THERE is no smoke without fire, goes the old saying. So, there must be a good reason for the ceaseless speculations that former President Goodluck Jonathan wants to defect to the All Progressives Congress, APC. Last week, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State publicly urged Jonathan not to join the APC.
Wike won’t make that intervention if there’s no truth, at least a modicum of truth, in the rumours. Jonathan’s utter refusal to quash the speculations by categorically denying them, but rather allowing them to fester and reach a fever pitch, suggests he’s either testing the waters or waiting for the coast to clear!
Of course, Jonathan has never been obtrusive about his political ambitions. Throughout his political career, from deputy governor and then governor of Bayelsa State to vice president and then president of Nigeria, Jonathan was a product of serendipity, a beneficiary of either godfatherism or circumstances. By seemingly feeding the rumour mill, he may be hoping for a fortuity with the APC ahead of the 2023 general election.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari and his party are on aggressive poaching expeditions in the PDP and have caught some big fishes, with rumours swelling that Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State might soon take the bait. But, for APC, former President Jonathan is the ultimate target or, as the Brits would say, the real McCoy! Truth is, APC has gone into overdrive to hollow out the PDP by luring Jonathan and other prominent PDP leaders. They bent their rules and made generous offers to turncoats.
Last December, APC’s National Executive Committee,NEC, passed a resolution stating that “… new members will enjoy all the benefits and privileges accruable by virtue of their membership of the party”, adding: “They will be able to contest elections without any requirement of being members for a number of years or period of time.”
So, one could be a member of the PDP this week, decamp to the APC next week and run for the party’s presidential or gubernatorial ticket the week after! Surely, whoever the APC has in mind with that resolution, it includes wavering PDP governors and former President Jonathan, who, apparently, would like to run again in 2023!
Here’s my take. Whatever his political ambition or motivation, former President Jonathan is morally wrong to allow himself to be linked with defection to APC. I evoke morality because, as Aristotle defines it, moral virtue is a disposition to behave in the right manner, in a manner that’s not morally reprehensible.
But what can be more morally reprehensible than deserting the party that gave you the platform to become deputy governor, governor, vice president and president to join an opposing party for self-interested reasons?
We will come back to that in a minute. First, we must talk about something else that’s morally unacceptable: Jonathan’s undisguised ambition to become president again! Morally unacceptable? Yes, because Jonathan is a failed leader. His only saving grace was conceding defeat in an election he actually lost, which, perversely, earned him post-defeat ‘sainthood’.
Now, I know that ethnicism, sectionalism and partisanship cause selective amnesia in Nigeria, but if this country must make progress, its citizens must learn to hold the leaders to high standards and hold them accountable, in and out of office. Truth be told, as president, Jonathan was as grounded as a balloon, as solid as wind! He surrounded himself with world-class technocrats, but utterly failed to provide leadership and, thus, some of his ministers turned their ministries into personal fiefdoms.
A few years ago, at an international oil and gas conference in London, a top British businessman told a story of his meeting with Diezani Alison-Madueke, then minister of petroleum resources. He expressed shock that, throughout the meeting, Alison-Madueke talked condescendingly about Jonathan as if she was the president and Jonathan the minister, showing utter lack of deference.
But if Alison-Madueke didn’t have as much as a scintilla of respect for Jonathan’s position, even in front of a foreigner, how could she be accountable to him in her ministerial role. The allegations of multi-billion dollar fraud that continues to dog her, if true, are a product of Jonathan’s leadership failure.
Then, what about Jonathan’s wife? Her crudity put many people off voting for her husband in 2015 because they didn’t want her back as Nigeria’s First Lady. In 2019, a federal high court ordered the final forfeiture of $8.4 million belonging to her, which she claimed were “gifts from friends and well-wishers”.Yet, Jonathan pretends as if the court rulings, and the perception they created, have nothing to do with him!
As I said, conceding defeat in 2015 turned Jonathan into a ‘hero’. But there’s no serious country where he would be regarded as a successful leader, and no serious country where he stands a chance of returning to power. The fact that he thinks, or some people think, that he can become president again says a lot about Nigeria.
All of which brings us back to the speculations about his impending defection to APC. The real puzzle is how Jonathan, who said he had no shoes as a boy, could contemplate undermining the party, PDP, that gave him a platform to become Nigeria’s president, and thus an international figure. Nothing can justify such ingratitude.
After leaving office as South Africa’s president in 1999, Nelson Mandela had a very difficult relationship with his successor, Thabo Mbeki, triggering rumours he might resign from the ANC. But in a statement, Mandela said he would remain in ANC on earth, adding: “I will join the nearest branch of the ANC in heaven!”
Few politicians in Nigeria behave like Mandela. Rather, most see political parties as a mere vehicle for gaining power, which they can use and dump opportunistically. If the widespread speculations are true, Jonathan would do exactly that: desert PDP to join APC. For a former president, that would be morally reprehensible, utterly!