Jonathan and the 2015 Game

24 Feb 2013

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Simon Kolawole Live!:

What I feared the most is unfolding before our very eyes – a full-blown discussion on the 2015 presidential election at this point in time. Nigerian politics, unfortunately, has become a vicious cycle. It is like this: campaign, election, inauguration, campaign, election, inauguration, campaign, election, inauguration – and you can repeat that again and again and again. For reasons I am not intelligent enough to understand, our politics is all about elections. It is tiring. It is annoying. In a country where over 100 million of its citizens are either poor or very poor, it seems our politicians have only been programmed to think, believe and act as if the purpose of politics is campaign, election, inauguration, campaign, election, inauguration, campaign, election, inauguration…

In recent times, the biggest item on the agenda has been whether or not President Goodluck Jonathan should seek re-election in 2015. While his supporters and several “groups” are already endorsing him for the race, Jonathan himself has said he would not make his intention known until election time because whatever position he takes now would be a distraction. According to him, if he says he will run, governance will come to a halt. If he says he won’t run, governance will come to a halt. But for whatever reason, I believe Jonathan will run. I am not basing my prediction on any privileged piece of information or some spiritual authority. I am just thinking – in 2011, when he was not sitting pretty, he ran. Now that he is sitting a bit pretty, why would he not run?

But should Jonathan run in 2015? While we await his official declaration, the debate has started. The governor of Niger State, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, has fired a salvo, saying Jonathan signed a pact with the governors to do only one term in order to get their support in the 2011 presidential election. This has been denied by a presidential aide though. There was also a pronouncement by Jonathan in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2011 which suggested that he would go for only one term. Although he did not say it as plainly as “I will do only one term”, he was indeed quoted as saying one term is enough for a president to make a meaningful impact on the lives of the people. Again, maybe that is neither here nor there. Even if he said it clearly that he wouldn’t run, he can say he has changed his mind, that “the good people of Nigeria” have persuaded him to run. That is the way of politicians.

Most of those who are against Jonathan seeking re-election insist that he has not performed creditably well so far and has no basis to hunt for another term. I can safely say this is the most commonly expressed position among those opposed to his possible candidature. Of course, Jonathan’s supporters will not agree with this. In fact, last week, I heard someone reel out a list of achievements by the president in the last two years. A more sober appraisal, however, is that two years may be too short to reach a definitive conclusion on Jonathan’s legacy. President Olusegun Obasanjo, whom many see as a performer today, was actually a disaster in his first four years. The achievements listed against his name today were recorded mainly during the first two years of his second term.

There is also an expressed fear that power has to return to the North in 2015 in the interest of fairness and equity, especially given the circumstances that led to the emergence of Jonathan in the first place. The death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in May 2010 inevitably disrupted the rotation arrangement in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and returned power so quickly to the South. Already, some Northern politicians are mobilising around this sentiment ahead of 2015. They have spoken openly about uniting the entire North to take back power in the next presidential election. The idea of another four years of power staying in the South, Jonathan or not, is pure torture to some of these politicians. Whether this is expressed publicly or not, this is also a major issue to be raised by Jonathan’s candidature.

Should Jonathan run? My opinion is fairly predictable – let the forces who are against his candidature unite and push him out through the ballot. This democracy must be allowed to grow. This democracy must be allowed to work. The idea of short cuts will not help our cause. One major reason I am very excited about the ongoing consolidation talks among the opposition parties is that we are likely to have the most keenly contested general election in 2015. That is my gut feeling. And I love it. Jonathan’s candidature will certainly have an impact on the internal politics of PDP. I foresee big gains in the opposition camp. I am not forecasting that Jonathan will win or lose. I am only predicting that the election is going to be very interesting. It will offer us yet another opportunity to grow our democracy organically.

Of course, if I had my way, I would ask Jonathan not to run. My own position is a bit complicated: I am a great believer in single-term tenure. If I had the power, I would want the constitution amended in favour of a single-term tenure of five or six years. I believe, very strongly, that if a president or a governor has only one opportunity to make a mark, he is more likely to be motivated to perform better. But if he knows he will have a second chance, he can afford to delay critical decisions that would otherwise be for the good of the country. He will be afraid to step on toes because his eyes will be on a second term. I am saying this within the context of Nigeria’s underdeveloped politics. You can counter my argument by saying a man may be motivated to perform well during the first term in order to get a second term. Good point. But what then happens during the second term? Eight out of 10 cases, it is an anti-climax. I can prove this with facts and figures.

Nevertheless, I concede to Jonathan that he has every right to aspire for a second term (except the courts rule otherwise). But his candidature will further strengthen the opposition, in my opinion. In which case, then, we should have a real presidential contest in 2015. This has the capacity to further strengthen our democratic practice and experience. Bring it on then!

And Four Other Things...

The beautiful sights we see in Dubai could be within our borders in a matter of years. Last Wednesday, the Eko Atlantic City was dedicated by the government of Lagos State. Conceived by former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu in 2003 to check frequent ocean surge, Governor Raji Fashola has pursued the dream vigorously. The four square miles reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean is expected to house over 400,000 residents and provide financial, commercial, residential and tourist accommodation with a state-of-the-art infrastructure. The project is expected to attract massive investment inflow into the country. Dubai was not built in a day. Here we go then…

What is the rationale behind this jamboree called “Good Governance Tour” organised by the Ministry of Information? Why should the Federal Government be taking journalists on a guided tour of states in the name of showcasing democracy? There is something funny about it. Professor Jerry Gana, as information minister, did a similar thing in 2001 and it was so controversial I never thought anybody would do it again. We are told that the governors endorsed the tour. But isn’t there something untoward in asking governors to “fund” the tour? Some governors will gladly do it, of course, hoping to get positive “assessment”. This is ridiculous.

The National Judicial Council (NJC) last week announced the “immediate” suspension of two judges for alleged misconduct on the bench. They could be retired if President Goodluck Jonathan approves the recommendation of the body, as required by law. The culprits are Justices C.E. Archibong of the Federal High Court, Lagos ,and T.D Naron of the Plateau State High Court. Justice Abubakar Talba of FCT High Court who adjudicated in the Police Pensions case is also being investigated. I would suggest that the NJC should also investigate the judges who have been issuing all sorts of injunctions in favour of Capital Oil. We are waiting..

Impunity. That is the name of the game in our dear country. The chairman of the Pensions Reform Task Force, Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina, is literally slapping us in the face. He is under investigation by a Senate Committee over about N195 billion, being the pensions of customs, immigration and prisons services. Maina has shunned every investigation so far. The senate issued a warrant for his arrest but the police did not move anywhere near him. In fact, the man has been going to court to seek injunctions. He has even been granting media interviews. Yet to appear before the senate is not in his books. Nigeria! 

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