Jonathan's 2011 Plot

THE SUN Newspaper-Henry Umahi

Those who underrated Acting President Goodluck Jonathan may soon have the shock of their lives as the Bayelsa politician is proving to be a master strategist worming his way to the top. There are indications that the former governor is looking beyond completing the tenure of President Umar Yar’Adua, as acting president or substantive president. The signs are getting very clear that the academic who later found fertile turf in power play is actually preparing to contest next year’s presidential election and becoming the elected president.

Saturday Sun findings indicate that Jonathan, working closely with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, is angling, first, towards emerging as consensus presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for next year’s election and then winning the election. Feelers from the presidential villa indicated that the acting president has already foreclosed the possibility of Yar’Adua’s return to office and, therefore, using the opportunity of the interlude to put machinery in place to not only make it difficult for any other politician to emerge as the PDP presidential candidate but also to ensure that the party settles for him.

The new cabinet
The dissolution of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) is the first step the Jonathan group has taken to exercise full control of government, expand the acting president’s influence across the country and, therefore, prepare the ground for his 2011 presidential project.

Before the cabinet was dissolved, the Jonathan camp considered many options and finally settled for the one that would enhance his presidential ambition. First, the camp considered a partial dissolution of the cabinet, whereby ministers he did not want in government would be dropped, while the favoured ones would be left. This option was jettisoned, as the Jonathan camp reasoned that dissolving the entire cabinet and reappointing some ministers would ensure that the lucky ones would owe him a debt of gratitude and, therefore, work for his personal political interest.

Also, the acting president’s camp considered doing away with all the ministers in the former cabinet and constituting an entirely new cabinet made up of fresh ministers. This was later discarded as the advisers said that such move would work against him. Their reason was that the new ministers would be novices in the system and may not have the clout already garnered by the old ministers to play the role required of them in the Jonathan-for-president project.

Contrary to the belief that the new cabinet may invoke Section 144 on the constitution and, therefore, begin the process for the removal of President Yar’Adua from office on health grounds, there are indications that the rezal plot of the Jonathan camp is to have a cabinet whose members would rather influence his choice as presidential candidate for the PDP next year. Part of the mandate given to the ministers is to perform well, so that Jonathan would take the glory. And if the ministers deliver, they would be in a position to sell the proposed Jonathan candidature to the party later this year.

Retaining Prof. Dora Akunyili as Minister of Information and Communication is believed to be part of the 2011 presidential scheme, as the acting president’s group wants to ride on the popularity of the former director general of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), which she garnered because of her vicious attacks on the clique that held the nation hostage when Yar’Adua was away in Saudi Arabia for medical treatment.

The transfer of Mrs. Deziani Alison-Madueke and Mr. Odein Ajumogobia to the ministries of petroleum and foreign affairs respectively, is also towards this goal. Ajumogobia, specifically, has the mandate to sell Jonathan to the international community, especially since the acting president had got external support during the controversy over transfer of power from ailing Yar’Adua to him.

The fear
However, there are fears, among Jonathan’s supporters, that some members of the federal cabinet may be covertly working for Yar’Adua’s interest and pretending to be loyal to Jonathan. The group is, therefore, cautious not to be carried away by Obasanjo’s perceived promises and commitment to ensure his presidency, knowing that he would be running against the North. The followers adopt circumspection as a tiny core group actually works the details of the game in order not to rock the boat or let out the full plans of what it has in store for the project.

To get the North on his side, Jonathan had set out to please the geopolitical zone in his appointments into the new cabinet. The decision to assign the Ministry of Agriculture and Federal Capital Territory to the North is believed to be part of the grand design to curry the geopolitical zone’s favour. However, some elements in the North were said to be disappointed when the portfolios were unfolded. They have accused the acting president of appropriating the oil ministry and power as well as giving most of the juicy appointments to the South.

Obasanjo connection and running mate option
Saturday Sun impeccable sources reveal that Obasanjo is the anchorman in the Jonathan 2011 presidency project. The former president has promised to deploy all manner of tricks to ensure that Jonathan is announced as the PDP candidate, the same way he influenced the choice of Yar’Adua in 2007. He is also believed to be looking beyond the PDP presidential ticket, and working for the declaration of Jonathan as president in the election.

“Obasanjo plans to pair Alhaji Adamu Bello with Jonathan in the 2011 race. The choice of Adamu Bello, from Adamawa, is predicated on the comeback bid of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to the PDP. The former president intends to checkmate Atiku in the Adamawa axis, to prevent him having full control of the party. Adamu Bello is an influential PDP member in Adamawa and has large followership.

“However, if the Adamu Bello option fails, former minister, Alhaji Muktar Shagari, from Sokoto State, is on line to stand as vice presidential candidate to Jonathan”, a senator from Nasarawa State, who served between 1999 and 2007, narrated in an interview.

Currently, Obasanjo, the arrowhead of the gamble is said to have filed some irons in the fire to make sure as he juggles the game, it must pay off one way or the other. One of the strategies is to checkmate former military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, who is reportedly interested in the race. He fears the possibility of an alliance of the National Security Adviser, General Aliyu Gusau and Babangida. Gusau is also interested in becoming president. However, Obasanjo plans to work on Gusau and Babangida, with the particular task of finding out their plan for 2011 before unleashing the Jonathan option.

The lobby to come
Before the first half of the year is over, many individuals and groups would start agitating for the Jonathan presidency. Prior to that, Jonathan is expected to take some impressive measures in addressing the energy crisis in the country. This explains why he is personally in charge of the power ministry. Also, the acting president is expected to use his proposed visit to the United States to canvass the erasing of the perception of Nigeria as a terror nation as well as ask for some direct aid from America. Securing such concessions and being the first Nigerian leader to meet President Barack Obama would make Nigerians believe that if he has a full tenure as president he would do well.

The Jonathan camp reasoned that such accomplishment would endear their man to the hearts of Nigerians and, therefore, would spark agitation for his presidency.

Royal endorsement
Since a Jonathan presidency campaign would be seen as an orchestrated attempt to deprive the North eight years occupation of Aso Rock, the Jonathan camp would soon embark on a tour of the North to persuade emirs to support the acting president’s presidential bid.
When the day comes, one of Jonathan’s aides, Hassan Tukur, is to handle the beat of working out a liaison for Jonathan to meet the cream and top notch of the northern emirs for their endorsement.

In the usual Nigeria’s political double speak, there are already signs that some northern leaders are even today secretly supporting Jonathan’s plot, but prefer to remain silent until when the PDP finally releases the timetable for the selection of its presidential candidate, so as not to incur the wrath of their people before the whole project is unfolded.

To prove his claim, our source advised: “Don’t get carried away by all the zonal interests and zoning arrangements you hear in the media. Secretly, these powerful individuals who influence the tide of our politics are more interested in personal benefits. Whether they are from the North, East or West, they prefer a ‘stranger from another zone’ whom they would benefit from his administration to that from their clan who would put them by the side while the goodies of the government are allocated.”

The North’s fear
The major worry of the Jonathan camp is how to sell the acting president to the North, against the backdrop that Yar’Adua is still alive and that he did not complete his tenure.
Also, another snag is that a Jonathan presidency would be against the gentleman agreement entered into by the PDP leaders for power to rotate between the North and South at eight years interval. Besides, some elements in the North are said to be angry with the ongoing scenario, which has indirectly pitted them against Obasanjo and have vowed to ensure that the former president does not have his way this time.

Another worry for the Jonathan camp is that the acting president is of the Nembe tribe, a small minority group within the Ijaw axis. “His Ijaw neighbours are not cooperating with him because the major Ijaw leaders are not carried along. Besides, his fight with the governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Timipre Sylva, has put the acting president on collision course with the Ijaw people of Bayelsa. That is bad politics for him, although not a prevailing factor”, an Ijaw rights activist explained.

IBB challenge
Although Ibrahim Babangida said he was still consulting on the role he would play in 2011, the retired General is believed to be very much interested in succeeding Yar’Adua next year. With some support he enjoys across the country, he is seen as the last man standing that could disorganise a plot against the North.
Babangida is reported to be holding series of meetings with stakeholders to announce his interest for the plum job soon. Reliable sources said Babangida is working on who would be his running mate, whether it would be from South South or South East. He is, however, said to favour Yar’Adua’s return to power for the expiration of his tenure and bow out. The retired Army officer is interested in running for one term and hand over to a southerner, in line with the unwritten agreement. If he makes good his plans, that would be a major threat to the aspirations of Jonathan.

The Atiku return
Another obstacle Jonathan faces is the return of Atiku to the PDP. Although, the former vice president has been out of the party for three years, he still commands respect among members. His return would reinforce the North’s claim to the presidency in 2011.
Atiku is believed to be interested in contesting the PDP presidential ticket in 2011. However, he might team up with Babangida to fight Obasanjo, who indirectly stopped them in 2007 election.


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