The choice of the PDP National Chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff is curious, writes Musa Abba Politicians are funny characters. Apart from being funny, they are also incurable optimists, when it comes to the pursuit of their major preoccupation and vocation being the insatiable thirst for power, more often than not, as an end in itself rather than a means to an end.
Even in the face of formidable challenges, dwindling popularity ratings or diminishing prospects in their political calculations, you can always bet your last kobo on their knack for mischief and dreams for gaining or reclaiming power, which they may have lost due to their deeds or misdeeds while they previously called the shots as emperors of the corridors of power. I don’t blame them.
Not when in the particular case of the Nigerian politician, there is no more hiding place for treasury looters and corrupt elements, given the hot pursuit of such characters by President Muhammadu Buhari. They have thus, no option but to dream dreams of staging a come-back to power even when the odds are clearly pitched against them. You cannot, therefore, stop them from trying.
Year 2019 is approaching and already, politicians have started scheming how to reclaim their lost glory and most prized possession – political power. Among these is ex-president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who I presume needs no introduction. In case he needs one, Jonathan will be remembered as Nigeria’s immediate past President, who was disgraced out of office by Nigerians on account of his misrule which was characterised by monumental corruption; looting of the nation’s treasury and looking the other way while a gang of infantile delinquents called Boko Haram terrorised and set the country on fire.
The gist in town is that Jonathan has risen out of the Ogogoro-induced political coma and trance he fell into after his defeat in the 2015 presidential elections by Muhammadu Buhari. Now, he wants to be president again. Whoa! What, if one may ask, has Jonathan forgotten in Aso Rock Presidential Villa that makes him want to return to collect it? May be to redeem his battered image or better still, to stop the wind of change blowing across Nigeria which is strong enough to exhume the skeletons languishing in his wardrobes?
Your guess is as good as mine. Jonathan has not been a happy man since he lost the coveted seat of President and Commander-in-Thief (Sorry Chief) of the Armed forces. Not when the Ministers he conspired with to milk the nation’s treasury dry are on the run, his National Security Adviser has been a guest of various courts in the land for diverting millions of dollars meant for buying weapons to fight Boko Haram and worst still, he faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in jail for his deeds or misdeeds while in office as president.
Jonathan cannot but be sad with the political structures and machinery he has built over the years crumbling before his very eyes. He needs an alternative and fast. The way out, the devil’s alternative if you like, is to scheme President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) out of power, come 2019 and re-install himself as president as he did in 2011.
Fantastic alternative indeed! To achieve this obviously diabolical objective, Jonathan is enlisting the support of a controversial and a not so strange bedfellow in the person of ex-Borno strongman, Ali Modu Sheriff as his main point man. For the avoidance of any doubt, Ali Modu sheriff and Goodluck Jonathan are not exactly strange bedfellows but birds of the same feather destined to flock together.
Like Jonathan, Sheriff was a two-term Governor of Borno State, where he ruled as a dictator and tyrant as well as squandered the state’s resources with reckless abandon. Having attempted unsuccessfully to stage a comeback to the senate on the platform of the APC, Sheriff pitched his tent with Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Against all odds, Sheriff was recently appointed PDP interim national chairman.
And in the plot to install Jonathan as president in 2019, Sheriff is said to being tipped as vice-president. There is a problem, however. Sheriff lacks a political machinery in the PDP and needs one to position and empower himself in the horse-trading to gain the joint ticket with Jonathan. To circumvent this draw back, Jonathan has mobilised his allies in the South-west and South-south to back Sheriff to continue in office as PDP chairman until 2018, long enough to allow him build a political machinery and platform in the PDP. And with Sheriff on his side, the coast becomes clear for Jonathan’s capacity to defeat Buhari and the APC, in 2019 or so his warped mind tells him.
So probably pushed by his wife, Patience, Jonathan has gone back to the drawing board to plot his return to power in 2019. Fortunately, wishes are not horses for if they were every political desperado will ride into the Aso Rock Presidential Villa. It beats one’s imagination that Jonathan could even dream of becoming Nigeria’s president again after his scandalous and disgraceful record.
Here is a man who got to power as president of the world’s most populous black nation on a platter of gold but within four or so years squandered the goodwill he enjoyed among the citizenry largely because he mistook his position as president for the leader of Niger Delta irredentist thugs and gunmen. Rather than pursuing a national agenda, Jonathan thought Nigeria began and ended with his native Niger Delta and his second home, South-east Nigeria.
It is this same person, who wants to be president of Nigeria again. Wonders shall never end! The truth of the matter, however, is that with Jonathan and Sheriff in-charge of the presidency, it is RIP Nigeria. While Jonathan’s obsession was and still may be to be the czar of the South-south and South-east, Sheriff wants to be the doyen of the North East. Remember crude oil has been discovered in Lake Chad and the ex-Borno State strong man cannot wait to lay his hands on the oil that may be found in Borno.
With Jonathan as president and Sheriff as his deputy, Nigeria is heading for a disaster waiting to happen. Jonathan and Sheriff are free to delude themselves into believing that they can win an election. After all, Nigeria is a democracy, where every fool can aspire to occupy public office. Who knows, they may succeed in misleading Nigerian’s to give them another chance. You never know. In politics unlike mathematics nothing is impossible. Thus seen from a political perspective, Jonathan could enjoy the benefit of the doubt in relation to the prospect of staging a comeback to Aso Rock in 2019.
There is, however, the legal dimension which Jonathan and his apologists must contend with. One important issue here is Jonathan’s eligibility to contest election into the office of the president again given the fact that he was sworn into the same office on two previous occasions which disqualifies him from aspiring to occupy the same office again. There is the urgent need to resolve this constitutional lacuna before 2019 to save the country from unnecessary constitutional and political crisis that could heat up the polity.
It may be recalled that this issue of eligibility of politicians, who have been sworn into office on two previous occasions have been subject of litigation shortly before the 2015 presidential and general election. A case in point was the suit filed by Professor Auwalu Yadudu and others challenging the eligibility of (then) President Jonathan to contest the 2015 elections, given that he was sworn into the same office on two previous occasions.
This case was not fully resolved up till the conduct of the 2015 presidential election in which Jonathan lost any way. For now, the case seems to have been abandoned by those who instituted it or by the Judges handling it, may be because Muhammadu Buhari, on whose behalf the case was filed, ultimately won the elections. This should not be the end of the matter and given plans by the PDP to present Jonathan as its candidate in the 2019 presidential election, it becomes necessary to resolve the issue of his eligibility once and for all.
The lingering question about the ex-president’s eligibility to run for future elections demonstrates the critical, some say negative, role the judiciary has been playing towards destabilising the democratisation process by allowing pre-election cases to linger for long up till after the elections or the expiry of the term of office of the public officer, whose election or eligibility to contest is being challenged.
Recently, the National Judicial Council (NJC) had cause to sanction Justice Ofili Ajumogobia over allegations of misconduct capable of leading to injustice. Justice Ajumogobia’s alleged crime was that she deliberately refused or failed to deliver judgment in suit No FHC/AB/CS/31/2011, a pre-election case between Victoria A.A Ayeni and Olusola Sonuga and two others.
She was further alleged in a petition written by one of the parties to the case of adjourning the case, which involved an election into the Ogun state House of Assembly, until the termination of the life span of the Assembly in 2015.
A similar case is playing itself out at an Abuja FCT High Court, where Alhaji Ibrahim Gaidam, the Governor of Yobe State’s eligibility to contest the 2015 gubernatorial election was being challenged. In a manner similar to justice Ajumogobia’s style, the judge handling the Ibrahim Gaidam eligibility case has been delaying the delivery of judgment for reasons best known to him.
The judiciary needs to operate by the principle that justice delayed is justice denied. This brings to question the roles being played by the Professor Itse Sagay-led Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption.
In the final analysis, the judiciary owes a responsibility to Nigerians to dispose of cases that have a bearing on electoral issues as its contribution to the survival of democracy. As we await 2019, Nigerians should prepare for the mother of all battles (apologies to the late president Saddam Hussein) with the objective of stopping Jonathan from installing himself as president of Nigeria again.
Nigerians had enough of his misrule. The most candid advice is for Jonathan to forget his pet dream of becoming president again. He should, instead, maintain his peace in retirement and enjoy the ‘fruits’ of his labour.
–Abba wrote in from Mando, Kaduna