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Once upon a promise

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"A politician never believes anything he says, so he is always amazed when other people do." — Charles de Gaulle

On 2nd February 2011, with more than two months before the general elections, I posted the piece below on my blog site, under the title "One-Term Jonathan." I went back to read it again when news filtered in few days ago that the suit challenging the right of President Goodluck Jonathan to run again in 2015 has been withdrawn at his and his party’s request, and will now be settled out of court. I will let you judge the value of the comments I made around the time the President promised to run for only one term in far away Ethiopia. Judge it against unfolding events, and in particular, relate it to the desperate (and successful) attempts to secure a compliant PDP leadership and the body language of President Jonathan's handlers before he even completes one year in office. Here it is.
“In far away Ethiopia, President Goodluck Jonathan informed a group of Nigerians that he has no plans to run for another term in 2015. He stated that he will ensure free and fair elections from the April polls this year, and if voted in for the next four years, he will ensure significant improvements in key sectors of the economy such as security, power, education, roads and health, among others.
“This is the first time that President Jonathan himself will state that he has no plans to run again after 2011. On a number of occasions, his aides and campaign managers had mentioned this, but on all those occasions, little attention was paid to these claims, largely because Nigerians thought they were part of the campaign for the PDP presidential ticket. Some of his spokespersons and campaign managers raised the issue of one more term to assuage the fears of the North and other parts of Nigeria that he, and by extension, the South of Nigeria, would likely govern for 12 years, if he runs and wins again in 2015. The South East PDP in particular was becoming concerned that if President Jonathan runs for another two terms, and the presidency moves to the North, it will then have to wait for another 20 years to have a shot at the presidency. This was becoming a major obstacle in terms of securing the PDP South-East bloc votes for the President.
“Another set of campaign managers raised a legal issue. They argued that the Constitution of Nigeria does not permit anyone to be sworn-in more than twice as President of the Federal Republic under any circumstances, and if the President were to seek for another term after 2015, assuming he wins in 2011, he will be violating the Constitution. This interpretation was intended to assure all Nigerians who were apprehensive that he will disregard the two years he took to complete late President Yar’adua’s term, and seek for two fresh terms of his own. Needless to say, this position has not been subjected to a rigorous legal scrutiny, and there is no guarantee that the Constitution itself will not be amended to make it possible for Presidents to be sworn-in more than twice in future.
“President Jonathan’s promise to serve for only one additional term if elected in 2011 can still be seen in the context of electioneering campaign. Among those who will believe him, the promise may lower some hostility against him in the North, since it may be assumed that the Presidency will move to the North. Those who will find comfort in this assurance and assumption obviously do not understand that President Jonathan’s candidature has effectively killed the zoning and rotation principle in the PDP. Whether he serves for four years, if elected in 2011, or eight years, issues regarding the rotation of the Presidency will be irrelevant. The position of the PDP Presidential ticket is now an all-comers business, and the PDP North will be ill-advised to put any political value to it. Indeed, given its numerical superiority, if the North achieves political unity, it should be in the forefront in the fight against rotation, and for the institutionalization of credible, free and fair elections. That the North today is abjectly making a case in the favour of a rotated Presidency is a reflection of its political poverty.
“In any case, if President Jonathan’s promise not to seek a third term in 2015 is intended to gain him some political capital, its value will be very limited indeed. The manner in which the rotation principle of the PDP was subverted by the President and his supporters, many of them key architects and beneficiaries of the principle, will create genuinely founded doubts in the minds of many people. President Obasanjo’s failed attempt to tinker with the Constitution and give himself a third term is also fresh in the minds of many people. The sad fact about power is that it is difficult to give up, and Nigerians are not blind to the transformation of Vice President Goodluck Jonathan into a President who is fighting with all the resources at his disposal to win a second term.
“President Jonathan is a candidate who will have to convince Nigerians that he is better than other candidates to be elected president. Nigerians will judge him on his pedigree and his antecedents, including his performance as a president. Matters relating to what happens in 2015 are too far in the minds of Nigerians. What the nation wants from President Jonathan now is an absolute and transparent commitment to a free and fair election in April, and the creation of a secure enabling environment which will allow all citizens to vote freely, and for their votes to count.”
With the monumentally-embarrassing exposé around the oil and gas sector, much of it under the watch of President Jonathan, the scandalous pension scam, the unprecedented threat to national security in many guises and forms, and with the catastrophic tsunami which Steve Oransaye’s report is about to unleash on the nation, we are being dragged into another race for 2015 by the President. And we wonder why we have so many problems!

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