President Goodluck Jonathan can’t seem to win these days—and we don’t mean the war against Boko Haram. On the one hand he is being asked to stop declaring (a state of emergency in the north), while at the same time, he is being pressed to declare (his candidacy for 2015).
Dates for Mr President’s declaration have been shifted every month since February, with various reasons cited. They range from the more agreeable—he is focused on tackling Nigeria’s many problems—to the cunning; Jonathan may be delaying a declaration until as near to the elections as possible, to frustrate a possible slew of court cases challenging his eligibility.
On this note critics point out that Jonathan’s silence on whether he will run in 2015 surely benefitted him in March, in a suit where his opponents argued that because he has been sworn into office twice as president, Jonathan has no right to contest again, and should be prevented from taking the PDP ticket.
The case was kicked out somewhat early, with Justice Evlyn Enya-Dike saying because Mr President is yet to formally declare his intentions, the lawsuit was “at best hypothetical, pre-emptive, speculative and mere conjuncture.”
The dilemma facing Jonathan is familiar territory; in 2010, four months after being sworn in to take over from the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Jonathan faced immense pressure to declare for the 2011 elections and did so in September 2010, seven months before D-Day.
Seeing as we are still a good ten months away from February’s polls next year, Jonathan’s expected declaration in May is relatively early, but is being sought again for primarily the same reasons as in 2010.
Every assumption on the streets, in newspapers, blogs and the corridors of power is that Jonathan will run for a second term. But in this article, we’re ignoring the gasps from vested interests and heading in the other direction to ask: what if the president decides not to run?
…Sambo would be in with a shout
As is the bent of the PDP, governors usually ascend to presidency. But Nigeria’s current vice-president would stand a very strong chance of taking over from his boss, given his hierarchy in the ruling party and the fact that they were on a joint ticket (and he was a former governor, in any case). Agreed, in Nigeria’s democracy no VP has ever gone straight on to the presidency via an election, but it hasn’t been for want of trying. Many believe the last man who tried—Atiku Abubakar—lost out mainly due to the friction between him and former President Olusegun Obasanjo. But Sambo and Jonathan have a different dynamic; the weekly cabinet meeting was cancelled when Sambo lost his brother, showing growing influence. That clout—as VP, acting president and finally president—is what got Jonathan where he is today. And so, with Jonathan out of the running, Sambo will step up, propped by his political and financial clout, with the requisite accessory of a south-south (or south-west?) running mate—a formula that worked for Jonathan in 2011, when Sambo added legitimacy to his ticket within the PDP.
…Loyal governors will dare to dream
What do Atiku Abubakar, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Namadi Sambo all have in common? They all went from being governors to Aso Rock, as VPs or presidents—or both.
Governors are the PDP’s stock of running-mates and presidential candidates, so should Jonathan be out of the race, you can expect many others to jump in the ring to fill in the ranks. Extremely loyal governors or those who are pliable, always toeing the party line often reap presidential tickets in return.
There have been interesting reports hinting at possible replacements of the Jonathan ticket with existing PDP governors such as: Ibrahim Shema (Katsina) for president and Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom) as VP and Sule Lamido (Jigawa) as president and Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers) as Vice—before Amaechi defected to the APC.
Even if Jonathan runs in 2015, there is no escaping the PDP’s frenzied governors’ pool. Northern governors such Isa Yuguda (Bauchi), Muazu Babangida Aliyu (Niger) and Ibrahim Shema (Katsina) are reportedly in good frame to run as Jonathan’s VP.
…APC’s stock could fall
In the (un)likely event that Jonathan refuses to run, you can expect the APC to be at a crossroads. There will be many who will feel the PDP is less of a formidable opponent… until they realise that the likelihood of defection among APC members will be higher, as candidates across all geo-political zones will consider a move or probably move to vie for the VP (and even presidential) slot. As the APC struggles internally with the emergence of a Muslim-Muslim ticket, admirably basing this on competence, not religion, it would do well to remember that a Muslim presidential candidate in the PDP will dilute its selling point, for voters who are predisposed to a Muslim president. Whether Jonathan runs or not, there is one crucial way the APC can step up to the PDP ticket, and at the same time stop the clamour from other regions. See last paragraph of point 5.
…Niger Delta agitation could get uglier
The PDP has a zoning arrangement in its constitution which allows for two presidential terms (eight years): eight years to the south (served by former president Obasanjo) and eight years to the north. Since Yar’Adua died and Jonathan took over, the north has continued to insist power should return to the region, arguing that Jonathan is spending the Yar’Adua term. But the matter is not so clear-cut, as PDP members from Jonathan’s native south-south want the full benefit of the office. As Senator Roland Owie, a PDP founding member, puts it: “If in 2015 the presidency returns to the north for eight years, it would go back to the south, which in this case would be the south-east, and thereafter, it returns to the north and that would mean another 24 years before it can return to the south-south.”
The Niger Delta simply refuses to fathom waiting for the next 20-odd years; the easiest way to maintain a continuum is if Jonathan runs. In fact, a group of politicians calling themselves the Cross River Consensus have threatened to sue the president if he fails to declare within the next three months.
“We support zoning and that is why we are for Jonathan, because, it is the turn of the south-south since we have not tasted power before now. So Nigerians should be patient and allow us to finish our turn before going to any other zone,” they said in a press release.
Should Jonathan decide not to run, there have been comments by militant leader Asari Dokubo that “he cannot come home,” and threats of violence, that Nigeria’s economy will be crippled if Jonathan is not re-elected. Surprisingly, Asari, an ex-militant, has some words for the APC.
“It will make better sense if APC picks its presidential candidate from the south-south. With that, there will be no battle for us to fight and it will make it easier for us. Whichever way it goes, it will enable us to continue our right of uninterrupted rule of eight years, which is the minimum constitutional requirement,” he said.
…Will Boko Haram soft-pedal?
As far back as 2012, President Jonathan said that Boko Haram’s sponsors had infiltrated the government, as well as the police and armed forces. The PDP has also accused opposition party APC of being behind Boko Haram as well, but most crucial is that at least one notable figure has gone on the record to say Jonathan’s exit from office will mean the end of Boko Haram’s insurgency. The only way one can know for sure if Sheikh Ahmed Gumi’s assertion is true is if Jonathan decides not to run for president.
But we will not be holding our breaths; Boko Haram are a threat to Nigeria, regardless of who remains in power or not, and the sooner they are stopped, the better for us all.
In any case, it is up to Jonathan if he wants to test this theory ─ on behalf of all curious Nigerians ─ and decide not to run in 2015.