President Goodluck Jonathan has many booby traps placed on his political route to 2015 but he is masterly waltzing through them
| By Olu Ojewale | Jul. 15, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
WITH the rumble and tumble in the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, President Goodluck Jonathan looks like a man working on landmines. His ambition to go contest for re-election in the 2015 elections is not only being challenged in court, members of his party are divided over his ambition. Besides, some northern groups and members of the opposition have told him that he should forget about going for a second term in 2015 election.
Although Jonathan has not declared his intention to seek for re-election, his body language suggests that he is interested in contesting for another term. But for him to do that, he needs to work through the landmines being laid on his way. One of them is the court case instituted by Cyriacus Njoku, a PDP chieftain, challenging Jonathan’s eligibility to contest for the presidency in 2015. A federal high court in Abuja, recently dismissed the case saying going by the provision of section 137 (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), President Jonathan is eligible to run for the highest political office in the country. But Njoku is not convinced and has thus taken the case to the Appeal Court. Political watchers say the determination of the court is going to play an important role in what happens to the president in 2015.
Njoku is not the only PDP member who does not want Jonathan to remain in office beyond 2015. The crisis in the PDP is being traced to one of the means of getting rid of the president ahead of 2015. But the president looks determined to navigate his way out of the mines. He had supported the election of Bamanga Tukur as national chairman, last year, to help him hold the party together. But since his assumption of office, Tukur happens to have made so many enemies for himself in the party that there were and still, are plots to get rid of him. It was the intervention of Jonathan that saved him from being removed from office when the party held its National Executive Committee meeting, on June 20. The president was said to have appealed to the members that since it had been widely speculated in the press that the chairman would lose his job, the media would simply say he had sacked him or that his enemies had won and that would be a disgrace for him.
According to sources close to the PDP, the plot to remove Tukur would be re-enacted when the party holds its mini convention in August. One of the allegations against Tukur is that he was too heavy-handed in dealing with members, especially state governors. First, the National Working Committee of the party, which he leads suspended Governor Chibuike Ameachi of Rivers State, and chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, for refusing to reinstate a suspended local government chairman and councillors in his state. He also led a committee that suspended Governor Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State, for anti-party activities.
Feeling the heat of the brewing crisis, President Jonathan set up a committee headed by Pius Anyim, secretary to the government of the federation, to proffer solutions to the problems confronting the party. The committee completed its assignment and recommended the lifting of the suspension placed on Wammakko. It also recommended the convening of the long overdue NEC meeting as well as the resignation of NWC members whose election was faulted by the INEC. In line with the committee’s recommendations, the Sokoto State governor was recalled and the NWC members resigned. Although there was no upset as widely speculated, analysts believe that did not necessarily mean that the party has been able to mend the cracks in its fold. But Amaechi could not be recalled because the governor had already challenged his suspension in court.
Amaechi as chair of the NGF was perceived as a renegade, who was not using his position to rally his fellow governors to support Jonathan. He is believed to have an ambition to become a vice-presidential candidate to a northern candidate in the 2015 presidential election. To whittle down Amaechi’s influence in the NGF, President Jonathan and the PDP appointed Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum formed early this year. Akpabio has since been the arrow head of Jonathan’s campaign among the state governors. He is also working alongside Tukur and Anenih to help facilitate the president’s firm control of the party machinery.
Little wonder that at the PDP dinner held at Aso Rock Villa, Abuja, May 30, Anenih told the gathering that Jonathan should be adopted as the PDP’s consensus candidate for the 2015 presidential election. Anenih’s kite has flown into turbulent weather within the party. Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president, who has a presidential ambition, has voiced out his opposition of automatic ticket for him as proposed by Anenih, saying the measure would be against the constitution of the party. Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, on his part, has said for the umpteenth time that Jonathan had reached an agreement with the party hierarchy before the 2011 presidential election that he would only serve for a term in office. Both the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, and the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, have both kicked against allowing the president another term. Anthony Sani, national publicity secretary of the ACF said: “The proposal by the PDP BOT Chair, Chief Tony Anenih, that the president and governors should not be subjected to primaries is clearly against the provisions of the Electoral Act on internal democracy within political parties. The intendment of the Electoral Act is to inspire full participation of party members in choosing who becomes the candidate of the party. The Electoral Act does not allow candidates by consensus. And that is why even if the candidate is only one, there must be yes or no votes by the delegates.”
It appears that the president has not been sitting on his oars either. To neutralise the effects of the opposition among the northern groups, he has gotten some of them on his side. Prominent among them are Lawrence Onoja, a retired major-general and John Washpam, a senator and some members of the NEF. Both Onoja and Washpam were said to have gone to Aso Rock Vila to ask the president to contest for a second term.
The president is also believed to be working on the sentiments of women and traditional rulers to get their support for the 2015 elections. Speaking at a book launch in his honour in Abuja, Wednesday, June 26, the president said: “We shall continue to do all that we can to create a brighter and enduring future for all Nigerians-a future of hope and prosperity; a future where we can be a strong and developed nation, a shining example for a mighty continent. We hope to leave a legacy of proud and prosperous citizens where everyone is treated equally and women are able to reach their full potentials in all aspects of human development.”
The book presentation, which was in honour of the president: Goodluck Ebele Jonathan: Champion for Women, was edited by Diezani Alison-Madueke, minister of Petroleum Resources. It was seen as a subtle way of campaign for the president’s return in 2015. It also formed part of his administration’s mid-term report. Jonathan also used the occasion to present himself to the Nigerian public as a considerate leader who would want to continue to work towards the sustained growth of the country’s economy, and promised that under his leadership, Nigeria would not just be a land of great potentials but also a nation where positive changes would transform the lives of the people. Part of that dream, he said, is to allow Nigerian women to take their rightful place in any facet of human endeavour in order to improve the lives and opportunities of women.
He said his decision to entrust women with the responsibilities of high office could be traced to the exceptional zeal displayed by Eunice, his mother. “My admiration for the ability of women to thrive in challenging and adverse environment is drawn directly from watching my mother’s strength when I was growing up. She was, indeed, a true ‘multi-tasker,’ watching her manage the various tasks involved in bringing up my elder sister and I imbibed in me a healthy respect for the ability of women to take control in difficult circumstances,” he said. He thus, commended the efforts of the women in his cabinet for their laudable achievements.
His gesture to help women realise their potentials was also demonstrated when he allowed women to be enlisted at the Nigeria Defence Academy to be trained as combatant officers. It is the first time women would be allowed such a privilege in the history of Nigeria. The president’s foremost supporter among the Nigerian women is, no doubt, Patience, his wife. The first lady apparently defied the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s, instruction that there should be no campaigning for 2015 elections yet. Patience, who was in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, for one week, between June 15 and June 23, practically kick-started the campaign for Jonathan’s re-election by addressing traditional rulers and other stakeholders in the state about the importance of returning her husband to office.
She paid a courtesy visit to Nyenwe-Eli Omunnakwe Nyeche Nsirim, Apiti of Rumueme and president-in-council, Rumueme Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, on Tuesday, June 18. During the visit, she called on the people to support her husband anytime he declares his ambition to re-contest for the presidency in 2015. “My husband is also your son and by the grace of God; we’ll not disappoint you and will never forget you. I thank you people so much for supporting my husband; I thank you people for promising that if he comes out by 2015 that you will stand by him. I am happy to thank you people for that. I always know my people will always stand by me, your daughter, and my husband is equally your son.” The first lady’s campaign has been criticised by the opposition groups, who have asked that she should be called to order. But the president and members of the PDP have decided to keep mute over the matter.
In any case, the first lady’s trip seems to have softened the ground for the president’s endorsement by the traditional rulers from the South-South and South-East. The monarch, who spoke at the Ijaw House, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, during the inauguration of the South-South and South-East Traditional Rulers’ Forum, on Tuesday, July, 2, approved the leadership style of the Jonathan administration and promised to support the president’s second term ambition in 2015. They claimed that Jonathan had provided effective leadership despite the challenges confronting the country. Besides, they claimed that both the South-East and South-South are from the same family and should be united. Cletus Ilomuanya, chairman, South-East Council of Traditional Rulers, noted that the two geopolitical zones share a common heritage. “Historically, we are one people of the same lineage but for political expediency and administrative convenience, we now pretend to be people from two different zones of the South-South and South-East. Therefore, it is one of the aims of the South-South and South-East traditional rulers to re-orientate and galvanise our people to begin to think and act as people of one cultural and traditional identity,” he said.
The meeting, which had traditional rulers from other parts of the country, commended the president for his achievements so far. Okunade Sijuade, the Ooni of Ife, and Da Buba Gyang, Gbong Gwom, Jos, described him as one of the best leaders to have ruled the country. Sijuwade, who was represented by Aderemi Adedapo, general-secretary of the Council of Yoruba Monarchs, said: “Dr. Jonathan’s emergence as president was a fulfilment of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s prediction that an Ijaw man would rule this country some day in the future. We thank God today that we have an Ijaw son as a good and great leader of this country. If you were there on May 29, 2013 in Abuja where I was representing the South-West, you will agree with me that this man (Jonathan) has surpassed many leaders we have ever had in this country. I am not a politician, I’m a traditional ruler. We thank God for giving us this President at this point in this country.” Adedapo said.
After commending the president, Gyang appealed to the political class to give constitutional role to traditional rulers to enable them contribute to decision-making in the affairs of the country. He said: “Let me say with humility that the traditional institution in Nigeria is not asking for any executive powers that will bring us at loggerheads with constituted and elected democratic rulers. We are asking for recognition for the obvious reason that governance itself today requires the role and input of the traditional institution.”
Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, businessman and politician, called on Nigerians to give Jonathan a second chance. He claimed that there was no time the president pledged to serve a single term. “Today, I have gone round everywhere in this country and I feel a sense of joy and happiness that Jonathan has not disappointed us. He has done well. However, I am surprised to hear some people in some circles talking about four years’ tenure when our Constitution allows him to run for eight years, if he wishes to do so. Some people even say there is an agreement to that effect, but I am telling you royal fathers, that there was no such agreement,” Iwuanyanwu said.
In his address to the forum, Jonathan lauded traditional rulers across the country for complementing government’s efforts, especially in the maintenance of peace and order in their respective domains. Represented by Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, Jonathan urged them to partner with stakeholders in the ongoing efforts to build an egalitarian and prosperous Nigeria. “You are the critical link between our cherished history and the past. You have a duty which, of course, you are doing well to maintain our values, traditions and cultures. And hopefully, working together with other stakeholders, we believe that you will also successfully transfer these same values to the future generation of our people. I thank you all for the support that you have been giving to those of us, who are in secular leadership because you cannot talk of mobilising and influencing our people positively and even maintain law and order without the role of traditional rulers,” Jonathan said. Dickson also acknowledged the role of traditional rulers in the maintenance of peace and advocated the need for the political class to support traditional rulers to enable them perform their duties effectively. Among those present at the meeting were, Abubakar El-Kanemi, Shehu of Borno, who represented the Sultan of Sokoto; Nnachi Enwo-Igariwey, president general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, as well as Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and Ikedi Ohakim, former governors of Bayelsa and Imo states.
If the president has been able to get the much needed endorsement from the traditional rulers, he is not neglecting his constituency either. Despite the crisis rocking the PDP, Jonathan has been demonstrating to the public that he is a peaceful and accommodating leader. Notwithstanding his widely publicised quarrel with Governor Amaechi, he did not allow a photo opportunity go by on Saturday, June 29. Then, the president was at the Port Harcourt International Airport, to board his plane to Abuja after performing a function in Bayelsa, his home state. He was met at the airport by Ameachi. The two gladiators shook hands, exchanged pleasantries and embraced. None of them made any public comments about their disagreement before the president eventually boarded his flight to Abuja.
Reuben Abati, special adviser to the president on media and publicity, however, tried to play down the event, saying there was nothing to it that Amaechi was at the airport to see the president off. He said it was in line with established protocol which requires that when the president is in any state, the governor or his deputy should be on standby to receive him on arrival and see him off when he is departing. Besides, he said there was no face-off between the president and the governor. “In this case, anytime the president is visiting Bayelsa State, he passes through Port Harcourt and the governor receives or sees him off. There is no rift between the president and the governor in the first place,” Abati said.
The denial has, however, not erased the common knowledge that both the president and the governor have not seen eye-to-eye in what observers see as part of the political struggle in the build up to the 2015 elections. The frosty relationship between the duo came to a head when the governor contested and won the NGF election against Jonah Jang, his Plateau State counterpart, said to have been sponsored by the president and the PDP. The president, however, seems to have penetrated the constituency of Amaechi. On Thursday, July 4, Peter Odili, former governor of Rivers State and Nyesom Wike, minister of state for education, as well as some leaders of the PDP in the state that are opposed to Amaechi, had a closed-door session with Jonathan. Felix Obuah, factional chairman of the PDP in the state, told journalists that the leaders were pained that Amaechi had remained the main champion of opposition in the country against the president and the federal government.
Indeed, it appears that the president has not been able to rally every member of his party behind him. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is yet to reconcile with him and has not stopped the criticism of his administration. The former president’s opposition is said to be responsible for the PDP crisis in Ogun State. But leaders believe that would be resolved with the mini-convention slated to hold for the South-West in August.
Obasanjo and leaders of the yet-to-be registered All Progressives Congress, APC, have also criticised the president for not performing. In order to shame his critics, the president has decided to put the achievements of his transformation agenda in the past two years in a booklet form so that people can read and identify some of the projects in question. He also mandated his ministers to showcase and enlighten the public on the achievements of their respective ministries in the past two years. That, indeed, has been going on since May 29, when the administration celebrated its second year in office.
Right from inception, Jonathan said he was basing his programme on a transformation agenda, which, according him, would effectively change every facet of the way the country is being run in order to engineer development. Recently, Ruquayattu Rufa’i, a professor and minister of education, took the rostrum at the ministerial platform to explain what her ministry had accomplished. Based on a four-year plan, Rufa’i said some of the key issues in the plan included improving the quality of teachers, provision of infrastructure, vocational education, funding, curbing out-of-school syndrome, among others. She, however, acknowledged that funding for the sector had increased considerably, adding that the increase had contributed to the achievements so far recorded in the sector. “If you look at the period between 2010 and 2013, you can see how the federal government has made an improvement in funding for the sector; we never had it so good. There has been an increase from N234 billion or N235 billion to N426 billion or N427 billion this year. The budget to the sector has actually improved; even though much of the budget is going into recurrent expenditure,” the minister said.
On his part, Nyesom Wike, minister of State for education, said that no fewer than 103 principals and head teachers of junior secondary schools were trained to enhance their skills in instructional leadership, as part of efforts to promote quality education in the country. In addition, he said: “out of a total of 124 Almajiri schools slated for construction, 85 have been completed and some are already in use. The remaining 39 Almajiri schools under construction have reached between 80 per cent and 90 per cent completion rates,” he said. Wike, however, bemoaned the apathy of many state governments toward accessing funds made available for the development of basic education in the country, stressing that N35 billion, which had yet to be accessed, was still in the banks.
What perhaps should worry the ministers more is the indefinite strike action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU. The strike began on Tuesday, July 2, because the government reneged on its agreement with the union on provision of certain amenities and infrastructure in federal universities. The agreement was said to have been signed since 2009.
Perhaps, the only monster that has not been tamed by the Jonathan administration is the availability of electricity. But the administration appears not to be giving up. The government has invested N162.9 billion to reactivate the Zungeru hydro-electricity power project in Niger State. Speaking at the occasion, Jonathan said that the hydro dam project, when constructed, would generate 700 megawatts of electricity for the country. He said the Zungeru Hydro Electricity Power Project was conceived in 1982, but due to constraints of funds the construction work could not begin and that his administration had now solved the financial challenge by making funds available to build the dam. The administration’s privatisation drive has been going on smoothly and government has promised to increase electricity generation to 10,000 megawatts by the end of this year.
Before its dissolution, the party’s NWC commended the president for his achievements in the past two years. Olisa Metuh, the then national secretary, said in a statement that the leadership of the party and, indeed, Nigerians were happy with the administration but added that the ministries should strengthen their publicity department to enlighten Nigerians more on their activities. “The National Working Committee, NWC, of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is indeed, very surprised at the extent of achievements recorded so far by the President Goodluck Jonathan-led PDP administration. We are aware that the administration has recorded tremendous successes in executing its mandate in the critical sectors of the economy, but the scorecards presented by ministers in the on-going PDP ministerial briefing have shown that this administration have actually achieved more than have been widely acknowledged,” Metuh said.
Indeed, Sunday Ekanem, state leader, South-South PDP Forum, Lagos State, told Realnews that based on his achievements, it would be difficult to deny the president a second term in office. “It is not all about Jonathan, it’s about PDP. The PDP should give him the return ticket that’s all. Those who want to contest like Amaechi and the rest of them should wait till after 2015 because they are the people over heating the polity. The president is representing the South-South zone; he is on his first term, so he deserves a second team… Let’s work as a party and we will win. As for the transformation agenda, Mr President has done more than every other president in transforming the country. He is winning and has done more than any other person. Those who are eyeing his position should wait and learn from him,” Ekanem said. According to him, the division in the NGF crisis is a fall-out of the northern agenda because the North wants to get the power back at all cost. “They are the ones using Amaechi to cause problems for the president and I hope Amaechi will retrace his steps back,” he said.
The PDP leader also dismissed the opposition’s chances of defeating the president in the 2015 election. “We don’t have any opposition party in Nigeria as far as I’m concerned. Is it the APC, a party that 82 per cent are Muslims. This is a circular state, but in their national executive committee today, 82 per cent of them are Muslims. Is that the kind of people we can entrust with power in this country, where the Boko Haram sect is bombing everywhere?” he said. Ekanem, however, agreed that for the PDP to be taken serious, it must put its house in order.
Kolade Olalere, a former PDP member in Ibadan, Oyo State, said for now, there is no better candidate to beat Jonathan in the 2015 election. He told Realnews that Jonathan would be lucky to win the forthcoming election because he has not done well in his his first term. “I cannot see anything he has done. As far as I can see, he has not done enough to earn another term in office. It is all noise. The party hierarchy is just giving a false impression that the president is doing so much. I am not impressed,” Olalere said.
Shehu Sani, president, Civil Rights Commission, said Jonathan had wasted the immense goodwill he enjoyed in the run-up to the 2011 election. Speaking in an interview, Sani described the president as the most divisive leader ever in the history of this country. “His presidency has polarised Nigeria more than any other president in this country. His supporters and foot soldiers have been engaged in fanning the embers of discord and disunity. His supporters have heightened the tension in the polity. Jonathan’s divisive approach to governance has disappointed his friends and emboldened his adversaries. Jonathan’s presidency has destroyed the historic political solidarity and cordiality between the North and the South-South. Under Jonathan, the unity of Nigeria and its future has come into question as the nation is subjected to voices of disintegration and disunity,” he said. Sani also does not think that the president has done enough to get another term.
Tam David-West, professor of virology and former minister of petroleum, said that President Jonathan had frittered away the goodwill that won him the presidential election in 2011 through ineptitude. “I don’t support people on sentiment and I don’t allow sentiment to determine my actions. I only support people who have good qualities and not people who lack good qualities. President Jonathan lacks the qualities of a good leader and that is why I always criticize him,” he said.
Indeed, for President Jonathan to convince Nigerians that he deserves a second term in 2015, he needs the unity of the PDP and a lot of ego to massaging in the North. Acknowledging the enormous problem ahead, Anenih said for the president to win in 32 states, all hands must be on deck. “We need to work hard now because we have a (presidential) mandate to move beyond 23 states in our control and win at least 32,” the PDP BoT chairman said recently. He also believes that the PDP is the party to beat in the 2015.
President Jonathan is not under any illusion. He knows that for him to get a second term in office, he has a lot hurdles to scale through. But how he does that will depend on his peace efforts and how widespread his transformation agenda is able to accomplish in the next one and half years from now.
Reported by Anayo Ezugwu