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The choices before President Jonathan (2)

By Douglas Anele
Jonathan’s predecessor, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, frankly acknowledged that the elections that brought them to power were flawed. Therefore, the President is morally obliged to support electoral reforms that would eliminate the flaws. It is unfortunate that he has to work in concert with a National Assembly overwhelmingly dominated by crude Machiavellians actuated by instincts of primitive accumulation and political survivalism.

Nevertheless, the President can make history by working tirelessly for electoral reforms capable of sustaining our fledgling “democracy”. An improtant decision awaiting Jonathan is the tantalising prospect of either ignoring the zoning formula of his party to vie for next year’s presidential elections  or to  behave like a loyal party man and occlude himself  from the process.

A lot of ink has  flowed from commentators justifying the two alternatives. Expectedly, majority of those advising Jonathan not to contest are prominent members of the northern elite: some of them have been ranting as if the sky will fall if Jonathan decides to contest for the presidency.  A sizeable number of “opinion leaders” in the south-south want Jonathan to run because “it is their turn.”

The ethnic coloration  of opinions on this issue is indicative of the sad fact that Nigerians are still in the dark tunnel of parochial ethnic chauvinism in their interpretation of issues of vital importance to the country. On the surface, the zoning formula of the PDP appears to be against the emergence of meritorious individuals whose geo-political zones have to wait for their turn to produce the President.

This  could be the case if at a particular point in time the zone that should do so nominates someone who is not as qualified as a presidential hopeful from another zone.

However, the zoning arrangement is a convenient arrangement by the PDP to address the justified complaints that the north has been dominating the topmost leadership position in the country to the detriment of the south. Actually, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the zoning formula, because each of the six geo-political zones can produce a competent President.

The major problem is the high probability of abusing its application to the extent that it works against merit as the most important criterion for selecting a presidential candidate. Just like the much-abused quota system or federal character, if zoning is considered as an end in itself, not as a means to an end; if unreasonable politicians elevate the zoning arrangement to the status of the legendary law of Medes and Persians, then the rationale behind the process will be undermined.

This is because, although rotating the office of the President could ensure that within 48 years each geo-political zone would have produced a President, all things being equal, delivering top quality performance is much more important to Nigerians than the political zone the President hails from. The question of whether to contest or refrain from contesting, if not properly handled, can distract Mr. President from performing his job.

At any rate, although the zoning system can be useful, I believe that if Jonathan performs very well in the short time available to him, the PDP should allow him to contest the presidential elections in 2011.

After all, the insipid National Assembly invoked  a non-constitutional doctrine of necessity to install him as Acting President. Hence, if Jonathan is wise, he should not allow the distractions of a possible shot at the presidency next year to deflect his attention from the daunting challenges of his office.

He should perform well first, and several other things, including the presidency, might be added unto him. At this point, I must say something about the lack of coherent opposition to the PDP, despite the internal problems threateneing to tear it apart.

The major reason is that the other parties are like the PDP: they are ideologically barren, have their own internal problems, and are dominated by (sometimes) undereducated clever rogues and carpetbaggers who went into politics to amass wealth.

It is laughable to watch little-minded, greedy, corrupt and unenlightened area-boy-trader-politicians without charisma and public spiritedness posturing as statesmen and political sages. This kind of people can never provide credible challenge to the ruling party.

Thus, despite the anti-PDP rhetoric of the leaders of other parties, PDP is likely to retain the presidency next year, except something unexpected happens.  If, for example, the ANPP, AC and so on put their diferences in abeyance and present a cohesive united front against the PDP, or the latter makes the stupid mistake of nominating retired general Ibrahim Babangida as its flagbearer, PDP will be kicked out of Aso Rock.

The greatest enemy of the ruling party is not the other parties: it is the PDP itself; that is, its inability to manage electoral success.

True to his name, Goodluck, President Jonathan has made history already by being the first Nigerian to become governor when his boss was impeached, and then President after the death of the incumbent.

He can (and should) disappoint sceptics like me who believe that he lacks the moral and spiritual stamina to inaugurate a genuine paradigm-shift in the business of governance at the federal level. I hope he is taking note!


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