“Yet, it is likely that the PDP will be, as the run up to the 2015 election progresses, just the shell of PDP; a large portion of its gut, body and soul already gone. The Presidency will fight back with everything in its armoury –including rigging, sending the EFCC against its enemies, etc. But it will always help Jonathan to remember that there is always the X-factor in Nigerian politics; that great unknown which ensured that despite the largest bribery campaign to deface Nigerian history (amounting to over USD $5 billion), Obasanjo still lost the Third Term tenure elongation bid. He had cowered or bought almost everybody…yet he lost.”
BEVERLY HILLS, CA, January 05, (THEWILL) – As politics hots up the big question on every lip must be how bright are President Goodluck Jonathan’s chances to retain his exalted position at the Number One real estate in Nigeria called Aso Rock Presidential Villa.
Ordinarily, the answer should be about the President’s performance within the time he has been in office for this should also inform the choice of the voters. Unfortunately, the voters have had little say in who emerged President in Nigerian elections. Since 1999, when Nigeria’s Fourth Republic birthed, Obasanjo has helped write the rules that popularity has little say in who emerged President from elections. His veritable legacy is that whoever has enough muscles to force his will on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and becomes its presidential flag-bearer has won half the battle. The other half will simply fall into place when the PDP governors (always forming the majority of state governors) will join Abuja in rigging the election.
Once a co-operative Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced the result, the courts would do little to rock the national boat, and so would not raise a tsunami that would upturn a national election by striking down the election of a President who has already been sworn into office.
Well, talk to Nigerians and the conventional wisdom still holds sway. The unwritten laws of Nigerian politics appear not to have changed at all. Not even the defection of some state Governors from the ruling PDP to the resurgent All Progressives Congress (APC) could speak eloquently enough about the great changes in the polity.
Yet, you could hardly blame them. They saw the same scenario in 2003. THEWILL recalls that in the build up to the PDP primaries and national convention of that year, the two greatest powers that could have challenged Obasanjo did. In October of the preceding year, the Daily Independent newspaper published an exclusive report that former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme would challenge Obasanjo for the PDP nomination, and he did. Then, an Obasanjo who was toying with the idea of not retaining his Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, began to shop for a replacement and so forced Atiku to threaten to abandon him.
Then, the then Governor of Delta State, James Onanefe Ibori moved to deliver the coup de grace. He led 18 PDP Governors to Aso Rock Presidential Villa to frontally ask Obasanjo to perish the thought of aspiring for a second term in the presidential office. What did the governors have against Obasanjo? Ibori, serving as their spokesman said that owing to Obasanjo’s undemocratic tendencies, he had become “unsalable, unmarketable and un-electable”. Obasanjo fought on nonetheless. But on Friday evening, just two days to the Sunday, January 6, 2003 PDP convention, he saw the handwriting on the wall and went, on bended knees, to the camps of the governors that were opposed to him. At first, he made little impact – that was until Atiku had agreed to make the tour with him. The Governors relented, Ekwueme was disgraced the moment Atiku got what he wanted – to retain his V.P’s office.
Then before the 2007 election, Obasanjo had emasculated Atiku, ensuring he was not in a position to succeed him. All the governors that were part of the coup de grace but who later relented and allowed Obasanjo to return to office had their state party structures taken from their control. The PDP officials who did not support Obasanjo were hounded out of office. So, in 2007 election, Obasanjo laid and hatched all the eggs. To Ibori, the man who opened his mouth to speak on behalf of the governors, Obasanjo said: “All your life I’ll make you unsellable, unmarketable and unelectable”. Today, Ibori is cooling his heels in a UK jail!
So, the Obasanjo road map had appeared ready-made for President Jonathan. And he was not a poor apprentice either. He fought against and defeated his successor at Bayelsa state Government House. Then he turned his sights at Port Harcourt and Rivers Governor, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi.
Unfortunately for him, a great change was taking place too. The South-West political bigwigs and their Northern counterparts who were not in the PDP were not only having a rethink but were actually coming together. The break-through happened with the formation of All Progressives Congress (APC). It was a pure paradigm shift in a field of study – the sort the Harvard Professor of Scientific History, Thomas Khun, had in mind when he proposed the theory in his 1962 book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” – that cannot be ignored or denied.
Once several parties merged to form a totally new one, the APC, every equation in Nigerian politics changed. And it is largely within the APC that the answer could be found to the question of how far President Jonathan could go in 2015?
Like Ibori and his “co-conspirators” against Obasanjo in 2003, the state governors who have defected from the PDP now know that they have burnt their bridges already – and there is no returning to the PDP fold. If they falter and return to the fold, they will find the same treatment Obasanjo meted out to the Iboris, the Uzor Orji Kalus and the D.S.P Alamieyesiaghas waiting for them.
The APC presents what Nigeria has not had, almost since independence; a veritable alternative to the ruling party in terms of numerical strength, geographical spread, number of national and state legislators, the number of governors who could match the centre cash for cash, rigging for rigging, influence for influence.
The result is that suddenly, the President is not as powerful as Obasanjo made it. Or, to put it in another way, more apt too, Obasanjo and the early Jonathan used their presidential powers too imperially that just like Hitler’s Germany, it became natural for opposition against them to flourish.
Even now that the APC has acquired the majority status in the House of Representatives and may do the same in the Senate before 2015, just next year, is Jonathan’s ambition dead even before he has publicly owned up to it? No, is the obvious answer. But his ambition, whether declared or undeclared is not only real, it will not brook any opposition within the PDP. That much has been made clear already, ensuring that opposition against him will calcify or wither away under a superior force. So, Jonathan’s success within the PDP has nothing to do with the popular notion of democracy.
Also, Jonathan and his supporters within the PDP will do all in their powers to whittle down the cohesion in the APC and to sow seeds of discord there. So, members of APC should expect internal battles aplenty as members from disparate backgrounds begin to fight for turf and supremacy as such battles would be exacerbated by mercenaries in PDP’s and Jonathan’s pay.
Jonathan’s real strength lies in the fact that he controls the security forces as well as INEC. Together, they control the distribution of electoral materials, over-sees real election and result coalition. A sitting President with little social conscience (and just like Obasanjo, Jonathan has displayed little of such) will willingly abuse state powers, spit on democratic principles just to have his way.
Yet, what happens at the state level will also impact at Jonathan’s chances in the centre. In 2011, President Jonathan had enough powers to just telephone an Onyema Ugochukwu who was cranking up his own governorship race engine, to accompany a governor Theordore Orji of Abia state on his maiden visit to the PDP Wadata Plaza national headquarters, Abuja, and he obeyed without asking any questions. But that was in pre-APC Nigeria. Under today’s dispensation, the PDP should be careful in the way it awards its governorship ticket to lackeys based on nothing but the President’s whims and caprices. Now they have avenues to stand and rebel!
For instance, if Jonathan intervenes unduly in Delta State politics and anoints an Abuja faithful, the more popular aspirants could rally around one of their own, storm out of the party and present a formidable opposition to both the PDP and the President. So the birth of APC may help ensure internal democracy in the parties because if a PDP chieftain loses a state party governorship flag in a transparent way, he may likely remain in the party even while licking his wounds. So too for the APC.
In the main, the arrival of the APC in today’s Nigeria has left the question of Jonathan’s chances in 2015 more open. Ordinarily, by now it would have remained a totally foreclosed one. A wise Jonathan may reconcile the warring factions in the PDP and brighten his chances – but that is unlikely. A few desperate governors who defected from the PDP to APC will obviously return when faced with insurmountable opposition there as well as Jonathan’s reconciliation promises, but that will not be enough to stem the tidal wave of disaffection that has arisen against the President.
Yet, it is likely that the PDP will be, as the run up to the 2015 election progresses, just the shell of PDP; a large portion of its gut, body and soul already gone. The Presidency will fight back with everything in its armoury –including rigging, sending the EFCC against its enemies, etc. But it will always help Jonathan to remember that there is always the X-factor in Nigerian politics; that great unknown which ensured that despite the largest bribery campaign to deface Nigerian history (amounting to over USD $5 billion), Obasanjo still lost the Third Term tenure elongation bid. He had cowered or bought almost everybody…yet he lost.
Still, it must be noted that Obasanjo knew where to stop. When the Third term bid failed, he never tried to resuscitate it. Gen Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) did not know where to stop, and because of that Nigeria suffered untold upheaval. Gen Sani Abacha wanted to perpetuate his rule and did not know where to stop. But Obasanjo knew where and when to stop. It is likely that Obasanjo’s letter to Jonathan was a wake up call to recognize where to stop. But would Jonathan know where to stop? That is an open question.
Yet, it must be understood that the options are not left for Jonathan alone. When all else fails in Nigeria, there is always the X-factor, an intangible thing that springs up in times of great crisis and resolves matters – be it IBB’s recalcitrance, Abacha’s life-presidency dreams, Obasanjo’s “I am Nigeria and Nigeria is me” third term ambition. With APC’s arrival the X-factor may be imperceptibly coming to birth in Nigeria once again. For instance, any APC outcry against the PDP’s rigging, for instance the 2015 election, will no longer be restricted to the South-West or the North-West and North-East as before, but it could be nation-wide with all its security ramifications.
Hey, did you notice something hidden in that last paragraph? It also means that an APC candidate, if APC gets its acts right may receive massive support across the South-West, North-West and North-East. If this scenario plays out, the PDP can as well kiss the Presidency goodbye.
President Goodluck Jonathan must go back to the table now and begin to play his political cards right supported by his impressive achievements in certain sectors of the economy, to win in 2015 and salvage what is left of the PDP and his presidency.