Goodluck Jonathan: His Presidency, His Candidacy

Ever since the unfortunate and untimely passing of President Umaru Yar’Adua, the destiny of Nigeria, and the question of presidential succession, has become a bone of contention. The question, as is being framed in some political enclave, centers on whether or not President Goodluck Jonathan should contest the 2011 presidential election in his own right. In this regard, there are two basic schools of


In the judgment of the first group, “Jonathan should complete Yar’Adua’s term, organize a credible election” and then waltz into the sunset. And then there is the second school that wants Jonathan to — if he perform credibly within the very short period before the next election — to “contest the 2011 presidential election in his own right” as a matter of fairness, common sense and constitutional prerogative.

Privately and publicly and on the pages of newspapers and magazines and online chat forums, every-day Nigerians too have been making their views known. What President Jonathan should do, or not do, have become conversational points for these Nigerians. And rightly so. At the very least, it shows that Nigerians — in spite of three-and-half-decade of misrule and misfortune — care a great deal about their country and their fellow Nigerians. They are not indifferent to the destiny of their country.

Amazingly, but not surprisingly, much of these conversations have been civil and orderly. Nonetheless, there is a new but dangerous school of thought that is beginning to gain traction. It is a school of thought that believes “under no condition must Jonathan contest the 2011 election; otherwise, Nigeria will break up.” Whether, this is a political theatrics or not is difficult to tell. Whatever it is, it is time Nigerians quell this dangerous chatter; or to at least dissuade Nigerians from this pattern of thinking.

About 40 percent of Nigeria’s oil wealth has been stolen, given away or mismanaged; yet, Nigeria has not broken up. Since 1960, there have been more than a dozen ethnic and religious riots; yet, Nigeria has not broken up. Since the1960s, there have been about a dozen coups and suppressed coups; yet, Nigeria has not broken up. Since Independence, not a single South-Southerner has ruled the country; yet, Nigeria has not broken up. How then is Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential ambition (beyond 2011) going to cause the breakup of Nigeria?

In what ways, then, will the presidential ambition of a nationalist contribute to the breakup of a country that has endured 50 years of 50-plus calamities? Such wild and irresponsible assumptions do not augur well for our country. Only President Goodluck Jonathan can decide whether or not he should contest the 2011 election; and only Nigerians can decide, through the ballot boxes, whether or not he should continue in his current position. Nigeria will not break up whichever way he decides to go; also, Nigeria will not break up should he lose or win the 2011 presidential election.

As a Nigerian and as an active observer of domestic and international political events, I believe President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan should contest the 2011 presidential election. To my knowledge and understanding, nothing in the Nigerian Constitution, international conventions or moral codes forbids him from doing so. And not only is he academically and political as qualified as anyone else in country, he is more qualified than most of his peers. For a man who finds himself almost in the same situation Vice President Lyndon Johnson found himself in 1963, he should do exactly what LBJ did in 1964: contest to win the presidential election!

To this end therefore, I make the following suggestions: (a) President Jonathan and his wife should immediately declare their assets; (b) he should speak directly to the nation in regards to his presidential ambition, leadership philosophy, vision for the country and his worldview; (c) directly address Nigerians, on a periodic basis, those benchmarks he has reached from the time he assumed the presidency; and (d) he must act and speak in ways that inject a sense of urgency, confidence, courage and purposefulness to his presidency and candidacy. All these he must do now in order to keep gaining support and credibility.

If President Jonathan does not contest the 2011 presidential election, history and posterity may not be kind to him. If he allows others to push him around, dictate to him, and or make him look irresolute, uncertain and weak, he’d be the butt of jokes everywhere. The momentum is on his side. All known and unknown (positive) forces seem to be on his side. At home and abroad, he enjoys a level of support and instructive criticism very few African leaders have enjoyed in recent memory.

Nigerians expect him to run. The world expects him to run. He must run. He should run.

This is a time unlike no other time in the history of our people and our nation. And mind you, this is not about Goodluck Jonathan alone. No. This is about our collective dreams and aspirations and about our view of the future; and about the destiny of our country and the continent.  It is about us as a people and as a nation. What’s more, this is not the time to be fatalistic, to be defeatist. God may be for us all; but high politics is an individual endeavor. It is about plans and vision and capabilities and character.

If President Goodluck Jonathan and his handlers neglect this opportunity, or fail as a result of their naïveté, they shall have no one else to blame but themselves. They cannot and must not falter, or allow this moment to slip away. And should the president refuse to run, he will be laughed at, ridiculed. Even his friends will laugh at him. Once out of office, the next President will hand him a national award, give him one or two oil blocks and then glowingly speak about his democratic credentials and love for the nation. Local newspapers may derisively refer to him as “a statesman, the man who saved Nigeria.” Globally, he may be invited to give speeches here and there. That will be about it. Done!

But in contesting and winning the 2011 presidential election, he stands a very good chance at remaking and repositioning the country. Should this happen, he’d be considered a genuine statesman with sterling democratic credentials. Furthermore, accusations of political exclusion may also vanish from the vocabulary of Niger Deltans. If a man has been a loyal and effect vice president and party stalwart, and has done and exceeded all that was expected of him, why preclude him from the captainship once his superior passed away?

Finally, if a politician from the western or northern part of Nigeria was in Goodluck Jonathan’s shoes, almost no one would be asking him/her “not to run.” He or she would have found ways to dig-in: digging in and receiving support from all corners of the country. Today, they would be doing what some are advising President Jonathan not to do: preparing to run! They would have outspent, outmaneuvered, and outsmarted their opponents. Or, trying to!

Goodluck Jonathan: His Presidency, His Candidacy

Sabella Ogbobode Abidde