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Jonathan’s baptism of fire : A President Under Pressure

… And how he is coping

If there is a Nigerian today who is faced with multiple dilemmas, it is Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, President, Commander-in-Chief.  An unholy combination of the seeming ignominy which the Umaru Yar’Adua cabal subjected him to, the death of Yar’Adua away and the swearing-in of Jonathan as President, has thrown up a plethora of possibilities in the Nigerian polity.  This report examines the massive pressure bearing down on Jonathan from all fronts.

By Jide AJani ,
Deputy Editor,

Since February 9, 2010, he must have     aged by at least five years. At close     examination, the white hair on his head have increased by a fraction. That is what Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has been reduced to since assuming duties as Acting President and now President, Commander-in-Chief. But if Jonathan is aging fast because of what he has gone through since that fateful Tuesday when the National Assembly proclaimed him Acting President, would age faster in view of what he will go through in the coming weeks, months and, perhaps, years.

From all fronts – social, economic, political, cultural, religious et al – Jonathan is being buffeted by pressure unparalleled in contemporary Nigeria.

Prayer time, Mr President....

Powerful Men
Between March 17 when Jonathan dissolved the Executive Council of the Federation, EXCOF, and April 6 when he swore-in new cabinet members, the then Acting President was put under immense pressures, much of it from a former commander-in-chief in the person of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

Obasanjo, who had played a major role in appointing Jonathan as Yar’Adua’s running mate in 2007, still wanted to be in charge.  He wanted Jonathan to, as a matter of necessity, kowtow to whatever he demanded of him.  As Obasanjo was exerting his own form of seemingly self-serving pressure, his former friend and colleague, General Theophilus Danjuma also presented another form of equally seemingly altruistic pressure on Jonathan to resist Obasanjo.  Danjuma, whom Jonathan  appointed as chairman of his Presidential Advisory Committee, PAC, could hardly hide his feelings because he once admonished Jonathan to do his heart’s bidding and not fall for the dictates of just one man – Obasanjo.  It was so bad that during the process for ministerial nominees, Obasanjo, according to information provided by a state governor, “once called up the acting President three times in 30 minutes, but Jonathan would not shift ground.  Even the recently decided issue of vice presidential nominee, saw the best and worst of some powerful individuals who would not allow Jonathan be (see Special Report: Picking a Vice President)

The powerful men are not done with Jonathan because there are appointments to be made and each wants his nominees appointed.  Among the powerful men on Jonathan’s neck apart from Obasanjo and Danjuma, are General Ibrahim Babangida and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.  Then there are a few leaders from the Niger Delta.

Mix of Electoral Reform and Presidential Ambition
These two make for a very dangerous and deadly mix. During his visit to the United States of America and while having audience with Barack Obama of USA, the issue of electoral reforms were discussed.

Upon the pronouncement that Yar’Adua had died, another issue was added: Presidential Ambition. Nigerians are divided on whether as a citizen with constitutional rights, Jonathan should contest the presidency next year, though his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has a zoning formula which automatically rules him out of the race.  The division, however, can be located in the structure of the Nigerian polity which does not allow for any form of electoral correctness with an incumbent.

So, how would Jonathan come to terms with the urgent need for electoral reforms and at the same time contest.

Jonathan’s dilemma lies in the fact that for him to become the presidential candidate of his PDP would not require a straight forward arrangement – PDP is never known to go the straight forward way.  And in the event that electoral reforms are to take root, the emergence of a Jonathan, without some form of strong-arm tactic and twisting would be a mirage – that is the reality of politics in PDP.

Some, including Obasanjo, are insisting that Jonathan should go for it. Others are saying the President should merely do what is right and have a rendezvous with history. The pressure is mounting and Jonathan has to decide on what to do – either for himself, Nigeria or posterity.

Appointment of INEC Chairman and other appointments

Deriving from the issue of electoral reforms and Jonathan’s speculated presidential ambition is the issue of who takes over the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

The pressure is still on Jonathan  to adopt the Justice Uwais Committee on Electoral Reform report which states that the National Judicial Commission, NJC, should screen and put forward names to the President for appointment as chairman of INEC.  The government is non-committal in that direction and all these would shape the type of legacy Jonatha hopes to bestow.

Anti-Corruption War
Already, even at a time when some people came down hard on the Yar’Adua/Jonathan administration as not doing enough to fight corruption, there are those who have equally come down hard on Jonathan that the action of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in pursuing its case against the former governor of Delta State, James Onanefe Ibori, is nothing less than a vendetta. But the world continues to watch and monitor Nigeria’s war against corruption. In the days ahead, the pressure is bound to mount, should EFCC go full swing against corrupt public office holders; this could be seen as a recourse to the days of Nuhu Ribadu as EFCC chairman who did the bidding of Obasanjo to hound perceived political opponents.  Jonathan’s problem now is should he encourage EFCC to act, some people would read other meanings beyond anti-corruption to it.

Power Supply
Being the chairman of the committee set up by his predecessor to look into the power situation in the country, Jonathan, too, has decided to sit atop the committee that is still pursuing self-reliance in power supply.
While appointing ministers into offices, Jonathan made it clear that he would personally oversee the power problem in the belief that ‘if you want anything done well, do it yourself’ – although three years on, the situation is not getting any better.

Jonathan must deliver but with presidential ambition in one corner, dreams may die fast.

Niger Delta
Most people did not believe that the Amnesty Programme instituted by Yar’Adua would work. With his health challenges, and hurriedly packaged to Saudi Arabia for medical attention, the Amnesty Programme of Yar’Adua suffered gaps of consolidation.

Jonathan, being from the Niger Delta region which is the hotbed of militancy for which the amnesty was instituted in the first place, the pressure is there for him to see the programme to a meaningful conclusion.
He would have no reason if it fails and this adds to the pressure on Jonathan to deliver.

Political distraction from his state / conflict with Timpreye Silva
Even then, there is the unnecessary political distraction coming out of Bayelsa State. The state governor, Timpreye Silva is locked in a battle of control with the new president.

Jonathan would be vilified if, for instance, the EFCC decides to investigate the state governor because the move would be interpreted as a political witch-hunting move.  But, there are problems on ground in the state – like the non-payment of salaries or the debt burden which the state is reeling under. Yet, Jonathan cannot close his eyes to the political happenings in his state.

Pressure from state governors – Governors’ Forum
When the National Democratic Institute, NDI, a US based initiative facilitated the formation of a governors’ forum in 1999, it did so with open and clean mind.

But because almost all things Nigerian are quickly turned on their heads, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum has since metamorphosed into a political pressure group which sees itself competing for power and relevance with the President. The influence of the group is such that governors of PDP extraction decided and chose for the party their candidate as national chairman at the 2008 convention held in Abuja.

The worst was brought out of this group while Yar’Adua was out of the country.  The group did not make life bearable for Jonathan and they did not hide it. But they constitute a very powerful block of influence and may make life difficult for Jonathan because the distraction they can create could spiral into other spheres of governance,

Pressure from the rump of Yar’Adua boys
Nothing makes the pressure form this group of people worth mentioning if not for the huge funds at their disposal.
A source in the presidency informed Sunday Vanguard that “these people are being monitored every now and then and they, too, know.  But even at that, these are a few people who have so much at their disposal and could deploy same for whatever objectives.  However, the spirit with which Jonathan has started his presidency may mean that the rump of the Yar’Adua cabal would rest easy without opposition.

Madam Patience Jonathan, the First Lady
For every successful man, there is a woman. Good! But for every distracted man, there is also a woman.  That may become the lot of Jonathan. From Jonathan’s days as Bayelsa State deputy governor, to governor, to vice president, to Acting President, Patience had always been a woman of substance who never shied away from playing out the talk that ‘if you want to rest easy, listen to your wife’. Patience Jonathan, the First Lady would not be a quiet First Lady; she would be heard.


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