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Jonathan’s Date with History

By: Franklin Otorofani, Esq.
 Published May 16th, 2010
“There is a tide in the affairs of men…” –William Shakespeare

When I wrote the article titled "2011: Jonathan Fits the Bill" nearly two months ago, little did I know that it would open up a flood gate of agitations for Jonathan to run for the presidency in 2011. The article was published barely a month after he became acting president and at a time when the PDP leadership headed by the embattled Vincent Ogbulafor, had definitively foreclosed Jonathan's chances of contesting the forthcoming presidential election in 2011, ostensibly on account of his party’s alleged zoning agreement. For the sake of the health of our constitutional democracy, I stuck out my neck when no one else did and made it my business to warn Ogbulafor and his party power drunks to quickly retrace their steps and make amends, otherwise they would live to regret their hasty action in summarily and petulantly ruling Jonathan out of contention on account of a nebulous zoning formula that no one has ever seen or read. As always, that prediction has since come to pass and Ogbulafor's head is now literarily on fire! And I can see many more heads rolling within the PDP leadership.

While not admitting it publicly, if offered the chance, Ogbulafor would gladly take back his words in a jiffy and begin to speak in tongues with respect to the so-called zoning formula. In other words, given a second chance, Ogbulafor would come to terms with the reality on the ground and begin to speak from sides of his mouth regarding the alleged zoning arrangement which he had used to summarily disqualify Jonathan from contesting. Unfortunately, however, he doesn’t have that luxury anymore as the dogs have been let loose on him and all his previous alleged wrongdoings long swept under the carpet under late President Yar’Adua administration have now been brought out into the open for all to see. He’s now dancing naked. That would seem to explain his desperation to keep Yar’Adua in Aso Rock in perpetuity and prevent Jonathan from taking over power in order to maintain the shield around him. For as long as Yar’Adua lived and as long as Aondoakaa remained the nation’s AGF, Ogbulafor and Ibori entertained no fears of prosecution whatsoever and bestrode the landscape like colossuses. They called the shots while it lasted. But as fate would have it, their shield is gone and Ogbulafor’s sins have now finally found him! The same thing can be said about ex-Delta state governor, the fugitive James Ibori, who is now reported to have been arrested in far away Dubai and facing extradition to Britain for his long pending trial. Like Ogbulafor his sins have also found him! Or, didn’t they say many days for the thief and one day for the owner?

The long arm of the law has finally caught up with them and their cry of political victimization, which has become the standard refrain of kleptomaniacs in Nigeria, does not hold water anymore. The days of using claims of political victimization to escape justice are over for good and nobody is listening to such cheap tactics anymore. That strategy has worn thin and can no longer be used to pool wool over the eyes of Nigerians. Political victimization is no excuse for not having their days in court and clearing their names, if indeed, they are innocent of the charges against them. That is the bottom line. Every accused must have his/her day in court to clear his/her name and that’s straightforward enough.   

Suffice it to state, however, that Ogbulafor is stewing in his own juice back home where he’s being made to answer for his actions in office in the spirit of the revamped anti-graft war. In addition to his corruption trial at the Federal High Court, his party governors, including those from his home base, have served him quit notice from Wadate House. Though still kicking, puffing and huffing, the Almighty Ogbulafor knows he is already on his way out of that esteemed office that he has serially abused and brought to public odium. At the time of filing in this article unconfirmed reports had it that he had in fact been forced to resign. Like many Nigerian politicians who flagrantly abuse their official positions, the media is agog with allegations of how he milked state governors of his party and literarily turned his office into a lactating cow that he milked at will thus undermining the nation’s war on corruption. It’s a shame that late President Yar’Adua, for reasons best known to him decided to shield the likes of Ogbulafor from prosecution while at the same time howling about anti-graft war from the rooftops. How is it that a government that preached zero tolerance for corruption would make it its business to shield those who robbed the nation blind while in office?  It’s mindboggling! This is one of the tragedies of Nigerian leadership that seems to specialize in paying lip service to the anti-graft war by doing the very opposite of their preachments. A government that claims to be fighting corruption in a certified corruption ridden nation like nation should have its prisons brimming with high-up corruption convicts to demonstrate that seriousness and commitment. Regrettably, the reverse is the case in Nigeria. So-called politically exposed individuals with clear cases of corruption to answer have been enjoying government’s protection with a shield thrown around them. Yet we claim to be fighting anti-graft war.

Now, however, a Daniel has finally come to judgment and we’re seeing the first stirrings of the revamped war on corruption. But Ogbulafor’s sins go beyond the issue of corruption. He betrayed the nation’s hope and aspiration in her darkest hour of need. His fate should serve as lesson for those who cannot control their emotions and allow their private loyalties to dictate their official conduct. In time of national crisis when he ought to have played the statesman by offering leadership to the nation as head of the ruling party when Jonathan was virtually powerless as Yar'Adua's deputy in the face of an absentee sick president, who bluntly refused to hand over power to his deputy, Ogbulafor and his henchmen at Wadata House decided to put their private interests over and above the larger interests of the nation by deliberately prolonging the crisis. They employed all legal and illegal means and subterfuges to subvert the constitution and the national will to hold the nation to ransom; all in their desperate and vain attempts to deny Jonathan power and title of acting president. I could recall my warning to the PDP leadership that they were standing on the path of a hurricane and would be swept away as part of the debris of history. Anyone with a modicum of foresight could easily have foreseen the political ascendancy of then Vice President Jonathan and be cautious in dismissing him from contention.

Having carefully analyzed the political trajectory of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the inescapable conclusion that I could draw was that he’s destined for the presidency in a substantial capacity. Therefore, he would proceed to contest and win the 2011 presidential election in his own right and that was the basis of the article referenced above.  However, since the article was published, events are rapidly moving in that direction in spite of the PDP’s leadership shenanigans. When I monitor the Nigerian press daily to follow the reactions of Nigerians to the idea of Jonathan contesting the presidential election in 2011 since my article came out, I'm more than ever before persuaded, indeed convinced that the idea has caught on with Nigerians in both high and low places. In two words, it's popular, because it is an idea whose time has come.

Those who wish to read the article published in African Herald Express newspaper as well as the blogsite: www. Nigerian_Newspaper.com might want to check it out and acquaint themselves with the reasons advanced as to why Jonathan perfectly fits the bill in 2011. I cannot add any more reasons to what I have already written in that article except to reiterate that he will run because he should run. Nigeria needs Jonathan more than Jonathan needs Nigeria at this defining historical juncture. This is not the time to play ethnic cards by seeking divide and rule tactics. This is not the time to raise the specter of division. Nigerians fervently long for an effective and dedicated leadership that can deliver the goods in real time, not ethnic jingoists. Nigerians fervently yearn for a leader who will make a radical difference in their lives within the shortest time possible, not recycled renegades and “lootocrats” who would ride to power on the back of ethnic horses and further impoverish them. Nigeria needs a modern, if you like, digital president, who will move in tandem with the rest of our fast paced, modern, digital world, not dinosaur characters pulled out from Jurassic Park that will take us back to the stone age. Jonathan fits the bill in all these categories. Nigeria cannot afford to recycle the deadwoods that have held the nation back for so long—people like IBB, Buhari, Atiku and other political dinosaurs, who are out of touch with modernity and variously responsible for the nation’s stunted growth. Their individual antecedents spell disaster for the nation. In fact the mere mention of some of these characters many of whom should be cooling their heels in jail if Nigeria were a decent nation where justice is taken seriously is a disservice to the nation.  

Jonathan offers hope for the new Nigeria of our dream. Though short of time, his decisive moves bear good tidings of better days ahead. And all the stars are perfectly in alignment for a full fledged Jonathan presidency, and I can see the cards falling into place neatly pretty soon. Run, Jonathan, Run! Only Jonathan can stop Jonathan from running. Now, some renegades like Vincent Ogbulafor, who want to pull the nation backward with their primitive attitudes, are going to continue holding up the so-called PDP zoning and seek to use the so-called party arrangement to override the constitution of the nation, which guarantees every Nigerian the right to vie for any elective office in the land, including of course, Jonathan. However, except someone can come forward to say categorically that Jonathan is not a Nigerian I don’t see how anyone can prevent him from running. All I can say here as I have always said is that a party arrangement is no law and it's not even part of the PDP constitution to begin with. And till date no one has produced a copy of that mythical agreement. Now, if a party holds zoning sacrosanct as we’re being told all of a sudden, shouldn’t it have reduced it in writing to serve as an article of faith just like the other party rules? Doesn’t it make sense to have it in writing to guide and guard the party in its power sharing? Must it be left in the air with people giving it different interpretations that suit their interests? The fact of the matter is that the so-called PDP zoning is not written anywhere on the records and some are even denying its existence at all and that’s precisely what makes it fictitious. Are we now being ruled by fictitious and unwritten party agreements? I don’t think so. Even if it was written, it has no force of law and not binding on Nigerians as a whole whose allegiance is to the constitution not to secret party arrangements that are not in line with the nation's constitution.

The fact of the matter is that the North was compelled by the circumstances of June 12, 1993, to bring ex- military Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo, from prison to contest the election in 1999 in order to assuage the bruised feelings in the South West and save the nation from disintegration. And if they entered into a secret arrangement with OBJ to hand over to the North after his tenure and he did, that cannot be promoted into the status of a party zoning formula or for that matter,  a national code of conduct. And it has never been. When OBJ was contesting his party primaries in 2003 this same North came out to claim that it had an understanding with OBJ to relinquish power to the North after his tenure of four years and on that basis sought to upstage him by sponsoring his deputy Abubakar Atiku and other Northerners to contest against him. We are all witnesses to the events at the PDP primaries in Abuja in 2003 where OBJ was almost displaced by Atiku. Or, have we suddenly forgotten his BBC interview where he outlined his options, which included contesting for the presidency? Isn’t it laughable, and indeed, dishonest for this same Atiku to be howling from the roof top about PDP zoning, in 2010 just because he wants to get Jonathan out of the way in order to achieve his unattainable presidential ambition? His self-serving wolf cries that he saturated us with in the dying days of the OBJ administration will not hold water this time around. We’ve had enough of the Atiku games. Unlike Jonathan who patiently and honestly served his master without indulging in vaulting ambition, Atiku has burnt his bridges and IBB and Buhari are non-starters to begin with. Both are spent bullets. Like I indicated in a previous article, I will not waste my time and energy on IBB, in particular. His political baggage is just too heavy to warrant wasting time on him. The treatment he is receiving now bears eloquent testimony to his status as a persona non grata in the nation’s seat of power.  

Should the PDP insist on zoning then it can be argued that the North has had its fair shake with Yar’Adua. OBJ kept his own side of the bargain if at all there was in fact one. Nowhere is it written that a president must do two terms in office. And nowhere is it written either that a zone must have the presidency for two terms consecutively. Like Yar’Adua, OBJ had only done four years then not eight years. Where was the PDP zoning then? The North should be held to that position and relinquish power to the South if they’re dead serious about zoning because Yar’Adua will have done his four-year tenure by May 29, 2011. But I’m not about zoning but about meritocracy in leadership contest. No one should hold the nation to ransom by tying her to the apron strings of one region to the exclusion of other regions. No one should deny Nigerians from other parts of the country their constitutional rights to vie for any elective position in the land on account of an unconstitutional and undemocratic party arrangement. Yes, no one should seek to promote the North/South political divide and reduce our democracy to some caricature.  The days of Luggard’s Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria are gone and gone for good and no one should seek to condemn Nigeria to the 19th century. Nowhere else in the world is the presidency zoned between North and South of a country. Those who seek to portray us as primitive tribes in this modern world must be put in their proper place.  The presidency must be thrown open to all if at all we’re practicing democracy, and not a caricature of democracy.

Finally, I want to say that just it has always done in the past, the same PDP will meet to reverse itself, not that it ever met to fashion the zoning arrangement in the first place otherwise it would have been evidenced in writing. At best it was a gentleman’s agreement hatched at someone’s backyards. Didn't the PDP meet to amend its constitution after Yar' Adua came to power in an attempt to undo what OBJ did? Yes it did so to “amend” the qualification for becoming the party’s BOT Chairman. That happened less than two years ago. Several other amendments have taken place in the party’s constitution. But the zoning is not even written so it requires no amendment. It never existed formally but in the imagination of power merchants in the PDP. None of the other parties talks about zoning the presidency. The amendment of the PDP constitution will happen again because every President builds the party in his own image and Jonathan will not be an exception. In fact the process may have begun already. Zoning will not stand.

But before I take my leave, however, I have a word for the Nigerian media. I want to caution Nigerian journalists from throwing the so-called PDP zoning formula in our face each time the issue of Jonathan's eligibility to contest the 2011 presidential election is brought up. Nigerian journalists should be ashamed that they are the ones trying to raise a mere party arrangement into the force of law and seek to use it to override the nation’s constitution. It's a shame that Nigerian journalists who ought to be at the vanguard of holding the constitution aloft to protect the rights of all Nigerians are the ones trying to undermine its provisions regarding the contest for the presidency instead of educating the people. I don’t see why anyone would raise PDP zoning in the face of the provisions of the constitution which guarantees the right to contest election to every Nigerian.

Our journalists should stop insulting Nigerians with PDP zoning arrangement that is clearly an affront on the nation’s constitution. If the Nigerian press will not and cannot defend our constitution, Nigerians will. One begins to wonder why they are fighting for the passage for Freedom of Information Bill (FIB) when they cannot defend and uphold simple provisions of the constitution. The PDP is not Nigeria and its internal arrangement cannot by any stretch of the imagination bind the nation. It has nothing to do with Jonathan's right to contest any elective position in the land he desires, under the constitution.

And come to think of it, where were Nigerian journalists then when late Abubakar Rimi and Barnabas Gemade proceeded to contest against OBJ in 2003 PDP party primaries? Our journalists and the PDP owe us an explanation. Had either of them won, OBJ would have been out and no one would have remembered that there was ever a zoning arrangement in place in the PDP. Nigerian journalists, who appear fixated on PDP zoning, should have asked late Rimi and Gemade why they did it and obtain answers from them. Though Rimi is dead but Gemade is still alive and kicking. They could go to him and get his answer as to why he ignored his party’s zoning arrangement in 2003 and contested against OBJ in the PDP primaries. If our journalists must be told, Rimi and Gemade ignored the so-called party zoning formula because they didn't believe in zoning and would not let that stand in their way to actualizing their individual political ambitions. In fact Rimi made that point clear enough before he passed on and PDP comfortably looked the other way while they were at it! What makes our journalists think that Jonathan is a believer and practitioner of zoning?  So much for a fictitious agreement and enough of this nonsensical distraction!

Jonathan has a date with history.

Franklin Otorofani, Esq. Contact: mudiagaone@yahoo.com



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