Published On: Thu, Nov 28th, 2019

In defense of Jonathan

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THURSDAY Column with Mohammed Adamu

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In 2011 the PDP had approached the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN to negotiate the South Western votes for their candidate, Jonathan in the upcoming presidential election of that year. By the way this was an election which divine circumstances had already made a subject of geo-ethnic discord between the North and the South –no thanks to the debate over zoning. The PDP had repudiated its own zoning principle after the sudden demise of its protractedly ailing President Yaradua just half way through his first term in office. But since the vagaries of constitutional necessities had already thrown up his South-Southern Vice President, Jonathan, as successor, many had thought –and rightly so- that the South-South should be allowed to fully enjoy its first providential opportunity at ruling the country also. But matters political do not always lend themselves to such simplistic resolution. For, as the French political writer, Jean Larteguy would say, “in politics, as in business, you must always ask for thirty pieces of silver even though you have more than enough”. In any case the ACN and the CPC, without necessarily being obligated to, had still, in deference to PDP’s zoning arrangement, each fielded a pro-zoning Northern candidate, (Nuhu Ribadu and Muhammadu Buhari respectively). These two were to take on a profusely anti-zoning Jonathan who was now (as most of the North saw it) provocatively angling to ‘usurp’ the remainder of what should be Yaradua’s second term even after he had used up the last two years of the man’s first term. Meaning that in all of PDP’s sixteen years beginning from 1999, the North would’ve been left with the shortest end of the dynastic stick, a measly two years.
And so the 2011 presidential election was a contest of three partisan geo-ethnic gladiators: namely Buhari’s largely Northern-backed CPC, Tinubu’s South-Westerly ACN (with Ribadu as its hunt dog) and a PDP that was now majorly backed by the South-South and South-East for the obvious reason that its brazen repudiation of zoning had inevitably made a villain of, and alienated the North. And although PDP’s Jonathan could be hurt by a cross-partisan alliance of the North and the South West, the chance for that had already been missed since both the ACN and the CPC had already fielded candidates. And so whereas the CPC especially had virtually the entire as its stronghold, the ACN had virtually nothing to lose or gain in the presidential election. Fielding Ribadu was merely to fulfill all righteousness. He was not expected to shake the ground beneath his feet. And the PDP, although it had neither of the nation’s two electoral strongholds (the North and the South West), it still had two things going for it: namely the power of incumbency and a penchant to use both fair and foul to get whatever it wanted. One of the two things that it should want had already happened, namely that its two enemies –the CPC and the ACN- rather than unite to field a common candidate, had opted to pull their lonely electoral furrows. The second thing that the PDP wanted was that in order not to take chances, it needed to get the ACN to agree to a symbiotic relationship whereby Jonathan would be allowed to garner at least the constitutionally-required 25% that under normal circumstances a ‘free and fair’ election in the South West might not give him, in return for the PDP allowing the ACN to retain control of the South West, -which, ironically, a ‘free and fair’ election would still have comfortably given it.
This was a virtual demand of the underworld: ‘your money or your life’. And the ACN, for the sake of self-preservation, chose ‘life’ –not having anything to gain by cooperating, it had, on the other hand, so much to lose if it did not. By the way, PDP’s indecent proposal required that the ACN betrayed its presidential candidate Ribadu, (since there was not a gossamer of chance he could beat Jonathan and Buhari to win the election). Jonathan himself was said to be on ground to seal the deal and to offer assurances and guarantees that the South West would not be ridden roughshod over by PDP’s rigging machine the way that it once was in 2003 by an Obasanjo who had desperately needed to bring his South Western states, by fair or foul means, to the fold of the ruling party which by the grace of other geo-polities, excluding his, he bestrode. Sparing only Tinubu’s Lagos, the PDP under Obasanjo had brazenly rigged its way through the entire South West, taking including Edo State in the South South, all in one fell swoop. And so, in 2011, and notwithstanding Jonathan had just recently described the entire political South West as ‘rascally’, the ACN still found a notoriously rigging PDP more tolerable than Buhari’s CPC with which previously it had failed to work out an alliance agreement. And no thanks too to its vehemently anti-zoning stand the South West media had boxed itself into a fait accompli, preferring PDP’s Jonathan too to either of ACN’s Ribadu or CPC’s Buhari. But it was no thanks also to the North’s intransigence over PDP’s brazen breach of its zoning policy after the demise of Yaradua –which itself was a fall-out of the acrimonious geo-ethnic politics previously of making Jonathan Acting President via an equally acrimonious ‘doctrine of necessity’ which the North believed was orchestrated to spite a terminally bedridden Yaradua.
The spokesperson for the ACN, Lai Mohammed had publicly admitted that there was such a PDP proposal, but said that the ACN rebuffed it because, according to him “there is no way darkness and light can work together”. And so there it was! The ideological red line, which the ACN had vowed it would not cross. But which in the end it had to cross. The ACN did in fact work the votes for PDP’s Jonathan. And Jonathan’s PDP did fulfill its own part of the bargain too –it did not upset already settled electoral waters in the South West. A contrite Chairman of the ACN, Bisi Akande would thereafter explain his party’s ideological summersault with the escapist oxymoron that the South West “did not vote PDP, (it) voted Jonathan”. And which sounded like the British Naval Commander Lord Mountbatten pacifying the Tory Party with the excuse: “I voted Labor, but my butler is Tory”.
But the pleasant irony here lies in the fact that just eight years, from 2011, after Tinubu’s ACN had done Jonathan’s PDP ‘one good turn’ –electorally- it has not now gone past more than two electoral circles before the PDP leader himself, Jonathan -prodded obviously by not too dissimilar political circumstances, has just done Tinubu’s APC yet ‘another’, in the just concluded gubernatorial election in his home state of Bayelsa. Jonathan may not actually have forgotten that this was the same party, the APC that un-timeously ousted him from office in the not too distant past; but he may simply have chosen to remember that the same political ancestry had once seen him through troubled electoral waters in the distant past. And that has always been the way that political cookies crumble. Political realism has always trounced ideological politics. Reason Jacques Delors, the French statesman said: “You can’t be a true idealist without being a true realist”? And as the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa said “Real politics…has little to do with ideas… and everything to do with maneuvers, intrigues, plots, paranoia… and every kind of con game”. Jonathan too has a right to the demonstration of political anger. If it has to take scoring an own goal for his own side to know and to respect his skills, why not? At least he has not been as ideologically prostituting as members of the ‘nPDP’- who had first disavowed the retrogressive tendencies of the PDP in favor of the progressivism of the APC, and thereafter returned again to their old PDP vomit.
Jonathan has only hit his own below the belt; to remind them that he too can play foul, as much as he can play fair! Can’t blame him!

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