A word for Jonathan: Decamp to APC and your reputation is in tatters
For over a year now, speculations have been rife about former President Goodluck Jonathan’s impending defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC). The rumours have simply refused to go away. Recently, in an interview with BBC News Pidgin, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers States warned Jonathan not to join the APC. Governor Wike would not have made that public intervention if there were no truth in the rumours. Jonathan’s utter refusal to quash the rumours by categorically denying them also speaks volumes. Allowing the speculations to fester and reach a fever pitch suggests he is up to something!
Of course, former President Jonathan, denied a second term of office after losing his re-election bid in 2015, would like to run again in 2023, and he’s looking for where best to secure a presidential ticket: his current party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) or the APC. It is not inconceivable that his refusal to confirm or deny speculations about his defection is a tactical move to secure a landing zone, a possible area of agreement, with either party.
Truth is, Jonathan has never been gung-ho about his political ambitions. Throughout his political career, from deputy governor and later governor of Bayelsa State to vice president and later president of Nigeria, Jonathan was a product of serendipity, a beneficiary of either godfatherism or circumstances. Handpicked by godfathers as gubernatorial and presidential running mates, he later became governor because his boss, Diepreye Alamieyeseigba, was impeached, and became president because his boss, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, died in office. So, Jonathan is used to fortune dropping the mantle of political power into his lap, and he may be hoping for a fortuity with the APC ahead of the 2023 general election.
It is highly unlikely that the APC would give Jonathan its presidential ticket, but the party really wants him in its fold. Jonathan’s defection to APC would inflict serious damage on PDP in much of the South-South, although Governor Wike may give the APC a run for its money in Rivers state. Nevertheless, Jonathan’s defection to APC would really harm PDP, hence the former wants him badly.
Indeed, as we know, President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, APC, are on aggressive poaching expeditions in the PDP and have caught some big fishes, with rumours swelling that Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom state might soon take the bait. But, for APC, former President Jonathan is the ultimate target or, as the Brits would say, the real McCoy!
Truth is, APC has gone into overdrive to hollow out the PDP by luring Jonathan and other prominent PDP leaders. They bent their rules and made generous offers to turncoats.
Last December, APC’s National Executive Committee, NEC, passed a resolution stating that “… new members will enjoy all the benefits and privileges accruable by virtue of their membership of the party”, adding: “They will be able to contest elections without any requirement of being members for a number of years or period of time.”
So, one could be a member of the PDP this week, decamp to the APC next week and run for the party’s presidential or gubernatorial ticket the week after! Loyalty and longevity count for nothing in APC. But whoever the APC has in mind with that resolution, it certainly includes wavering PDP governors and former President Jonathan, who is apparently being offered enticement by the APC in relation to the 2023 presidential election.
Well, here’s my take. Whatever his political ambition or motivation, former President Jonathan is morally wrong to allow himself to be linked with defection to APC. As Aristotle defines it, moral virtue is a disposition to behave in the right manner, not in a morally reprehensible manner. But what can be more morally reprehensible than deserting the party that gave someone the platform to become deputy governor, governor, vice president and president to join an opposing party for self-interested reasons? But, leaving aside the morality, defecting to the APC would also destroy Jonathan’s tenuous reputation.
The truth is that, whatever positive reputation Jonathan has today comes solely from conceding defeat after losing the presidential election in 2015. He was a failed leader, and his only saving grace was conceding defeat in an election he actually lost. It is that singular act that, perversely, earned him post-defeat ‘sainthood’. As I wrote in a column titled “The paradox of Jonathan’s post-defeat canonisation” (BusinessDay, June 6, 2016), it was wrong to confer sainthood on Jonathan simply for conceding defeat in an election he lost fairly and squarely, even though he was a weak and incompetent leader.
Of course, ethnicism, sectionalism and partisanship often cause selective amnesia in Nigeria, but if this country must make progress, its citizens must learn to hold the leaders to high standards and hold them accountable, in and out of office. And, truth be told, as president, Jonathan was as grounded as a balloon, as solid as wind! He surrounded himself with world-class technocrats, but utterly failed to provide leadership and, thus, some of his ministers went berserk and turned their ministries into personal fiefdoms.
A few years ago, at an international oil and gas conference in London, a top British businessman told a story of his meeting with Diezani Alison-Madueke, then minister of petroleum resources. He said that throughout the meeting, Alison-Madueke talked condescendingly about Jonathan as if she was the president and Jonathan the minister. The British business leader was surprised at her utter lack of deference. But, if Alison-Madueke didn’t have as much as a scintilla of respect for Jonathan’s position, even in front of a foreigner, how could she be accountable to him in her ministerial role. Today, years after leaving office, she is still dogged by allegations of multi-billion dollar fraud. If the allegations are true, they are a product of Jonathan’s failure of leadership.
Then, consider his wife. Her crudity put many people off voting for her husband in 2015 because they simply didn’t want her back as Nigeria’s First Lady. In 2019, a federal high court ordered the final forfeiture of $8.4 million dollars belonging to her, which she claimed were “gifts from friends and well-wishers”. Yet, Jonathan pretends as if the court rulings, and the perception they created, have nothing to do with him!
As I said, conceding defeat in 2015 turned Jonathan into a ‘hero’. But truth is, there’s no serious country where he would be regarded as a successful leader, and no serious country where he stands a chance of returning to power. The fact that he thinks, or some people think, that he can become president again says a lot about Nigeria, a country where, for ethnic, sectional, partisan and other self-interested reasons, incompetent and mediocre leaders are celebrated.
But, leaving that aside, let’s come back to speculations about Jonathan’s defection to APC. The real puzzle is how Jonathan, who said he had no shoes as a boy, can even contemplate undermining the party, PDP, that gave him a platform to become Nigeria’s president, and thus an international figure. Nothing can justify such ingratitude.
After leaving office as South Africa’s president in 1999, Nelson Mandela had a very difficult relationship with his successor, Thabo Mbeki, triggering rumours that he might resign from the ANC. But in a statement, Mandela said he wouldn’t only remain in ANC on earth, adding: “I will join the nearest branch of the ANC in heaven!”
Jonathan is treated as a saint, but he doesn’t seem to have the moral integrity of Mandela, who, despite strong misgivings, died as an ANC member and would join the party “in heaven”. But if, as being speculated, Jonathan deserts PDP and joins APC, that wouldn’t only be morally reprehensible, his tenuous reputation would be smashed to smithereens!