Nigeria: Jonathan’s 2015 posters – Distraction or test of will?
The build up to the 2015 presidency is gradually gathering momentum despite the belief by most Nigerians that it is too early to kick-start campaigns for a poll, more than two years away from now, writes FELIX NWANERI.
The second term bid of President Goodluck Jonathan, despite his insistence that the 2015 election is not on his mind for now, is gradually becoming clearer with the recent emergence of his campaign posters on some major streets in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
The glossy posters, with a bold picture of the President had the following inscriptions: “2015: No vacancy in Aso Rock. Let’s do more;” “One good term deserves another; support Dr. Goodluck Azikiwe Jonathan for 2015 presidency.”
They were first pasted in the FCT’s neighbourhood and public facilities on New Year Day, but have spread to main areas of the territory and satellite towns.
But the sudden appearance of the posters, when most Nigerians are still expecting the present admnistration to deliver on its promises, has sparked off a row between the opposition political parties and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
While the former believes that it was a calculated attempt to rig the election ahead of time, the President and his party have denied approving them, saying those behind them are doing such on their own.
However, a school of thought believes that they are meant to test the political waters. According to members of this school, both sides of the divide – the President’s camp and even the opposition may be using the poster-game as a dummy to feel the people’s pulse concerning the rumoured second term bid by Jonathan.
They predicated their position on the subtle campaigns through media interviews by some of the President’s aides despite his (Jonathan’s) directive on the issue.
Jonathan, it would be recalled, had in May last year, warned those heating up the polity on the grounds that he wants to return to office in 2015 to hold their fire as re-election is not on his mind.
In a statement from the Presidency then, it said: “The pointless, diversionary and very distractive hue and cry about the President’s alleged ambition to seek a second term in office is becoming increasingly disturbing by the day… For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, President Jonathan wishes to reiterate that his primary concern and the focus of all his efforts now, just about a year into the four-year tenure for which he was elected in April 2011, is to deliver on his promise of positive national transformation.
“Nothing could be farther from President Jonathan’s mind at this point in time than the 2015 elections. The President has definitely not directed or authorised any individual or group to launch any campaign on his behalf. As he has repeatedly warned on many occasions, including the last national convention of the PDP, the inordinate ambition of a few self-centred Nigerians and their obsession with the politics of political succession in 2015 must not be allowed to distract the nation and its current leadership from the task of dealing with the much more urgent issues of development and the safety of Nigerians in all parts of the country.”
But some analysts maintained that Jonathan has not ensured strict compliance to this directive. They argued that like in the past, when Nigerians were said to have prevailed on sitting leaders to “continue with their good jobs,” some of the President’s aides have continued to carry out subtle campaingn for his second term.
An example was cited of Doyin Okupe, (Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs), who, in a recent media interview, said the wonderful performance of his boss at the end of his tenure will compel Nigerians to ask him to run in 2015.
“I am very certain in my mind that Nigerians are going to applaud him and even if he does not want to run for election, Nigerians are going to force him to run again because of the level of performance,” Okupe said in the interview.
Another side to the poster-game, the same political school opined; is that some members of the opposition could be using it to feel Nigerians perception of the PDPled government, as they intensify plans to forge an alliance to wrest power from Jonathan in 2015.
‘But despite the varied views, Jonathan’s spokesman, Reuben Abati, insists that the posters did not originate from the President, as he is focused on delivering on his mandate and would not be distracted by the politics of 2015.
He said: “Nigerians should take the President for his word and ignore any other information to the contrary,” even as he noted that Jonathan would not take any measure to halt further display of the posters, as the posters do not have the names of those promoting it.
Abati said: “Those pasting the posters are trying to express their own view. The President had stated that he will talk about his re-election in 2014. Those doing these do not have the consent of the president.
“We do not know those behind the posters, so the President cannot do anything. Our appeal is that those behind this should allow the President to concentrate on the job at hand. The President’s main pre-occupation now is to continue to provide service and quality leadership.”
Similarly, the PDP, through its National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, said the party had nothing to do with the posters, even as he doubted the possibility of the President, authorising them.
“The leadership of the PDP is not in any way aware of the said posters if they exist at all. Though I speak for the party and not the President, I doubt if the President is even aware of the existence of such posters. He couldn’t possibly be involved in such things at this point in time,” he said.
The party however declared that it will not query the President over the issue, as he had disassociated himself from it, but warned its members not to see the development as an opportunity to start printing and pasting posters of other presidential aspirants.
“We will not encourage other politicians, who are interested in elective offices to start printing and pasting posters. The time for that has not come. When it comes, we will inform our members,” Metuh declared.
But the President and the PDP’s position, not withstanding, some opposition parties – the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) are of the view that the poster-game is just a ploy to cow Nigerians ahead of the 2015 presidential poll.
CPC’s National Publicity Secretary, Rotimi Fashakin said: “If Jonathan is interested in contesting the presidency in 2015, we say, ‘why not?’ However, what is of grave concern is the portent of the posters: ‘No vacancy in Aso Rock in 2015.’
“In the light of the foregoing statement, we are compelled to ask some pertinent questions: Is this the language of democratic practice? Is there not a fundamental defect in our political system where supposed leaders transform into monsters? Have we not trodden this pathway before in which another leader of the same political stock as this President declared an election a ‘do or die’ process?
“Is the President likely to shed off civility and put on the garb of African leaders – in recent history – who have shown desperation in their final descent from power? Is this a feverish response from the Presidency to the impending merger of the major opposition parties? Is this a way of unduly overheating the polity, as an excuse for unleashing a very capricious onslaught on the opposition?”
The ANPP through its National Publicity Secretary, Emma Eneukwu said: “There is nothing wrong in President Jonathan displaying his posters for 2015 presidential election. May be he feels that he has done well enough to test his popularity in the country again. But Nigerians won’t be fooled the second time. The sentiment of fresh air, which was apparently his campaign slogan in 2011, turned out to be very hot air suffocating Nigerians. Jonathan has little occupying his mind but a second term. Nigerians are watching.”
Ironinically, the same view was held by some members of the President’s party – the PDP Youth wing (though Metuh described it as faceless) – which asked him to resign if he is bereft of ideas instead of denying sponsorship of the posters.
The group, in a statement signed by its Publicity Director, Bala Usman, said: “The event of the last few days has ignited outrage and public condemnation because of the deliberate and well-calculated commencement of a presidential campaign by President Jonathan even in the face of his so-called ban on political activities.
“This is an unwarranted test of the will and patience of Nigerians, who tried to exhibit high level of tolerance of an administration which seems in the last two years to have lost the focus of true leadership and proper understanding of the ideals of our party’s founding fathers.”
While the unfolding drama shows that the build up to the poll would be an interesting one, the CNPP National Publicity Secretary, Osita Okechukwu is of the view that the President is entitled to run, unless the court stops him and therefore can float posters to test waters. This, according to him “is the essence of democracy, where all the flowers are allowed to blossom. What one will plead is that there should be free and fair election; that is to say that he should not use his high office to manipulate the electoral process.”