The current wrangling within the Nigerian political class is good for our nation. Hitherto, it was a fait accompli that whoever the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) chose would get elected; at least at the presidential level. That doesn’t seem all too likely at the moment. Lest the opposition starts to celebrate an early victory, the power of incumbency comes with advantages that could still tilt the tide in favour of the President. And I’d be weary of the President’s good luck if I were the opposition.
Recent reports about the opposition’s plans to block executive bills would make President Jonathan stronger. If true, it also suggests the opposition has not started to act/think like a party that wants power. One is somewhat nonplussed that the President doesn’t use his bully pulpit often. For goodness sake, you are the President! The time for appeasement is over. If President Jonathan wants to get re-elected, he should use all the powers and resources at his disposal to get his pending bills through. Make no mistake about it; if the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is not passed before the expiration of the tenure of the current president, it is not likely to see the light of day ever again.
The fear of the vested interests determined to unseat the current president is so overwhelming that the least the President can do is fight back. If not for anything, he should do it to reassert the dignity and authority of the office of the President. There is a reason Nigeria can only be governed under a republican system. What, with the various disparate parts that were put together by our British colonialists precisely to ensure we continue to work at cross-purposes, only a strong centre can hold us together. This is not a case for the enervation of the legislature. They should rightly continue to check the executive. But the president’s power extends beyond his authority. Irrespective of the shortcomings of the holder of that office, by precisely being the president, you have influence.
The president should and must run! He should run even if all the polls tell him he would lose. He should run if only to make the point that a president cannot be scared from office. He should run precisely to make the point that the law is the ultimate guide for behavior. He should run even if he might be the first president in the history of Nigeria to lose an election. He should run because God forbid that it is etched in our memory that only a section of the country can guarantee the security of this country. He should run because Nigeria belongs to all of us!
For the record, I’m not a fan of the President. I think he could have acted earlier and strongly to arrest the terrorist threat in Northeastern Nigeria. I think he should have asserted himself earlier. The president was a late starter. However, he is president! If he has any doubt about his stature and the pivotal role providence has placed on him to shape or mar our nation’s history, he should observe the vehemence and aggression of his opponents. Simply put, the president has been soft! Those who wonder where our oil revenue has gone are justified. Even if we cannot prove corruption – considering how sophisticated its practitioners have become – albeit we know it is rife, there remains wide consensus on the continuing wastage of our resources. And there has been more waste in our recent history than in any period of our entire history. Never mind the fabled gulf oil windfall disappearance during military rule.
If the opposition wants to win, it should champion the passage of important bills like the PIB. It should insist on a robust debate. And the president should be wise enough to ensure the opposition can get some credit for the feat. As the president meets with his party members to repair the wounded ruling party, he should also meet with the opposition, not just to woo hitherto card-carrying PDP governors, but also to negotiate how the current pending bills and 2014 budget can be passed without political football. And Mr. president, leave the central bank alone.
Nigerians are always the ultimate beneficiaries of elite bickering. If they don’t fight, how would we the people know the many things they hide from us? We should go into the upcoming elections not sure who the ultimate winner would be! That way, they would stoop and jump to please us. They would be forced to make promises that are in their self-interest to keep not because they are afraid of us the people (We know they are not!); but because they know there is someone with a unique patterned headgear down south that will shout from any mountaintop the moment they are underperforming. The opposition should keep up the pressure. President Jonathan blossoms under pressure. And yes, their opposition has resulted in a new mortgage policy, a planned social security system, power sector privatization, and perhaps future elections that would be fairer and more competitive; especially since the incumbent needs to win fair and square to ensure his legitimacy is not in doubt. And the president should certainly not create a precedent that an incumbent can be scared out of office. Otherwise, that would be the narrative for anyone who decides to contests from his region. That you only need to scare them southerners, and they’ll unravel.
The president must become his wife. He should combine the strength of the wife of his predecessor and his and go headlong into the coming elections. And if he wants to win, he should focus on performance! It is still for him to lose.