According to the Daily Trust newspaper, under the heading Danjuma-Led Pac to Jonathan – You Contest, We Quit (May 10, 2010 ), “Members of the Presidential Advisory Council have decided to resign from the council en masse if and when President Goodluck Jonathan decides to contest the 2011 presidential elections.” And what’s the group’s justification for such a threat? According to the newspaper, “council members were worried that wading into the race will severely affect Jonathan’s reputation as an unbiased umpire in the elections and will make it impossible for him to make strides in the socio-economic sphere during the limited time he has in office.”
In an honest effort to provide rudder, and to steady the ship of state during the brief period Nigeria was in a state of doldrums and uncertainty, the then Acting President Goodluck Jonathan had established the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC), which was headed by former Defense Minister Lt. General Theophilus Danjuma. The Committee had other functions; but essentially, its major assignment was to “provide alternative inputs into policy formation; promote good governance in the areas of power, economy, security, infrastructure, social sector, the electoral process and the fight against corruption.”
In addition, the group was to “evaluate policy implementation and advise Jonathan on areas requiring adjustments; advice the Acting President on how to maximize the benefits derivable from government’s efforts; advice on such actions and programs that may improve credibility and performance of the government; and advice on any other matter referred to it.” Members of this august group include Ben Nwabueze, Alfa Belgore, Emeka Anyaoku, M.D. Yusuf, G. B. Preware, Hajiya Halita, Mariam Uwais and Mobola Johnson.
Unlike earlier groups set up by previous governments, this group’s raison d’être was simple, and so also was its mandate. There were no ambiguities. PAC, for instance, was not set up to make pronouncements on individual’s political ambition. What’s more, the group was not set up to give ultimatum to anyone; and it certainly was not set up to give rulings on Jonathan’s presidency or presidential ambition. In private and in public, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan have always said he was not going to contest the 2011 presidential election unless he could justify his leadership/presidency in the eyes and minds of the vast majority of Nigerians.
In other words, unless he could make measurable progress in certain key areas, he was not going to encumber the populace with his presidential ambition. Even his ardent critics have inferred that considering the state of Nigeria — in terms of its infrastructures, private and public institutions, the rut in the political space and the pervasive despondency — 12 months is not enough to register “excellent progress.” But really, Nigerians, at this point, are not looking for a series of homeruns. No; they simply want him to do better than himself and anyone else in recent memory (especially in the areas of power, security, the Niger Delta and electoral reforms).
From the moment he was sworn in as the Acting President, domestic and global audiences and participants have been kind and supportive. At home and abroad, Nigerians have been rooting for him: encouraging and praying for him to succeed, lending their moral support. When and wherever necessary, they have also criticized him. Michael Olubusayo Oluwagbemi, Okey Ndibe, Sonala Olumhense, Reuben Abati, Mobolaji Aluko, Mohammed Haruna and a host of social commentators and public intellectual have, at one time or another criticized, advised and/or encouraged him. More importantly, every-day Nigerians have been doing same. In all of these, one thing is clear: they want Goodluck Jonathan to succeed, to move Nigeria forward.
Nigerians are not giving this Harry Truman-like man a free ride. He should not be given a free ride. He does not deserve a free ride. No! His actions and utterances should be critically scrutinized. His policy proposals should be evaluated. His feats or lack thereof should also be examined. His vision and plans for the good people of Nigeria should also be carefully scrutinized. If they think he is doing well and is likely to do much better now and into the future, then, he would have earned their trust and support, their vote and their prayers. The people will legitimize him.
Legitimacy and acceptance will not come through the pronouncement of an advisory committee — no mater how powerful and influential it considers itself to be. It is Nigerians, through popular support, and by way of a very credible election in 2011, that have the final say in the destiny of a man who was once a deputy governor, a governor, a vice president, an acting president and now the president of a potentially great country. The conferment of legitimacy rests with the people, not in a Presidential Advisory Council that is overstepping its bounds. Goodluck Jonathan at no time gave up his constitutional rights to anything.
How many in this group carried placards or were signatories to petitions asking President Yar’Adua to resign when he was bedridden for the better part of six months? If Yar’Adua had recovered from his illness, and had wanted to contest the 2011 elections, how many in this group would have genuinely opposed his candidacy? Knowing how medically unfit the former president was, how many in this group opposed Obasanjo’s dastardly plans? They kept quiet when it mattered most; and they lost their voices when the nation needed voices of reason and courage. In any case, now is not the time to oppose what should be boldly encouraged.
Some African leaders, including Léopold Senghor, Julius Nyerere, Nelson Mandela and Abdulsalam Abubakar, voluntarily vacated the presidency of their respective countries. But in all of these and other cases, the circumstances were different. Indeed the historical situation, in which Goodluck Jonathan finds himself, has no basis for comparison with others. The closest comparison we have is that of Lyndon Baines Johnson. L.B Johnson was President Kennedy’s Vice President. After the assassination of Kennedy in 1963, no one suggested LBJ should not contest the elections. He completed Kennedy’s term and went on to win the presidential election in 1964. As a result of his many successes in tackling domestic problems, he is today regarded as one of America’s finest presidents.
Since the You Contest, We Quit threat was made, not much has been said or written about the matter. This is understandable. It is a non-issue. Indeed, this is not a threat or ultimatum that should be taken seriously by President Jonathan. And frankly, any other Nigerian President/Head of State would have summarily dismissed the group after such unsolicited advice. What moral or ethical impediments are there against Jonathan’s presidential ambition? Did Jonathan, at any point in time, renounce his rights and responsibility towards the state and the people? Does it make political or common sense for a South-South politician to give up his right to the presidency and political inclusion after 50 years of political exclusion and marginalization?
If General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma and members of his advisory committee wants to quit, well, they certainly have the right to do so. Their former vocation and hobbies await them. We the people are eternally grateful to them for their past and current service and sacrifice to the nation. What we cannot accept — what we cannot condone or encourage — is their ultimatum and reckless threat directed at a President who has the constitutional right to his constitutional entitlements.
Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, after the completion of the Yar’Adua/Jonathan governing term, has the right to contest the presidency in his own right. If and when he declares his intention, only the good pe
ople of the Federal Republic of Nigeria have the right to approve his candidacy, or, to rebuke him now and at the polls.