Thursday, April 17, 2014

Does Jonathan Deserve a Second term? By Bayo Olupohunda

Published:

Bayo Olupohunda

If President Jonathan does not change his present lethargic attitude to governance (he still has three years) no amount of endorsement will guarantee him a second term.

In spite of frequent denials, the race for 2015 has begun in earnest. The clandestine reference to the politics of a second term and the discourse involving the interest and the re-election of the incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan, which have often been dismissed as a distraction by the President and his aides, is breaking out in the open.

Will the President contest a second term in 2015? It is always a matter of time before the bubble will burst. As is often the case in the past when debating the possibility of a second term by an incumbent, the intrigue-laden battle for the most coveted seat in the country comes with a tinge of déjà vu. Denials, double speak and, self-effacing rhetoric is the name of the game. And the president has stayed true to script as we know it – stay above the fray when talking about a second term; let the foot soldiers do the work.

Recently and just as he has done many times when the thorny question of second term rears its stubborn head, the President had admonished those political jobbers fixated on the politics of 2015 to allow him concentrate on the job at hand. Really? Such statements by the president have not doused speculations that he may be interested in contesting another term when the present one ends; neither does it deny his interest in another term in office thus fulfilling the old second term code- keep them guessing.

For those familiar with the politics of presidential elections, especially when it comes to running for a second term in our democracy, it is a taboo for an incumbent to come out in the open to announce his interest for another term. As is often the case, it is more of the voice of Jacob but the hand of Esau. The history of presidential race in Nigeria has often been done by proxies. So it was during the military years when a five million man march was organised for late Head of State, Sani Abacha, to transmute into a civilian president. In 1999, Obasanjo was ‘coerced’ by friends and associates to contest the presidency.

His third term debacle was conducted by hundreds of foot soldiers who tried vainly to sell another vexing term to bewildered Nigerians. The same scenario is playing out again as the race to 2015 elections begins. As expected, those who constitute the core of President Jonathan constituency are in the field already. And make no mistake; there is no smoke without fire. This time, the second term “expression of interest” was heard from the leaders of the South-South geopolitical zone when they gathered in Effurun, Delta State recently to endorse the President for a second term.

At the meeting headed by the convener Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, the incumbent was endorsed to complete his eight years tenure when they echoed ‘yes’ to a voice vote. If that was expected, the endorsement of the President by a youth group and a senator from the North is a pointer to where the pendulum will swing in the coming months. A youth association in the north, under the umbrella of Northern Youths for Peace and Reconciliation, is planning a five-million man march in Abuja for the president’s re-election bid (déjà vu?).

Another senator from the north has promised to lay down his life if the president is not reelected in 2015! Given the series of endorsements and many more that will come, one does not need a crystal ball to determine the president’s decision in the coming months. That the President will throw his hat in the ring is as sure as crude oil flowing out of the oil fields of Delta. But the pertinent question is if he deserves a second term given his dismal performance so far. Can he ride the tide of poor public rating to bid for another four years? Will the current wave of sycophantic endorsements matter in the long run? Has the president performed well to guarantee a second term when he eventually signifies his intention to do so?

Perhaps, the President can turn his poor run into sterling performance before the next election. He has promised that already. Nigerians are waiting. But judging by the present, the president should be heading back to Yenagoa in the 2015. But it was not always like this. During the campaign that heralded this government, the President was branded as the “breath of fresh air”. Billboards, posters, advertising jingles the media sold candidate Jonathan to the electorates as the redeeming candidate, a shift from the old order who will put us back to the path of recovery.

The brand “Jonathan was a box office hit. He won the election easily- a victory made possible largely because of the groundswell of sympathy for him after months of persecution by the Yar’Adua cabal. It did not even matter that the President was the flag bearer of the PDP. In spite of the image of the President’s party, he emerged from it all to win the election. His victory was seen as triumph of ethnic agitations. President Jonathan thus became the symbol of minority struggles. As a representative of the under privileged, having tasted poverty himself, he was expected to understand where the shoe pinches.

He was expected to do things differently in Abuja; a city where the system is skewed against the poor, and rewards the rich. President Jonathan came with so much hope in 2011. In 2015, Nigerians will and should ask him hard questions. Has he fulfilled the hope they invested in him? Can they continue to hope in a president who they believe has failed to match the expectations invested in him with performance? Many Nigerians now believe that the President is more of the same rather than the “breath of fresh air” that sold him as the favourite in 2011.

Can he confidently ask Nigerians to vote for him again as he did during his elections if he does not live up to his promises? The President incurred the wrath of Nigerians when he consented to the removal of fuel subsidy and later turned to belittle the subsidy protest recently. Why is the President so insensitive as to call the protest sponsored given that lives were lost? The President promised to fight corruption? Has the scourge not become endemic in his government? Is the country safer than he met it? The politics of 2015 should not be decided on endorsement by sycophantic groups.

Nigerians will ask the President if their lives were better four years after. The vote should count when the political parties presents their candidates for the 2015 elections. The determination of our country’s future should not be left to the politics of phony groups and political jobbers. It should be about performance. If President Jonathan does not change his present lethargic attitude to governance (he still has three years) no amount of endorsement will guarantee him a second term.

In 2015, Nigerians will ask, does the President deserve a second term? He will then have to present his scorecard.

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