By Olu Fasan
HERE is the award for the “Most Disgraceful Political Behaviour” ahead of 2023. And the joint winners are: Goodluck Jonathan, former president of Nigeria, and Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
They are awarded for putting their political ambitions above common decency and political decorum.
In any civilised democracy, where the norms of political integrity and public ethics prevail, Jonathan and Emefiele would attract intense and sustained media criticism and public opprobrium. Consider how the British media and public unrelentingly hold their politicians and public figures to account even for minor indiscretions.
But what Jonathan and Emefiele did are not minor indiscretions. They plumbed new depths in undermining integrity in public life, damaging the fabrics of politics and democracy in Nigeria. I submit that the first step towards sanitising Nigeria’s politics is a critical mass of enlightened and active citizens who can act as a bulwark against bad political behaviours.
Take Jonathan. As a former president, he should show outstanding leadership in upholding and protecting the integrity of politics and democracy in Nigeria. Sadly, by his recent political shenanigans, he inflicted damage on Nigerian politics and party system.
In truth, I have never been a fan of Jonathan. Here’s someone who became president through godfatherism and serendipity but made a complete hash of the job. He rightly suffered an unprecedented re-election defeat, but, utterly self-entitled and lacking self-awareness, he wanted to return to power. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he wanted to regain power by defecting from the party that made him what he is to the party that unseated him from power and repudiated everything his government stood for.
Last year, I wrote a piece titled: “Jonathan’s defection to APC would be morally reprehensible” (Vanguard, October 19, 2021). I argued that it would be morally repugnant for Jonathan to decamp from the PDP, under which, without parallel, he was deputy governor, acting governor, governor, deputy president, acting president and president, the last of which made him a world figure.
To be sure, Jonathan owed PDP an apology because his appalling performance and perfidy damaged the party and cost it power in 2015.
Though a formidable party, APC wouldn’t have won the 2015 presidential election if PDP had not imploded, thanks to Jonathan’s woeful performance and his refusal to honour an agreement to serve only one term after winning the election in 2011, thus completing the second term of his joint-ticket with President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who died in office in May 2010. Imagine if Jonathan had voluntarily stepped down for a popular PDP candidate from the North in 2015. The party might have kept the eight Northern states it won in 2011. And if it kept the eight Northern states in 2015, instead of losing five to APC, General Muhammadu Buhari might not have become president despite the South-West’s votes. But Jonathan’s insistence on running in 2015 forced several sitting and former PDP governors and countless other prominent members to decamp to APC, helping the party win power.
Yet, instead of apologising to the PDP and helping to rebuild the party, Jonathan was prepared to run against it as APC’s presidential candidate in next year’s elections. That’s the saga that has unfolded over the past weeks, with a fascinating chronology of events.
First, Jonathan told protesters urging him to run for the 2023 presidency: “The political process is ongoing. Just watch out!” Then, a group of nomadic pastoralists and Almajirai bought APC’s N100 million nomination forms for him. Jonathan said he didn’t authorise the purchase of the forms, but after a two-hour meeting with the Fulani group he was considering accepting their offer. He also held a closed-door meeting with APC’s national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, reportedly telling him he would run for president under APC if the party would make him its consensus candidate.
In the end, Jonathan did not submit the presidential forms, despite the extension of the deadline. Why? Well, without being a consensus candidate, he stood no chance of clinching APC’s presidential ticket, yet the party won’t anoint him. Why would APC make Jonathan a consensus candidate and risk its own implosion, its own convulsion? It’s utterly naïve! But the fact that Jonathan even considered running against PDP in next year’s presidential race was, in itself, the lowest depths of political immorality.
Yet, realpolitik forced him into ignominious retreat. You can’t whitewash this, if you wanted to; it’s utter humiliation for the former president!
Turning to Emefiele. Well, the most striking thing about him is his arrogance and self-indulgence. Despite constantly invoking God, he lacks sound judgement and moral compass. How could someone with “35 years of banking leadership” not see the utter incongruence between being a sitting Central Bank Governor and a presidential aspirant?
In a piece titled “2023 Presidency: Should Emefiele contest?” (Vanguard, April 14, 2022), I argued that Emefiele couldn’t pursue his presidential ambitions as a sitting CBN governor. Yet, he was so determined to run for the 2023 presidency that he asked the court to allow him to join the contest for the APC’s presidential ticket while serving as CBN governor.
Well, rightly, President Buhari pulled the plug, ordering all federal political appointees with political ambitions to resign. That forced Emefiele into a humiliating climbdown. He abruptly dropped his presidential ambitions. But not before sending a parting shot to Nigerians.
After emerging from a meeting with the president, Emefiele was asked about the anxiety his presidential ambition was creating among Nigerians. He replied: “Let them have a heart attack. It’s good to have a heart attack. I am having a lot of fun.” How infantile! Emefiele has been compromised as CBN governor, not least as a registered member of a political party. Elsewhere, he would be asked to leave the job!
Truth is, left to their own devices, Nigerian politicians will push the boundaries of acceptable behaviours. Like Jonathan and Emefiele, they must be forced into retreat, however humiliating!