By Dirisu Yakubu
Ahead of the 2023 Presidential election, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, are going the whole distance in a bid to win the support of eligible Nigerians of voting age to keep faith with whoever will emerge as their respective flag bearer.
While the APC is convinced the past eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s stewardship is enough to make the party retain tenancy of Aso Rock for at least another four years; the opposition party believes its return in 2023 is the surest way to rebuild a new Nigeria.
For APC, Presidential hopeful range from the vastly experienced to political greenhorns with the N100m expression of interest and nomination fee not big enough to scare many out of the race for the ticket. Yemi Osinbajo, Bola Tinubu, Rotimi Amaechi, Chris Ngige, Ahmed Lawan, Tunde Bakare, Emeka Nwajiuba, Godswill Akpabio, Dave Umahi, Ogbonnaya Onu and a host of others have all joined the race for the sole ticket. As for the PDP, the race is peopled by familiar faces, some of whom vied for the ticket four years ago. Atiku Abubakar, Bukola Saraki, Aminu Tambuwal, Bala Mohammed, Bello Hayatu-Deen, Nyesom Wike, Udom Emmanuel, Peter Obi, Sam Ohuabunwa, Dele Momodu among others, will test their popularity at the PDP Presidential convention slated for Abuja if the consensus option fails.
Although Nigerians, given the economic squeeze that combs the land have been critical of the two parties over the cost of their nomination forms; what shocked citizens and residents of Africa’s largest country recently was the purchase of the APC Presidential forms for ex-President Goodluck Jonathan by Fulani stakeholders in the land. Yes, Jonathan has not been involved in recent times in the activities of the PDP; a party on which platform, he attained national and global prominence but his defection to APC is a thing not even political pundits see as happening.
However, as reported by many national dailies (Vanguard inclusive), the once-shoeless kid is now seriously considering the possibility of giving the Presidency another shot after losing to incumbent President in 2015.
Jonathan cost PDP dearly in 2015
As aptly captured by Segun Adeniyi and Bolaji Abdullahi in their books, “Against the Run of Play” and “On a Platter of Gold,” Jonathan’s decision to run in 2015 rather than give way to the North to produce a Presidential candidate for the PDP, played a huge role in the defeat the party suffered in the hands of the APC. Jonathan, it would be recalled became President in May 2010 following the death in office of President Umaru Yar’Adua. Upon the completion of that tenure in 2011, he insisted on running in clear violation of the PDP zoning principle which would have seen a Northerner complete a tenure of four years the zone was denied of when Yar’Adua died.
Jonathan won the election in 2011 after the likes of former President, Olusegun Obasanjo pleaded for him to be allowed to run and consolidate on the achievements of the Yar’ Adua/ Jonathan administration.
The North was however taken aback when Jonathan again repositioned himself for another shot at the plum seat in 2015, as the PDP leadership shut the door against prospective aspirants by printing only a form it sold to their beloved Jonathan. As expected, the man took an electoral bashing in the mould of what former US President Barack Obama termed “Shellacking.”
Nigerians voted change
A lot of factors beyond the aforementioned led to Jonathan’s defeat in 2015. His handling of the Boko Haram insurgency, fight against corruption among a litany of other reasons culminated in his ouster and the emergence of Buhari who had contested and lost thrice prior to his victory on the platform of the APC.
Soon after its formation in 2013, the APC through its then spokesman and current Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed seized every opportunity to take President Jonathan to the cleaners, blaming him for every woe that bedeviled the land. The word “clueless” hits the consciousness of Nigerians when Mohammed deployed it at virtually fora, to describe the administration of Jonathan.
Timelines of APC’s vitriolic against Jonathan, PDP
”The weapons, ammunition and equipment which the former President (Jonathan) said he bought were refurbished and lacked the basic components and spare parts.
Additionally, the ammunition bought for both high calibre and small weapons have mostly expired, incompatible with weapons and grossly inadequate. It is pertinent to state that the ammunition he was referring to were back loaded because they explode within the barrel when fired, thus leading to deaths and injuries among soldiers,” Lai Mohammed in a statement issued on February 1, 2016 blaming Jonathan for failing to tame Boko Haram
“Is it not curious that the same President Jonathan who has stood by while Boko Haram decimates a whole section of the country over the past six years has suddenly realized there is something he could do to crush the sect in six weeks? Is it not curious that a military that has been globally acknowledged for its successes in peacekeeping at regional and international levels has suddenly found itself unable to tackle a band of criminals? Is it not curious that the necessary fighting equipment that have not been made available to the military, despite the injection of over 32 billion US dollars into the defence and security sector since 2008, have suddenly become available?
“There are more questions to be asked: At what point did President Jonathan begin to have a clear idea that Boko Haram is a major threat to the very survival of our country? Was it after about 300 innocent girls were abducted from their school in Chibok or before? Was it after hundreds of boys were slaughtered in a secondary school in Buni Yadi or before? Or, was it before or after the Nyanya bomb blast that led to the deaths of hundreds of people? Just when did our President wake up to his primary responsibility?
“The truth is that after their Boko Haram-as-a-trump-card strategy blew up in their face and their electoral fortunes plummeted, the PDP-led Jonathan administration came to the realization that a stepped-up campaign against the insurgents is needed to revive their electoral fortunes, hence they then decided to pep up the military and rally regional troops – the same suggestions from the opposition that the administration has pointedly ignored over the years – to combat the terrorists.
”President Jonathan, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, must take responsibility for the monumental cost, whether of his incompetence or his political strategy-gone-awry or both, apologize to the nation and immediately back down from seeking re-election. The President must not be allowed to profit from an error of judgement that has cost 15,000 lives, forced over 3 million out of their homes and cost the taxpayers 32.88 billion US dollars.
“It is no longer news that the authorities have gleefully announced the killing of Shekau at least twice in the past, with the picture of the supposedly-dead Boko Haram leader widely circulated in the social and traditional media. That raises the question as to which Shekau is to be captured. Or are we to believe the stories making the rounds that the government plans to capture a ‘Shekau’ who will then be used to implicate Gen. Muhammadu Buhari as a sponsor of the sect, just to pull the brakes on his runaway acceptance by Nigerians?” Lai Mohammed in a statement issued in London, February 4, 2015 faulting the postponement of the 2015 general elections by the Jonathan-led government.
“One of the reasons for the fuel scarcity was the inability of the last government to make adequate provision for fuel subsidy. We do face some other logistic problems but majorly, we are paying for the sins of the last administration. What I will be telling Nigerians is that what we met on ground is such that we are paying for the sins of the last administration. I am being very serious. You remember that about two weeks ago, we had to go to the National Assembly for a supplementary budget of N674 billion,” Lai Mohammed briefing State House Correspondents on December 21, 2015 on fuel scarcity experienced nationwide at the time.
“Therefore, it is time for the PDP to end the muckraking and tell Nigerians how it plans to tackle the worsening insecurity in the land; the collapsing national currency, with the US dollar now exchanging for N215; massive unemployment, especially among the youth, decayed infrastructure and the unprecedented corruption under President Jonathan’s watch,” APC in a statement issued in Lagos by its spokesman, Lai Mohammed, on January 25, 2015.
“Our opponents have stolen so much money that they are richer than the government. They have stolen so much money that to date, they cannot afford but this government under the leadership of President Buhari will continue to organise town hall meetings to tell Nigerians what we are doing and that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Lai Mohammed on May 28, 2016 at a town hall meeting in Kano with residents of the state
“Curiously, Boko Haram has now become a way of getting the international community to talk and meet with President Goodluck Jonathan and gain international media coverage,” Lai Mohammed on September 11, 2014 while presenting a paper entitled, “Challenges of Insecurity in Nigeria and Boko Haram Insurgency,” to a sub-committee of the House of Commons in the United Kingdom.
“We say that while they laid the groundwork for today’s suffering with their mismanagement of national resources at a time of plenty, we have introduced unprecedented measures to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians, especially the very vulnerable,” Lai Mohammed on March 9, 2022 at a press briefing in Abuja.
“To understand the significance of Nigeria moving up in the World Bank Doing Business Index, we have to recall that between 2007 and 2015, Nigeria lost 64 places in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking,” Lai Mohammed on March 21, 2022, taking a swipe at the Presidents Yar’Adua and Jonathan administrations.
“The good news is that Nigerians remain traumatised by their 16-year misrule, and will not return to “Egypt” by allowing the demolition gang back to office,” Lai Mohammed at a press conference in Abuja on March 29, 2022.
“After the Jonathan administration has spent $32 billion on security and defence, Nigeria is not any safer, with thousands of deaths, 221, 000 square kilometres of territory captured by Boko Haram, 650, 000 Nigerians internally displaced and also a daily harvest of death from ethno-religious crisis, clashes between pastoralists and farmers, armed robberies and kidnapping,” Lai Mohammed in a statement issued on November 17, 2014.
“When about 60 students were killed in the terror attack on the Federal Govt College, Buni Yadi, in February 2014, President Jonathan never visited the scene to commiserate with the families of the victims. When over 80 people were killed in the first Nyanya bombing in April 2014, President Jonathan went dancing ‘Azonto’ in Kano less than 48 hours later. And when almost 300 girls were freshly abducted in Chibok, President Jonathan neither acted fast enough to rescue the girls nor visited the village. This President has therefore established a pattern of putting his political interest above the security and welfare of Nigerians who voted him into office,” Lai Mohammed on November 11, 2014, chiding Jonathan for declaring his second term ambition a day after 48 pupils were killed in a suicide bombing in Potassium, Yobe state.
Apart from Alhaji Mohammed, Buhari also made out time to remind Jonathan of the ills of his government as captured in these reflections:
“Jonathan should vacate and give way to competent hand to govern the country. When the Niger Delta militants started their activities in the South-South, they were invited by the late President, Umaru Yar’ Adua. An aircraft was sent to them and their leaders met with the late President in Aso Rock and discussed issues. They were given money and a training scheme was introduced for their members. But when the Boko Haram emerged in the North, members of the sect were killed,” Muhammadu Buhari in May 2013 while addressing journalists at his Daura residence, Katsina state.
“I am going to be brief because it will be consistently brief until I leave this dull place. This culture of 100 days is bringing so much pressure with treasury virtually empty, with debts in millions of dollars, with state workers and even federal workers not paid their salaries. It is such a disgrace for Nigeria. I think Nigeria should be in a position to even pay its workers,” President Buhari addressing State House Correspondents on June 22, 2015 in Abuja.
“For 16 years and eight consecutive years government of the other party and you know there was unprecedented revenue realized. Oil projection which can be verified was 2.1 million barrels per day. Actually, I felt like absconding because 27 out of 36 states in Nigeria cannot pay salaries and we know they have no other sources to depend on for salaries. I was told there was no savings…I was told the money was used to import food and fuel,” President Buhari blaming Jonathan for financial recklessness at a parley with members of the Senior Executive Course (38) of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS, Kuru at the Presidential Villa on November 4, 2016
…And Jonathan lands in APC
Shocking still is the possibility of the former President running on the platform of a party which only a few years ago, called him all manner of names. In the weeks leading to the 2015 polls, one of Buhari’s core loyalists, the late Professor of Virology, Tamuno David West even questioned Jonathan’s Doctor of Philosophy, PhD in Zoology from the University of Port Harcourt, saying, “I am not saying that he lied but I want to see. I have been a Professor since 1974. If you say you have PhD, the least I want from you is to give me the thesis, which university and where you got it. My name is Tamuno which means there is God. If you are lying, there is God o.”
Jonathan’s possible defection to a party that almost made a demon out of him reminds us all of what Indian lawyer and thinker, Mahatma Gandhi tagged, ‘Politics without Principles’ in his Seven Deadly Sins discourse which stays true today as they have been for years.