To be a statesman or politician – that is the question

Nigeria’s political landscape continues to be an ever-changing kaleidoscope as politicians align and realign themselves to what they expect to be the winning combination during the 2015 elections. Will incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan run for a second term of office? Will the newly amalgamated All People’s Congress and the New People’s Democratic Party upset the […]


Nigeria’s political landscape continues to be an ever-changing kaleidoscope as politicians align and realign themselves to what they expect to be the winning combination during the 2015 elections. Will incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan run for a second term of office? Will the newly amalgamated All People’s Congress and the New People’s Democratic Party upset the apple cart? Frederick Mordi analyses the unfolding drama.

A politician,” James Clarke, an American political figure once remarked, “thinks of the next election; a statesman of the next generation.”

This appears to be the case in Nigeria as politicians seem to be more preoccupied with preparations for the general elections in 2015 than the country’s centenary itself. Nigeria will mark 100 years of existence on 1st January 2014. The ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the main opposition party, the All People’s Congress (APC), are the two leading contenders in the race.

The PDP government has been in power since 1999 when Nigeria returned to democratic governance. The party has a stronghold in 23 out of 36 states of the federation. This leaves the other major parties with 13 states. The APC is an amalgam of three political parties, namely the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). The merger of the three political parties was consummated in April: it is the opposition’s strategy of challenging the ruling party’s perceived dominance in the nation’s political landscape. The APC, which in July formally received its certificate of registration from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the body charged with the conduct of elections in Nigeria, has started to reach out to stakeholders in other parts of the country with a view to recruiting more members.

Crisis in PDP
But the PDP itself has been embroiled in a prolonged internal wrangling that finally culminated in the emergence of a faction called the ‘New PDP’. Nigeria’s former vice-president Atiku Abubakar, who leads the splinter group, is believed to be nursing a presidential ambition. It is expected that he will use the new party as a platform to relaunch his bid for the presidency in 2015. He had contested previous elections for the presidency and lost. Explaining why he chose to pull off what many political watchers regarded as a ‘coup’ on a day the PDP held its special convention in Abuja, Atiku said: “We are losing the party. We are losing the government. This New PDP would restore the value of the founding fathers of the party.”

Rivers State governor, Chibuike Amaechi, who has been at daggers drawn with President Goodluck Jonathan, and five other governors from the northern states are the founding members of the new party. Before now, the long-standing feud in the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) had divided members into two factions. Amaechi, who leads one of the factions, has been reportedly holding talks with some northern governors on how to checkmate President Goodluck Jonathan’s alleged ‘second term’ bid. The NGF is an influential body made up of the 36 state governors in the country.

Mediation by some elder statesmen, including former heads of state in the PDP imbroglio, has so far not yielded much fruit. The formation of a rival faction of the PDP is an indication that the crack in the wall has widened. It is generally believed that this festering crisis may affect the party’s fortunes in 2015 if it is not amicably resolved.

Although President Jonathan has not formally declared his intention to run for a second term in office, the opposition and, indeed, some members of his party itself are not comfortable with his silence, which they believe speaks volumes.

The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), an influential northern political organisation, in particular, has told Jonathan plainly to forget the idea, insisting that power must shift to the zone in 2015. Jonathan, who was elected president in 2011, following the demise of his boss Umaru Yar’Adua, a northerner, is expected to complete his first term in 2015. Obasanjo, another southerner and Yar’Adua’s successor, did two full terms, from 1999–2007.

Single-term pact?

For this singular reason, the ACF, which alleged that Jonathan agreed to a pact with northern leaders that he would spend a single term, wants him to respect the deal. The PDP has an alleged rotational presidency deal between the north and the south. The nation’s constitution does not recognise this arrangement.

The Patriots, a group made up of eminent Nigerians, has also added its voice to the debate. Constitutional lawyer and leader of the group, Professor Ben Nwabueze, said Jonathan would become an ‘instant hero’ if he dumped his alleged second term ambition and focused on national transformation.

Nwabueze said: “But it is for him to choose; if I were him, I would choose to become a hero to lead the country into transformation and abandon the ambition of a second term.”

But the Presidency and some powerful PDP chieftains say the purported ‘single-term pact’ is a figment of the imagination. In fact, the chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, chief Anthony Anenih, has called for an automatic ticket for Jonathan and first-term governors in 2015 based on what he termed their impressive ‘performance’.

Indeed, the senior special assistant to the President on public affairs, Dr Doyin Okupe, is confident that Jonathan would win should he decide to run.

Okupe said: “President Jonathan has not decided and has not told anybody he wants to run. That is the truth. But if he decides to run, nobody can beat him. The calculations are in his favour; the odds are in his favour. The national support is in his favour; the performance index is in his favour.”

APC’s game plan

Meanwhile, the APC has continued to perfect strategies to defeat the ruling party in 2015. While the APC has yet to name its presidential flag-bearer, there are indications that the party may give its vice-presidency slot to the southeast geopolitical zone.

Analysts say this move would help to party gain traction in the region, which is a bastion of the PDP. The APC’s calculation is that zoning the vice-presidency to the southeast could bring the people of the region closer to the number-one seat, which has remained elusive to them for decades. This goes against widely held belief that the southwest zone will produce the vice-president of the party.

From all indications, a northerner is likely to emerge as Presidential candidate of the APC. Pundits have tipped former presidential aspirant Muhammadu Buhari for the ticket, based on his popularity in the north.

Reacting to his likely nomination by the APC, Buhari said: “My decision will be tied to the constitution of the APC. If the party chooses me as its candidate, I will contest. If the members do not consider me, I will not contest but I will still support the party. My decision to run for 2015 will solely be that of the party.”

The interim national chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, predicted PDP’s defeat in 2015 during a media parley in Abuja.

Akande said: “The task before our party is clearly cut out, that is, to create a partnership with the people to decisively change both tone and substance of governance in the country.”

Without a doubt, the Nigerian political scene is in a state of flux. Few can guess what will happen next. Given the penchant of politicians for horse trading, it is not unlikely that there will be more surprises in 2015.

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