JONATHAN MUST SEND CLEAR SIGNALS ON 2011
Another way to rig an election in category one is by the stance of the number one citizen.
The moment the sitting president is perceived to pursue inordinate ambitions such as re-election, 3rd term agenda, violation of zoning arrangement, etc, political contractors who offer quantum votes for a share of national cake will read the signs and know that a deals man was on the march. They will know he needs votes and will begin to stack them. Soon, voters registration would turn to something else with fake names in long lists, etc.
The second type of election rigging is the one most people know: the actual. The third type is by lining up cash-and-carry judges as tribunal heads who would ensure that the rigged victory is sustained in the various courts. Nigerians know names of judges that immediately point to plans to rig an election, just as names of some referees signal that a particular team was programmed to win the match.
The most important message the vote contractors are waiting for is whether Goodluck Jonathan is contesting or not, not his declarations on genuine elections. Even Nigeria's friends in the US are eager to know this. That is why Christie Amanpour of the CNN pelted our president with questions until he broke down and revealed he has the option to contest even as vice president.
His inability to look the world in the face and say he would not contest like Nelson Mandela clearly said about 2nd tenure, like Abdulsalami Abubakar did when he was under pressure to transmute to a civilian president and contest in his own election was palpable. America wants to know his real intention so as to know how to configure the Nigerian political equation. They simply do not trust any Nigerian who promises a genuine election in an election where he is a contestant. Many analysts believe Jonathan seemed to fail the credibility test in that hot seat.
Now, Jonathan presented an image of a lamb that meant no harm, and this attracted global sympathy when he was being denied the right to act as president. All those who came to his aid felt he was only after completion of Yar'Adua's time, and many clearly told him to stick to that limit of ambition as condition for their support. He seemed to agree with this notion and by this, he sent out the first signal, which won him support even in Yar'Adua's backyard.
But, by his interview at the CNN, he sent another signal entirely. He admitted that even himself did not know whether he was contesting or not, in an election whose primaries are around the corner. If that is his level of indecision, then, the polity is in for speculations and tension. The danger is that he has allowed the guess-syndrome: Will he run, will he run away?
The signals are strong in the air. He told CNN that there was need for hard work to put so many decayed things in order to an extent that Nigerians can now think of him as contesting or not. Indeed, he has set about working hard. This simply means that as soon as he records some important achievements, he would use them as excuse to run. Also, some believe that the move against the ruling party's leadership is to pave way for a party exco that he can rely upon to get the ticket, against some heavy weights and self-opinionated leaders from the North, who have already made it clear that the PDP ticket is already in their pockets or that the youths (such as Jonathan) are not old enough to rule.
Finally, the attractive prospect in the past six years now is for a president to use the EFCC to muzzle likely opposition kingpins into prison or hiding and then walk in unchallenged. Many say they have already seen that pattern in the air. Now, no-matter how much the agency works, many Nigerians will insist that when the EFCC moves, a sitting president gets clear coasts to sit on or install a stooge. The EFCC has moved.
Now, many Nigerians want Jonathan to take a position; to run or not, so the rest of the people can queue behind or against him. This is the time for alignments and re-alignments. Many are therefore waiting for him to take a stance so they can weigh their options and act. Many would not want to get so involved in the emerging camps only to realize that Jonathan is contesting. To change would be too bad. He should send the right and straightforward signals now.
This column is not against Jonathan running. At least, it will elevate the constitution above party verses. Indeed, it would bring an end to the hamstrings of zoning and free good and viable Nigerians to come to power and innovate to save the nation from this backward drift. It would also enthrone a very strong and healthy man with clear thoughts on what to do in power, security, energy, Niger Delta question, etc. There will be jubilation in the south and a lot of youths and intellectuals who had given up on Nigeria would crawl out and oil disruption may be a thing of the past. Oil revenue would grow to monumental proportions and the economy will leapfrog to high heavens for the benefit of both the north and the south. This is for real. There are many other gains of a Jonathan presidency for the polity and the economy. The gains are already tumbling out.
This said, there are also obvious dangers of Jonathan trying to contest. First, he belongs to a party that crafted the zoning formula and has been abiding by it. This decision emanated from the north and they tried to obey it. If a southerner comes to breach it, would Nigeria reach any other understanding from generation to generation between the north and south? This seeming breach of inter-regional understanding has injured the polity right from the carpet-crossing incident in the West in the First Republic and the said agreement between Ojukwu and Awo that was allegedly breached by one against the other. If another huge inter-regional breach takes place now, will Nigeria ever come together and reach an accord?
Another strong signal is the 'small liaison between Jonathan and Nuhu Ribadu'. Many are touting this as a planned presidential ticket. Those analyzing this seem to only recognise what they term as a combination of radical north and youthful south. They seem to forget that the partnership is not on that basis or a new one but one that dates to the days of operation depose Atiku. DSP was believed to be bankrolling the Atiku train for the capture of the south and must be stopped. The plot to achieve this badly needed the cooperation (Complicity? Connivance?) of Jonathan and Timi Alaibe. Obj was understood to have ensured that these fellows worked together. Nuhu was not to benefit from his handwork as he became a victim, not victor, in installing Yar'Adua after stopping more powerful forces like Atiku and some southern governors. Now, the time may have come to re-invent that liaison, and what Nigerians are seeing cannot be by accident.
Will it not become the case of two women who agreed to kill and eat their children one after the other? When the second woman hid her child against the TBT, did the uproar not reach the king? If this happens, would the egg of national unity and trust not suffer an irreparable crack, and would Jonathan's name not go down in history as the one who stamped distrust in Nigeria's ethno-religious polity? Except if it does not matter to him.
Zoning may not live forever, but those who have not had a shot will not forgive those who got and scattered it after them. That is why many analysts then appealed to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo not to go for a 2nd term in 2003. The advice was for him to do one term, aid Dr Alex Ekwueme (who had many numerous sacrifices for the polity) to take a slot for the south-east. By that alone, two very aggrieved zones (West and East) would have been settled with one fell swoop. By now, one of the zones in the north would be completing its tenure and even if they passed the ball to another northern zone next year, we would be talking of four out of six zones having been settled in the zoning ring. After that, we would be waiting for just two zones; one in the south and one in the north to do their turns, and thereafter zoning could be easily and conveniently reviewed. Obasanjo failed to do this (even when Mandela pointed the way), even went for a 3rd term attempt, and honour eluded him.
We know that Jonathan knows all this. He has the capacity to weigh issues and choose where to play on the side of history. If he runs, he may win and some of us trust him to re-enact his developmental politics as he did in Bayelsa and move Nigeria fast to shocking prosperity, yes! But, he would also have permanently injured Nigeria's national cohesion and unity based on mutual inter-ethnic trust. He would have sealed any hope of regions coming together again to take turns on any matter under the sun. He would also miss the chance to deliver a genuine and trusted electoral result because if he contests, organizes an election and wins it, it may not be trusted, no matter how genuine.
The choice is his, but he should please send only one signal, to run or not to run, so others can queue behind his signal. A bad decision at this right moment will help Nigeria better than a good decision taken at a useless time later. IBB did this in 1993 by sending conflicting signals (of going and staying at the same time) and this injured Nigeria, her economy and many of her people to this day. Jonathan must save Nigeria this trauma.
He, however, has a third option.