The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has reinvented the wheels of democracy in Nigeria again by announcing President Goodluck Jonathan as their sole candidate for the 2015 elections, insisting he has the first right of refusal before any other candidate is considered.
That in itself is not a bad thing to do, as you can find happening in other more advanced democracies. However, when considered along with other subtleties the declaration of the sole candidacy of Jonathan as the PDP’s presidential candidate makes one wonder if we haven’t regressed back to the times of the late General Sani Abacha’s civilian transition era.
Abacha had a lot going for him in his bid to succeed himself as civilian president of Nigeria before he died on June 8th 1998. He had a clearly mapped out template of how he was going to achieve his aim and his plans were falling into place through subterfuge, blackmail, intimidation, outright bribe and weakened opposition.
From the look of things it appears president Jonathan has adopted the same template as the late Abacha and day by day he is carefully following those steps laid out by the late dictator in other to get himself re-elected in 2015.
Abacha, during his time as military head of state, perfected a policy of silence and deceptive indifference almost bothering on I don’t give a damn attitude to crucial government decisions.
Nigerians in the dying days of his regime wanted him to decide on his long rumored self-succession bid as well as if he would uphold the death sentence passed on the alleged coup plotters led by Lieutenant-General Oladipo Diya (rtd.), but Abacha never gave anything away.
The same can be said of president Goodluck Jonathan. Every Nigerian and his pet dog knows Jonathan wants to contest the 2015 elections but for the better part of this year he has remained tight-lipped about his ambition saying he would announce his decision when the time comes.
When he was announced as the sole candidate of the PDP he still did not categorically accept the nomination waiting instead till December during his party’s convention to do so when it’s an open secret that he is contesting.
Jonathan’s similarities with Abacha can also be seen by his perfection of silence on the Chibok girls’ captivity during the early periods of the ordeal, as well as his deceptive indifference to serious national issues. Just like Abacha, he never addresses serious national issues on time and only speaks on burning issues when pressed on it by the opposition APC, Nigerians with opposing views, civil right activists or the international community.
It was the same with Abacha then. He would hardly address any serious national issue on time except he was troubled by opposition NADECO or by the international community.
But in terms of Abacha’s template to succeed himself and Jonathan’s plans for re-election there appears to be no difference. In February 1998 at the height of Abacha’s transition to civil rule programme, the dark goggled General met with the five political parties in the country then and asked to be adopted as the sole candidate for the August 1 elections of that year.
Four of the political parties protested about the favoritism shown to the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) which Abacha and his henchmen favored. An “Election Formula Victory” was worked out in subsequent meetings with then Lt. Gen. Jeremiah Useni through which the political positions across the whole country were parceled out amongst the five parties with the UNCP getting the most governorship seats of 14 states months before elections were held just so Abacha could be adopted as sole candidate.
The parties went ahead and adopted Abacha as their sole presidential candidate – though some forms of blackmail and threats were also used for politicians who dissented, and thereby ensuring the dictator got his way.
With Jonathan it’s also similar, as the PDP decided to proceed just like Abacha for an “Election Formula Victory” whereby all PDP National Assembly members would be the party’s candidates without primaries, their governors would get second term tickets without primaries, while out-going ones have the powers to elect their successors. For any member of the party who dissented like Jigawa state governor Sule Lamido, then blackmails and threats were used to get them on board.
The similarity continues with the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN). Prior to Abacha being selected as the sole candidate of the five leprous parties in Nigeria in 1998, there was a Youth Earnestly Ask for Abacha (YEEA) group led by Daniel Kanu that campaigned all over Nigeria for him describing the dictator as the best thing that ever happened to Nigeria.
The group on the 3rd and 4th of March 1998 held their now infamous Grand rally in Abuja tagged the 2 million man march in support of the brutal dictator. The same can be said of Jonathan and his cronies as they have adopted that from Abacha’s template.
TAN has been going round the country campaigning for Jonathan months before his adoption as sole candidate of the PDP and now he’s been adopted, they plan their own Grand rally in Abuja.
The next plan from the script would be to get the other nondescript political parties led by the likes of Federick Fasehun of UPN, Chekwas Okorie of UPP, Labour Party etc to endorse Jonathan as their sole presidential candidate. In fact a faction of APGA has already endorsed him to confirm that part of the Abacha template being used by Jonathan.
Just like Abacha found issues with his deputy Oladipo Diya and wanted to send him to death for disloyalty, Jonathan is also finding issues with his Vice-president Namadi Sambo and wishes to send him to political death this time not because of disloyalty but for perceived non-electoral value.
Abacha in his template in 1998 had other options, Jonathan too has his own options. Abacha planned in 1998 to release M.K.O Abiola and make him his Vice-president as a back-up option if his sole candidateship option stalls, Jonathan on his part plans to use the Islamist insurgency in the North-east as an excuse to invoke relevant sections of the constitution to extend his government by another six months as guaranteed by the constitution if part of the country is being invaded and has lost its sovereignty.
This he knows can possibly be done considering the National Assembly members and state governors would also have their tenures automatically renewed by a period of six months if such section of the constitution is invoked. Like Abacha like Jonathan you might say.
Abacha also had plans for the opposition against him and was always quick to mention through people like Wada Nas that NADECO and pro-democracy groups were being funded and trained by the US, South Africa and Ghana to destabilize Nigeria – an allegation the mentioned countries flatly denied. Jonathan for his part has for the better part of the last one year been accusing the opposition APC of sponsoring the Islamist insurgency and wanting to destabilise the country with no vital proof to show for it.
When the agitations against Abacha grew particularly in the Southwest and the late Lamidi Adedibu and Alao Arisekola who were staunch Abacha loyalists had their properties destroyed, the likes of Bola Ige, Lam Adesina (both late) and Ayo Opadokun secretary-general of NADECO then were arrested.
It won’t be far fetched as 2015 approaches for Jonathan to arrest and detain opposition APC members as he follows his Abacha template for self-succession. Bombs flew about under Abacha and were blamed on the opposition NADECO, bombs have gone exploding in Nigeria now and both the PDP and homeland security agency, DSS, have blamed it on the opposition APC. It’s all part of the Abacha template being used.
Abacha also had hit squads in place called the Strike Force led by Sergeant Rogers (Barnabas Mshelia) and coordinated by Major Hamza Mustapha. Jonathan, according to an open letter written by former president Olusegun Obasanjo in December 2013, allegedly has his own trained Strike Force in place and over 1,000 politicians – mostly opposition – are on his watch list with possible intent to assassinate them with his hit men.
Obasanjo did not supply any proof about the allegations when he made them, but judging that the Abacha self-succession template is being used by Jonathan and his cronies nothing can be ruled out I’m afraid.
Abacha was equivocal in his ambitions about succeeding himself and kept telling the international press that only Nigerians can decide his fate when all along he had decided it himself. Jonathan has been saying to the foreign press that we would have an election acceptable under global best practices but his actions in the run up to the elections show a lot of underhand dealings and subterfuge.
Another striking similarity is the fact that Tom Ikimi, who was Abacha’s foreign affairs minister and staunchest defender particularly to the US government who had sanctioned the country for gross human rights abuse, is the same person working hard for Jonathan’s self-succession bid.
Despite Abacha’s gross human rights abuses, deceptive indifference to crucial national issues and repressing the June 12 mandate of late M.K.O Abiola he was still touted then in 1998 as the best thing that happened to Nigeria. In fact in giving Abacha a posthumous award during the Centenary honours award night held in January, Jonathan’s led federal government described the late dictator’s regime as the first to record unprecedented economic achievements in Nigeria’s history.
President Goodluck mentioned that during Abacha’s time Nigeria’s foreign reserve increased from $494 million in 1993 to $9.6 billion by mid-1997. He reduced our external debt from $36 billion in 1993 to $27billion in 1997. Abacha cancelled all the dubious privatisation programmes started by the administration of evil dictator IBB and reduced galloping inflation from the 54% he inherited from IBB to 8.5% between 1993 and 1998, even as oil sold for $9 per barrel.
His administration was also credited with creating the most comprehensive and realistic blueprint for Nigeria’s development through Vision 2010 hence the need for honoring him at the centenary awards.
While all that stands credible and verifiable, what is also true is that he single-handedly stole at least $3 billion of our nation’s wealth and that is minus what he allowed many of his cronies to loot away. But the similarity here is that Jonathan is already being described as the best thing to happen to Nigeria just like Abacha.
Some mostly South Easterners I speak to say he is the best president Nigeria has ever had since 1966. They point to all his sure and steady transformation efforts which like Abacha’s achievements listed above may be true and verifiable, but what is also true is that there is $20 billion of our nation’s wealth missing.
Lots of Jonathan’s cronies and ministers including the ogle-eyed female one are being allowed to loot our commonwealth away, plus there is massive oil-theft going on in the Niger Delta region whose sales are being linked to Jonathan and people close to him.
Abacha’s overall plan was to become a president for life in Nigeria. Jonathan’s more immediate plan is to succeed himself as president in 2015 and then two or three years down the line put the deliberations of the National Conference of 2014 to a referendum so as to have a new constitution and he can start another term based on the new constitution thereby making him the longest serving Nigerian president and if possible a life president.
Abacha did not succeed but right now we are moving towards having a life president and his name is: Goodluck Ebele Bamidele Ahmed Jonathan, he may become our president for life!!
Ola’ Idowu is a management consultant and researcher writing from the UK.