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Ag President Jonathan: Shape of things to come

By Uduma Kalu
Becoming ZikPerhaps, the only miracle that will guarantee Umaru Yar’ Adua’s continued stay as Nigeria’s president will be his return to the country, and is certified medically fit to rule the country. In the case he fails the two, then enters Vice President Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President.

And in many ways, that will be  a fulfilment for Azikiwe.  Yes, that is one of Jonathan’s names. Born on November 20, 1957 to a  peasant farmer and his wife in the quite village of   ,  in Bayelsa state, his parents never thought their child would in many ways, trod the path of the great leader who got independence for Nigeria and much of Africa.  But his paternal grandmother saw the future of the child and named him Azikiwe, hoping that Goodluck would follow Zik’s path and bring glory to his people.

And this, to a large extent, has been Jonathan’s burden-becoming Zik, albeit in a different way. But today, Jonathan, currently Nigeria’s Vice President, is on the verge of becoming acting president of the country. He is the first VP of the country from the Niger Delta region. He was the first Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, and later following the impeachment of the governor,  Chief Diepriye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, he became governor, the first deputy governor to wear that toga .

Goodluck, on his own, pursued education vigorously, with an eye for politics.

Jonathan’s Politics
Apart from what Obasanjo described as Jonathan’s excellent achievements, he is seen as a man who does not rock the boat, never allowing his personal ambition to rock policies, doesn’t scheme out his boss and doesn’t sow seeds of discord  or plant seeds of dissatisfaction  But this may also be his weakness, at least many think it  is.  Jonathan has just about one year to show the stuff  he is made of.

Jonathan has not really been given time to make his   mark, albeit this can be questioned as he served full four years as Bayelsa governor, with accolades trailing him.

But how he can perform wonders within a year will be a miracle. This is because shortly after this May 29, political build ups to 2011 will begin, with its attendant pulls on the polity and policies.

And the Acting President will be preoccupied with how to consolidate his political position in the South South, contending with  the Northern hawks that will be all over him as one who seized their  mandate .

In fact, this may be Jonathan’s greatest undoing as he may not enjoy the full support from that part of the country. The Niger Delta region and the fulfilment of promises made to the region by his boss and himself.

Little  Jonathan
Until he was pronounced Vice President of Nigeria, Jonathan was known only as one of the 36 state governors of Nigeria. This is attributed to his politics of not jostling, lobbying, blackmailing for political office.

Former President Obasanjo was said to have  needed a fresh, loyal deputy who would be loyal supporter and pillar of his successor, Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua.  But commentators also say because of the growing militancy in the Niger Delta, it was felt   that someone from that region should become Yar’ Adua deputy. And  Jonathan it was. He  had barely cut his political teeth. He didn’t lobby for it.

Those  who knew Goodluck as a deputy governor say he was very effective in the position, staying off the limelight for the governor. In view of the commanding personality of Alameiyeiseigha, no one thought that Dr. Goodluck, like other deputy governors of that period, had any great political future. It was expected that like his colleagues, he  would quietly retire when the time was up.

Deputy Governor, governor
As deputy governor, Jonathan was loyal and both were re-elected in May 2003. Though young in politics with only about eight years experience, Goodluck’s  commitment to duty earned him the Best Performing Deputy Governor Award in the country by the Institute of Public Administration (IPAN) in 2002.

As VP
Goodluck was to go on to become the country’s Vice President. This began on December 18 2006 when PDP chose reclusive Umaru Yar’Adua, as its presidential candidate in 2007. Yar’Adua beat 11 other contestants for the PDP ticket to run in the April vote, which was Nigeria’s  first fully democratic transition.

About  4000 delegates voted in the election with  Yar’Adua polling 3024 votes with businessman Rochas Okorocha a distant second on 372. Hours after the vote, Yar’Adua picked the Jonathan as his running mate for vice president.

The atmosphere in the Eagle Square parade ground where the primaries took place was glum and most delegates left without waiting to hear the results or Yar’Adua’s acceptance speech.

There was scant applause when the result was announced. “He has a long way to go considering the gloomy faces of the delegates and the empty seats after voting,” said Hamisu Shira, chairperson of the House Committee on Electoral Matters and PDP delegate.

Yar’Adua’s candidacy rested almost exclusively on the support of Obasanjo. The former chemistry teacher was little known even among the political elite, having rarely left his remote northern state in seven years as governor. Obasanjo persuaded influential state governors to back Yar’Adua, who suffers from a chronic kidney condition, with alleged  mixture of inducements and threats of investigation by the fraud squad, insiders said.

South South, South East and the Presidency
But one problem that will definitely arise with Jonathan as Ag President is that his emergence as acting president may make it easier for the South East to produce the next president come 2015 as the South South will definitely not be in position to contest that position immediately after serving as acting president and vice president in 2015.

But then,  more permutations will definitely arise before 2015 that may shatter every arrangement already in place.
Married to Patience Faka, from Okirika in Rivers State, Jonathan, having grounded himself academically, felt it was time he veered into politics to practise what he had learnt in 38 years.

So, at the dawn of partisan politics in 1998, he joined the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and was picked from a long list of names as running mate to the party’s gubernatorial flag-bearer, Alamieyeseigha in the 1999 general election, which both of them won as governor and deputy governor.

Goodluck Jonathan does not seem ruffled. While many around him or want to sue him to get something run around, he maintains his cool, prays for his bosses and benefactors, like Alameiyeseigha and Umaru Yar’Adua and allows fortune to run its course.

Jonathan is under pressure but in his usual, thoughtful and intelligent way, he  has defended the absence of his boss, assuring the country at every opportunity that the wheel of governance is moving smoothly and urging everyone to pray for the President’s quick recovery.

His conduct is enviable. His calmness reflects loyalty, the way he did in his home state of Bayelsa, while waiting and looking up to fortune to define his next step.


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