President Jonathan: A Commander-In-Chief in Peril By Segun Tomori
Events that trailed the August 31st Mini-convention of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) would have caught even the most accurate political analyst napping. Never in the history of Nigeria, at least has our recent history had a President faced public humiliation and coup de’tat by “unarmed” yet tactically potent forces of his own party. We saw a President flabbergasted and thoroughly humbled as the now famous “rebel” Governors and Ex- Vice President, Atiku Abubakar led their delegates to form a parallel PDP hierarchy now known as the “New” PDP.How could this have happened with all the security and intelligence apparatchik at his disposal? Jonathan might have thought deeply as he carried on looking subdued. One by one, the remaining Governors spoke to their legs as Jonathan was left with only 2 Governors that stayed with him at the convention to the end! Even the cantankerous and loquacious appendage of President Jonathan, Gov. Akpabio was beaten to his game, bowed his head in shame with hands tucked in his pocket and refused to acknowledge pleasantries when he finally made to leave the convention venue. Yet in all these, Jonathan brought the unexpected turn of events upon himself. “He that sows the wind definitely, (emphasis mine) reaps the whirl-wind”.
Jonathan’s handling of the Nigeria Governor’s Forum (NGF) election tussle and its aftermath leaves a sour taste in the mouth. The President can’t be faulted for wanting and scheming to have his loyalist chair the forum. What is amusing and highly irrational is when he gives recognition to a candidate that posted 16 votes over one that scored 19! I don’t hold brief for Governor of the Rivers State, Amaechi, neither am I interested in what led to his dog-fight with the Presidency but whether we like his face or not, the man won the NGF election fair and square! He has shown the President and his handlers that political warfare are best fought with intellect, tact and mass appeal not by strong-arm tactics, intimidation and manipulation that Jonathan deployed to crush him!
Though I’ve not met Amaechi in person, I doff my hat for him. So far, he has resisted every machination of the Presidency against his gubernatorial seat and not only triumphed, but worsted them! Jonathan’s lackeys – loyal Governors, fell for the consensus trap by nominating the lethargic Gov. Jang of Plateau and singing victory song after getting a supposed endorsement of 19 Northern Governors, en-bloc. They went to the election brimming with confidence that they will carry the day but were stunned when in the actual voting, Amaechi won with 19 votes! The harassment of Amaechi preceding the election, his persecution at home using the pliable “political” Police Commissioner, Matthew Mbu won Amaechi considerable sympathy from some PDP Governors and bloc votes from Progressive (now APC) Governors and thus swung the pendulum of victory towards him. But lo and behold, instead accepting the outcome of the “Political game”- apologies to Gov. Kwankwaso of kano, the minority Governors formed a parallel NGF led by defeated Jonah Jang and Jonathan backed him! This deepened the schisms that had manifested in the ruling party.
As if that was not enough, Gov. Amaechi was suspended from the party on spurious allegations without fair hearing and a few weeks after, Gov Wammako of Sokoto was also suspended for not picking the calls of embattled party Chairman, Bamanga Tukur among other frivolous allegations. Tukur has been a disaster and a curse to the PDP rather than a blessing. He carries on arbitrarily like a General or lord of the manor giving instructions to troops and expecting them to obey the last order. I wonder if he knows anything about party politics because he seems to get comfortable as dissidents grow larger under his watch forgetting that politics is a game of numbers. Though he was forced to retrace his steps on Wamakko but the deed had already been done. Amaechi’s backers within PDP predominantly the now famous group of six Governors which included Wammako became more emboldened and threw their weight behind Amaechi. The botched impeachment of Rivers Assembly Speaker by 5 renegade members out of 32 members with the covert support of the Presidency via the Police Commissioner and the stoning of the Northern Governors on solidarity visit to Amaechi further exacerbated the crisis that led to the implosion of the PDP. In all of this, Jonathan looked on and gave the impression of an all conquering emperor that remained in charge while dismissing the 5 Northern Governors who shuttled round the country to meet elders to save the party as disgruntled and self-serving.
To make matters worse, President Jonathan had broken ranks with the influential Ex- President Obasanjo and ensured his loyalists like Oyinlola, Bode Mustapha and others are flushed out of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC). It is on record that Obasanjo chose to be in Jigawa State democracy day celebration rather than be with his Ex- political godson, Jonathan at eagle Square, Abuja. He even made a veiled reference to the President at the occasion that “if you give someone a job and he cannot do it, we have Sule here that can do it” apparently referring to the Jigawa State Governor, Sule Lamido. He is believed to be backing Lamido/Amaechi ticket though he hasn’t come out to acknowledge that, publicly. Jonathan became President at a turbulent time of our political history when late President Yar’adua died in the middle of serving out his first term. By the zoning formula of the ruling party, PDP, the north believed a northerner should replace Yar’adua and serve out his second term instead of Jonathan. Obasanjo single-handedly fought for Jonathan’s candidacy and led his campaign particularly in the hostile core north where it was alleged that the President gave his word to serve as a one-term President. That understanding made it possible for him to get the backing of most influential Northern PDP Governors and elders and win the PDP primaries then. The surreptitious and subterranean moves of Jonathan few years into his first tenure to pocket the party hierarchy, and clampdown on real and perceived opponents to pave way for his alleged second term ambition tore the party apart. He had waved off advice by prominent members of his party and aides to get rid of Tukur and save the party. The same way he dithered on the Boko haram menace until it got out of hand, Mr Jonathan stuck to his guns choosing rather to swim and sink with the rabble rousing Tukur on the altar of ambition as if another loyalist to replace him is yet to be born!
When the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) notified the PDP that some officers of the PDP were not properly elected, it probably expected that the ruling party will hold a proper congress to ratify their election. The Jonathan backed Tukur-led NWC thought differently. They saw it as an opportunity to get rid of officers seen to be loyalists of perceived opponents of the President. So the Ex- NWC officials’ names were excluded from the list of those to vie for the positions, but they got more than they bargained for. The anti-Jonathan group had a Plan B. Before we could say Jack, Atiku led a group of six governors, delegates and party chieftains and stormed out of the convention in the full glare of national TV cameras with Jonathan still seated. The next port of call was the nearby Shehu Yar’adua centre where the “New” PDP faction emerged. A bewildered Jonathan, thoroughly humbled, swung into series of panic-stricken meetings to virtually beg the dissident group to retrace their steps.
Headway has not been made as at the time of going to press. Members of the “New” PDP have continued to increase, with 26 out of the 74 pre-New PDP Senators and 102 PDP House of Reps members out of 205 pledging allegiance to it. The danger here is that if the crisis festers, the New PDP would likely form an alliance with APC having 29 senators and thus effectively have majority of 55 Senators dwarfing the old PDP which will be left with 48. The house of reps situation is even dicier as an alliance between New PDP and APC will produce an overwhelming majority of 239 members while old PDP will be effectively left with 103. This portends grave danger to Jonathan because his ally, David Mark, the Senate President might be the first casualty that will be shown the way out first as a prelude to his probable impeachment. The house Speaker Tambuwal, already considered an APC enthusiast will be a willing tool to frustrate the President and his ambition when the chips are down.
It is most certain that Jonathan will bow to pressure from his numerous hangers-on and aides to deploy the tremendous powers of his office to clamp-down or hoodwink members of the new PDP. He has started showing signs of that when he allegedly stormed out of a peace meeting and called the bluff of the dissident group. He is said to have asked Obasanjo who he alleged caused the crisis to fix it. That was very naïve of him, with all due respect. Obasanjo has nothing to lose, but he has a lot to. After neglecting and sidelining Obasanjo in all facets, how can he rely on the same man to fix the problem? This is a man renowned for his legendary vindictiveness. Obasanjo will gladly take his pound of flesh, cry more than the bereaved and pretend to lead an elusive reconciliation mission. It has been alleged that he is the unseen hand propelling the rebellion, a fact, intelligence and security reports were said to have later made available to Mr. President and a probable justification for his absence at the convention. The secretariat of the New PDP has been sealed off by the Police signaling the readiness of Jonathan to assert his authority and crush the rebellion by whatever means. The next few days promises to be both exciting, and interesting.
The New PDP is however fighting from a position of strength. Jonathan-led faction of PDP has everything to lose. Proponents of the New PDP who have successfully registered two new parties, Voice of the People (VOP) and the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) and will most likely move into either one of them if they lose out in their battle to reclaim PDP. It is from that position they’ll negotiate with the new beautiful bride, the All Progressive Congress (APC) which is fast becoming a mass movement with its tentacles spread across the length and breadth of Nigeria. Collaboration between APC which has 11 Governors with 7 New PDP Governors will give 18 Governors while Jonathan will be left with 16 Governors. He will be the loser all the way because we can’t even vouch for all the 16 to stay with him through thick and thin. Some will most likely dump his sinking ship!
Jonathan has emerged the most divisive President probably in Nigeria’s history. His quasi pan-Nigerian emergence as elected President rather than unite us has left us more divided than ever. That can be traceable to the repudiation of the zoning arrangement in his favour, the no love-lost relationship between his administration and the core north, his prevarication and dithering in tackling the boko haram menace amongst others. As it is now, the most feasible option left for President Jonathan is to renounce any intention of contesting for second term. He has been cornered on every side. His poor or at best mediocre performance has not helped matters. The opposition as represented by APC is now formidable having overwhelming strength in the South-West, strong presence in the North-West and North-east and have considerable following which is growing by the day in other geo-political zones. Nigerians are disillusioned with the PDP and crave change. Tukur should have no business staying a day longer as Chairman. He has over-stayed his welcome. However, no matter the reconciliation that might be concocted, the PDP will never remain the same again but of course they can choose to delude themselves. The only thing that can make PDP spring a surprise and probably retain Aso-rock is if they do away with Jonathan, but it will rather be easier for a camel to pass through a needle than for that to happen.
The road to 2015 is filled with thorns and thistles. The Commander-In-Chief seems to be in charge on paper. Influential troops have become potent and tactically hold the ace. A President that is not privy to the coup de’tat and political chess game in his party with the massive intelligence apparatus at his disposal had better watch his back lest he gets consumed in the process. A word, they say is enough for the wise.
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