The Nigerian polity was somewhat jolted on New Year day with the littering of the streets of Abuja with President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign posters. The posters pointedly stated that Jonathan would contest the 2015 presidential elections and therefore declared that there was no vacancy in Aso Rock.
The campaign posters took many unawares. It made many tongues to wag. Was that a new year gift from the president? What was the reason for the declaration on a new year day? Besides, the presidential declaration as orchestrated by the posters ran counter to Jonathan’s earlier stance on the presidential election to the effect that he would make his stand on the 2015 presidency known in 2014.
Consequently, the development left people wondering and bewildered. Many felt that the president has, by the declaration, flouted his own restrictions on 2015 presidency. In the light of the unsavoury development, the presidency quickly stepped out to dissociate itself from the campaigns. It said the posters must be the handiwork of mischief – makers who are intent on distracting the president and causing disaffection in the polity.
Since the posters appeared on New Year day, the controversy trailing it has continued to reverberate. Nigerians are sharply divided on the development. While some believe the presidency’s denial, some others are skeptical about it all. For us, however, the development is not unusual. It is in line with the character of Nigerian politics. If our recent political experience is anything to go by, we can safely say that we have passed through this road before.
During the era of Sani Abacha as Nigeria’s Head of State, there were orchestrated campaigns carried out on his behalf by a number of people. While all that was going on, Abacha and his cohorts feigned ignorance. However, it turned out later that Abacha knew everything that was going on and was, indeed, the architect of the proxy campaigns.
The tenure elongation project of Olusegun Obasanjo is another case in point. There was every evidence that Obasanjo was scheming to stay beyond his constitutionally guaranteed tenure, but he never admitted it up till today. But Nigerians were not deceived. It is in the light of the foregoing that we view the present development with concern. Going by our experience, Nigerians have good reason to be suspicious. They have good grounds to feel that history is about to repeat itself. In fact, the feeling in certain quarters is that the Presidency may be behind the campaigns but may not admit that openly.
For such people, what has taken place is just a way of testing the waters. The posters were probably intended to be used to gauge the people’s pulse. Nobody will blame the skeptics and cynics in our midst on this matter. What will clear the air is not the denial from the Presidency. Rather, the president should be declarative enough on this matter. He should not keep the country guessing. His postponement of his declaration to 2014 is fuelling suspicion that he has already made up his mind. While we grant the president the right to vie for the office once again, we urge him to make his stand known.
Nigeria will not collapse if the president steps out today to say that he is interested in 2015 presidential elections. Let the president and his supporters brush pretences aside and step forward to be counted. That is what will make the job of the mischief makers (if any) unattractive. That is also what will help to point the way the 2015 elections will go. Nigerians need all this now.