Jonathan,Atiku and a tale of two governors By Benson Okohue


President Goodluck Jonathan must be a very happy man now. At least, when he looks back at his home state of Bayelsa, he can make a big sigh of relief after defeating an enemy who was occupying the government house there. The President did not, or better put, does not like the face of former governor Timiprye Sylva and for that reason he must vacate his seat.

President Jonathan feels that he can bank on the loyalty of Governor Henry Dickson, but anyone circumspect with the way politics is played in this country can tell without seeing the crystal ball that the president cannot stay too long in his comfort zone. It is a well-known truism in Nigerian politics that politicians dig their own graves when they begin to look for trusted allies to succeed them in office.

Jonathan’s action in ousting Sylva out of contention for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa State is typical of presidents in many underdeveloped parts of the world. It is an attitude borne out of the feeling of insecurity by people of short minds, who cannot see beyond the immediate.

In Nigeria, this will not be the first time we are seeing a president play a similar chord. We have seen President Olusegun Obasanjo manifest such attitude when he was in office. Obasanjo put his hands into every election, and it didn’t matter to him if the general mood of the people was at variance with his personal wish over who won an election. Under Obasanjo, election was more a matter of ‘fixing’ than a fair contest, with Chief Anthony Anenih (Mr. Fix It) superintending. The aftermath of Obasanjo’s presidential recklessness has bore its fruit.  The fruit is the total defeat of the PDP in the South-west geo-political zone. What can be more a humiliation for a former president? But, Obasanjo deserves nobody’s sympathy. He is the architect of his own misfortune, and perhaps because his party-men tolerated him while his recklessness lasted without anyone having the courage to call him to order.

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So like Obasanjo, President Jonathan is also now tinkering with the political processes and the resultant effect of that may be the further decapitation of the ruling party. I am sure most Nigerians would be shocked by President Jonathan’s involvement in how the Bayelsa governorship election went. For a president that came into office with a campaign slogan of Breath of Fresh Air, it is a contradiction in terms that that same president is taking us back to our old, unsavoury pattern of political contest.

And, may I dare say that a president who cannot live beyond his personal ego at a time of moral and ethical question is not a good example to his fellow party-men. This is where stakeholders in the PDP need to be very careful.  If President Jonathan is allowed to tarry far too long in his arbitrariness, the effect will be a more consuming defeat of the party, in a manner broader than a sectional defeat as it happened in the South-west. As a common Yoruba proverb has it that (kekere ni a ti pe’ka iroko; ti o ba da’gba tan owo o ni ka mo). Meaning that you stem the  branches of the Iroko tree at its sapling; because when it become full grown, it gets out of hand.

Today, President Jonathan has swept off the feet of Timiprye Sylva in Baylesa government house. It is no news, though, that Jonathan and Sylva have never had it so well politically. But during the presidential primaries of the PDP, Sylva had an opportunity to score a big political point against Jonathan by not delivering delegates from Bayelsa for the president. I am sure it is the bigwigs in the PDP, including other state governors that prevailed on Sylva against taking such a step.

It is rather ironical that President Jonathan turned a deaf ear to these same stakeholders when it was time for him to return Sylva’s gesture. It is doubtful if the outcome of the PDP presidential primaries would have ended the way it did if delegates from Bayelsa State had delivered their ballots to Jonathan’s rival in the contest, former vice-president Atiku Abubakar.

Indeed, it will be recalled that the two leading presidential aspirants for the PDP ticket, Atiku and Jonathan, had misunderstanding with their respective state governors as at the time of that primaries – Murtala Nyako of Adamawa and Timipreye Sylva of Bayelsa. It will not be an invalid assertion that the mere fact that delegates from Adamawa State cast their ballot for Jonathan gave delegates from other states who might have voted for Atiku the confidence to trade-off their bargain with Atiku for Jonathan.

Likewise, had delegates from Bayelsa State cast their ballot for Atiku, such development may have  ‘even’ the game, and potentially swing the odds against Jonathan. But as fate will have it, both Nyako and Sylva were sacked by a Supreme Court judgement which made both of them to look-up for support from Atiku and Jonathan respectively for their re-election.

While Atiku was able to suppress his misgivings for Nyako and submitted to the wish of fellow party-men in making Nyako and the PDP win the Adamawa governorship election, Jonathan on the other hand played the ostrich when stakeholders in the PDP spiritedly asked him to bury his hatchet with Sylva for the overriding party interest in the Bayelsa election.

The attitude put up by both Jonathan and Atiku in the governorship election in their respective state aptly explains the differences in the personalities of the two of them.

While for President Jonathan the interest of the self towers far and above any other interest – be it party’s interest or national interest – Atiku has demonstrated over  the years that he possesses better capacity to harmonize his interest with the popular interest.

It is therefore high time stakeholders in the PDP knew that they should call President Jonathan to order in interfering with the political processes, as the president’s Iroko tree is already outgrowing its adolescence.

This article originally titled :A tale of two presidential aspirants and their governors was sent in by  Okohue from Benin City, Edo State via


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