By John Ainofenokhai
Between late 2013 and early 2014, the political fortunes of the People Democratic Party (PDP) appeared to be in rapid decline, following the wave of defections from the party to the All Progressives Congress (APC). First, it was 5 out of the 7 aggrieved PDP Governors who, on 26th November, 2013, defected to the APC; and, in less than a month, they were joined by 37 members of the House of Representatives. Suddenly, the APC membership in the House had grown to 172 while that of the PDP had declined to 171. By mid-January of 2014, the APC had grown so much in confidence that the party’s Minority Leader in the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, addressed the Deputy Majority Leader, Leo Ogor, as “Deputy Minority Leader.” It wasn’t a joke! The APC was bent on effecting leadership change in the House, before it was restrained on 31st March, 2014, by a Federal High Court in Abuja. That, as it turned out, was the end of a tortuous hallucination for the PDP. To say that the party’s leadership was not shaken by that experience would be denying the obvious.
Ironically, however, the man at the centre, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, was unperturbed, confidently assuring his supporters that the PDP crisis was a temporary phase that would soon come to pass. He was dead right in his reading of the character and temperament of Nigerian politics. As far back as 27th August, 2012, just over a year after his election, President Jonathan had wondered at the impatience of some Nigerians, when he declared that he was “the most criticised President in the world.”
President Jonathan, however, vowed that he would, before leaving office, become “the most praised President.” What was the source of this confidence, the open sesame or Magic wand, which would radically transform “the most criticised President” into “the most praised President”? The President’s answer, then and now, is “performance.” He believes strongly that, no matter the negative perceptions from some quarters, it is his performance in office that will, in the end, speak for him, defend him and campaign for him.
With performance as the main criterion for assessing President Jonathan, in relation to 2015, it means that his supporters will transcend partisan boundaries. Not surprisingly, the Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Alhaji Mohammed Monguno of the opposition APC from Borno State, recently did the unusual by praising President Jonathan for his unprecedented performance in the agriculture sector. According to him, “We must learn to give credit where credit is due and I’m doing exactly that” (Daily Independent of Thursday, July 17, 2014). Monguno is just one among millions of opposition leaders who, in spite of their political persuasions, still acknowledge the achievements of the Jonathan administration.
In a similar vein, the Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, who occupies his position on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), has thrown his weight behind Jonathan and called on his people, Ndi Anambra, to vote for the President in the 2015 elections. Within the PDP, the support has been overwhelming, and almost without challenge. Day in day out, individuals and groups, civil society organisations, private and public institutions, are expressing their support and calling on President Jonathan to declare his intention to contest the 2015 Presidential elections. It is all in recognition of his outstanding performance.
Naturally, in a country where political jobbers and sycophants are never in short supply, endorsements of this kind should, honestly, not be taken as evidence of real political support. But, not when such an endorsement is openly expressed by a group as powerful as the Governors and Members of the House of Representatives, elected on the platform of the PDP. That, precisely, was what happened on Monday, 14th July, 2014, when this powerful group of politicians met and came out with a resolution, calling on President Jonathan “to officially declare to run for a second term in office after the Muslim fasting period, specifically anytime in August.”
Anybody who understands the power structure of the PDP and the political strength of the Governors and Members of the National Assembly cannot but conclude that Jonathan is home and dry, as far as the issue of who becomes President in 2015 is concerned. These politicians are not doing the President any favour; they are merely asking Nigerians to give him what he has worked for and what he deserves, having discharged the mandate to the people during his first tenure.
During President Jonathan’s electioneering campaigns for the 2011 presidential elections, he promised a package of Transformation Agenda. First, he promised to reform the nation’s electoral system. Are elections in Nigeria conducted today the same way they were in 1999, 2003, 2007, and 2011? Think of the incidents of imposition of candidates, rigging and ballot box-snatching, etc.
Second, President Jonathan promised massive road construction/rehabilitation. Has he failed to confront the Benin-Ore-Shagamu Highway, the Enugu-Port Harcourt dual carriageway, Kano-Maiduguri and Abuja-Abaji-Lokoja road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Vom Manchok, Mokwa-Bida Road, Sokoto-Tambuwal-Jega Road, the construction of bridges, and many more?
Third, the President also promised to reform the power sector. Has he not taken the bold step of privatising and restructuring the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN)? Has the power situation not improved from what it was when President Jonathan assumed office?
Fourth, when President Jonathan came to power in 2011, crude oil production was as low as 700,000 barrels a day. Today, has production not moved up to as much as 2.5 million barrels a day? Are there still unending queues in the nation’s petrol stations? Has Nigeria, under President Jonathan, not become a major player in the international gas market through the implementation of the Nigerian Gas Master Plan: Compressed Natural Gas?
In other sector: Agriculture, Communication, Security, Aviation, Women empowerment, Job creation, etc., the Jonathan Administration has been remarkably successful. To cap it all, the nation’s economy has been growing at an average rate of 6.5 per cent, with an unprecedented inflow of foreign investments. Under Jonathan, Nigeria’s economy has been rebased at $509.9 billion, thus, becoming the 26th largest economy in the world and 1st in Africa. “Performance” is thus the Open sesame of President Jonathan as he moves triumphantly towards 2015. His monumental successes have been recognised by millions of Nigerians who are now inviting him to continue his good works.
John Ainofenokhai via Twitter:@johnainofenokhai