Jonathan and Buhari: The need to keep your promise By Maijama'a Sule Tankarkar

Almost at the same time, President Jonathan and former head of State, General Buhari are by their body languages and even pronouncements implying that they want to recontest the 2015 presidential election. Dr Jonathan won the election in 2011 while Gen Buhari came second in that election. However, both President Jonathan and Gen. Buhari had, at different times, given clear undertaking that 2011 would be their last presidential contest. What has happened so far that is making them to change their minds? Why are these leaders suddenly reneging on their pledges?

During the last Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) congresses and convention, President Jonathan confided in some of the aspirants and party chieftains who came to solicit his support that in 1998 when PDP was being formed and the transition to civil rule was taking place, his highest ambition was to be a commissioner in his home state of Bayelsa. He subsequently ended up as deputy governor, governor, vice president and now president of the most populous black nation on earth. He therefore admonished them to do their bit and ultimately leave the rest to God.

The Fulani have a saying that the highest point of wisdom is stupidity. That is why the typical Fulani always wants to be underrated. President Jonathan must be a good student of this African practical philosophy. When DSP Alameisiegha went for an operation in Germany and left an apparently disinterested Deputy Governor Jonathan in Bayelsa, by the time he came back, it was too late. Within days Jonathan was sworn in as governor.

The south-south main gladiators during the Obasanjo presidency were the recently convicted ex Delta Governor, James Ibori, and his Rivers counterpart, Dr. Peter Odili. Dr. Jonathan was out of the national political radar when Odili was campaigning for presidency in 2007. Dr Jonathan emerged as Vice president to President Umaru Yar Adua after the 2007 elections. The Kastina cabal largely ignored Vice President Jonathan under YarAdua. When YarAdua went to hospital in Saudi Arabia and was subsequently brought back to the Villa in the middle of one night, it was already too late, Dr Jonathan was not only acting president by then but some weeks later he was substantive President with the demise of YarAdua on May 5, 2010.

On assuming the presidency, he confided in Ms Robin Sanders, the then American ambassador in Nigeria, that he didn’t have any experience and was therefore not interested in going any further. Of course, part of the myth of the PDP winning formula is the power of incumbency and if an incumbent president of the party is not contesting and was at that time even toying with the idea of organizing credible elections by nominating Prof. Jega and co into the electoral commission, the ruling party and those who felt they would stop chopping went into panic. They convinced Jonathan to contest. He agreed.

With his image of humility and one who was seen as not belonging to the core PDP rigging machine and cultists that masquerade as the chieftains of the party, many people were willing to give him the benefit of doubt. He effortlessly got a national sympathy and subsequently a national mandate by promising to do one term to complete the second term of the YarAdua/ Jonathan joint ticket started in 2007. Based on this solemn pledge many elders and governors decided to endorse him, which led to his winning the presidency in 2011.

Less than one year into his current term, some ex-militants, as well as chieftains of his Ijaw ethnic group in and out of government have come out to say that he should come out to contest for the presidency in 2015. To add to the drama, one Mr Cypriacus Njoku was instigated to go to court to get a judgment that will make it legally possible. So far the president’s spokesmen, Reuben Abati and his lawyers have already told the whole world that the president is in his first term of office, possibly trying to pre –empt the courts.

But there are many issues involved here. Even if he got the legal judgment to clear the coast for him to contest, there are some outstanding ethical and moral issues he has to contend with. Does it mean the President is going to renege on his solemn pledge? And if he contests in 2015 and gets elected, he would have served more than the TWO terms of EIGHT years recognized by the 1999 Constitution. Would it amount to unconstitutional act since it will be more than the stipulated eight years? In any case what is even at stake is his capacity to discharge his current mandate. What has he done so far to warrant any continuity? He should concentrate and do his best now before anything else. The timing for this 2015 is rather too early and it is unnecessarily causing distraction and over heating the polity.

As for Buhari, I still see it in my mind when he was shedding tears in public and announcing to the whole world that last year would be his last time of contesting for the presidential election. Buhari stands for integrity and any attempt by him to go back on his words would reduce his credibility in the eyes of the people. It would mean that he is the same with the PDP power mongers, driven by inordinate ambition to come to power and nothing else. A Buhari without integrity cannot be Buhari. And he must know that.

In any case, after more than ten years in politics Buhari is yet to be politically skilled enough. Gen. Buhari has not been able to build the necessary alliances and sufficient bridges across the length and breadth of Nigeria to enable him win. He has contested three times but he is yet to have any credible and formidable structure and national platform to act as his vehicle of winning. Even in the north, he has not been able to garner the confidence and support of the critical middle belt; he has not gotten the crucial trust of the power blocs such as the traditional rulers and other elite. In short, what has changed so far to make Buhari think that 2015 will be different from his past attempts to get democratically elected?

This year Buhari will be 70years. He has been involved at various levels of decision- making in this country for almost forty years. He has tried his best and it is time for him to take a bow. He was at various times governor, petroleum minister and even head of state. God knows why Buhari is not yet back as president after three attempts. He has paid his dues and it is time for him to support others; guide and advise younger ones; thank God for his blessings and forgiveness for his mistakes; generally help this beloved country of ours to move ahead. One does not need to be president to contribute one’s quote and power does not come by force or through plans. Power ultimately comes from God who alone knows when to give and who to give. Jonathan and Buhari, keep your promises and leave the stage for others in 2015.  


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