Wednesday, May 03, 2017 05:41PM / A Rejoinder by Assam E. Assam, SAN
I have just read the preview of the excuses proffered by my leader, President Goodluck Jonathan, for losing the 2015 Presidential Election. I would not have bothered to react but for the fact that I had thought that he was sincere when he conceded defeat to Muhammadu Buhari. An honest man does not hold one opinion and express another. That is my mantra. To now read that Dr. Jonathan was forced to concede the election is absolutely preposterous! If he had the benefit of sound advice, I am certain this is one subject he needed to avoid so soon after he made us believe he was a statesman.
Who does not know that the election was for Dr. Jonathan to win or lose. He chose to lose! Period! He squandered the South-South opportunity, an opportunity of a depressed, deprived and exploited people and trying rather so belatedly to explain it away, without even an iota of self recrimination is dishonest and without merit to say the least!
Our elders say that “the poisons” as well as “the antidote” are both inherent in the king. Caesar was warned about “the ides of March”, but his pride led him to what was a purely avoidable catastrophe.
Those of us within the party who were termed “outcasts” had warned, very early in 2013, that the signs were ominous, that unless certain radical decisions were taken, we would hand the 2015 Presidential Election to General Buhari because the “fresh air”, which the coming of Dr. Jonathan was expected to bring into the political atmosphere of Nigeria had been greatly polluted and the President had completely lost the confidence of the electorate. It got to a point when the daily staple served by the press to the electorate was the “cluelessness”, the “weakness” and the vacillating character of Mr. President!
There were issues which culminated in the non-electability of President Jonathan and completely characterized the 2015 general elections. It was unfortunate that some of these things were foisted upon him, by people he thought were indispensable, yet the general public, understandably, attributed those failings to him, and rightly so. The buck stopped at his presidential table!
Sometime in 2012, some members of the Governors forum who were close to President Jonathan, successfully sold him the idea that Governor Amaechi of Rivers State was not “loyal” to him and would use the forum to ensure he did not secure the Presidential nomination of the PDP. They organized an election where the total votes of 35 took one week to count. I mean the Governors could not count 35 votes in six days! At the end, 19 Governors were said to have voted for Amaechi while 16 had voted for David Jang, a retired Air force General and Governor of Plateau State. David Jang was declared the ‘winner’ and was promptly received by President Jonathan and recognized as the Chair of the forum. At that point, the President was seen as also capable of twisting truth and he also promptly lost the confidence of the general electorate. Why did he even need to get involved in an issue which had no constitutional basis? And yet this was his albatross.
This did not go down well with five PDP Governors who did not just leave the party, including Amaechi, but worked resolutely against the party. Even those, particularly from the North, who still publicly identified with the party ensured during the elections, that in their States, all positions were won by PDP. Some of them even contested the Senate seats on the same day with the Presidential elections but President Jonathan could not even score the mandatory 25% in those States. I am sure the President has forgotten how he masterminded the ousting of Dr. Bamanga Tukur as National Chairman of the PDP.
Aghast, the world watched the removal from office of one man who worked hard to give our President a quality international image and supported him 100%. The same group brought Adamu Mu’azu who could neither manage the party nor the Presidential campaign. It forced the President to set up his own team and in the process, distanced himself from the party’s structure and appointed Peter Obi, who was not a member of the PDP, to lead his campaign in all the Southern States. The poor man could not even utter the slogan of the party. How did President Jonathan expect to win the election?
The other problem was the impunity which characterized the primaries in the Peoples Democratic Party. This time it was not rewarded with the usual “sidon look” attitude. Those who were cheated while President Jonathan watched helplessly, along with their supporters, went out of their way and campaigned and voted against the party. There was always the belief that after the primaries, “a reconciliation committee”, usually headed by the same “cheats” would go round explaining to members why they were cheated and asking them to support those who cheated them in order that they may win the elections and continue the cheating. The placid assumption that this strategy would always succeed was the Achilles heel of the party.
Accordingly, the plea of literally all the reconciliation committees failed, this once, to assuage the victims. Thousands of aggrieved party members and their supporters who identified with their well publicized plight all over the country worked assiduously against the party particularly the President who did not want to intervene in their plight in order that the feelings of his main people would not be hurt and his elections prospects would not be disturbed. He sacrificed every other persons’ interests and eventually lost his. Now the party is the worse for it and the rift is there for all to see.
President Jonathan, a sitting President, in power and in full control of all Intelligence, Policing and Military institutions, a young man in his early fifties, in vibrant health, with a Ph. D, lost the Presidential election to someone that we in the PDP, pontificated as having no education, no money, was sick, had no political constituency, and was not in power. That was really not surprising for, rather than engage as squarely with the electorate as our opponent had done, we spent so much time wearing baseball caps, dancing with comedians and entertainers. The electorate was not amused that our Presidential candidate could find time to engage with people who would never visit their polling booths on the day of the election.
They were also aware of the billions that were spent on those events including paying for live-airing of those programmes. At the end, we failed to react to the promises of free feeding for students, making the Naira equal to the Dollar in value, fighting corruption as a menace, reducing complete reliance on hydrocarbon as our economic mainstay, and restoring security to the nation, which our opponents sold to the electorates and easily connected with them.
And now, President Jonathan says the Western Democracies cost him the election! If they did, that means he was unable to sell himself and his programmes. In truth however, I do want to know how the Americans, the British and the French, by deploying their frigates to the Gulf of Guinea, generated the under-aged voters in Kano, and Katsina which Dr. Jonathan says helped Buhari to win the election? But which election? The candidate was the President, Commander in-Chief on whose table the buck stopped! This sounds to me like ‘an old wives tale’. How come the President never alerted the nation of a plan to invade the country if Buhari failed to win the election? He could even have gotten one of his spokespersons to leak the story. Now he reminisces, sounding belated and comes across as an afterthought.
President Jonathan says he had no clue why "There was this blanket accusation that my body language was supporting corruption, …..the same thing I kept hearing from the Americans without specific allegations.” Whether that “allegation” was correct or wrong, the fact remains that the world is nine tenths, a matter of perception. What a person really is, does not matter as what people think of that person. Our President could not sack erring Ministers, who were clearly fingered as corrupt, one of whom refused pointedly to appear before the National Assembly to answer to charges of abuse of office and corruption.
There was no reprimand and no effort by the president to correct the impression that he was behind these persons. Right in his cabinet, the monetary group and the Fiscal team literally came out of the same room speaking different languages. Sanusi as Governor of Central Bank was perpetually screaming of the rot in the Finance Ministry and fingering NNPC as the major culprit. The president bought cotton wools in packs and stuck in his ears. These inactions completely eclipsed the work he, as a person was trying to do to clean up the system and rather made it sound “like a little too late”. All these were being watched and analyzed by those Nations who he tried to relate with for relevance. That was the body language.
The Northern conspiracy theory is as huge a joke as the level of its acceptability. How come that there was a Northern conspiracy and our President’s closest ally was his Principal Secretary, a northern oligarch! There was no conspiracy of the North. The North never supported Jonathan. Just as the South South never supported Buhari. In the 2011 elections, of the 13 States of the North East and North West, PDP won elections only in Adamawa and Taraba States. Why we won the overall election was because we won all the states of the North Central and the West.
As a consequence of poor advice, we squandered our relationship with the West, and in 2015 lost heavily in all the Western and North Central States except for Ekiti, Nassarawa, Plateau, and Taraba, which we won marginally, we lost elections in all the States of the North East, North West North Central and West. We let go of those who could have cultivated the North for us. As for the West, they could not point at anything they had for supporting us in 2011. Perhaps this is the Northern conspiracy.
As for Jega, good for Goodluck! Did he not say, with all amount of glee, that when he appointed the man, he did not even know him and had never met him before? So you appointed and vouched for a person to perform such an important act as the conduct of national elections and yet you did not know him! Now Dr. Jonathan says he was betrayed by Jega. That is for Jega to answer. For me, Jonathan got what he deserved. He always listened to people who would rubbish him.
Look at the case of his Vice President! We had a very bad running mate for the Presidential election. A person who in the first term could not secure for the party the votes even of his Local Government and every effort targeted at choosing a credible running mate who the North will feel comfortable with, as a likely successor to Dr. Jonathan’s administration failed. Mr. President we tried to cultivate the North using the wrong targets. We failed to address their concerns. We lost the Vice President’s ward at the election he contested as a running mate. How did President Jonathan expect to win the election, which he blames on Jega?
Or is it true that President Jonathan actually expected Jega to truncate the election during the announcement of the results? If his statement is true that he “was betrayed by the very people I relied on to win the election”, I hope Jega, the National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, who was expected to be a neutral umpire, was not one of them for he would be exhibiting a corrupt tendency in believing that Jega would “help him win the election”? I am sure the President now knows better because those who generated all the enmity for him quickly disowned and avoided him the day after he lost the election. A good number of them are now with President Buhari in The All Progressives Congress. The others are soon to join.
We all applauded Dr. Jonathan for being a statesman when he conceded the election to General Buhari. Now that the argument is that he was coerced by the presence of American frigates in the Gulf of Guinea and the Governments of America, France and Britain who were in league with the opposition to unleash mayhem if he failed to comply, how does President Jonathan want to be remembered, - courageous, heroic, brave, determined, and fearless? One thing that must be credited to Dr. Jonathan is the Federal Executive Council Approval of the 27th of May 2015, two days before leaving office, awarding the contract for the construction of the road to Otueke, Bayelsa State. These Northerners did not even allow Mr. President to build the road to his village!
Ambassador Assam E. Assam
Senior Advocate of Nigeria
Immediate Past Nigerian Ambassador to The Russian Federation and Belarus and Member of the Peoples Democratic Party.
May 01, 2017