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Of Ahmed Joda, Jonathan and 2015

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This article is in direct response to a two-part article authored by a one-time federal Permanent secretary, Ahmed Joda, who would, under ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, work as chairman of Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC). I am not sure I have

read of him holding any appointment under President Goodluck Jonathan.   I am not insinuating that he may have written his piece urging Goodjoe not to re-contest in 2015 on account of not being favoured by appointments. Please, get me right on that.

In that two-part article, Joda gave reason Jonathan need not present himself to contest the presidency in 2015. Basically, he argued thus: 'if he agrees to forgo his right to contest in 2015 for the position of the President, he will immediately rise in stature in the eyes of the Nigerian people, indeed around the world. His renouncement announcement should immediately be accompanied with a well thought out plans and programmes for turning the country around and his vision for the country in the period to 2015 and beyond. His address should include the following: (a) The immediate restructuring his government; (b) Commitment to improve governance and fight corruption; (c) Vigorous and more determined efforts in executing government programmes; (d) A commitment to free and fair elections for 2015 and (e) A commitment to prorogue a free, impartial and non partisan Constituent Assembly to draw up a truly 'People's Constitution'.

He further stated: 'I believe that if President Jonathan can do just those five things, the following benefits will accrue to Nigeria and to himself as the leader who may have saved the country from tragedy worse than mere disintegration: (a) Jonathan will be the first President to have given to Nigeria: (1) A popular, acceptable and durable constitution. (2) A freely elected President and National Assembly. (3) A credible government structure and respected and admired leadership. (4) Provide an environment for peaceful existence. (5) Enhanced Unity and (6) Place the country on the path of progress and development.

These are Joda's words. First, given Joda's age, experience and national relevance, I do not compare to him. Having seen Nigeria from the power prism, I think he is best suited to make such suggestion. But as a young man living in the now Nigeria, and haven followed, and is still following global trends in leadership and governance, I make bold to disagree with Joda's submissions. I would rather say the reasons Joda had enunciated are indeed, and actually, reasons Jonathan ought to contest in 2015. But again, I give it to Jonathan that he had said it to global ears that he will not stay a day longer in office if Nigerians no longer want him.

However, I am more concerned as to how a President's renunciation, or waiver, of his right to re-contest his office would translate to promoting unity in the country. I don't see it really. In other words, what we are being told in couched language is that Nigeria is tottering on the brink because a Jonathan is president. Would Nigeria's unity have been enhanced had an Okoro or Abubakar or Owonikoko been president? If the answer is yes, then, why would a member of the republic, a bona fide citizen of Nigeria, whose right to contest any office in the land is guaranteed and protected by the constitution, be made to see himself as an outsider to the power house? Why should any citizen be made to feel that his or her political ambition threatens the unity of his/her country? Does that actually suggest that leadership of a country with about 250 ethnic nationalities is the exclusive preserve of any particular group or groups? Doesn't this suggest that I, for instance, would not be allowed to seek election as president because I do not behave, act, or even speak the language of the exclusives? So, what makes an Abubakar better qualified to lead and enhance unity than and Okoro?

Besides, as a young Nigerian, I aspire to the best. I also want the best for my kids. I also want my grand children, if I ever get to see them, to look at me in the face one day and say such word as 'we are proud to be Nigerians'. Yes, I look forward to that. But with Joda's position, it looks a very tall dream. They will not get such opportunity because their grandfather was not part of the ruling club which feeds fat on government. Does it then make any sense belonging to Nigeria?

I agree with Joda that 'a popular, acceptable and durable constitution' is imperative for national transformation. But the process that brings such into being must be managed by someone. Why would that someone not be a Jonathan? How does anyone guarantee that non-contest of the 2015 presidential election is a ground for making a constitution that is generally acceptable? Fact is, Joda missed the point here. The problem of our constitution, which has suffered perennial amendment, is caused by the elite who had ensured that constitution is made or amended to protect pecuniary interests. For instance, Section 308 (1) of the constitution which deals with immunity for a certain category of leaders is elitist protectionism. That Section was not intended to protect the poor Nigerian. So, if that section of the constitution was a problem, ask, who created it? Whose benefit does it serve? Beside, which particular section of the constitution protects the poor? Ask around, you would be told that Nigeria's problems are not about making good laws; but implementing them. But we all know that implementation of law here is skewed against the poor.

I laud Joda too for admitting in his article, that Jonathan inherited the problems he is tckling from past leadership of the country. So, how does the renunciation of his right to contest an election, which many other people are interested in contesting, solve the problems created by past leaders? While Joda's statement is an honest admission that past leadership, again elitist, never served the interest of the masses, it is also an expression of fear that Jonathan will be the man to beat in that election. For those Joda had spoken for, democracy is now being defined as Jonathan waiving his right to contest. This is an extension of the battle to deny Jonathan the opportunity of leading the country upon Yar'Adua's health predicament. Get me, I am not a foolhardy Jonathan supporter, but what some people do, and say, because someone like Jonathan is president, smacks of arrogance. It is also a bare-faced attack on the sensibilities of every Nigerian. They don't just add up.

Given that Jonathan may not have lived up to the billing, nor actually caused a breath of fresh air as promised, Nigerians have a duty to work him towards 2015. The only way to get him out of the way is to reject him through the ballot box. If there are fears that the next election in 2015 may not be free and fair because Jonathan would contest, that in itself would be a vote of no confidence on Attahiru Jega, INEC's chairman. So, the first step would be to ask Jega to resign. Also, suggesting that Nigeria's unity would be further jeopardised because of the President, indicates that security challenges that had actually threatened Nigeria's unity were deliberately created to weaken the fabrics of unity in the country because Jonathan is president. Perhaps, it was thought that such security challenge would be so unmanageable that the president would abdicate. Now that he has shown resilience, the next option would be to make subtle threats and cajole him with a Mandela status. I have been critical of Jonathan's style and slow approach to issues. But I do not also think, and believe that not contesting the 2015 election would be the first step towards solving Nigeria's problems. If it will, then it would be convenient to suggest that he created the problems. But Nigerians know that this is not true.

Joda also suggests that by not contesting in 2015, Jonathan would help institute 'a freely elected President and National Assembly.' I was just wondering how? What powers has the President to ensure the election of quality humans into the National Assembly? I would be surprised that Joda does not know the enormous powers which state governors wield in determining who is elected to the National Assembly. In 2015, we shall see more ex-governors retiring into the Senate as senators. How would a president stop that? Asking a president to ensure that means asking him to hijack the party process, abuse internal democracy and also abuse the electoral will of the people. This is because there is no other way to ensure this without abusing both the electoral and judicial process. So, I ask Joda, with due respect, to educate us further on how this would deepen democracy?

Fact is, no Nigerian president would be able to ensure Joda's views for the National Assembly without subverting the electoral process as governors are the merchants in their states, not the president. Governors are so powerful that all those wishing to contest National Assembly elections in 2015, may be working the governor's boy now. Not the President's boy.

However, despite the seeming powers that a Nigerian president possesses, the president may actually be powerless on issues that affect the interest of governors. The only President who can really achieve what Joda has prescribed is an all-powerful president who does not care about due process and is willing to abuse whatever known order, even the rule of law, to get to what he wants. Jonathan has not shown that disposition. That may be his problem too. But I also do not think that Nigerians, of this age, are looking out for a very powerful president. What may matter most are well structured institutions. Yes, this is what Nigeria needs, but will nepotism and the crass sacrifice of merit for mundane favours allow any president build such institutions?

By Achilleus Chud-Ukegbuk