Politics: Waltzing through Landmines

Jonathan

By Olu Ojewale  |

IT IS another democracy day in Nigeria, May 29. As usual, the day the fourth republic came into being is celebrated as a public holiday and with speeches from Nigerian leaders on their accomplishments in office and what Nigerians should expect from them in future. In giving account of his stewardship, President Goodluck Jonathan would need a lot of convincing to do that he is still the right man for the job as the 2015 election is fast approaching. Although the president is still shying away from publicly declaring his 2015 ambition, his body language has said volumes about his interest. To get the party ticket, Jonathan has some hurdles to scale.

The president, on assuming office, had premised his programme on transformation agenda, with which he hoped to turn the country around by the end of his tenure in 2015. The agenda included the provision of constant electricity; economic growth of 11.7 per cent per annum for the period 2011-2015; creation of jobs, especially for youths; eradication of poverty; giving priorities to education and health issues; judicial independence as well as a creating conducive atmosphere to allow the legislature and the executive to work in harmony. But so far, the electricity supply still remains epileptic while youths’ unemployment has remained very high.

Babangida
Babangida

On the government war on corruption, the two-year-old Jonathan administration has not been a happy one. The power of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has been eroded in certain areas and there has been no conviction of any note in the last two years. Besides, on March 12, President Jonathan’s seriousness on the war against corruption further became suspect when he granted a state pardon to Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, former governor of Bayelsa State, who was convicted of corruption in 2005.

But one war he has been prosecuting diligently in recent time is the current military campaign in the three northern states, where he declared a state of emergency and sent in the military to smoke out members of the Boko Haram sect, an Islamist organisation, who have been terrorising the country. The success or otherwise of that campaign in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states will have a political repercussion on the Jonathan administration. In dealing with the problem, President Jonathan had to sack retired General Andrew Azazi, the then national security adviser, and replaced him with retired Colonel Dasuki Sambo. He also sacked Haliru Bello, minister of defence. But this did not stop the insurgence. Although the problem of Boko Haram did not start during his regime, it nested and festered in the last two years so much that political opposition groups have started to regard the president as a weakling.

Ironically, taking the war to the enemies’ doorsteps does not get the approval of the president’s opponents who had dismissed him as a failure on the issue of security. Interestingly, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, the Northern Elders Forum and the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, which have been vehemently against the military solution to the insurgence, did not come out with an alternative solution. This should tell the president and his handlers that failure of his military campaign would have dire consequences on his second term ambition.

Even before the state of emergency declaration, the polity had been heated up by the president’s enemies within and without. The headache in the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party is that of leadership of the party. Last year, the president succeeded in having his own person in the calibre of Bamanga Tukur, an elder statesman and business magnate, elected as the party’s national chairman. Since his emergence, the Adamawa-born politician has had many battles to fight within his party.

Just last Monday, May 20, an Abuja High Court ordered the aggrieved PDP members, who approached it praying for the removal of 17 members of the party’s National Working Committee, NWC, to file their papers before June 10, this year, for the case to commence. The party members are challenging the mode adopted by the PDP in electing Tukur and his executive in 2012. In a 27-pargraph affidavit, the plaintiffs argued that the continued stay in office of members of the NWC would “jeopardise the workings and activities of the party, including the conduct of future nomination or election of candidates into public offices.” The plaintiffs accused the party of manipulating the March 24, 2012, national convention, saying it did not conform to the mode of election as stipulated in the guidelines for the exercise. They claimed that the action of the party denied them the opportunity of electing candidates of their choice.

President Jonathan had put Tukur in charge with the hope that he would help him stabilise the party ahead of 2015 elections. The president’s ambition has put him and Tukur at war with some PDP governors. As part of the programme to bring peace and restore sanity to the party, Tukur had to embark on zonal tours to reconcile aggrieved members. But the outcome of the tours has been largely disastrous. In some cases, the tours were boycotted by key personalities in the zones, thereby making the entire exercise unprofitable.

The failure of the tours prompted Tony Anenih, chairman of party’s Board of Trustees, BoT, to embark on a similar reconciliation tour. But that also, has not produced the desired result. Since assuming office, Anenih has been trying to rally support for Jonathan, which is one major reason he was picked by the president. But that in itself has not healed the wounds in the party. Reports say Anenih does not enjoy the support of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, his predecessor in office, who had supported another candidate for the post. Rather, Obasanjo was said to have favoured Ahmadu Ali, former national chairman of the party, for the job.

After his emergence, Anenih was at the Abeokuta home of Obasanjo with some notable leaders of the party. On his mission to Obasanjo, Anenih said, “I am here to see my leader; I am here to pay my respect and, indeed, I am here with my colleagues, some members of the Board of Trustees of our party, to discuss some issues that affect the corporate existence of this country, issues about the insecurity of the country and about the party itself, PDP, the biggest party in Africa. Those are the reasons we are here. My colleagues are all here.” Either genuine or not, Anenih and his team members laughed after the meeting. “As you see, we are all smiling, don’t you see me smiling? And my leader too is smiling,” he said.

Fasehun
Fasehun

Ever since, it appears there has been nothing to smile about in the party. The governors who hold the ace in the party have refused to back the president’s ambition for a second term. Some of them who are also nursing the ambition to contest for the president’s and vice-president’s positions would not give up easily. Some of those said to be nursing a presidential ambition among the governors are Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, Babangida Aliyu of Niger State and Aliyu Kwankwaso of Kano State while Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State, who happens to be the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, is reputed to be gunning for the post of vice-president. This has put him in conflict with the president. Many of Jonathan’s aides have even publicly accused Amaechi of not helping the president to get a second term ticket. The battle of supremacy between Amaechi and Jonathan is still raging on as the president has deployed some of the bullets in his arsenal to hit the governor.

General Ibrahim Babangda, former head of state, has also stoked the fire in the party when he endorsed Aminu Tambuwal, speaker of the House of Representatives, for the 2015 presidential race. Babangida lauded the speaker for being a beacon of hope for the north, and his generation. Speaking in Lagos at the investiture of Governor Amaechi and Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuode, as Vanguard newspaper ‘Personality of the Year 2013,’ Babangida expressed confidence in the leadership qualities of Tambuwal and thanked him, “for giving us hope and assurances. His conduct has shown that the upcoming generation has the capacity to sustain the labour of our heroes past. When leaders like Tambuwal have delivered on their electoral promise, we advise them to try something higher.”

The former military leader similarly called for the creation of an environment that would produce leaders such as Amaechi who, he commended for giving education a face-lift in Rivers State. Babangida’s association with Amaechi must have also been a source of concern to the president because the general is known for his foxy disposition.

In any case, the president had earlier moved to whittle down Amaechi’s power and influence in the NGF, by pushing for the formation of a PDP Governors’ Forum in February this year with Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, as its chairman. Giving excuse for that appointment, Anenih told PDP delegates in Asaba, Delta State, that opposition parties had hijacked the NGF hence, the need for party members to rally round the Akpabio-led PDP governors’ forum.

“We must not labour under the illusion that we can be spectators in the bold and necessary drama of national reconstruction, or, worse still, align with those who seek power for its own sake rather than for the good of our people. We, therefore, have a strategic obligation to put our house in order so as to sustain the peace which we have enjoyed in the last 14 years. We must always be conscious that if the PDP becomes fragmented as a result of the inordinate ambitions of a few members, our country, our democracy and our people will suffer. We must, therefore, subsume our ambitions under the greater good of our party and our country.”

But Governor Babangida Aliyu has told anybody who cares to listen that Jonathan entered into an agreement with PDP governors to serve for only a single term of four years before the 2011 presidential election. This, perhaps, has been the reason why some governors have remained resolute in their opposition against the president. But Jonathan’s aides, including Edwin Clark, a former commissioner of information during the Yakubu Gowon military regime, has however, denied the existence of any such agreement even though the president has remained silent on the matter.

That notwithstanding, early in January, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, launched an investigation into the three PDP states of Jigawa, Rivers and Delta over allegations of financial improprieties. Aminu Lamido, the eldest son of Governor Lamido, is currently standing trial over allegations of money laundering. The EFCC was also reported to be looking into Governor Aliyu’s records of service to determine whether he has clean hands. But it is instructive to know that the investigations of jigawa and Rivers states came on the heels of rumours that Lamido and Amaechi had teamed up for a presidential contest in 2015, which also shows that Jonathan is ready to demolish his opponents who try to obstruct his second term ambition.

The opposition parties are not making life easy for President Jonathan either. The ACN, the Congress of Progressive Change, CPC, the All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP, and a splinter group of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, came together on February 5, this year, to form a mega political party in order to dislodge the PDP from power after 14 years of dominance. When it is eventually registered, the APC may spell doom for the PDP in certain quarters. That is probably why Jonathan is making frantic efforts to put his house in order ahead of the next elections.

Shortly after the results of the 2011 presidential election was announced, some states in the northern part of the country went into an orgy of violence. The reaction was something the president did not bargain for. Nevertheless, about 800 people were reportedly killed in the violence and properties worth billions of naira were destroyed. In April, this year, the president announced a compensation of N5.7 billion for victims of the election violence. The states being compensated are Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Sokoto, Jigawa, Katsina, and Zamfara. Government said data processing is still going on in the remaining five states, namely, Borno, Gombe, Kaduna, Nasarawa and Yobe.

Afolabi
Afolabi

To its credit, the Jonathan administration has been able to maintain a cordial relationship with the legislature. Indeed, the only area of serious disagreement between the executive and the legislature in the last two years has been on the 2013 budget. They have resolved the matter amicably. Stressing the point, President Jonathan stated in Abuja recently that there is no competition between the executive and the legislature on supremacy. Said he: “We are messengers sent to bring democratic goods.  Our roles, duties and responsibilities are well defined and there is no reason whatsoever for us not to work together for the greatness of our country.” Apart from that, the legislature has carried out a process of amending the nation’s constitution.

The judiciary has also been commendable. On July 16, last year, Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar became the first female justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. On assuming office, Mukhtar promised some reforms in the judiciary. In February, the National Judicial Council, NJC, which she headed, after its emergency meeting in Abuja, recommended the retirement of two judges of the high court. The NJC said justices Charles Archibong of the Federal High Court and Thomas Naron of the Plateau State High Court had been involved in gross misconduct, contrary to their oaths of office.

Specifically, it accused Archibong of lacking “full grasp of the law and procedure of the court” and confirmed that Naron made “constant and regular voice calls and exchange of mms and sms (text) messages” with one of the lead counsel to one of the parties to the suit in the 2007 Osun State gubernatorial election petition tribunal in contravention of the code of conduct for judicial officers.

On May 17, this year, Mukhtar issued another riot act to the Bench that any judge that does not meet the minimum requirement of four judgements in a year would lose his job. The CJ said this while receiving the performance evaluation report on judges from 2008 to 2011, a seven-volume compilation by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. In addition, she placed a ban on indiscriminate travelling by judges.

The second year anniversary in of office of elected public office holders will also be remembered for the increase in the spate of kidnapping, especially in the South-South and South-East of the country. Consequently, life has become difficult for people with a lot of means who travel to the area. One of the prominent victims among those kidnapped there was Kamene Okonjo, professor of sociology and mother of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, minister of Finance. The 82-year-old professor, who was abducted by a gang of 10-men, was released five days later. Okechukwu Nwagunma, programme coordinator, Network on Police Reform in Nigeria, NOPRIN, attributed the perennial cases of kidnapping to poverty, unemployment and lack of good governance. He blamed the situation on the inability of Nigerian political leaders to deliver dividends of democracy to the people. Nwagunma also noted that the police and members of the State Security Service, SSS, lacked the intelligence and expertise to nip the crime in the bud. He said kidnapping had become so lucrative that it would be difficult to get rid of it.

Fredrick Fasehun, founder of O’odua Peoples’ Congress, OPC, told Realnews that he decided to resuscitate the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, because the existing parties have not met the yearnings of the people. He said all the leaders in various positions in the country have failed the electorate. “Leaders are supposed to be admired and not mired. But Nigerian leaders today cannot freely walk on the streets without being stoned,” Fasehun said.

Femi Okurounmu, a former senator and leader of Afenifere, a Yoruba socio-cultural group, in an interview, said he was disappointed with President Jonathan’s performance in the last two years. “Nigerians are unfortunate because our politicians have failed us. They seek office just for their pockets… Nigerian politics has become a contest to see who will control the treasury and not a contest to serve the country. All of them, in all the parties, are jostling for turns to control the treasury so that they can continue to exploit Nigerians and steal the country’s money. I cannot get excited about people seeking to be President because I know they are doing so for their own pockets. I’m disappointed with Jonathan, but he is just a typical Nigerian politician. Let any other of these people assume office, they will not do better. Not only that they are there to steal, they don’t have conscience,” Okurounmu said.

Speaking in the same vein, Ayo Afolabi, spokesman of the ANC in the South-West, said Jonathan has failed the nation woefully. The PDP has not made any mark in terms of security, infrastructure and social amenities. “Every day, security in Nigeria is going down the drain; 20, 30 and 50 people are killed every day.” Afolabi said the past three years of Jonathan’s tenure has not brought any meaningful improvement to the lives Nigerians. “Come 2015, we are going to get the PDP voted out of power,” he said. We expect the PDP not to vacate easily. That is why we are experiencing this pseudo party coming up to claim the APC acronym.

But despite Jonathan’s perceived shortcomings, Dejo Raimi, 79, a medical doctor and the former secretary to Oyo State government, in a recent radio interview, said nobody can stop the president from having a second term in 2015. The PDP stalwart urged Jonathan to get some tutorial from Obasanjo on how to handle security issues. Speaking in the same manner in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, at the annual lecture in honour of Isaac Boro, an Ijaw militant who died in the struggle for the emancipation of the Niger Delta, Edwin Clark, an Ijaw leader, insisted that Jonathan must have a second term. “The Ijaw man can no longer be excluded from the affairs of Nigeria. That’s why President Goodluck Jonathan, a son of the Niger Delta, has the right to re-contest. I repeat, he will re-contest otherwise he should not come to the region,” he said.

Mujahid Asari Dokubo, leader of the Niger-Delta People Volunteer Front, NPDVF, has a similar view. Dokubo stated in Warri recently: “We have to demand what belongs to us, 2015 is not about Jonathan, but about our destiny; if you allow them, they will crush you when they come. I am ready for them bullet for bullet,” adding, “The oil belongs to us in the Niger Delta, don’t be ashamed to stand up for your right. I supported (General Sani) Abacha, so why won’t I support Jonathan? The North has that mentality of born-to-rule, but we are saying, no it has to change.”

But one thing that seems to stand Jonathan out among the Nigerian leaders is his ability to conduct free and fair elections. In the past two years, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has successfully conducted governorship elections in Adamawa, Edo, Cross River, Kwara, Ondo and Bayelsa and where opponents won, Jonathan congratulated them. Consequently, opponents and supporters have agreed, willy-nilly, that he has done well by conducting acceptable elections in those states. Even where some election results were nullified in favour of the opponents in the states held by his party, he allowed the rule of law to prevail. However, whether that would be enough to put him in good stead with Nigerians in another two years when the next election is due is another thing entirely.

— Jun. 3, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

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