Can Jonathan Run, Will He Run? By Simon Danladi

The newspapers, magazines, radio and television have been awash with the speculation about President Jonathan’s state of mind with regard to whether or not he is again running in 2015. That’s three years away, but near enough for Nigerians to read his lips and hear all the body language.

That is as near, or as far, as we will get to a categorical statement by President Jonathan on the matter. His favorite way of announcing his candidature is to pretend not to be interested in running and therefore not to talk about it.Meantime he spends tones of money (whether it is taken from the national treasury or not) to create “pressure groups” for them to “convince” or “beg” him to run. The last time in April 2011 there were 1400 of those pressure groups. For all that, it took Jonathan six months to announce that indeed, he was running for the presidency.

The media claim that there is a “plot” by Jonathan to elongate his stay beyond 2015, and there is a “counter-plot” by no less a person than Atiku Abubakar to stop him. Action attracts equal and opposite reaction.

Who would be more qualified than Atiku to do it? I suppose that after what he did to Obasanjo and his third term project, Atiku has acquired some sort of reputation as an expert in stopping tenure elongation by would be dictators. If he were to write a book on the subject it would be a best seller. It would probably qualify for the Nobel Prize in democratic activism. The world, particularly third world countries, would need such a book to deal with their hordes of potential sit-tight political leaders.

Abuja has no factories, but the capital city is home to the largest industry in Nigeria: its political establishment. Nowhere else in Africa is politics played as they do it in this town. From the look of things and from what we hear in the grapevine, no one is planning to sit tighter than President Jonathan. Atiku may well be the anti-dote to that particular virus.

Atiku is also the man who came close to stopping Jonathan in 2011, the power of incumbency notwithstanding. Therefore, those Jonathan advisers believe that Atiku is a dangerous customer, and they are planning to stop him before he stops them.

Garba Shehu, Atiku’s media adviser, who runs the only political media office in Abuja said the existence of an Atiku “counter-plot” is “news to us.”

We can’t really believe that, can we? His outfit has a well regarded reputation for not missing anything, especially something as important to their principal as presidential politics. They know what’s going on in the Jonathan camp, and are ready to match force with force: Garba concedes as much.

So the battle for the 2015 PDP presidential primaries may already have been joined. The race is now spiced with some noises from the East, where Dr. Ezeife is claiming that the Igbos should be the rightful claimants of the Presidency in 2015. That remains to be seen.

The mystery is why Jonathan is stepping out so early. Perhaps this time around the strategy is to run from the front, like a Kenyan long distance athlete, to set a pace so hot that the chasing pack will be decimated and dusted long before the tape. It is a strategy dreamed up by the minders. Whether it will work against a fighter like Atiku Abubakar is a different matter. An attempt to burn him off may backfire as Atiku has shown that he is as good a durable long distance runner as any. It will always be a close race.

The Score Card:

There is overwhelming evidence gathered from his associates and friends, body language, insiders, party chieftains, etc, to show that Jonathan is indeed running in 2015. The law says he can’t run, but his advisers think the law can be manipulated. Since he is making his run three years ahead of time, we are entitled

to ask why Jonathan thinks he is that indispensable; and we are so gullible and vulnerable. What is new that he is bringing to the table; his score card?

Everywhere else in the democratic world, presidents want to be re-elected based on their record of performance. But in the peculiar circumstances of Nigeria, performance is the last thing on the agenda of elected officials like the President. More important to them are the issues of geography, ethnicity, religion, spoils of office, showmanship and grandstanding, etc…

What has President Jonathan got to show for his years in office from the Yar’Adua era till now? Precious nothing! It’s a no-show. He has shown no talent for performance. He can’t even take a decision. It took him three months to compose his cabinet. The nation needs a President who can take a decision yesterday! Not a foot-dragging person who takes forever.

All we have seen so far is crass incompetence in the handling of all the issues that have troubled this God-blessed, oil-rich country: economic mismanagement; wasteful spending; lack of forward planning; stomach biting poverty (Nigerians live on less than a dollar a day); collapse of education; rising crime; time bomb

unemployment; the lack of patriotic zeal among Nigerians; loss of national morale; a state of fear and insecurity, especially in the wake of Boko Haram’s terrorist activities, and the confusion in government about dealing with that and other security challenges. Not to forget, of course, that hydra-headed beast called corruption.

Rampant corruption is the thing for which Nigeria is best known around the world. President Jonathan is always preaching about fighting corruption. But he has summoned neither the will and courage nor the way and means, to implement the war against the cankerworm. The government live in, and practice corruption, and claim to be fighting it. How can they?

His own Minister of Justice and Attorney-General is busy doing “plea bargaining” deals with criminals who ought to be put away for life. These criminals, some of  them former governors, can keep most of what they have stolen as long as they agree to return some of it. That is the deal. They are let off with a slap on the wrist. The crooks have compromised the legal and justice system. Corruption cases in all the courts are going nowhere.


The President says that the answer to Nigeria’s problems is to be found in his “transformation agenda.” The problem with the agenda is that no one, not even the President himself, knows what the agenda is all about.

What is the transformation agenda? There isn’t even a document that explains it. We have not seen any details, in terms of the stated objectives, time table and time lines, the cost implications, etc, of the agenda.

We are left with no other opinion than that the transformation agenda is nothing but a meaningless slogan, like to say the 7-point agenda before it. Empty sloganeering is not going to produce the fundamental and far-reaching, top down changes and reconstruction that this country urgently needs.

There is no grand vision for Nigeria; no ideological or visionary, platform or programme, upon which to build a future great Nigeria. We have the material and human resources needed to do it. China, India, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, South Africa, etc, could think and plan for 50 years ahead. No one here is thinking beyond four years, beyond the next election, beyond loading their pockets with ill-gotten money.

The President has failed to give effective leadership. Somebody ought to be setting a concrete, measurable agenda for Nigeria’s economic and technological breakthrough. But no one is. We elected Jonathan to handle that. Not to keep playing the power politics of self succession for its own sake.

The Good Book says “where there is no vision (inspired and patriotic leadership), the people perish, or suffer”. Nothing can be more true. Nevertheless, here we are, asking: Will Jonathan run in 2015? The straight answer is: yes, he is. He hasn’t said he is not. But all the signs and body language that say he is are there; clearly visible and audible.

Body Language One:

Barely six months after his swearing in President Jonathan surprised Nigerians by floating the idea (through an aide) of a constitutional amendment to provide for a single 7-year presidential term starting, obviously, from the year 2015. There was a cloud of smoke. Nigerians reacted negatively after the smoke cleared. They were quick to see “third term”. But the President said there was no hidden agenda. He was only trying to save Nigerians the headache re-election expenses. Nigerians did not believe him. The proposal died a naturall death, but the body has not been buried.

Indeed there was a hidden agenda. Had the amendment passed, it might have been possible for President Jonathan to say in 2015, “look, this is a new constitutional provision; and it cannot be applied retroactively. Therefore I am eligible to contest.” It was that kind of thing that President Abdullahi Wade tried to do in Senegal.

Body Language Two:

The Governors and politicians of the South – South have been speaking in support of Jonathan’s continuation beyond 2015. They didn’t just wake up in the morning to speak. People like Atedo Peterside and others spoke even before the governors. Was it smoke without fire? Hardly.

The South-South are living their dream in Goodluck Jonathan, and it is a dream they do not want to end any time soon, certainly not by 2015.

Body Language Three:

President Jonathan’s complete takeover of the party at the convention at the Eagle Square in a kangaroo election where candidates were forced to withdraw for his handpicked candidates, was an indication that the party is being positioned to support Jonathan’s controversial bid in 2015.

Body Language Four:

The PDP is now fully domiciled in President Jonathan’s bedroom. Therefore nothing can be said on this and other important issues unless with the concurrence of the “leader” of the party.

Mr. Olisah Metu, the new National Publicity Secretary, was asked whether President Jonathan would be a candidate in 2015. He said it was “too early” to talk about it. But if he decided to run, Jonathan was eligible. “He is entitled to a second term”. If Mr. Metu’s comments reflected the position of the party, then it could mean that the matter had already been discussed and agreed at the highest level of the party.

These were not coincidental sets of circumstances; they had the unmistakable ring of a carefully coordinated agenda.

In the aftermath of Eagles Square, dissenting voices have begun to emerge as to the intentions of the President in 2015. Therefore, he has been quick to call for calm in the party and in the general polity. There was no need, he said, for “unnecessary controversy” over the matter.

But if the President were that concerned and worried about the negative effects of the campaign that his employees had started, he is in the best position to put an end to it. He should make a clear, unequivocal statement that he has no intention of running in 2015. That would put the matter to rest. But I do not think he will make that statement.    Atiku Abubakar may be the most formidable opponent President Jonathan could face in 2015 should he persist in this present course. But he won’t be the only one to challenge the President. Vice President Namadi Sambo has an interest in moving up. But if the boss in staying put, he can’t.

It is more or less a settled matter that the PDP presidential candidate in 2015 will be a Northerner. The party will have reinstated the zonal policy they untidily discarded last April.

Jonathan Can’t Run

The truth of the matter, however, is that Jonathan cannot even run in 2015, no matter how he tries. He is clearly not eligible. Mr. Metu is misinformed. President Jonathan knows it, but he has been persuaded by the manipulators in theparty that they have the strategy to fix it. Nothing is beyond the witch doctors and spin doctors. After all, the law is made to be broken.

But the law and the facts are compelling. It does not take a genius to know that President Jonathan is already in his second and final term as President. He can’t take an oath to be President three times.

Surely we remember that a presidential team, according to the constitution, is four years. The term is run by the President and Vice President elected on the same, inseparable ticket. Therefore when President Yar’Adua died the then Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, was sworn to an oath of allegiance and oath of office as President for the four-year term to run its full course.

That term expired in April 2011, and President was re-elected and sworn in as President in May 2011 for the second term. He is in the 11th month of his second and final term. Therefore, Jonathan cannot run in 2015. It is as simple as that.

The President should concentrate on doing the best he can to deliver some relieffor the multiple pains Nigerians are suffering under an economy that is not working for them.

Any dream of a third term is a bad dream!

Simon Danladi,

109, Lamido Road, Nassarawa G.R.A, Kano.

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