Monday, May 17, 2010

Jonathan, please don’t run in 2011

The debate is raging on whether President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan should contest the presidential elections in 2011. In what appears to be a major indication that the president may run for the number one position in the next general elections, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, the president’s Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters, while briefing journalists in Abuja on Wednesday, 12 May, 2010, was quoted to have said thus: “Mr President is a PDP president and he is a member of PDP, and Mr President will run under the PDP,”

He further averred that despite the zoning policy of the party, President Jonathan will run and they are certain he will win. Whao! So we already know our next president ahead of the 2011 polls. Thus, there is no need for presidential elections in 2011. Cairo was later to issue a public statement that he made the earlier statement as a private citizen. Could that be true? If yes, it is the most unguarded statement by a president’s aide and should be sanctioned. Meanwhile, preceding this comment by Cairo was the flooding of major streets of Abuja with posters portraying Dr Goodluck Jonathan as Nigeria’s messiah. Isn’t something cooking?

President Jonathan in an interview with Christiane Amanpour of Cable News Network (CNN) in April had this to say on whether he would run for presidential election in 2011: “For now, I don’t want to think about it, because the circumstances of the day are quite worrisome. I came in as the vice president to run with President Yar’Adua, of course, getting close to period of election, he took ill. And I have to take over under somewhat controversial circumstances. So let us see how Nigeria will move forward first. I had a similar experience when I was governor of my state. I said, nobody should ask me whether I will contest election or not. I must first of all see whether the state is moving. If the country is not moving, what will I tell Nigerians I want to contest?”

It would be recalled that on March 2, 2010, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Working Committee (NWC) met and thereafter announced that power must remain in the North till 2015. PDP National Chairman Prince Vincent Ogbulafor said the decision was in line with the party's power rotation arrangement. "We felt that the zoning of the presidency of the party as enshrined in the party’s constitution should be maintained and therefore the zoning arrangement in the constitution should hold for the next four years," said Ogbulafor.

There are several elite groups and eminent personalities that have publicly advised President Goodluck Jonathan not to contest the 2011 polls. While the Northern political elites advised him not to compete in the 2011 elections because going by the PDP zoning arrangement their region ought to be allowed the privilege of producing the next president who will serve the remainder one term of Yar’Adua’s presidency, others have counselled him against contesting on the basis of the likely backlash his candidacy may have on the 2011 general elections. I belong to the second group.

Frankly speaking, President Jonathan has the inalienable right as a Nigerian to contest for any political office of his wish under the Nigerian electoral law. It will equally be very tempting for him to vie for the position now as he occupies a vantage position as the first substantive president from the minority group of Niger Delta region. My passionate appeal to him not to run in the forthcoming general election is based on the following reasons:

First, the declaration of his presidential ambition has a tendency of heating up the polity, particularly so soon after the last six months of political instability arising from the poor handling of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s illness. Jonathan’s presidential ambition will definitely pitch him against his political party, PDP, which had sternly warned of the need to respect the party’s zoning arrangement. It will also bring him on collision course with the Northern political elites who had been made to understand that political power will domicile in their region for another four years.

According to the provisional election time-table released by INEC in March 2010, if the general poll will be in January 2011 as being envisaged, then party primaries should hold within May 2nd to July 31st, 2010. President Jonathan became Acting President in February and substantive president on May 6, 2010, for me he is just settling down to governance, should he get pre-occupied with how to contest his party’s nomination now and possibly flag off his full fledge campaign thereafter, if he wins, as he likely will, then governance will suffer as he will be too distracted and majorly pre-occupied with his presidential campaigns. Furthermore, the president as part of his winning strategy may want to constitute a new INEC board that will assist him in realising his presidential ambition in 2011, thus the much touted electoral reform and concomitantly, credible elections may become a mirage in the next general election.

Rather than vying for presidential elections in 2011, Dr Jonathan should focus on governance and deliver on his avowed promises to Nigerians. He should endeavour to be a statesman rather than being a politician. While statesmen think of the next generation, politicians think of the next election. The credibility of the next general election will be better guaranteed if he does not run for any political office in the forthcoming polls. This is because he will likely be more even-handed and neutral about the outcome of that election than he would be if he were to be a contestant.