by Stanley Azuakola
It’s amusing whenever one hears commentators say Olusegun Obasanjo has what it takes to displace Jonathan. Not directly, of course (OBJ can never be Nigeria’s president again, thank goodness), but by proxy.
The argument usually is that Obasanjo can seize control of the PDP structure and frustrate Jonathan’s plans to vie for the presidency in 2015. Apologies to all Obasanjo fans out there but he simply cannot.
Here are seven reasons why:
1. Power to hire and fire
This is one of the most powerful weapons the president has, which OBJ doesn’t. Jonathan can appoint a party man’s illiterate wife as his special adviser on education; he can make an 80-year old party strongman, the head of the nation’s ports authority; he can set up committees to investigate why people disrespect him as president, and so on. In fact, there’s nothing that stops Jonathan from appointing one of these so-called presidential contenders from the North as his running mate in 2015, dropping the guy who presently occupies the position.
Obasanjo can do none of these. All he has presently are promissory notes, and even that is suspect. People might question if there’s a guarantee that whoever Obasanjo chooses to back would remain loyal when the time comes to fulfil the terms of the promise. They’ll be looking at Jonathan, the last man Obasanjo endorsed, and would seriously doubt that.
Bottom line: Most politicians have a price tag, and currently Jonathan can pay more.
This lame duck EFCC we see today, can become a roaring lion tomorrow, all it takes is one command from Aso Rock not Ota. There’s a reason all those governors, especially the ones from the North who were strongly opposed to Jonathan’s 2011 candidacy suddenly turned around and presented him as the best thing that happened since oil was discovered.
If those PDP governors were clean, they could call the EFCC’s bluff. But, but, but…
Some people say Jonathan himself ain’t clean. Who cares? He wouldn’t be the first man with sin to cast a stone. His opponent Obasanjo was the master of the craft. Also, if details from Nasir El-Rufai’s book, The Accidental Public Servant, are to be believed, then even Obasanjo lived in fear that Yaradua might send the EFCC against him. Jonathan might not have large enough balls to take on Obasanjo so, but surely there are smaller fishes he could very easily fry.
3. Run, Jonathan, run
There are all sorts of cases currently in the courts, seeking for a pronouncement that President Jonathan is ineligible to contest in 2015. Look, those cases are a waste of time.
First, Jonathan does have a right to run; he is eligible according to our constitution, and as long as he is willing, no court can rule otherwise. Even if some lower court does so, there is very little probability that the Supreme Court as currently constituted can rock the boat. Not when Jonathan also has the powers to do a Salami on any one of them. No thanks, the honourable justices will pass.
4. The purging has begun
The court rulings so far has made purging of Obasanjo elements in the PDP by the Jonathan camp very easy. Unlike Obasanjo who had to resort to a phoney party re-registration exercise, the courts have begun the work for Jonathan.
Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the former secretary was kicked out by the court. On Friday, Bode Mustapha (auditor) and Segun Oni (National vice chairman Southwest) were also kicked out via a statement by Olisa Metuh, the publicity secretary, even though the court rulings against them had been given months ago.
The thing is whether Obasanjo likes it or not, Jonathan is the leader of the party with far-reaching powers to do and undo in that PDP’s peculiar democracy. The leverage Obasanjo had as the chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees, he threw away, when he resigned. Now, his efforts to install a candidate of his choice is most likely going to end in futility. There will be more purges in the coming months, and what can Obasanjo do about it? Rant on CNN? Sorry, that won’t do.
5. No moral authority
Does Obasanjo have the moral authority to criticise Jonathan of non-performance? Not many can say yes.
It was he who installed/coronated both Yaradua and Jonathan, men who he thought would be pliable so that he can rule Nigeria from Ota, as El-Rufai alleges in his book. It backfired. Now, no one takes him seriously when he starts his now frequent digs at Jonathan.
Obasanjo also doesn’t have the moral authority because his 8 years as civilian president didn’t exactly cover him in glory. So unlike his first foray as a yesterday’s man during the military era, when as an ex-president he mounted the soapbox and criticised some of his predecessors and was taken seriously as the man who voluntarily handed over to a civilian administration, this second sojourn as a yesterday’s man is destined to be far more frustrating for him.
6. The Southsouth argument
Asking Jonathan not to run or scheming him out will be a disaster for the PDP. The Southwest is the ACN’s turf; the North is mainly PDP’s but one wonders for how much longer; but the Southsouth is the PDP’s almost impregnable fortress. Even Oshiomhole’s Edo overwhelmingly voted Jonathan in 2011. But remove Jonathan from the ticket and suddenly the opposition begins to see a ray of light into the Southsouth.
Besides, get ready to hear the war drums from the timeless band called Edwin Clark and the ex-freedom fighters. Not that they are people to be taken seriously. But the Southsouth is a key reason why defeating Jonathan would be hard.
7. Retire, old man
Nigerians are tired of Obasanjo. End of story. The man has had his time, he should retire and let posterity be the judge.