April 8, 2010

2011: Jonathan holds the ace

By Hugo Odiogor, Deputy Political Editor
WILL Dr. Goodluck Jonathan run the presidential election in 2011? Or put differently, should Goodluck Jonathan just quit in 2011? These issues of ethical and political realism confront the Peoples Democratic Party and the Acting President in a political environment where dynamics of political interaction is devoid of ideological imperatives and ethical compulsions.

Will the internal power rotation principles of PDP give way to real politick predicated on political survivalism? These are questions that confront millions of Nigerians and in deed watchers of the power struggle in Abuja. Even the most ardent believer in the political ethos of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would rather prefer a  siddon look paradigm rather than broach a comment because everybody wants to see what the Acting President has up his sleeves.

For the Turai cabal, the realisation that ailing President Yar’Adua would not be able to complete his tenure is yet to sink in, as they keep throwing up stunts about a man whose major preoccupation now should be how to stay alive rather than worry his troubled heart with Nigeria’s problems. The earlier this cabal recognises that the Yar’Adua presidency is over, the better it will serve their interest in this unfolding political drama sketched by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is directing the orchestral.

The will question bothers on political morality and personal integrity demanded of the Acting President, given the fact that he is from the Southern part of the country even though he is a southern minority, which has not tasted the seat of power in the past 50 years.

The argument of the likes of Chief Ebenezer Babatope is that the Southern part of the country has done eight years with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, while the tenure of the North under President Umaru Yar’Adua was truncated by ill health. It therefore, behoves Dr. Jonathan to be a man of integrity by completing the Yar’Adua tenure and walk right back to the university classroom. Unfortunately, those who would make such argument would be going to equity with dirty hands.

On the other hand, those who ask the should question want Dr. Jonathan to contend with real politick of power struggle where the winner of the power game must face a grueling battle. This includes those in the camp of the Acting President who want the party to last a little longer. There are however, structural and political issues that are associated with issue of whether Dr. Jonathan should run or not?

The first hurdle is that the PDP zoning arrangement of power rotation between the northern and southern excludes someone from another geo-political zone from replacing Yar’Adua. This was the basis of the faus pax committed by Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, the Governor’s Forum and the 12 “unwise” ministers who wanted Dr. Jonathan to operate as a puppet president. But this is fast changing as the Acting President is now asserting his powers and authority.

On March 17, the dissolution of the Federal Executive Council and constitution of a new one was aimed at stabilising the polity after the turmoil generated by the health saga of President Yar’Adua, which advanced the process of governance. The Yar’Adua cabinet had been so divided by the politics of the president’s ill health that the Acting President needs to gain the loyalty of Federal Executive Council. This would be crucial in the coming months when the resolution of the Yar’Adua’s health crisis by invoking section 144 would be on the card.

The leadership of PDP, the Governors and the 12 ministers in the Yar’Adua’s EXCOF had tried to box the Acting President into putting himself out of the 2011 contest. In consolidating his grip on power, the selfish ministers were dropped while some governors who opposed his Acting Presidency failed to get their nominees into the Jonathan cabinet. This has sent a warning signal to some power blocs and political aspirants that it will not be a piece of cake for them in 2011.

In a situation where the national executives of the party are struggling to be in the good books of the Acting President, those who dared to oppose him openly, may be toying with their re-nomination, because even when Dr. Jonathan is not contesting, as national leader of the Party, he could use some administrative and legal mechanisms to block their re-nomination as Gen. Obasanjo did in his time.

The appointment of a new EXCOF is therefore the third major step by Dr. Jonathan towards consolidation of power. The first was the appointment of the Gen. Danjuma led Presidential Advisory Committee, followed by the appointment of General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau (rtd) as the National Security Adviser, seen by political observers, as the hands of both Ibrahim Babangida and Obasanjo in the subtle manipulations to Dr. Jonathan and with the return of Alhaji Gusau, we have seen the reappointment of Mr. Kayode Areh, the former Director-General of the State Security Service (SSS), under Obasanjo as the Chief of Staff to Gusau.

There are strong indications that the new Federal Executive Council holds the key to determining the issue of President Yar’Adua’s health, by invoking Section 144 of the constitution. This possibility is becoming tempting against the background of allowing Clerics access to see the ailing president. The new cabinet may demand that the leadership of the party, the National Assembly and the Acting President should be given the same access to the sick president because Nigerians have a right to know about the true status of the president’s health.

The outcome of these visits may not be pleasant to the Aso Rock power cabal. What is clear however is that Jonathan may have put in place, men and women, that will play crucial roles if he is pushed to bid for the presidency in 2011. Dr. Jonathan’s consolidation of his hold on power would include tinkering with the structure of his own party. There is no doubt that the Peoples Democratic Party is in a quandary as it may have been ensnared by its own internal party power zoning formula.

Never at a time did the leaders of the party envisage that its top leadership hierarchy will be skewed to one section of the country. The Acting President is a Southern minority and the leader of PDP, the party chairman Prince Vincent Ogbulafor is from the South East while the chairman of the Board of Trustee, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is from the South West.

This has thrown open the strident voices of opposition against the Vincent Ogbulafor-led Executive of PDP by those who want a reconstitution of the PDP leadership as the key positions are seen to have gone to one section of the country. The president General of Ozuruigbo, a Pan Igbo pressure group,  Dr. Batos Nwadike told Vanguard last week that the Acting President should ignore calls for the reconstitution of the Party’s NEC and NWC, which may throw up pro-Jonathan  forces at the Party’s leadership.

Chief Babatope averred that Dr. Jonathan is a gentleman who should not allow those around him to deceive him into discarding the power rotation principles in PDP as it was meant to serve the interest of all political groups and hues.

Efianya is of the opinion that those who would want to push for Dr. Jonathan to continue beyond 2011, must bear in mind that Nigeria is a country where people believe in short term gains with long term pains.

Whether Dr. Jonathan will run or not will depend on how the he manages the ego and politics of the likes of Obasanjo, who wants to remain relevant in the country’s power circle. There is also Babangida who has remained a recurring decimal in presidential politics.

Both men have continued to plant their lackeys in strategic positions. As the Chairman of Board of Trustee of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Obasanjo is in a position to influence things in favour of Dr. Jonathan, but at what cost?