Last month, I wrote the first part of the above titled article and got several comments. Not surprisingly, some of them were supportive while many of them were not. Some of the respondents who strongly questioned the basis for my analysis dismissed my conclusions. After a few weeks of studied reluctance, I have decided to do a follow-up to continue the debate and give my readers more reasons why I still stand by the position canvassed in that article. I do not have anything personal against President Goodluck Jonathan. He is a great man. However, I think that he has performed below expectations as a President and may be rounding off his assignments at the Aso Villa.
I listened partly to the Presidential media chat on Monday night. The deliberate tactics of prevarication employed by the most powerful citizen of Nigeria only further reinforced my position. His continued reluctance in declaring his bid to re-contest his position is a clear signal that he may even be doubtful, just like many, that he will be returned by the Nigerian electorate. I will give you additional reasons.
The first reason is the unwitting alienation of the Presidentâ€™s political family. The Jonathan Presidency has got many godparents and enthusiasts. They include Olusegun Obasanjo, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, Rochas Okorocha, many parliamentarians and several NGO leaders. Many of them have now deserted him. Part of their grouse is the yet-to-be declared ambition of the President for another term. Even prominent politicians like Chief Tony Anenih now Chairman Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party and other bigwigs like Gen. T.Y. Danjuma can hardly declare their support publicly as they did in 2011. During the Obasanjo years, I remember that Danjuma was so fanatical about his support to the former President that he even threatened to go on exile if Obasanjo failed to win the Presidency. I remember that many coalitions of not-for-profit organisations aligned with prominent politicians and rallied around to canvass support for the Doctrine of Necessity. It is clear that many of these people are no longer visibly pro-Jonathan and might have decided to take their support elsewhere.
Another reason is the myth about Jonathanâ€™s popularity in the old Eastern Nigeria which is now giving way to reality. Here I mean what we now know as the South-South and South-East zones. During the 2011 elections, Jonathan swept more than 90 per cent of all the votes cast in these zones. In a society deeply entrenched in patronage politics, these zones now feel that they have got very little from the Jonathan administration so far to risk voting for him again. Last week, when the President was confronted by the Obi of Onitsha, during his brief visit to Anambra State, about the Second Niger Bridge, he only offered a lame promise to lay the foundations before the end of Governor Peter Obiâ€™s administration in March. For a zone that almost became fanatical about the Jonathan Presidency, this is not only disheartening but unacceptable.
Many people assume wrongly that the fact that the President hails from the Niger Delta automatically means that he will get the support and votes of the region full and square as he did in 2011. That is no longer the case in many areas. I will not talk about the crisis in Rivers State and the underlying factors that are already in the public domain. Probably the biggest political error that the President made about the Niger Delta is to continue to see the region from the lens of his native Ijaw tribe. While the Ijaw constitute a bonafide tribe in the Niger Delta, the region is highly fragmented and made up of many other tribes. The regular and sometimes unnecessary attention paid to the Ijaw by this administration, something alluded to by Obasanjo in his famous letter to the President recently, is already a source of worry among other tribes and may reflect in the pattern of voting come 2015. What about the Ogoni, Ikwere, Anioma, Ndoni, Efik, Ibibio among others? The Ogoni, for instance, are said not to be happy that the recommendations of the UNEP Report are not being implemented as expected. Rather than establish the Ogoni Environmental Restoration Authority, with a specific focus on Ogoniland, the Federal Government proclaimed a different organisation called HYPREP with a hazy mandate to clean up hydrocarbon spills in the whole Niger Delta region. Furthermore, those who are familiar with the history of the Niger Delta struggle know that the Ogoni played an important role in it. One fruit of the struggle is the Jonathan Presidency. It was the efforts of the legendary late Ken Saro-Wiwa that first brought the travails of the Niger Delta to global radar screen. A grateful beneficiary would have extended a little more attention to the Ogoni people than what is happening currently under Jonathan.
Another related point is that even the elite in the Niger Delta who participated in the struggle feel that they have been relegated to the background. The biggest lump sum amount spent so far in the Niger Delta has been expended on the militants. Yes, militants. So far, according to the Presidential Adviser on Amnesty Programme, Kingsley Kuku, a budget provision of N234bn has been allocated to the programme since its inception in 2009. The need for peace in the region for the continuous exploration and exploitation of crude oil is valid. That the ex-combatants need to be kept busy with more productive engagements is also crucial. However there are many other stakeholders who feel that they made non-violent contributions to the struggle and who murmur that they deserve some attention. Such pockets of frustration might begin to crystallise as 2015 elections come closer and may alter expectations. And, beyond the payment and training of the â€œrepentant militantsâ€, what is the state of infrastructure in the region? Has the East-West Road, for instance, been constructed as promised?
Another reason that makes one conclude that President may not return is his recent actions that point to an inclination to religious politics. In the past few weeks, Jonathan has been visiting many churches across the country. As a Christian, there is nothing wrong for people to practise their faith. I mean both the leaders and the led. However, for a country that operates a secular constitution, it is important to exercise this right with some sensitivity about the wishes and aspirations of others especially when one occupies an elevated position as the President. Worse still, Jonathan uses his visit to churches to raise issues of national importance or respond to critics.The natural response to such religiously tainted comments from other religions will be an attempt to begin some level of political mobilisation along religious lines. That is a dangerous sign. Religious politics is a sore point in the history of our nation and must be condemned by all patriots. It smirks of political desperation and it is for those who are desperate for legitimacy. It is the very virus that has eaten deeply into our polity that must be rejected. For Nigeria to go forward, we must learn not to vote for people because they are Christians or Muslims, come 2015. Never again! That was part of the reasons that led to the post- election violence in 2011. That is the road we must not travel again. Our leaders must ensure that they play politics in a way that will assure adherents of all religions the opportunity to freely practise them with fear of intimidation or attack.
It is very discernible that the Jonathan loyalists and friends are decreasing by the day even in his home region. He is now under intense pressure. That is why he is shuttling around the country trying to make new friends and shore up primordial sentiments before his expected declaration. One thing is clear to many, however, he may not be returned in 2015 and he knows it.