Four years ago, ahead of the 2011 election, I endorsed General Muhammadu Buhari for president of Nigeria in his face-to-face battle with Goodluck Jonathan.
I argued that in all of the years of the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP), its mission had been simply to provide for itself, and that Mr. Jonathan was a part of that mission.
“Anyone giving his vote to Jonathan gives him the permission to serve the PDP, to protect its army of crooks and looters, and to spend the federal treasury until it is empty,” I said, and that despite Buhari’s shortcomings, he was “an opportunity” for Nigeria.
Buhari, who ran on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) lost that election.
Mr. Jonathan, who had anchored his candidature on this armada of electoral promises, won. Some of his supporters were people who agreed they shared my views about the PDP; they said in their ingenuous defense they had voted only for Jonathan, not the party.
Full disclosure: in June 2012, I argued against what was then a rumoured 2015 presidential run by Buhari. In it, I criticized Buhari and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) chieftain Asiwaju Tinubu for their historic failure to unite their parties against the PDP in the 2011. I reiterated that Nigeria’s key political players do far too little in-between elections to advance Nigeria’s democracy.
The 2015 elections come up next month, and Nigeria again faces a presidential election slate in which both Jonathan and Buhari will be the principal players. Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) ticket is bolstered and boosted by the emergence of Yemi Osinbajo, an excellent compatriot and friend. It is also the beneficiary of Mr. Jonathan’s awful performance which continues to be an advertisement of incoherence of policy, confusion of character, and embarrassment in delivery.
Nigerians are stuck in a position that is at best flattered as a stalemate; in real terms, it is a tragedy. It is therefore clearly time for them to reject, resoundingly, the betrayal of the existing political order.
In 2003, I first called the PDP the Profoundly Decadent Party. Twelve years later, the party has decayed further. It must be denounced and disgraced at the polling booth.
How deep is this decay?
In 2011, there were people who thought that the Dr. by which Jonathan precedes his name was an academic title, indicating he had earned a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) degree. His ethical, intellectual and administrative hollowness has become so pronounced in his five years in charge that people now openly question who he really is.
Who is President Jonathan?
Probably a good man in his home, but he seems to have no grasp as to what day it is outside of it. He reads a good speech when one is penned for him, but he appears to be out of his depth the moment he has to articulate his own thoughts or react to anything more complicated than a simple proposal. He presents no inspiration and no command; he offers no one the solace he says what he means or means what he says. He was never presidential material.
"I do not make empty promises in my campaign because whatever I promise to do, I had already carried out adequate study to make sure I can accomplish it in the next four years," he bragged about his candidacy before the Igbo on February 27, 2011 in Onitsha.
In that case, he cannot—can he?—be the same person who made these promises or these vows? If it is, why is he making a fresh batch for next month’s election? If it is not, why has he not denounced the impostor who made them in his name?
Anywhere else on earth, Mr. Jonathan’s track record would be accepted, especially by his party, as the reason why he should not be running again. In Nigeria, it is being presented as the reason for a new coronation.
That proves that those who want Mr. Jonathan to remain in power are the people who are benefitting from the cover of haplessness he provides. There is nobody, not one, who can campaign for Mr. Jonathan on the basis of the quality he presents.
Mr. Jonathan is, in that sense, the equivalent of an I-pad. But an I-pad is coveted only for the wonderful window it is for consumption; it is no use if your objective is to produce. Mr. Jonathan is the I-pad for the consumption of Nigeria’s commonwealth, not for its production.
That is why he is being carried on the shoulders by those who want power without responsibility, and in the case of the wealthy barons of the petroleum and electricity sectors, by those who want no power for Nigerians. Everyone knows the objective is to make sure Nigeria continues to be available to be raped.
Little wonder: under his watch, accountability has been rejected and looting, standardized; officials who pause from harvesting for themselves are helping powerful friends outside the gates to do so. In the Jonathanian Era, you can steal with confidence, protected by presidential complicity and duplicity. That is not the transformation President Jonathan advertises, but it is the real transformation he has achieved.
In his care, Nigeria has therefore shrunk by every conceivable measure. Insurgents control vast expanses of land. Crooks control Abuja and most states. Kidnappers control widespread killing and extortion fields. The economy has shrunk in every meaningful category. There is still the same limited electricity. There are fewer jobs. Hope is in increasingly shorter and more dangerous supply.
This is the terrain on which the 2015 elections will be held. The difference from previous elections is that in 2015, there will be no secrets. Jonathan, who received the dubious benefit of the doubt in 2011, has disrobed for the world to see.
The election is being billed as APC versus PDP. That is mischievous because the corollary—which is advanced by those carefully hiding their PDP sympathies—is that the parties are “the same.”
This is nonsense. Every Nigerian has the right to form a party, and to invite into it only those angels who fit a particular description. Unless you have done that—or you have a coup or a revolution in the works, or you are running for president—the only honest position is to pronounce publicly you want the PDP and its instruments of savagery contained.
You may not even have a vote. The least you can do is pronounce that those who inflicted the wounds of the past 15 years cannot be expected to be the doctors of the next four.
On this point, there is no fence to sit on, and no place to hide: The PDP, and Mr. Jonathan, have run Nigeria aground. Next month, they must be held to account at the polls, and thereafter.