THEY would have effectively lost all ground they may have gained under the cover of protecting Northern interests or the achievement of improvements in intra-PDP democracy. What would they gain by conceding to a Jonathan candidature in 2015? Clemency from EFCC? Guaranteed Senate seats?
Free hands to appoint and install successors? Can they trust President Jonathan to deliver, even without Bamanga Tukur as chairman of the PDP? Can they ever be trusted by President Jonathan’s people, particularly in the heat of the campaigns for support in the North and parts of South-South?
At this stage, it is looking increasingly unlikely that the PDP will heal itself of the damaging rifts within it. Too many bruised egos are smarting from the crises. The stakes are too high to stand down. A no retreat, no surrender posture has been forced upon all parties in this conflict, and the prognosis is very bleak for the party and the nation. The judiciary will be sucked into the crises in the very near future, and the legislature will feel the heat and reflect it across the nation.
The crises in the PDP will assume dangerous ethno-religious dimensions. If the rebels in the PDP join the opposition APC eventually, they will expand its potential to defeat the PDP, but at the expense of very damaging geo-ethnic dichotomies.
An alliance between majority North and the South West can make some additional capital from anti-Ijaw grievances in the South-South, but it will also have to contend with damaging exploitation of ethno-religious faultlines in the North. With many parts of the North daily shedding blood from the activities of insurgents and scores of inter-ethnic conflicts, a significant rise in tension engineered by political competition will represent a very serious threat to manage.
Much of the North is under one form of military presence or the other, and an escalation of tension or breaches of security may mean that the 2015 elections are conducted under a substantially militarized environment. All elections in Nigeria are liable to be hugely disputed, but one conducted under heavy military occupation will most likely erode all credibility.
President Jonathan will have to fight for his political life while battling escalating security challenges. The Jamaatu Ahlil Sunnah Lid’daawati Wal Jihad (a.k.a. Boko Haram) appears bent on continuing its fight, this time holding as hostage, rural communities.
The national landscape is dotted by low intensity conflicts that take lives routinely in villages and hamlets, particularly in the North. Criminal activities such as crude oil theft and kidnappings are digging in around weaknesses of the security infrastructure of the nation. They damage the image of the leadership, and cause incalculable damage to the economy and the reputation of the nation as safe for business and investment.
Where will President Jonathan strike the balance between his politics and national security? How much will he deploy to fight blatant theft of the nation’s resources and assure Nigerians that the economy can survive and grow in spite of massive assaults by brazen pillage and corruption? What credentials will President Jonathan take to Nigerians in 2015 to convince them to give him another four years?
Virtually every critical institution in the democratic process will be exposed to the current tensions and stresses being generated by political manoeuvres. INEC says its is being severely undermined by powerful political interests with any eye on 2015. It will get worse when it asks for funds and is told to make do with little; or when its vulnerability is further exploited by professional fixers.
The opposition will make capital from the internal conflicts of the PDP, but will make many mistakes of its own. It could narrow its goal around replacing President Jonathan, rather than achieving a holistic regime change.
It will pay a huge price for the wrong choices in candidates and failures to articulate how it differs from the PDP. It will have to engage in delicate negotiations with the rebelling PDP members, if they choose to join it; or it will have to contend with a major opposition particularly in the North if they choose to pitch their tents elsewhere.
It could push elements in the Jonathan camp to take desperate measures if they perceive that life without power will be unliveable in Nigeria. It could alienate a substantial rump of the elite if it adopts a rigid posture on corruption, and it could alienate many supporters if it mishandles intra-party issues.
The next few months will be very difficult for the nation. The token offer of a National Dialogue is unlikely to represent much of an asset for President Jonathan as he battles widespread public dissatisfaction over his performance, damaging and debilitating opposition from his party, serious security challenges and an economy apparently limping from poor management and industrial-scale theft of sources of revenue.
If he is pushed beyond his current position, President Jonathan could also conceivably dig in and seek re-election at all cost. His opposition will want to see him out at all cost. At all cost is the very point democratic systems exist to avoid.
Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Abuja.