A few days ago, President Jonathan hosted a bunch of clowns. They had gathered at his gate supposedly to wake him from slumber. Leaving their houses to constitute a public nuisance at that gate, they sought to make the former president realise that he had transformed from a hero to a messiah. The time for quiet heroism had passed. The time for active messianism had come. But unfortunately, rather than ask them to go home and find themselves more meaningful engagements, the former president joined them and wallowed in delusion.
Crowd renting has become a booming industry in Nigeria. Make-believe is rewarding. Millions read only headlines, feed on rumours and float on the surface. Chanting crowds can be arranged on demand. Pervasive shallowness, idle hands and empty stomachs have smoothened the ease of doing that business. The crowd that came to ask President Jonathan to contest the presidency again looked like the hurried work of an apprentice political contractor. They said the All Progressives Congress (APC) deceived them in 2014. They didn’t know he was a miracle worker. Rather than help these floundering folks find their bearing and return to their homes, Jonathan said he was considering jumping out.
The rumours that Jonathan could do the unthinkable, abandon his party and sneak into the APC, have survived many months. Many said Jonathan was too insightful to engage in such self-degradation. Others said he was too self-contented to submit to crass opportunism. Many wondered why a man who didn’t hang on to power could now opt to sneak back to power through a morally filthy back window. But a few argued that Jonathan wasn’t that noble. And that people often confuse timidity with humility. That he lost an election and ran away not because of virtue but because he was a weakling.
Those who gathered at Jonathan’s gate had looked like paid hustlers used by a crook gnashing his teeth in the political wilderness to curry favour from Jonathan. But as Jonathan spoke to the dutiful jesters outside his office and gave them grounds for expanded delusions, the entire procession began to look like a clueless attempt by a coward to remind his co-conspirators that time was running out. Before that day, a certain group had issued an ultimatum to Jonathan. Nigerian Young Professionals in Diaspora (NYPD). They gave Jonathan a week to declare interest in running for president, or they would teach him a few lessons. Many believe that a particular fugitive minister is bankrolling these charades.
A 2017 constitutional amendment precludes anyone from being sworn more than twice as president. Humble Jonathan might argue that a good law ought not to be retrospective and should not be targeted at an individual. But which right-thinking party would invite a literal stranger with political and legal hunchbacks to lead it to a political war. So why Jonathan?
If Uncle Jonathan asks, “why me?” He will find the answer. There are some unscrupulous Northern politicians in the corridors of power who hate the idea of power rotation. They want to cling to power. They are searching for a Southern puppet with a short political lifespan. If they manage to get around the constitutional obstacles facing Jonathan’s candidature, then they will have in him the perfect pliable tool for sabotage. Jonathan will do only one weak term, and power will float back to the North. Indeed, that single term would be a lame-duck term because Jonathan would be struggling to steer a political party that was created to disfigure and dethrone him.
But does Jonathan care? He seems willing to sneak into the APC through the boys’ quarters. He must think he is more popular and capable than Tinubu, Amaechi and Osinbajo. Perhaps he believes Buhari has developed an immense love for him because of his childhood shoelessness. All he wants is power, even K-legged power. So, he feels comfortable negotiating with feral aides in the corridors of power to short-change the South. It doesn’t matter if those recruiting him into infamy still believe he is an ineffectual buffoon. Perhaps he can soothe Dame and former ministers who are still chafing from the 2015 loss with presidential balm. Maybe, he is doing it for them; so they can recoup what they have lost and salvage their tattered reputations. Perhaps when he hijacks the APC, he will merge the two major parties in the interest of national unity. Who knows what he thinks of the party he and his transformation ambassadors built?
Something tells me uncle Jonathan is about to disgrace himself.
Ugoji Egbujo writes from the Center for Fiscal Transparency and Integrity Watch