everything and reach out to Tambuwal and Rotimi Amaechi, or a similar formidable duo, and hope to break the monopoly of Jonathan in the South South. This is possible, where a bigger Rivers is already feeling oppressed by Bayelsa, Cross River is feeling emasculated by Akwa Ibom, the Ibori crowds are feeling marginalised in Delta and the godfathers are being rendered irrelevant in Edo by Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole. This scenario seems the most likely permutation to ease out Jonathan. Political pundits believe this is why Jonathan is already fighting like a wounded lion in Rivers State. Rivers has the hefty resources and more than enough electoral figures to threaten Jonathan’s ambition.
Tinubu and General Olusegun Obasanjo would have to bury their differences and rescue Nigeria from the brink of collapse. Many Nigerians still blame Obasanjo for giving Nigeria a weak and ineffectual leadership. They fail to understand why he couldn’t come up with a star-studded team of Donald Duke, Nasir El Rufai, Dora Akunyili, NgoziOkonjo-Iwealla, NuhuRibadu, Bukola Saraki, Julius Ihonvbere, Charles Soludo, Emeka Chikelu, Oby Ezekwesili, Akin Osuntokun, Frank Nweke Jnr., and others, when he left power in 2007. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar had a pool of young and vibrant technocrats like Chris Mammah, Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo, Garba Shehu and Adeolu Akande who could have been groomed for the new Nigeria of our dreams. However they were all exterminated like irritants by Obasanjo who squashed them underfoot. Had power been transferred to such upwardly mobile people, Nigeria would have had its own version of Obama and Cameron by now. The decision to swim and drown with the weakest links robbed us of a more energetic government.
We have no idea yet what the general electorate might do after 14 years of narcoleptic leadership of PDP. Will they put a final stop to Jonathan’s voluble ambition by casting their votes for the new-look opposition or stick fervently to the devil they already know?
While it is tempting to be bought over by the lack of performance argument against Jonathan, it can be safely assumed that one’s man’s meat is another man’s poison. There is no other way to put the lack of performance to test than at the polls. Nigerians hardly vote like normal people do. We often base our decision on primordial sentiments that include the whiff of money, ethnicity, religion, position and so on. Who knows, despite our excruciating pains in the hands of the PDP hawks, Jonathan might still manage to hypnotise enough Nigerians with his Fresh Air razzmatazz? Elsewhere, PDP would have long been consigned to the dustbin of history but not in our long-suffering and eternally resilient and reticent country called Nigeria.
I won’t be surprised if all the PDP Governors line up behind Jonathan when tomorrow comes. What will shock me is if they don’t. A lot of government money is already being stockpiled for our type of rainy day. Loads of cash will jump out of the vaults when the time comes, as it certainly will, sooner than later. How many politicians born of women can resist the lure of money in a country where money speaketh all languages and conquereth all territories?
As for me and my house, the best option for Jonathan is to ignore all those putting pressure on him to run. Truth is he has nothing to prove again. God has showered him with too much kindness. He has entered the history books for life as Nigeria’s President and Commander-in-Chief. It does not matter how long he stays in power. What would ultimately matter is what he does with it. If I were in his shoes, I will concentrate on what legacy to bequeath to future generations and worry less about the distractions of a Second Term malady. He has nothing to lose if he does not seek a second term but he has everything to forfeit if he runs and fails to win. The best way to win or lose with dignity is not to make it a matter of life and death. It would even be worse if he has nothing tangible to point at as his achievement when his tenure expires, whenever that is.
If I were Jonathan, I will take off my hat, jump into some casuals and hit the ground running. I will work like a donkey and try to prove my enemies wrong. I will make sure I conclude the power projects. That alone will instantly turn any Nigerian leader to an all-time hero. I will cut the cost and burden of governance. I will keep a lower profile and kick out most of the deadwoods in government. I will concentrate on those projects I can complete as soon as possible. I sincerely believe all the energy he’s wasting on pursuing Rotimi Amaechi and company can be better utilised. He had never fought for anything in his life. Whatever he is today was at the instance of uncommon good luck and enduring patience. Why not allow God to decide his next destination in life instead of stopping others who want to try their own luck.
It is not too late for the President to ease the tension in the land. He has nothing more to ask of God. He became Nigeria’s President without much ado. It is for him to compensate Nigerians for that unusual favour. What I see is his proclivity for enjoyment and the good life. His government is too bloated and full of unserious elements. Those goading him on today,and encouraging him to fight on all fronts, would soon abandon him perchance he fails in this mission. They are his real enemies out to preserve their pecuniary interests only.
Where are those who said Obasanjo was their god a few years ago and daily swore by his name? They have since moved on to otherclimes in search of new gods, and I doubt if they even remember how to get to the Hill Top mansion in Abeokuta.
There is no better lesson for the wise.