THE MAKING OF THE JONATHAN PRESIDENCY
The road to President Goodluck Jonathan’s victory in the presidential election of April 16, 2011, although divinely scripted, was littered with rugged obstacles, dangerous precipices and, even, minefields. Indeed, from the controversy over his acting presidency, Jonathan’s political route had been a very bumpy one, dotted by intrigues, maneuvers and conspiracies. The animated debate, over succession, at the twilight of the Yar’Adua era, was quickly replaced by a dangerous, divisive and incendiary one over zoning, which did not abate even after the presidential primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), held on 13 January, 2011, at which President Jonathan scored a clear victory over his opponents.
After the primaries, President Jonathan’s opponents continued to use zoning to hound him - and even the PDP, which had internally resolved the matter. Paradoxically, this straightforward principle of power sharing designed to strengthen the bonds of unity among the diverse peoples of Nigeria became the most pernicious threat to our own existence. This was, clearly, demonstrated in the results of the presidential election, which showed that the Northern pro-zoning lobby had aligned its interest with that of General Muhammadu Buhari, the maverick candidate of a totally new political party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), and caused the people of the Islamic far North to vote, in their majority, for him. But, Jonathan, not only survived all the intrigues and harassment to win the presidential election of April 16, decisively and overwhelmingly, he also crushed the orchestrated orgy of violence, which was unleashed, in key Northern cities, after the election results were announced.
President Jonathan has, indeed, passed through the most controversy-laden period in Nigerian history, since the heady and stormy days leading to the Civil War of 1967-70 and won a presidential election, which would enable him to rule Nigeria for another four years, beginning from May 29, 2011. To do this, he has enjoyed the good fortune of having, on his side, formidable statesmen and political leaders, resourceful communicators, vibrant mobilisers, strategists of great experience and profundity, loyal aides and well-oiled campaign bureaucracies.
President Jonathan’s victory in the April 16 election was the product of a complex interaction of effective forces and institutions, garnished by a heavy dose of hard work. It will not be far-fetched to say that the presidential election was the hardest-fought in Nigerian history. Those forces, institutions and persons include:
(i) The Save Nigeria Group (SNG), which fought, ferociously, to ensure that Jonathan became Acting President;
(ii) The Northern Political Group, the activities of which blurred the divide between North and South and ensured that President Jonathan got a pan-Nigerian mandate;
(iii) The Governors’ Forum under the chairmanship of Dr. Bukola Saraki;
(iv) The First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, whose strategy of mobilizing women, across the country, positively, complemented the efforts of her husband;
(v) Loyal, committed and courageous presidential aides, like Mike Oghiadome and Oronto Douglas;
(vi) The hard-working staff of the Presidential Campaign Offices in Plateau House and Legacy House, under the able leadership of Ambassador Dalhatu Tafida;
(vii) Groups like the Door to Door Campaign Organisation and numerous other Goodluck-Sambo Support Groups whose robust and innovative campaign tactics compelled the attention of all, and
(viii) State Governors, Traditional Rulers and Clerics, who helped to mobilize support for the Goodluck-Sambo ticket.
In the midst of the thick forest of actors and institutions that worked to attain victory for President Jonathan and Architect Namadi Sambo, two men stand out for their unique roles in the struggle for the Jonathan Presidency. These are the time-tested and resilient duo of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Anthony Anenih.
Chief Obasanjo was the first major figure to give support to Jonathan’s aspiration by mobilizing the South West Zone to adopt Jonathan as its candidate. It was the first zone to do so. Obasanjo’s robust and unyielding support for him was a major source of inspiration and stabilization in Jonathan’s circles.
Whereas Obasanjo was a distant supporter, Chief Anenih was actively and totally involved in the daily drama of President Jonathan’s campaign. The intricate political situation in which Jonathan found himself as a result of the demise of Yar’Adua and the zoning crisis, called for an uncommon strategist and man of deep political understanding, which the Jonathan team readily found in Anenih. His experience, wisdom and political sagacity were brought to bear on most of the negotiations and compromises that helped to weld together a solid platform for Jonathan.
Apart from helping to mobilize the South-South for Jonathan and wading robustly into the zoning debate, it was Anenih who stood against staggered PDP primaries, insisting on a National Convention. He proposed a state-by-state voting procedure, thereby helping to neutralize the danger of double-talk by Governors. This resulted in a transparent convention at the Eagle Square. It was also his counsel that broke the impasse over the timetable of the PDP primaries, which had threatened to undermine the solidarity of the Governors, on whose support, Jonathan’s victory depended. In the end, it was Anenih who also brokered a compromise, which saw the President acceding to the option preferred by the Governors, who in turn were made to sign an undertaking to give their support to the President at the presidential primaries. In addition to these high profile roles, Anenih criss-crossed the country and spent countless hours on reconciliation, bridge-building and winning support for the President. It was not, therefore, surprising that he was named the Presidential Campaign Adviser, a position which enabled him to deploy his unrivalled political intelligence and massive experience to Jonathan’s advantage.
No matter the strategies deployed, no matter the competence of the handlers, it needs no stating that President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo were the most passionate and hardworking architects of their own success in the Presidential Election. Across the nation, most Nigerians voted for President Jonathan as a very inspiring and acceptable candidate. They believed that Jonathan would have still won if he had contested as an independent candidate. Now that Jonathan and Sambo have passed the test in flying colours, the expectations are high. I wish Nigeria Goodluck!
Emmanuel Ndubuisi, a legal practitioner, contributed this piece from Lagos, Nigeria.