• Saturday, April 20, 2024
businessday logo


Jonathan and the credibility question


He comes across as a man who is not interested in power, but deep down his inner recesses, his ambition for power towers higher than the 102-storey Empire State Building in New York City in America, a country where Nigeria borrowed the presidential system that has over the years proved an albatross. President Goodluck Jonathan’s seeming unassuming mien and ambivalence towards running for a second term in 2015 must not be mistaken for a lack of interest.

Garba Shehu, a spokesperson of the Atiku Campaign Organisation, said in an interview: “To unravel the essential President Goodluck Jonathan, one may need to go back to December 2002. On that day, Jonathan who was then Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, was in attendance at a national caucus meeting of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), by default. For whatever reason, his boss, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, was not available for that meeting and had delegated him to represent him.

That coincidence appears to have been a fortuitous one. It was at that meeting that the rotation of power between the North and South of the country was affirmed. Jonathan was the 35th signatory on the resolution of that meeting reaffirming the rotation of power between the two regions. It was expected that following the expiration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure on May 29, 2007, power would return to the North and reside there for eight years. It did return with the ascendance of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. However, with the demise of Yar’Adua after a protracted illness on May 5, 2010, Jonathan was thrown up as an ‘accidental president,’ thus setting the stage for a titanic battle between Jonathan who was committed to running in 2011, in negation of that PDP pact and the North.

Reading between the lines from what transpired at that last NEC meeting where Jonathan was endorsed, it was clear that the president has refused to answer the two fundamental questions: Is he ready to serve a single term? Again, which region will he hand over power to after serving the single term? We don’t need a clairvoyant to know the mindset of the president on these issues.”

The credibility problem that has dogged the President Goodluck Jonathan administration since 2011 stemmed from his alleged dishonouring of a constitutional pact in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) that power should remain in a region for

two terms of four years.

Jonathan, who considered the opportunity presented by the demise of his boss, Umaru Yar’Adua in 2010 after a protracted illness, an ample opportunity to govern the country, denied the existence of such an agreement.

It is believed that the sudden sack of Vincent Ogbulafor as chairman of the party in 2010 had to do with his insistence that zoning remained in PDP (which would have disqualified Jonathan from contesting the presidential ticket of the party). To show his displeasure over the comment, Jonathan’s government remembered that Ogbulafor was involved in petty corrupt practice almost a decade earlier, the case was exhumed and that forced his exit. However, since 2010, nothing serious has since been heard of the case.

When he was drafted in 2007 to pair with Umaru Yar’Adua as vice president, he was largely an unknown politician at the national level. In Bayelsa State where he was the governor, he mounted that saddle under controversial circumstances when his boss, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, was unceremoniously removed from office over alleged money laundering.

Jonathan was used by former president Olusegun Obasanjo to dislodge Peter Odili, former governor of Rivers State, who had shown sufficient interest in the number one job in the country. Although he had been convinced by Obasanjo to drop his presidential ambition and contest as vice president instead, Odili was unceremoniously dumped eventually.

Jonathan became the acting president following Yar’Adua’s protracted


illness. He got the National Assembly to invoke the doctrine of necessity to enable him assume that position. Upon the eventual demise of his boss, he became president.

Although the North insisted 2011 was their turn to complete their two terms, anchoring their agitation on the PDP constitution that allows for zoning, Jonathan insisted zoning was dead.

The brazenness of his denial of the zoning arrangement angered some Northern elements who moved to sponsor their parallel candidate to square up with him in the primaries. Atiku Abubakar, former vice president, who was selected by the group, was trounced by Jonathan at the presidential primary.

This time around, the president is on the verge of dishonouring another alleged pact entered into with 20 governors of the PDP in 2010. He was said to have agreed to serve only one term as president. Following his body language toward 2015, the governors on the party’s platform who are not comfortable with his veiled ambition have begun to urge him to toe the gentleman’s path by honouring the 2010 agreement.

Insisting that there was indeed a pact, one of the governors said: “There was a deal between the President and we the PDP governors. It was signed and sealed, but was not circulated to the media. What was circulated to the media was the one read by Shema. Why did the President describe the governors as the field commanders? Why did the then national chairman of PDP, Okwesilieze Nwodo, say that there was a problem which was re

solved within 48 hours? These are the questions the President should answer and not his aides.”

President Jonathan, while addressing Nigerians living in Ethiopia, where he attended an African Union summit, was reported to have pledged to stand for only one term. While answering to questions as to why Nigerians in the Diaspora would not be allowed to vote in the elections, he said: “Presently, the law does not allow voting outside Nigeria, but I will work towards it by 2015, even though I will not be running for election.”

The President was also quoted as saying: “If I’m voted into power within the next four years, the issue of power will become a thing of the past. Four years is enough for anyone in power to make significant improvement and if I can’t improve on power (electricity) within this period, it then means I cannot do anything even if I am there for the next four years.”

During the epic battle to remove Timipre Sylva as governor of Bayelsa State in 2012, Jonathan insisted he knew nothing about the source of the former governor’s troubles. But Nigerians knew it was the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob at work. He was to later own up, justifying his insistence to sack Sylva on non-performance.

Jonathan has always created an impression that he is at home with due process. While addressing the 58th National Executive Committee (NEC), meeting of PDP, President Jonathan had warned leaders of his party not to impose candidates for elective offices.

But the Bayelsa politics that brought to power Seriake Dickson as governor was not consistent with the President’s posturing as an impartial judge.

Late last year, the President was in his element when he swore endlessly to the teeming masses of this country that his wife was hale and hearty and holidaying abroad, when actually the woman was in the throes of death. The President and his aides fed the people with lies. But he ate his words when at the thanksgiving banquet in honour of the first lady he acknowledged that the woman was indeed sick to the point of death.

A few days ago, Aso Rock appointed Godswill Akpabio, governor, Akwa Ibom State, as chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum. This was to weaken the power of the Rivers State governor, Chibuike Amaechi, chairman, Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), who is said to be enjoying an overwhelming support of majority of his colleagues.

the high level of wheeling and dealing in Abuja, it is hard to convince anybody that Jonathan is not bent on joining the fray in 2015, but pundits say there is need for caution