Once again, the nation is being tricked into focusing its attention on a time-tested diversion by the PDP. Nigerians’ attention is being diverted from massive, unresolved scams around the power sector, fuel subsidy and pensions as well as failures to implement budgets or tackle crippling insecurity in much of the nation. The nation is being fleeced by crude theft, grounded by a public service that does not serve any useful purpose, and challenged by serial and basic failures by an administration that shows no capacity to improve. Yet people are being dragged into a needless and diversionary ploy over the ambition of a president with a long way to go before elections.
The arguments over whether President Jonathan can or should run in 2015 are damaging to the nation’s political health. First, there is literally only a handful of Nigerians who will have a say in this matter. They are President Jonathan himself, and those closest to him, whose future and fortunes depend largely on his running again. Card-carrying members of the PDP will have no say. Other Nigerians will have even less. If Jonathan wants to run again in 2015, or his handlers insist he must run, he will.
The idea that there is a mounting northern PDP resistance against Jonathan which should be supported by northerners is an insult to the intelligence of northerners. PDP aspirants forget too easily, but majority of northerners do not. Simple folks will remember the hype in the PDP consensus candidate misadventure, the result of which was the creation of the damaging impression that the political fortunes of the north laid with the selection of a northern PDP candidate in 2010. If all the big guns who rallied behind former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, having failed against President Jonathan, northern governors and other northern PDP bigwigs could not deliver the ticket to Atiku, what reasons are there to assume that the resurrection of a northern bogey this time can stop him? Most northerners remember that the security and economy of the north nosedived as a result of the dangerous pandering to ethnic and religious sentiments which was used to drum up support and votes for President Jonathan. The north is still paying the price for its seeming hostility to a Jonathan presidency, in the wide gulf between Christians and Muslims, in the administration’s attitude and strategy towards an insurgency that claims to be rooted in the Islamic faith, its decaying infrastructure, rising numbers of the desperately poor, and absence of a united leadership. Northerners remember the roles of PDP governors and other PDP elders in handing the North over to Jonathan. They live with the scars of the 2011 fiasco: insecurity, shrinking economies and a President who seems set to make deeper forays into its limited assets to build up his arsenal towards 2015.
Now attempts are being made to tap into northern sentiments to stop President Jonathan from staying in power until 2019. PDP governors and other politicians are also attempting to involve ordinary folks in arguments about promises made, even though everyone knows that the people involved have never had any respect for promises, rules or laws governing relations among themselves, or with the Nigerian people. Most Nigerians know that PDP’s zoning formula has been dead and buried since 2011. The trick in zoning of offices has no efficacy any longer. No Nigerian political party, or even a village association, will assign offices without due regard for spread and equity. It is even worse for the PDP because it has zoning and rotation enshrined in its constitution, yet the 2011 election exposed how little that principle means to its leaders.
Now the “right” of the north and questionable legal issues are being raised to make a case for northern support. It won’t work. The PDP is only one party out of many that are available to northerners to choose from. Where its presidential candidate comes from is unlikely to make much of a difference to northerners, so long as he will govern in the tradition of the PDP. There is nothing intrinsically better in a northern leadership, compared to leadership from the south. Northern PDP governors and many of its leaders helped Jonathan become president. Now they want northerners to help them stop him from running again in 2015.
The fight among the small circle of PDP leaders is just that: a vicious scramble for largess among people who will do exactly what the others will do. The front-runners have all held offices on platforms of PDP. How many of them have performed even marginally better than President Jonathan? The dummy being sold to northerners is that the presidency must move to the north under the PDP. The first fallacy here is that the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the North can only be achieved under a northern PDP presidency. Other northerners who are not members of PDP can do this, not because they are northerners but because they may be the best available to Nigerians to choose from in a free and fair election. The second fallacy is embedded in the insidious perception that only PDP can win presidential elections, and if the north fields the presidential candidate, it is virtually “guaranteed” a northern Presidency.
There is a long way to go before President Jonathan plays his final hand towards 2015. At this stage, it is safe to assume that he will run again, because not doing so is entirely a worse option for him and his small circle. Ambitious northern governors, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and a few PDP elders will whip up a lot of sentiments in vain. The governors are likely to be whipped into line or acquiesce in the old manner PDP enforced the will of the leader. Vice President Atiku Abubakar will give Jonathan a run for his money, and between the two, there is likely to be a lot of money to run after. But nothing will change, except that this time PDP may not get away with it.
The merger of major opposition parties will substantially checkmate the PDP. It will give northern voters and other Nigerians an option for the PDP, and the latter’s record will be a major liability for electoral purposes. The PDP is likely to suffer some damage as a result of the skirmishes around the law, rotation and zoning, but these could all be papered over before the primaries. There is likely to be less sympathy for a northern candidate unless he is able to build bridges within the north, and between the north and south before the elections.
The ploy to focus all eyes on the PDP will distract attention from a major shift in the political structure, which is the merger of the opposition parties. It will create the false impression that 2015 is all about President Jonathan or another northern PDP candidate. It will aid the campaign to rally voters around Jonathan owing to “northern” opposition; and it will assist those who wish to weaken the north even more substantially by the cynical exploitation of faith and ethnicity. Above all, it will reinforce the damaging fallout of the PDP’s zoning and rotation policy, which is the creation of a President that serves only parts of the country that “elect” him. Nigerians should ignore attempts to railroad them into a battle in which the same winners will win and the people will lose again.