By Obiaruko Christie Ndukwe
The just-concluded PDP presidential primaries, which ought to be a trending story in the media, seem to have been eclipsed by a more worrisome development that happens to be the conspiratorial plot to draft former President Goodluck Jonathan into the race to succeed President Buhari under the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, which had hitherto sacked Jonathan from Aso Rock, in 2015.
The former President had held sway for six years, having completed the remaining two years of late President Umaru Yaradua, whom he had contested under a joint ticket. Buhari, who was the opposition party's candidate, had defeated the incumbent President, which became a first in history in the Nigerian democratic journey since 1999.
Jonathan was quick to congratulate Buhari even before the final results were official. The former University lecturer, whose meteoric rise to power is seen as divinely orchestrated, also scored another first when he declined to challenge Buhari's victory at the election tribunal. The unpopular action of Jonathan eventually earned him a place on the global map as his statement, "My election is not worth the blood of any Nigerian," turned his fortunes around and almost erased whatever was his perceived and obvious poor performance in office.
Jonathan became the new face of Nigeria in diplomacy. This not only washed away his past sins but also brought a new lease on his relationship with his opponent, who had replaced him in Aso Rock. Buhari and Jonathan fostered a closer unity, which also extruded to his wife, Dame Patience Jonathan, who had no kind words for the former military Head of State and now President during the PDP campaigns in 2015. She had several legal battles as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, came hard on her for alleged corrupt proceeds while she was the First Lady. Dame Patience was lucky to have most of her properties initially ceased released.
The above is an attempt to take the reading public down memory lane. The core of this article is to reveal the drama behind the scenes as some of those who have taken advantage of their relationship with the President to assert themselves as the power brokers within the Buhari government with a plan to convince him of their choice of Jonathan as his successor.
The insidious nature of this clandestine move is that rather than field Jonathan under his party, PDP, which he is yet to defect from, at least publicly, they plan to use him as a consensus candidate under the APC to upstage the popular aspirants like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi amongst others.
The plot that was said to have begun in 2020 by a group based in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, but has some kind of national reach had proposed the idea of power shift to the South-South. They argue that the oil-rich zone was short of taking two tenures of eight years when Jonathan was sacked in 2015. The plan is to have a South Southerner like Amaechi or Goodluck Jonathan complete the tenure of another four years. But, they faced the uphill task of convincing Amaechi to accept to run and govern for only one term, so they decided to pitch a tent with Jonathan, to whom they sold the dummy to even though he had no immediate response.
The propagators of the return of Jonathan failed to consider that his eventual candidature and victory would rob Southern Nigeria of the opportunity to be in power for eight years, just like the Buhari government would have done by May 29, 2023. This agenda by Jonathan's brothers became an eye-opener to some persons from the North who saw it as an opportunity to return the region to power after the expiration of four years. Of course, this is nothing but a selfish agenda and an attempt to plunge Nigeria further into a divide along ethnic and religious lines worse than we currently face. The genesis of the present political crisis is the failure of the Nigerian Constitution to address the issue of zoning and powershift. The political parties ought to have been strictly guided on this issue to avert the scenario where a particular region or zone continues to hold on to power longer than necessary.
The APC ought to be setting the pace with a definite arrangement that would reduce the tension in the polity. Sadly, a few power mongers who are privileged to be in the corridors of power are bent on destroying whatever remains of our delicate peace and unity as a people.
The hurried attempt to ferry Jonathan into the party's presidential primaries, where he is not known to have belonged nor helped build, will ignite the waiting time bomb and finally destroy the party's likely fortunes at the general elections.
The former President will have to face those who pulled all strings and fired all shots to stop his reelection bid. The likes of Amaechi, who come from the same geopolitical zone as him, will face the most humiliating defeat with the crowning of Jonathan as an anointed candidate. Amaechi's dual role in stopping Jonathan and enthroning Buhari can not be forgotten in our Nigerian political history, not even by anyone suffering from selective amnesia. No matter how much it's promised him to work for and with Jonathan, he would remain the enemy within the camp of the former President if he freely gets the ticket.
Many argue that it wouldn't matter as long as the South wins in 2023 whether Goodluck Jonathan is a member of APC overnight. Another school of thought says it's all politics. But we expect the change we were told, not only in governance but in the business of party politics. Is this how the President intends to strengthen the internal democracies of political parties and, by extension, the Nigerian democracy? The proponents of this midnight switch to discard the efforts of strong party leaders are likened to the biblical Esau, whose only interest was to satisfy his fleshly desires with an exchange of his birthright for a mere pot of porridge. They do not care if the President's integrity is mauled and impugned.
The sad tale of Ikemefuna in Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" seems not to reverberate anymore in the conscience of those who claim to have the ears and eyes of the President. Ikemefuna was the adopted son of Okonkwo. He called him 'father' and represented everything a son would be. But in the end, Okonkwo sacrificed the son in a bid to show his manliness. It was all in his power to save the life of Ikemefuna, yet he chose to please the mad dancers at the gate of hell - those who propped him on to prove himself a strongman. The disconsolate and melancholic end of Okonkwo became the fundamental lesson from the legendary story of once a great man.
The focus on Amaechi in this article is not because he alone deserves the ticket to the APC. In connection with the Jonathan surprise, Amaechi remains the issue.
The other person who would be wounded if Jonathan is quickly handed over the ticket despite any kangaroo primaries is Tinubu. He was the one with Buhari, who forged a political alliance that gave birth to the APC. Despite whatever perceived strained relationships, Tinubu ought not to be wished away. The cabal is desperate to end his political existence, and that may boomerang if Tinubu decides to do what he knows how best to do. The unmitigated truth is that the presidential ticket is for Amaechi and Tinubu to grab. While the latter was compensated with the vice-presidential slot in 2015 in place of Amaechi, who had played a significant role in the emergency of Buhari, the former was only assigned the role of Minister of Transportation, which he delivered Buhari's legacy projects and gave the party an ample reason to campaign again running up to the 2023 elections.
No matter the extrapolated views of those who believe that some members of the cabal are justified in pushing for the automatic candidature of Jonathan, there is a tincture of doubt on the widely believed integrity of the President if he goes ahead to support such a move. While it is in his right to hand over the mantle to whoever he chooses, there are yet considerations for his humanity, which he has had an unblemished record. Buhari is too loyal to friendship to be cowed into a selfish agenda of a few folks who want to continue their siege on the nation's resources through a willing crony.
The desperation to persuade the President to endorse Jonathan has exposed further the total disregard for our Constitution and the weakness of the Judiciary. A fast-food judgment was quickly procured from a Federal High Court in Jonathan's state, Bayelsa, just last week. The scheme is to portray Jonathan as eligible to contest again and swear to another oath of office for the third time. These shenanigans of the Jonathan assault on the APC have deliberately chosen to toe a path that would end up fatal in the end if and when the appellate courts overrule the High Court, which is merely a court of the first instance. They plan to convince the President that the legal impediments have been cleared for Jonathan to run.
Is it not expedient for the vice president, alongside Malami and Festus Keyamo, to save the party from a planned implosion?
The charade perpetrated by this group of political merchants and power drunks is capable of throwing up Atiku Abubakar as the next President of Nigeria when eventually, the legality of Jonathan's candidature is tested through the crucible of the laws.
The time is now for the President and leader of the APC to save himself from a backlash of attacks that will come when and if the Jonathan ticket is subjected to a litmus test and the colour appears red or blue instead of white.
Let Buhari prove that the crisis entrepreneurs are wrong!
Obiaruko Christie Ndukwe is an Abuja based political analyst.
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