If there is anybody President Goodluck Jonathan will be in utter envy of, it is Dele Momodu, the publisher of Ovation magazine.Â Not because of the success he made in the media or the height he commands in the social circle of our society, but the calm and peace of mind heâ€™s enjoying after announcing his presidential ambition in 2011 general elections.
During his 50th birthday anniversary, he had thrown his hat in the ring to signify his interest to contest the presidential election in 2011. Also in the July 12, 2010 edition of TheNEWS magazine, he was more explicit on how he wants to achieve his presidential dream and the political platform he wants to contest on. Yet, nobody has found it necessary to chastise him on the proprietary or otherwise of his ambition. If there is any problem he has, it is to convince Nigerians that heâ€™s actually serious about the race.
Some were quick to dismiss it as being a special 50th birthday gift he wanted to give to himself by adding another feather to his cap. Others equally reminded him that Nigeriaâ€™s presidential race is not for the chickenhearted, unless he wants to be counted among the Chris Okoties of this world who always claims to have received a divine calling to rule the country few months to the general elections every four years.
But in the case of President Goodluck Jonathan, who has not made his presidential ambition known to anybody, at least publicly like Dele Momudu, he is bombarded from all corners on why he should or should not contest. The more silence he maintains the more troubles that come his way. High profile meetings have been held at different times and venues to pressure him to either seize the gauntlet or bow out of Aso Rock after completing the tenure of his former boss, the late Umaru Yarâ€™Adua. While South-South governors and some of their northern counterparts have endorsed Jonathan as man for the job in 2011, strange political bed fellows have been forced to forge common front to scare any thought of pushing his presidential ambition any further. Leading in this direction are Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, who has declared his interest to contest for the presidential race, and the Northern Elders Council, led by Alhaji Tanko Yakasai.
Just recently, over 100 top politicians from the North met in Kaduna to deliberate on how to stop Jonathan from becoming president should he so show interest in the race. As if that was not enough, they are making efforts to co-opt the 19 governors of northern states to join in the fight against Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s presidential ambition, though some of the governors have backed out.
Following the South South Political Forum that met in Port Harcourt on Monday and declared their support for President Jonathan and passed a resolution urging him to publicly declare his presidential ambition, governors from the northern part of the country met the following day and without clear cut decision on their support for Jonathan, said he was free to contest like any other Nigerian.
But thereâ€™s nothing sacrosanct that these different groups asking Jonathan not to contest have told us. Theyâ€™ve not told us President Goodluck Jonathan did not meet the constitutional requirements to contest for the highest seat in the land, either by age, sex, educational qualification or nationality. They have also not told us that Jonathan is lacking in good health to shoulder the responsibilities and demands of the office of the president.
The only reason they adduce is that Jonathan is not from the northern part of Nigeria and so heâ€™s naturally disqualified to contest until 2015. But Jonathan is from southern part of Nigeria, like Dele Momodu. In fact, they are from the South-South geo-political region, the way the country has been balkanized for the benefit of the few that have been holding us down. Yet, Dele Momudu sleeps with his two eyes closed after declaring his interest to rule us come May 29, 2011.
If Jonathan were from the north, will anybody ask him to not contest? What makes anybody think that Jonathan could not have come from the North in the first instance? Who amongst us predetermined where he was born into before coming to this world? Is the place of birth and the family we were born into not what sociologists call accident of birth?
Let us even look at the merits and demerits of zoning arrangement that some members of the Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party, PDP, have bandied around as the reason why Jonathan must not contest. Who said that before you can win presidential election in Nigeria you must contest on the platform of PDP? If itâ€™s held that as incumbent president contesting under the platform of the so-called largest party in Africa, winning presidential election is fait accompli, why schedule presidential election involving other political parties in the country? Why fork out N72 billion as an initial money to conduct the 2011 general elections?
Action Congress has dismissed the zoning arrangement as PDPâ€™s internal contraption which they are taking too far to distract the entire country from demanding and getting credible election in 2011. If that is the case, when will Nigerians stand up and demand certain criteria from would-be leaders instead of the mundane sentiments that have stagnated us for 50 years?
Other political parties seem not be doing themselves any good because the more we present PDPâ€™s internal matter as an issue of national importance, the PDP as a brand is getting popular with the electorate. Itâ€™s time other political parties stood up and countered PDPâ€™s propaganda all in the name of zoning arrangement.
Nevertheless, those who say the North must produce the President in 2011 have not told us how that will solve or bring solutions to many problems facing us today. Steady power supply has been a major problem to economic development. There has been security challenge all over the country. Development of infrastructure has dropped to its lowest ebb. People die in their hundreds on our bad roads.Â Violent ethnic and religious crises have been the order of day with its attendant bloodshed. Corruption has become a way of life with over $10 billion dollars being siphoned out on the country by governors and their cronies. Our schools have been turned to wasteland where no meaningful academic pursuit is carried out. Kidnapping has become a lucrative business in our country, especially in the South-East and South-South. Yet none of these obvious issues has formed the basis of reason why Jonathan should not contest election next year.
If the North agitates for power with no clear cut agenda for human and infrastructure development, how will that benefit the ordinary man in the streets of Jalingo or the town of Duara? How will that take away the Almajiris and children of the poor from the streets and put them in the classrooms for proper education and economic empowerment so that they will not be ready-made tools in the hands of extremists?
But certain voices from the North have also kicked against the PDPâ€™s zoning arrangement as enshrined in article 7, subsection 2c the PDP constitution. They argue that it will not throw up the best qualified candidate for the post of President ofÂ Nigeria. Solomon Lar, Barnabas Gemade, Nasir el-Rufai are among many from the North who have challenged the zoning arrangement. In other words, some prominent elements from the North are equally opposed to it.
So, instead of limiting our choice of who becomes president next year to the North and PDP, we should not lose sight of the fact that there are other credible persons from different parts of the country who are not PDP members but who can make good president. PDP should not be allowed to use their internal matters to heat up the polity as some among them have boasted that they will make the country ungovernable if PDPâ€™s presidential ticket is not zoned to the north.
â€¢ Joshua Igbani writes from Lagos.