The Fatal Presidential Mistakes: How Jonathan Lost It All
An exhaustive probe of the key flip-flops that led to President Goodluck Jonathan’s defeat and how the President lost the goodwill that earned him victory in 2011.
By Charles Kumolu
ONLY unrealistic optimists were surprised that President Goodluck Jonathan lost Nigeria’s keenly contested poll.
The pointers to what was imminent for the Peoples Democratic Party ,PDP, were so discernible in the build up, that the President in the days leading to the poll admitted the surging popularity of the opposition meant that his party would not secure a landslide in the presidential, parliamentary and governorship contests.
Though he explicitly affirmed that he was not losing sleep over the development, the pre-election electoral map was such that rubbished every optimism he may have had.
Vague public perception
The president may have redeemed his public image with his graceful acceptance of defeat. His effort suddenly turned him into a hero in defeat.
But beyond that, when the books are written, certain issues would some aspects of the defeat are likely to be attributed to the President’s tolerance of some issues and persons that combined to suppress his onetime electoral invincibility.
Among the key issues were the :Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, crisis, Chibok girls saga, alleged missing Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, funds, mismanaged relationships, withdrawal of Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal’s aides, fallout of PDP primaries and poor presidential campaign strategy/communication.
In the reckoning of the presidency, the NGF became more of a trade union with irritating activism. It was this notion that remotely birthed the leadership crisis that trailed the NGF chairmanship election.
With Governor Chibuke Amaechi, who then was regarded as an antagonist of the President, defeating Jonathan’s candidate, Governor Jonah Jang, with 19 votes to 16, observers had expected the President to beckon on Jang to drop his claims to the group’s leadership.
To the chagrin of the nation, the body language of the presidency was such that confirmed suspicions that it created the script Jang was acting upon.
The recognition of the Jang faction by the President not minding the fact that the latter lost the election, was a move that to some extent, questioned the presidency’s moral integrity.
A direct consequence of that, led to the implosion of the ruling PDP which manifested through the defection of Governors Aliyu Wammako, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Murtala Nyako, Abdulfatah Ahmed, and Amaechi.
Apart from Rivers State where the president had substantial votes, he lost in the domains of the defected governors.
Chibok girls saga
The abduction of over 200 girls from Government Secondary School, Chibok, further exposed the fault lines inherent in the Federal Government’s approach to the insurgency in the Northeast geo political zone.
It was a shock to a bewildered world when Governor Kassim Shettima of Borno State said the President waited until after two weeks before he spoke to him on the matter.
Trailing that was the First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan’s encounter with officials of the state over the issue and turned herself into a global comic on the issue.
Mrs. Jonathan’s supposed concern further incensed many, who found the treatment meted out to the state delegation which included the principal of the school as condemnable.
Indeed, the two incidents and related developments showed a government that was out of touch with the security of the citizenry.
The President later attributed his silence to his desire not to compromise the details of security efforts to rescue the girls, his general approach largely blighted his re-election chances.
Alleged missing oil money/Lamido Sanusi
At a time when the mood of the country suggested that the war against institutionalized corruption had ebbed under Jonathan’s watch, the official response to allegations of missing oil money at the NNPC was considered unsatisfactory.
The failure of the government to investigate those accused and the suspension of the then Central Bank Governor, Lamido Sanusi, who blew the whistle further angered many.
In the reckoning of most Nigerians, who had long desired a probe of the oil sector, the President was being protective of his appointees at the expense of public probity.
Redefinition of corruption
Whether semantics or not, the implication of the President’s statement to the effect that ‘’stealing is not corruption’’ was damaging.
Speaking on nationwide television during a media chat, he had said
‘’Over 70 percent of what are called corruption cases, even by the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies, is not corruption, but common stealing, ‘’ he stated, adding that corruption claims were ‘’politically motivated.’’
For a populace embittered by the fact that despite allegations of corruption against public officials, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, did not record any high profile conviction under Jonathan, the presidential pronouncement was seen as provoking.
Failure to call Dokubo, Clark to order
The threats of fire and brimstone should the President lose the poll by his kinsmen, notably Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Government Ekpemupolo and Alhaji Mujahid Asari Dokubo, were likened to drums of war, informing calls on the President to disassociate himself from the duo.
Interestingly, the nation was united in this call, as the Nigerian Labour Congress, clergy, traditional rulers spoke in unison.
Though the PDP asked the trio to be mindful of what they said at that period of time, President Jonathan was not known to have publicly reprimanded them.
Fallout of party primaries
The outcome of PDP primaries into various offices left nothing to be desired by aggrieved party members.
In its familiar intra-party political culture, the resentment arising from the contests across the country, were treated in a manner that threatened internal cohesion in the party.
Irked by the situation, some party chieftains with electoral values, defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC, making the PDP electorally vulnerable.
In states like Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Ebonyi, Cross River, where the outcome of governorship primaries factionalized the party, a profound presidential comfort or intervention would have assuaged aggrieved members.
Another undoing was the president’s tolerance of the hijacking of the PDP party structures by the state governors, which directly led to so much impunity at the state chapters.
However, whether the President played some trouble shooting roles, is a matter of debate between his admirers and critics.
Another fatal error was the mismanagement of some political alliances at the expense of the President’s electoral value.
Names like Amaechi, Bukola Saraki, Olusegun Obasanjo easily come to mind in this regard, as these men variously played decisive roles at some points in Jonathan’s political trajectory.
Poor campaign strategies/communication
Even the most loyal admirers of the President had no issue conceding that he hardly brought anything new to the table during the presidential campaigns.
From the PDP flag-off in Lagos to the grand finale in Abuja, observers found his message empty and literally full of noise.
Specifically, the language was more of attacks on the APC, its presidential candidate and past leaders.
So concerned were analysts over the content of the campaign statements that some were alarmed that the President spent close to an hour delivering his speech at the PDP flag-off campaign without being able to explain what he had done in the last six years or what he would do if re-elected.