I am not wishing our president any ill luck come 2015. As is presupposed with this title, I am one of those who believe he should contest the elections, not necessarily because he has done so well and deserves a second term but because it is his constitutional right to do so, and only he should say he is declining its enforcement. I want Jonathan to contest and not be afraid to lose, as a test of our democracy, and a measure of the growth it has experienced, if there is any growth at all. This expectation is more insistent against the backdrop of the recent merger of the ANPP, ACN and CPC into APC.
Despite the contestations of General Muhammadu Buhari against the 2011 elections, reports we got from our partnership in Project Swift Count indicated that the elections, where they held at all, went on in most of the polling units without the attendant malpractices of previously organized elections of 2003 and 2007. During Obasanjo’s time, it was glaring that the apparatus of government was solidly behind the machinations of INEC. But Jonathan made it quite clear that a free and fair election would be one of his legacies and went on to appoint Jega and budgeted for most of the funds he demanded for a free and fair election. Jonathan had a certain appeal, coming off as meek and humble and ready to be an instrument of transformation. And so there was perhaps an emotional wave that blew across many states of the federation that gave him majority of the genuine votes that made him president. Many of those who were interviewed then stated that they were voting for Jonathan, not PDP, although Jonathan’s gain was also PDP’s gain.
I have not conducted a scientific survey. But there are many I have talked to, who having voted for Jonathan in 2011 don’t ever want to hear that name again come 2015. It is true that Jonathan has faced many challenges since he became president. Every government usually has its own sets of challenges. Jonathan’s own have been over bearing and unprecedented, especially the security challenge of Boko Haram. Challenges are usually an opportunity for leadership, as the economic recession was a test of leadership to many leaders in the Western world, especially Barrack Obama. Leaders’ handling of crises is an epiphany of the stuff they are made of, by so doing either instilling confidence or promoting resentment in the citizens. Perhaps without these obvious challenges Jonathan would be a very great president. Many have concluded that Jonathan is a good man and intelligent in his own right, and has done all within his capacity to face the challenges confronting him as president of a complex nation such as Nigeria. Many however feel that as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, there is required, someone with more cognitive and coordinating abilities, someone with a clearer vision and a more confident sense of mission. Jonathan is not seen as such a leader no matter how sincere his efforts and purposes are.
Some who are regionalists have opined that Jonathan represents the whole country but from a region, the South- South. Being the bastion of the nation’s oil wealth and its economic mainstay, it should have its full compliment of two tenures; so the South South, according to this school of thought should be given another opportunity to complete a second term, but this time, through another South South candidate, such as Donald Duke, former governor of Cross River State. Donald Duke as governor of Cross River transformed it from a laid back state, ridiculed among the comity of states. From a perception as producers of houseboys and house-girls, as everyone from Akwa Ibom and Cross River was classed as ‘Calabar people’, Donald Duke explored the laissez faire attitude of the people and translated it into an economic potential for tourism.
His successor Liyel Imoke has further turned the Calabar Festival, with the Carnival as its high point, into a multi-billion naira event. Donald Duke has drive, has vision, and the boldness demanded for leadership at the highest levels. But it will take a miracle for this proposition to succeed; for politicians never think of the common good but their economic and financial security first and last. So even if President Goodluck Jonathan agreed to this option, it would demand a whole lot of political horse-trading with the beneficiaries of this era. I genuinely suspect that President Jonathan was for only one term but the permanent guests at table are not willing to be unseated and allow other guests at table. There is the fact also that the North desperately wants power, and any slit will be expanded into a big gorge, leading to an early loss of power by the South, whatever that means. The politics of presidential candidacy is such that it is either the incumbent takes the slot or it goes to the opposite region, with no room therefore for a southern replacement for a southern president. So the Donald Duke option, however beautiful it looks, may not be viable.
The most viable option for a PDP presidential candidacy from the south is therefore most likely Jonathan himself. Eventually, electrical power may become steadier as the clock ticks towards 2015, and Jonathan may achieve more success with Boko Haram. Nonetheless there are many whose resentment may be so deep that they would love to seize the opportunity of the 2015 elections to shove him aside.
Unless there is a viable alternative, Jonathan may still be the ‘devil you know’ who is usually better than the angel you do not know.
The recently formed mega party APC has the potential of being the alternative but a lot will depend on who emerges as presidential candidate, what region, and how he or she emerges. PDP with all its flaws is still regarded by many as more inclusive and cohesive than many of the opposition parties. Already PDP stalwarts are predicting the collapse of the mega party within six months, owing principally to selfish ambition of the bedfellows. The internal democracy in PDP is terrible, but in many instances it may have been worse in some of the prominent opposition parties prior to the merger, where the party was perceived as owned by a few individuals.
If PDP could put its act together and allow candidates to emerge genuinely from the grassroots, through genuine party congresses, the enduring seeds of democracy would be sown, and it would have far greater mass appeal, coupled with the funding base it may have built over the years. But it is expedient for the new mega party that those flaws continue to exist in PDP, and APC should come with genuine citizens value propositions. Nigerians are truly hungry for a political party that is democratic in its systems and processes. Another name for democracy is transparency. Nigerians want a transparent system in all sectors. Nigerians are not corrupt by nature. Nigerians are system people. They quickly fall in line and applaud a set up that has standards and maintains them. It is only when Nigerians see that a system is not effective and there is arbitrariness that they also fall in line in outdoing one another. If the new grand alliance has something to offer Nigerians, it should be a culture of transparency, competition and accountability.
Jonathan should not be afraid nor descend into the garrison politics of General Obasanjo, who would do all in his power to destabilize the new party. Rather he should use the opportunity and rebuild his party, which many perceive as crumbling. If he contests the 2015 elections, as he may, he should go into them with the mindset of a player in a game which could go either way. While he should do everything legitimate to win, he must restrain himself from wrong body language. And if the majority of people speak again, and this time, against him, he should accept his defeat gracefully, knowing that he would have helped to establish a self-accounting democratic system. It is better for Jonathan to go into history as a president who contested and lost under a strong, independent and transparent INEC, than win under a weak and compromised umpire. If he also wins genuinely as an expression of a certain renewed trust, perhaps as the option for a lesser evil, so be it too.