The Fray!? Shuaib Shuaib examines the likely contenders for the 2015 presidential polls especially from the spectacle of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).? The last presidential election took place only six months ago, yet names of possible contenders are already emerging for the 2015 presidential election.
If the agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan is to introduce political reform and then gracefully step aside in 2015, then the agitation for who replaces him can be understandable and may even stabilize the country politically. This, the president may have to tolerate.
So far, the only sign of a political reform agenda is the six-year single term that the president is dilly- dallying on. If the president has no genuine intention of embarking on political reform and staying for only one term, then the early agitation for who replaces him can only serve to distract him and even undermine his presidency.
Those who are already linked to the plum job are principally of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stock. But Nigerians believe those in the frontline to replace him are hasty in flaunting their ambition. They include Vice President Namadi Sambo and Senate President David Mark.
That these people are allegedly dreaming of the presidency so early in Jonathan’s presidency suggests that they know something that the rest of the country does not know, which is that? Jonathan may not contest in 2015.
The only evidence Nigerians have of this was the few statements that were made public before Jonathan secured the PDP presidential ticket and before he was finally elected to serve four-year term.
The political campaigns which proceeded the presidential primary of the ruling PDP came close to tearing the party apart. At a point, the campaign DG, General Ibrahim Babangida, one the contestants was arrested by the SSS and accused of having a hand in the October 1, 2010 bomb explosion in Abuja. Months after that, Jonathan in an emotional outburst apparently threatened to deal with the PDP governors if they failed to support his election bid.
When he finally got them to his side, it was not without preconditions.
In a communique read by Governor Ibrahim Shema of Katsina on behalf of 20 colleagues, the governors said, “At the emergency meeting of PDP Governors held Thursday 16th day of December, 2010, and having deliberated extensively on democratic practices the world over, we observed as follows: Democratic systems all over the world recognise the principle of incumbency and continuity.
Entrenched democratic culture persistent in presidential system and our constitution entitles our President to run for a second term which the PDP Governors support. The Governors also recognise the Yar’Adua/Jonathan ticket and therefore support and endorse President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR) to contest the 2011 election as the PDP presidential candidate for a period of four years only.”???
But Maurice Magaji, lawyer and politician believes that the president was desperate for the PDP ticket and whatever commitment the governors could have gotten from the president would not be legally binding because the president has a constitutional right to contest but added, “Politics is not always about legality.”
He however said, “It will depend on the political climate of the next election.
If he has the good will of people, he may decide to contest and if does not, he may not contest. But integrity too matters. He may say; I am a man of my word and I will remain by my word.”? But the intensity of the campaigns did not end there. The nation was already divided over the issue of zoning and why Jonathan refused to respect the principle of zoning and power rotation that would have seen a northern candidate replace him as president at the election.
Other than the commitment extracted from him by the governors, that he would spent only one term, former president Olusegun Obasanjo would also hinge this commitment on the basis of keeping the idea of zoning and power rotation alive. During the last presidential campaign of President Goodluck as the PDP candidate held in Abuja, Obasanjo said, “PDP has brought stability and substantial predictability to the polity and to the system. I do not know who will be the President of Nigeria after Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
That is in the hand of God. But with the PDP policy and practice, I can reasonably guess from where in terms of section of the country from where the successor to President Goodluck Jonathan will come and no internal democracy or competition will be hereby destroyed.” Now if President Jonathan can be said to have a godfather, it would be Obasanjo because he did far more than anybody else to see that Jonathan first became, governor of Bayelsa State, vice president and then elected president.
Former military president, Babangida has been blamed for setting this standard that appears to be haunting the politics of the country. He, on his on accord decided to make Obasanjo president in 1999 before lobbying and selling the idea to other stakeholders.
Obasanjo outgrew IBB and picked late Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua as his own presidential candidate for the 2007. He did the same by cajoling Jonathan and everyone else to do things his way at the 2011 polls.??
Jonathan could easily break away from his godfather and forge his own way as? has been the trend in Nigerian politics. Whether Obasanjo can be cunning enough to keep Jonathan politically under his wrap and still be able to influence the president in 2015 cannot be known.
Obasanjo’s manifest aim is to keep zoning alive and to achieve that he may have to undermine the president politically in the years to come. But at the last Jonathan campaign, Obasanjo said;
“We are impressed with the report that Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has already taken a unique and unprecedented step of declaring that he would only want to be a one term President. If so whether he knows it or not, that is a sacrifice and it is statesmanly. Rather than vilify him and pull him down, we as a party should applaud and commend him and Nigerians should reward and venerate him.
He has taken the first good step, let us encourage him to take more good steps to achieve what we need to achieve for this country by voting for him in landslide victory as the first elected president of Nigeria on basis of our common Nigerian identity and for the purpose of actualizing the Nigerian dream.”?
At a reception in Otukpo, Benue State barely two months after the general elections, the senate president publicly addressed his supporters. He said it was too early to begin a presidential campaign for 2015.
“Please stop the campaigns; no more further campaigns for what will happen in 2015. The time has not come and we cannot afford the distraction,’’ Mark warned.
In Nigerian politics, public calls like this asking someone to run for a coveted office do not usually happen without the consent of the politician in question. Since then, the name of the senate president has consistently popped up as a possible candidate for the 2015 presidential polls. Suggestions have been made that he has the backing of Jonathan.
Some believe it is Obasanjo that wants Mark to be the northern candidate and end the dominance of the Hausa/Fulani in the politics of the region. And since politics has become a major component of Nigerian politics, Mark may gain the backing of majority of the Christian faithful in the country.
Analysts have suggested that the 2015 polls are reasons behind the determination of the senate president to push through every policy and political agenda that the president wants in the National Assembly.
Some have gone as far as suggesting Mark has already committed himself to the six-year single term of he president and they are only waiting for the appropriate time to push the agenda.??
? Sambo has also had cause to deny an aspiration to contest for president come 2015. At a recent North West zonal meeting of the PDP that had all the state governors of the region present, along with the lawmakers and the party executive of the zone, campaign vehicles were plastered with his posters declaring him as a candidate for the 2015 presidential election.
In so many ways, the meeting revolved around him and no one can be blamed for mistaking it for a campaign stunt. The vice president may have denied involvement but questions still remain about those that funded the printing of the posters.
If the zonal meeting was called to dwell on local government elections and the successes or failures of the party at election tribunal, why haven’t other zones held similar meetings or is there an inconsistence of working policy in zone of the party structure? The vice president is also reported to be showing keen interest in who becomes the national chairman of PDP when the convention is finally held.
Meanwhile, to strengthen his grip on the party, the preferred candidate of VP is reported to be Maina Waziri from Gombe in the same zone. But the special adviser to the vice president on media, Umar Sani who had earlier made the denials about the vice president having president ambitions has also said the vice president does not have a preferred candidate because he is close to virtually all of the them.
Sani said, “This is a party issue and it has been zoned to the North East. The North East caucus of the party is supposed to sit down and agree on a particular candidate for everyone to adopt. If they fail to agree and come for election, then every zone will vote for the candidate of his/her choice. So, how will the vice president come up with his own candidate? Will he polarize the party?
No, he does not have a candidate. He has to maintain neutrality. The stakeholders of the zone who are the governors, senators, house members and party executive members will decide.”
If Jonathan is out of the race, Sambo will definitely run and he is likely to be the preferred candidate of the core North especially the muslims. This is against the background that he is in a vantage position to succeed Jonathan because by 2015, he would have developed enough war chest to climb the political mountain. And having served as a loyal deputy and if he continues to be loyal, the thinking is that Jonathan may throw the weight of his exalted office behind Sambo.
In the thinking of Sambo’s camp, some detractors are bent on stifling the cordiality between Jonathan and Sambo ‘‘and this was why they plant stories in the media suggesting that Sambo has already started campaigning for 2015.’’???
But the present impasse over who becomes PDP chairman came about because of the refusal of the Adamawa State governor, Murtala Nyako to accept a certain candidate. Nyako has been so adamant, his fellow governors had little choice but to respect his wishes. Now former vice president, Atiku Abubakar who lost to Jonathan at the last PDP primary is also said to be looking ahead to the 2015 polls.
Atiku is however keeping a low profile and has by his own admittance gone into an alliance with the governor of his home state, Murtala Nyako. Both Atiku and Nyako, for convenience sake do not want the next PDP chairman to come from Adamawa and in the case of Atiku, he doesn’t want it in the North East zone so that it does not become an obstacle to his ambition in the next election.
At the PDP primary, Atiku suffered his biggest and most humiliating defeat from his own state. Virtually all the heavy weights of Adamawa politics turned their backs on him at the primary.
Among them are two top contenders for the PDP chairmanship race, business mogul, Bamanga Tukur and former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States of America, Hassan Adamu. For Atiku to be successful in the politics of 2015, he requires miracles!
However as events turn out, it is clear that the chairmanship of PDP has become the first battle ground for the 2015 election.