President Goodluck Jonathan has remained silent on the plans for his re-election despite unchecked harassments. But his recent consultations in the north and South-west are indications that the race for 2015, preparatory to his much awaited declaration, might have begun in earnest, writes Ojo M. Maduekwe
Without any iota of doubt, President Goodluck Jonathan will seek re-election in 2015. If this writer turns out wrong, however, then President Jonathan would have succeeded in deceiving him, along with many other Nigerians who might have nursed the same feeling or arrived as similar conclusion. But if anything, the signs are glaring and writing is crystal clear.
President Jonathanâ€™s second term ambition has remained on the front burner of national discourse and for palpable reasons. Its importance cannot be overlooked nor underestimated. In 2011, against the backdrop of the tale of a minority growing up without shoes sold to the voting masses who sought a breath of fresh air, it was alleged to be a part of what got him the first shot at the presidency even amongst some Northern power brokers.
Before he was first elected in 2011, his second term was allegedly discussed as a condition. Nigerians were recently told that the president actually struck a pact with some power brokers in the country to serve for only one term.
Unfortunately, since thereâ€™s no written or recorded proof, the presidentâ€™s many spokespersons continue to refute the allegation, even when he personally confirmed same at a meeting with Nigerians in the Diaspora in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in the election period.
On the side-line, the issue of whether he was constitutionally entitled to another term was added to the debate. As it is now, everyone seems to agree that he is constitutionally entitled to another term. But some are contending the moral angle and are arguing that it is morally wrong for a president to secretly agree on something and renege in public. This, they further contend, says a lot about the character of the man behind the wheels. They would also add that trust is crucial in leadership.
Although he had remained secretive about his re-election bid, keeping his cards close to his chest, the presidentâ€™s recent public outings speak volumes. For no apparent reason, he has visited monarchs both in the North and South of the country and in quick successions.
Earlier, heâ€™s worked on public perception of his government by sacking some ministers. The timing of the sack was curious though, he has inadvertently made a statement- some kind of subliminal message- that suggests yielding to public sentiment at a time like this.
It made headlines that the president visited the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade; Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III and Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwanu Babatunde Akiolu I, â€œin apparent attempts to make inroads into the South-west ahead of the 2015 presidential election,â€ reported THISDAY. Before this, there was a visit to the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero.
The conscripted resignations of former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and former Chief of Staff, Mike Ogiamdohe, along with the sacking of four ministers deemed loyal to the president are viewed by critics as a strategic and necessary step for the president to undertake ahead of 2015 and not because he genuinely believes it is the right thing to do, perhaps.
Many people believe this is why the president gave Tukur and Ogiadomhe a soft-landing by allowing them to resign, rather than being sacked, which is what those opposed to the two had wanted. The former aviation minister, Stella Oduahâ€™s sack, had also been a major topic in the polity for months especially that hers was connected to official corruption. Critics believe the presidentâ€™s reluctance to letting her go when it was expedient made it seem so.
According to the president, Tukur was all about fighting aggrieved party members. Ogiadomhe was alleged by presidency sources to have alienated some persons from the president when he was Chief of Staff. Relieving Tukur, Ogiadomhe and Oduah of their assignments had been allowed to drag unnecessarily for too long. The time allowed caused the PDP many prominent members, projected the presidency as both insensitive and insensate, while in the case of Oduah, the president came across to Nigerians as some corrupt person who encourages corruption. Changing this perception was needed, obviously.
Except for the Nigeria Governorsâ€™ Forum and the Rivers State crisis, which glaringly have the fingers of the president and the full hands of his wife in it, many, if not all the other issues that have plagued the presidency have been engineered majorly by political appointees of President Jonathan. Supporters of the president believe he is not to blame in all the crises that have plagued his administration.
But a school of thought shares the belief that even where some members of staff of the president are seen to be going off track, it behooves him to call them to order. But where he fails to do so, his silence in this instance would be deemed as consent and that appears to have strengthened the impunity that is thriving in the system. Indeed, many reckon that a lot of things are going on that the president does not know about. Sadly, it is still indefensible, some insist.
A certain opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) governor once said: â€œAs an individual, President Goodluck Jonathan is a nice person that likes everyone to get along. The only place that we disagree is based on policy.â€
The governor is not the first person with such description or impression of the president. In the face of continuous abuse from the opposition and Nigerians, President Jonathan, unlike former President Olusegun Obasanjo, continues to act civil.
Obasanjo had once appeared in public to react to a song by a Nigerian musical act, Eedris Abdulkareem. The song by Abdulkareem, titled â€˜Nigeria Jaga Jagaâ€™ had angered Obasanjo whose administration was at the time working on changing the international perception of the country. Obasanjo was allegedly reported to have replied the musician saying, â€œIt is his family that is jaga jaga.â€ For the records, Jaga jaga in this context connotes confusion.
But unlike Obasanjo, President Jonathan, said to be the most abused and criticised Nigerian president, has exhibited a degree of maturity by refusing to directly engage any of his critics, instead heâ€™s allowed his â€˜attack dogsâ€™ do the barking.
Consistently however, many critics insist President Jonathan is to blame, being that he is the principal. They say he should have been quick to sacking them and not wait this long. Coming in a space of weeks from each other, their sack, also coinciding with his visit to the monarchs, is viewed as political calculations to paving the way for his re-election in 2015, preceded by his declaration anytime soon.
Before embarking on the calculated cabinet reshuffle and consulting some of the respectable monarchs in Nigeria, many of the presidentâ€™s critics believe he should have heeded the call of Nigerians who are dissatisfied with his administration. It is the presidentâ€™s right to seek a second term, but what is wrong in setting the precedence of serving only one term, they asked.
From his body language, it does not look like President Jonathan is willing to set such a record. Everything indicates that the presidentâ€™s mind regarding 2015 is made up. All that the country is waiting for is a public declaration by the president and which may not be long.
In faraway Northern Nigeria, the country continues to boil against the backdrop of Boko Haramâ€™s sustained attack on the federation and President Jonathanâ€™s presidency.
Thus, ahead of 2015, tensions are already high from every quarter and the presidentâ€™s decision, if he would seek a second term or not, may just be all that is needed to calm raged nerves or further exacerbate the already charged situation.