The crowd that is chanting Run, Jonathan, Run is a composite contingent made up of greedy and hungry fellows, rented fellows, political flunkeys of the basest type and those who think that Nigeria may be ready for any kind of political tomfoolery at this time.
Ordinarily, a man who had risen from the position of a Deputy Governor, Governor, and Vice-President to the apex of his country’s administration, the presidency, ought to be happy that he had done, without being harmed, a marathon that most Nigerians only dream about.
In that case, he would be expected to play only the role of a statesman who would seek to contribute his ideas to the resolution of his country’s and continent’s existential problems, some of which had haunted his country since the days that he grew up in his village without the adornment of even the cheapest pair of shoes. Now he is in a position to acquire the most expensive pair of designer shoes ever made.
He hasn’t forgotten, has he, that when President Umaru Yar’Adua was sick, it was a tug of war for him to be made the Acting President even though he was the Vice-President and the next higher office was just a spit away. It took the concerted efforts of reasonable Nigerians, including his party from the North, to get the National Assembly to shoe-horn him into the office by the novel idea of the Doctrine of Necessity. After Yar’Adua’s death and the end of that term, his party, the PDP, gave him the nod for a new term of four years.
And when in 2014 he wanted another term his party stood by him even though his performance in the previous five years did not truly warrant an elongation of his tenure. Now that some strange do-gooders are telling him to abandon his party and seek the APC’s presidential ticket, how will that make him feel? What will doing so make him look like, a loyal party man, or a cross opportunist? Cross opportunism is a common and standard fare in Nigerian politics but people who think highly of him think he should behave differently.
After all, it was he who called Mr Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 and congratulated him for winning that year’s presidential election. That was a first, a noble first, in the history of our country. That is why most Nigerians have hoisted him on top of a pole and celebrated him as an outstanding man of honour. That is why the international community shows enormous respect for him and invites him as a leading observer in elections. Now he wants to throw all of that honour away in a gamble that is likely to be more futile than fruitful. Dr Goodluck Jonathan, don’t. Where I come from, there is a proverb that says there are several vices that are as disreputable as stealing. This would be one of them although Nigerian politics is a zero-sum game.
I ask Jonathan to remember that some of the APC people, including some of their governors who are now seeing him as the New Messiah, always told us that he was “clueless,” cluelessly clueless and incompetently incompetent. There are very few derogatory words in the dictionary that the APC’s Goebbels did not use for Jonathan. Now they and Jonathan pretend to have forgotten all that since Nigerian politics thrives on amnesia but the records are there and if Jonathan and the gang want him to dare they will be confronted with their own vomit. Now opposing parties will have ready dirty material to use for Jonathan. The other aspect of it is that the APC will have to struggle to prove to Nigerians that the man that they said was a clueless fool in 2015 has suddenly become a wise problem solver in 2022. They will have to explain the trajectory of that transformation to thinking Nigerians.
Northerners have run Nigeria longer than Southerners if you crunch the numbers from 1960 till date. So if Jonathan accepts to run for one term of four years and power returns to the north for another eight years, the gap in years of rulership between the north and south will widen the more. Why should Jonathan allow himself to be the vicious instrument for that act of short-changing the South, which ought to position someone who can govern for eight years? And from the list of Southerners who have thrown their hats into the ring from the two major parties, there is hope that if Nigeria chooses wisely, Nigeria will be on the way to being redeemed and renewed. If Jonathan chooses to allow himself to be drawn into cheating the South because of greed, he will carry that burden for life because the South supported him massively for the five years or so that he was in power. That will be the equivalent of repaying gratitude with ingratitude, removing fish from the mouth of the South and replacing it with a piece of stone.
In the 2015 election, Jonathan and PDP propagandists painted the APC as a den of terrorist sponsors and religious bigots. If he and his team truly believed this to be true can he swear by the Seven Books of Moses that the reverse is the case now? Has President Muhammadu Buhari taken back his words that Boko Haram terrorists should be treated the way the Niger Delta militants were treated with a package of amnesty concessions? Now has the APC led Federal Government proven in the last seven years to be religiously neutral? I doubt it. So what makes the APC such an attraction for Jonathan except for the lust for power?
Many issues in this Jonathan gamble do not make sense to right-thinking people. During the 2015 campaign, the APC identified three issues that it considered to be the Achilles heel of the Jonathan administration: corruption, insecurity and a dying economy. These three issues remain, to this day, the chink in the Federal Government’s armour. What makes Jonathan the magic man to solve these problems that have frustrated Buhari for seven years? Choosing Jonathan would mean an admission of failure by APC and a commendation of PDP for producing a man that is adjudged as the New Messiah that the APC is dying to hand over its presidential ticket to.
If Jonathan thinks he can jump into APC today and get its nomination by consensus tomorrow what does he think of those who have been spending their time, energy and resources to build the party? Does he think they are zombies who will stand and stare? Jonathan and the do-gooders who are egging him on must understand that there will be no consensus candidate in any of the two major parties. Those in the ring are ready to fight to the bitter end because the stakes are sky-high and the rewards exceedingly tempting. Mark my words, no one, not even Buhari can guarantee him or anybody the position of a consensus candidate.
The presidential contest is different from the party chairmanship where the potential contestants decided to surrender the chairmanship position to Senator Abdullahi Adamu. That will not happen in the presidential race. Those who have been building the party since 2013 are now ready to reap the fruits of their investment in the party. They will fight for the presidential ticket with all that they have in their armoury. It is doubtful if Buhari will choose to destroy the party with a forceful push for a consensus ticket for a stranger, an interloper, a man who was never and as of now, is not a member of his party. That risk is too big to take. And Buhari is not such a frivolous gambler.
In any case, no one is certain if by law Jonathan is fit to run. A 2017 constitutional amendment precludes anyone from being sworn in more than twice as President. He has reached that milestone though there is the argument by some lawyers that there is no room for retroactive laws in Nigeria today. This depends on the interpretation by our courts. So does Jonathan still want to gamble amid this uncertain legal position? What exactly is the desperation about? Is there something he forgot in the Aso Villa that he must seek to recover? He can ask Buhari to send it to him at Otueke, in Bayelsa.
It is interesting to note that before the 2011 presidential elections the full name of Jonathan was said to be Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan; someone had to trace his roots to Igboland and dig up Ebele Azikiwe, probably never used by him or his ancestors until then. It probably worked wonders to have a link, even a remote one, with the name of the erudite statesman Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe. Now that the Igbo want the presidency badly, a tenuous link with Azikiwe may not be a massive vote catcher for Jonathan in Igboland.
When Jonathan said to the campaigners who asked him to declare that he couldn’t declare “yet” because the “process was ongoing” I was shocked. He also told them to “watch out.” Watch out for what I wasn’t sure about. I thought that he ought to be satisfied that he had bought for himself a place of honour in Nigeria’s history as the sitting President who accepted defeat and handed it over peacefully to an opposition candidate. Now some people are telling him that he is a beautiful bride. They just want to take him to bed and dump him. What they are offering him is a poisoned chalice, a Greek gift, and a Trojan horse with hostile warriors buried within.
Jonathan, don’t take the bait.
Be a statesman.
•Ray Ekpu is a journalist, columnist and author