by Senator Ihenyen
Since the beginning of the year, I have deliberately avoided any discussion on the 2015 elections. It is not because there are easily other issues of national discourse that can make a much bigger headline, but because I personally believe that it would be rather premature and distracting at this time.
However, the President Goodluck Jonathan administration does not only appear to enjoy entertaining distractions, but it has become its stock in trade since the turn of the year.
And of course, the Nigerian media is riding on the rift, while national insecurity, corruption, alarming unemployment, and poverty gradually take the back seat. Recent headlines would have us believe that the biggest problem Nigerians worry about today is whether President Goodluck Jonathan can/should/ought to seek re-election in 2015.
On Wednesday, 2nd of January, 2013, news went viral that President Goodluck Jonathan had made public his interest in running for the 2015 elections when his campaign posters flooded some streets in Abuja. The series of posters had different inscriptions: “2015: no vacancy in Aso rock. Let’s do more“, “One good term deserves another. Support Dr. Goodluck Azikiwe Jonathan for 2015 presidency”. Expectedly, the President denied having anything to do with the posters. Describing it as “scaremongering”, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati was quick to re-emphasise the president’s unwavering focus on delivering on his mandate and avoiding any distractions from 2015 election politics.
Now, the FCT High Court’s declaration that President Goodluck Jonathan can contest the 2015 presidential election has literally given judicial recognition to the already wild race to the Presidency. Presided over by Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi, the court made the declaration in its judgement in a suit which sought to stop Jonathan from running for another term in 2015. Justice Oniyangi held that the “first defendant (Jonathan) is on his first term of four years – if he so wishes, he can seek the mandate of his political party to contest the presidential election in 2015.”
I am very worried. To be sure, it is not the recent barrage by the Governor of Niger State, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu that President Jonathan signed a pact with the governors to serve for a single term in order to get their support in the 2011 presidential election and therefore must not come back in 2015 that bothers me. I am not also worried about President Jonathan’s disclosure in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2011 suggesting that he would run for only a single term.
What I am really worried about is that most of those who really matter in a free and fair election – the electorates – strongly believe that President Jonathan’s performance has not been credible enough to justify any second tenure. Although from the point of view of the Presidency, this public opinion cannot stand because it is either informed by ignorance or mischief; thus the present nationwide tour by the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku.
From the disturbing handwriting on the wall, it appears that delivering on 2011 promises and achieving a credible performance within the current tenure is not one of President Jonathan’s top priorities. The president, his political aides, and the PDP have literally spent the first quarter of 2013 unofficially campaigning for 2015. This has since become an open secret!
In an advanced democracy, a vibrant and people-oriented legislature would have sent a strong message to the President demanding from him the delivery of his electioneering promises otherwise he stood the risk of being impeached. If you hastily consider this rather premature, it perhaps only demonstrates how pathetic the standard of good governance and public accountability has degenerated in this country.
If the question of whether the acts or conducts of the Presidency, officially or otherwise, in the first quarter of 2013 amount to campaigning for the 2015 presidential election as to constitute gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office within the ambit of section 143(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is to be decided in our courts, the judges would have a tough time arriving at a reasoned decision.
What is most important now is for the President to deliver on his electioneering promise to Nigerians. This is his best joker. That’s the only tangible reason Nigerians who stood by him in his eventual assumption of office as President in May 2010 and election into the same office in the April 2011 Presidential election may support any 2015 ambition.
It is not just about initiating a PDP Governors’ Forum chaired by Governor Godswill Akpabio to weaken the Governor Amaechi-led Governors’ Forum. It is not just about making Bamanga Tukur the national Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] or Anthony Anenih as the PDP Board of Trustees chairman. It is not just about secretly setting up campaign offices in strategic areas in the FCT manned by loyal hands. These largely end up strengthening the gathering opposition mainly represented by the new party, All Progressive Congress (APC).
Any solid and reasonable campaign at this critical time should be about winning the fight against corruption and making good the promises on power. It should be about improving public infrastructure, creating jobs for our youths and achieving significant poverty reduction in the country. It should be about translating current economic growth to real improvement in our human development index. It should be about justifying the controversial subsidy removal in terms of gains in massive provision of social amenities for the Nigerian people. It should be about championing an all-round national transformation towards a self-reliant economy fueled by good governance and accountability.
A word is enough for the wise.