The appearance of President Jonathan’s campaign posters in Abuja has suddenly catapulted the 2015 presidential politics to the top of the national agenda for the New Year, though many reckon the posters were the handiwork of those who want to draw out the President on 2015, writes Vincent Obia
Residents of the federal capital, Abuja, were greeted by posters announcing President Goodluck Jonathan’s 2015 presidential ambition as they awoke to savour the dawn of the New Year. The posters adorned many public spaces in the Federal Capital Territory.
The sudden appearance of the posters has catapulted the politics of the next general election to the top of the national discourse. It has awakened old passions, particularly around the propriety or impropriety of the president’s yet-to-be announced second term bid.
The posters had various captions inscribed on them, such as, “2015: No Vacancy in Aso Rock,” “Let’s Do It Again,” “One Good Term Deserves Another,” and “Support Dr. Goodluck Azikiwe Jonathan for 2015 Presidency.”
The letters clearly favour Jonathan’s 2015 presidential ambition, but the spirit behind them is what no one seems to know.
The presidency swiftly disowned the campaign posters but remained non-committal on the issue of Jonathan’s 2015 political ambition. Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, told State House correspondents that sponsors of the posters were merely engaged in a selfish game.
“Those pasting the posters are trying to express their own view. The president had stated that he would talk about the presidency from 2014. Those doing this do not have the consent of the president.
“What is most important now is for the president to deliver on his electioneering promises to Nigerians and not to embark on the pasting of posters,” Abati said.
He added, “We do not know those behind the posters so the president cannot do anything. Our appeal is that those behind this should allow the president concentrate on the job at hand. The president’s main pre-occupation now is to continue to provide service and quality leadership.”
Jonathan has said he would not declare his presidential ambition until 2014. But it is widely suspected that those behind the posters might have purposed to put his candidacy to test, to see how Nigerians would react to it. But they have muddied the waters.
Deep-rooted interests are being washed to the surface, quite prematurely, with the strain of promoting disunity in different forms.
The trouble has seemed to begin within the ruling party that prides itself as Africa’s largest, the president’s own Peoples Democratic Party. The party was billed to choose a new chairman for its Board of Trustees on Tuesday, after postponing the process in December. The meeting of the BoT members held but seemingly irreconcilable differences prevented the members from accomplishing the task of picking a chairman.
It is believed in many quarters that whoever emerges the next chairman of the BoT would be a critical voice in the choice of PDP’s presidential candidate ahead of the 2015 general election. Expectedly, Jonathan, whose yet-to-be-announced ambition seems like an open secret, is thought to be doing his best to get his own man on the BoT driver’s seat. And those opposed to his 2015 ambition are as well digging in to obstruct his chances.
The result is a ruling party torn apart by internal dissention. PDP National Chairman Bamanga Tukur on Wednesday in Abuja admitted that there were, indeed, cracks in the party, which the leaders were struggling to suture. Tukur spoke after a meeting between the party’s National Working Committee and Jonathan, Vice President Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark, and House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, all PDP members, at the Presidential Villa.
“There may be some misunderstanding. That is why we are here. PDP NWC is the first family of PDP. I can assure that like any other family, there may be disagreements but based on principle, not disagreements for anything,” Tukur was quoted as saying.
The NWC members are critical to the emergence of the BoT chairman. And Tukur, whose Adamawa home state PDP chapter has been in crisis for some time now owing to disagreements between him and Governor Murtala Nyako, is said to be feuding with the NWC. Tukur is also believed to be feuding with governors elected on the PDP platform over his position on the Adamawa State crisis.
The PDP national chairman’s election was seriously influenced by the president and he is supposed to be a powerful supporter of Jonathan. But it appears the current circumstances within the party are putting a lot of strain on their relationship.
The belief in political circles is that even if Jonathan succeeds in having his way on the question of the BoT chairmanship, the animosities created by the selection process may certainly affect his 2015 ambition.
On the opposition side too, the alleged kite flown with Jonathan’s posters has caused furore. Many in the opposition parties think that Jonathan or forces within his party were behind the New Year day campaign posters in Abuja. They believe elements within the ruling party were flying a kite with the posters.
Congress for Progressive Change said the posters were a prelude to the rigging of the 2015 poll. A statement by its National Publicity Secretary Rotimi Fashakin, titled “Jonathan: Gradual unveiling of untrammelled ruthlessness,” said the posters were a demonstration of “Jonathan’s intention to stay put on the ‘throne’ – irrespective of his waning popularity.”
Last Tuesday, the Action Congress of Nigeria issued a statement in which it accused the ruling party of frustrating the opposition parties’ merger plan by trying to silence its key sponsors like ACN national leader Bola Tinubu and CPC leader Muhammadu Buhari.
It is widely thought that the merger may provide a base for anti-Jonathan elements even within PDP to launch a strong opposition to his political ambition.
The intensification of the potentially explosive situations is blamed on the president’s 2015 posters. Jonathan himself admitted at a media chat last year that discussion of the 2015 politics would be a major distraction to his administration’s capacity to deliver quality leadership to the country.
Perhaps, true to that assertion, it is the administration’s ability to deliver quality leadership and fulfil its promise that is likely to suffer most from the current discussions. Jonathan’s New Year message was full of pledges and assurances. But in the din of the 2015 political discourse, it is doubtful if the promises would get a lot of presidential attention.
The way out, it does seem, is for the president to deliberately step back from the fray. It remains to be seen if he would deign to take the hard decision.