I AM in love with the phrase, ‘political silly season’, which, I understand, possibly came from an article in the July 13, 1861 edition of the London weekly newspaper, The Saturday Review, and was listed in the second edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. So iconic is the phrase that it has remained in use till date.
It is defined as a period of time in which the behaviour of an individual or group tends to become uncharacteristically frivolous, mirthful, or eccentric – a period marked by outlandish and illogical activity or behaviour.
It is understandable if in politics, the season is a time, especially just before the elections, when undeliverable promises and wild accusations are the order of the day. Politicians the world over make promises during political silly seasons they neither have the capacity nor intention to fulfill. They simply use those unfulfillable promises to wheedle the politically-unwary and corner undeserved votes. But Nigeria’s political silly season goes way beyond all that. Granted, the activities of politicians are mostly frivolous and illogical, but it is even more so in this election cycle. What is going on is simply bizarre and beyond the pale.
Or how else can one explain the self-inflicted and completely avoidable injury of former President Goodluck Jonathan who seems to be in a quandary whether to remain in his political closet or be man enough to throw his hat into the 2023 presidential ring. Jonathan, an unknown political entity before 1999, is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the current political dispensation having served as a deputy governor, governor, vice- president and ultimately president.
He only failed in his re-election gambit in 2015 when the then opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, founded on February 6, 2013, barely two years before the elections, supplanted the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, after 16 years on the presidential saddle.
And Jonathan’s unbridled greed for power was the culprit – the reason why PDP lost power. To that extent, he was the greatest enabler of the Muhammadu Buhari presidency. If Jonathan had honoured the agreement he reached with PDP chieftains in 2011 to do only one term after completing the term of his boss, President Umaru Yar’Adua, who died in office and allow power to rotate back to the North, there would have been no Buhari presidency in 2015.
He reneged on that agreement and the consequence was that Northerners, most of them PDP members, who saw his action as a gross betrayal of trust rallied round the APC that fielded a Northern candidate. Even Northerners who hitherto could not stand General Muhammadu Buhari’s atavistic socio-political disposition rallied round him, nonetheless; a man who had all but bid farewell to his presidential ambition in 2011 after three failed attempts.
So, Jonathan resurrected Buhari’s dead political career. The 2015 presidential election was lost by Jonathan and not necessarily won by Buhari and he remains the reason why PDP is in political wilderness today. Yet, rather than being remorseful and asking for forgiveness, the former president claims to be the offended party. The PDP, like the proverbial millipede in Igbo folklore, has remained stoic, even as Jonathan who stepped on and crushed its head continues to wail and complain of disrespect. For too long, Jonathan stopped taking part in PDP activities. He even boycotted the last national convention of the party, while at the same time having a hot romance with the APC.
It is no gainsaying that as the age-long Scottish ‘if wishes were horses, beggars would ride’ axiom goes, Jonathan would gladly run for the presidency again if Buhari assures him that victory would be a fait accompli, delivered to him on a platter of his legendary good luck. Of course, those who are wooing him are not known to be Father Christmas when it comes to the issue of power. In the event that it becomes inevitable that power must rotate to the South after Buhari’s statutory eight years in office, they see in another Jonathan presidency the shortest route to power by 2027. Besides, in Jonathan, they see a man who could easily be manipulated, a puppet who will be in office while the puppeteers are in power pulling the strings.
By acquiescing to this unholy alliance, Jonathan is pretending not to know that he will be shortchanging the entire South. Besides, he has no qualms over the quest of the Southeasterners to produce the president knowing full well that their unqualified support for him is the only reason Buhari went for the region’s jugular. Granted, politics is not a game of morality, but a man’s conscience does not need to take a flight simply because he is in the arena of politics.
If Jonathan decides not to support the aspiration of the Southeast based on the principles of equity, fairness and justice, that will be true to character and no one should begrudge him his ever-abiding good fortune in the unlikely event that he once again enjoys another coronation as the president of this beleaguered country. But he should be man enough to step into the arena rather than hiding behind his finger pretending that he is not a member of the APC and disowning those who bought the party’s presidential nomination form for him.
Trying to distance himself from those who bought the form is childish because the APC officials who sold it to the Fulani pastoralists and Almajirai, no doubt, knew who the beneficiary was. At least, nomination forms are not sold to non-card carrying members of political parties. In any case, assuming, without conceding that indeed, Jonathan knew nothing about the forms, and is actually not in cahoots with the APC wizards and their shenanigans, why not say so categorically and unmistakably? When did ‘I will not run’ become such a complex thing to say? Jonathan may think he is fooling Nigerians, taking all for a jolly good ride, but truth be told, the joke is on him.