… Threats & dangers to the Jonathan Presidency
The conventional wisdom is that the result of the last presidential election was simply a matter of an unpopular president Goodluck Jonathan losing to a more popular candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. Well, it’s not really as simple as that. Over three years ago – indeed, shortly after his election in 2011 – I had done a-3-part series, which eerily predicted the outcome of Jonathan’s administration and his eventual electoral fate.
I am reproducing the article here for you, dear readers, to see for yourself how history often repeats itself. And how right I was three years ago…. The series began last month
Anationalist government would depend on strong institutions of state to underpin it. These are lacking in Nigeria today. So a government anchored on such is either an exercise in extreme idealism or a manifestation of political naivety. My worry, which indeed is the crux of this write up, is that the price for such naivety may be too high and even fatal. Indeed, for any government in Nigeria to anchor its survival on such premise, it has to be a decidedly revolutionary government, in the mould of Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, Jerry Rawlings’ Ghana and Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Such a government must totally jettison the old order and usher in a new epoch that will be anchored on the people. I am not quite certain that Jonathan is in the mould of such a revolutionary.
In order to succeed and more crucially survive in office, Jonathan has to set up structures to sustain his presidency. In order words, he has to develop his own anchors and stand firmly on his own legs. Whereas it is possible to attain power on borrowed legs, sustaining same is not usually viable.
Generations of leaders have had to jettison their borrowed legs and grow their own. Every leader defines an era, but that is not usually possible if the leader is merely seen as a transitional personality, occupying a holding position. To succeed in office, he has to project power and demonstrate strength.
President Jonathan is not the first minority to rule Nigeria. General Yakubu Gowon holds that record. But he is the first indigene of a minority to be elected President. That election was historic in several respects. In so many ways it can be argued and correctly so, that it marked a coming of age for the Nigerian polity and its democracy. Jonathan’s basic responses to the challenges and opportunities presented by his election are very encouraging and indicative of his firm resolve to engineer a Nigerian renaissance. The appointments he has made so far underline this reality. Unlike his immediate predecessor, the late UmaruYar’Adua, who concentrated key national offices to his North West geopolitical zone, Jonathan has ensured an even spread of strategic national offices. As a result, every geo-political zone is adequately represented thereby giving every group a sense of belonging and thus reinforcing national unity.
Nevertheless, as commendable as that is, it is simply not enough. In order for Jonathan to succeed in office and achieve his vision, he has to mobilize the pan Nigerian cabinet he has formed and the Nigerian people towards the attainment of his vision of Nigeria. There is nothing like a collegiate presidency in a democracy, especially in a presidential system of government. In a presidential system, it is the President who is the top dog. As the one time USA President Harry S. Truman, famously remarked, “the buck stops on my table!” President Jonathan must ensure that it is his vision that inspires the business of government. For a president to be assertive in a democracy is not hubrisor tyranny. It simply goes with the territory. It is quite clear to all discerning observers that Nigeria needs a new beginning. President Jonathan should initiate that re-awakening by re-defining the Nigerian reality. He can and should give Nigeria a new dream and catalyse the process of attaining it. In Nigeria’s historical epoch, his presidency should represent a definite movement in a certain direction. It should not just be a mere transition.
Given Nigeria’s complex socio-political environment, it is possible that President Jonathan adopted a consensual and collegiate approach to governance in a deliberate effort to obviate friction and ensure harmony in the polity. It may also be a survival mechanism to assure his presidency. On the surface, such an approach may appear reasonable and even pragmatic. However, when you look deeper, its key virtue might only be convenience. But in power dynamics, what is virtuous may not always be expedient. Any approach that would make Jonathan merely a titular head, is not worth it. A President is either in power or he is not. The core reason some of us supported the Jonathan presidency and worked assiduously towards its realization was in order to effect the desired change in our country.
All patriots should fight to ensure that he is not held hostage by reactionary forces and that he remains true to the core ideals on whose platform he contested for the presidency and for which the Nigerian people voted for him so massively.
My deep worry and indeed anxiety, is that he would face severe challenges, many of them simulated in order to test his resilience. He lacks natural defence mechanisms given the disabilities of the Eastern region. So if he relies on the natural goodness of the Nigerian people, he may have a rude awakening. The path of wisdom is for him to establish or facilitate the establishment of such structures among his South South and South East peoples, which will act as a bulwark in his defence and the promotion of his vision. I worry that in the run-up to 2015, the South West political elite and intelligentsia will forge an alliance with the North against Jonathan. The true nature of the new Yoruba political profile under the leadership of Ahmed Tinubu, has not been very well defined. My hot bet is that an alliance between Tinubu’s ACN and any number of Northern political parties, is a strong possibility. In order to prepare the grounds for that eventuality, I foresee heavy media attack on the Jonathan administration within a year into his presidency, profiling him as ineffectual, visionless and even incompetent. That will be relentlessly promoted in the public space as a national consensus and the administration will be inexorably tarred. Thus we could have a Jimmy Carter scenario. Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer and former Governor of Georgia, offered Americans a whiff of fresh air in his successful campaign for the presidency. But his presidency soon unraveled and he became something of a joke and he inevitably lost the presidential re-election to President Ronald Reagan in the biggest landslide in USA presidential election history.
Jonathan also appears to be staking too much faith on the North, offering so many strategic positions to Northerners, to the extent of even sharing power with the Northern power broker, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, in a mind boggling arrangement totally alien to democratic governance in modern history. Well, all I say is, he should ask Ironsi. History, Santayana famously wrote, teaches us that man never learns from it. But it is the infamous admonition of Karl Marx that intrigues me, “History usually repeats itself; first as tragedy and second as farce.”
Sadly, neither Jonathan nor many other people I know, appear interested in history.