This piece is an email response I sent to one of my Twitter friends who asked me, “What would have happened if Goodluck Jonathan had won the 2015 elections?”
I said that the answer required deep thought on my part and the response wasn’t stuff for Twitter private messages called DM, short for direct message. She then suggested I make it public to commemorate May 29. Enjoy!
I never met Goodluck Jonathan but I studied him as I study most of our political actors and towards the end of his administration just before the election, I think he had an epiphany – a sudden reawakening as happens to all men who have had near death experiences – his own was occasioned by the increasing reality of a nation that had loved and adored him in 2011 now turned 180 degrees against him and set to bring about the end of his almost mythical political career that had seen him ride on the waves of political history as though destined for political success. That epiphany he had forced him to listen to the core complaints of many Nigerians and he may have realised where his problems lay. I also do not have a crystal ball to see an alternate reality but the past is usually our greatest crystal ball if only we would look into it and see – I therefore write based on the past: of Nigeria, of presidential second terms and of human nature.
A Jonathan victory in that election would have made two things happen politically: first, the PDP would have grown more arrogant in its own invincibility – even now in defeat, one still sees signals that seem to say “in 2019, APC and Nigerians will beg us to come back into power”. Those of us who had advocated for things to be done differently as APC was bringing a different kind of political play into the game would have been mocked and told: “shebi we told you we didn’t need all that strategy and social media messaging that you were shouting?”. The hawkish politicians in PDP would have claimed responsibility for the victory and not attributed it to Nigerian’s resolve to continue with transformation. PDP would merely have postponed the evil day of political disgrace.
On the other side, APC would still be APC: the set of natural born wailers whose ideology is to oppose everything PDP. We would have been told that had we voted Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria in one year would have become Dubai. Fashola would by now have a daily column in one newspaper to pontificate on how he did magic in Lagos State, Kayode Fayemi would be a politically displaced politician without base and we would never have had the national misfortune of a Lai Mohammed as minister of information or heard names like Solomon Dalung, Adamu Adamu and a certain Adebayo Shittu.
Lives would have been lost in the north like in 2011 – APC would have formed a parallel government and insisted it won the election but that would only be for political negotiations as they would announce at the end of the day that for peace to reign and so forth, they’re going to join a Government of National Unity under Jonathan.
Secondly, the political implication of a Goodluck Jonathan victory would have been an implicit message that Nigerians are averse to Change and that PDP would likely never be challenged – a democratically frightening thought even for me. On the flipside, it would also have meant a defeat of a huge section of the elite ruling class of names that we grew up hearing – Obasanjo, Buhari and co. It would be interpreted in many sections as the triumph of the son of a fisherman over those who consider themselves political lords and masters.
Jonathan wouldn’t have appointed ministers quickly but not easily – he would have again tried to balance political considerations with hardcore technocracy as he did in his first time and this time around (if Obasanjo’s first and second term cabinets are anything to go by), he may have appointed more technocrats. One thing many did not know was that GEJ’s government was essentially run by technocrats – Okonjo-Iweala was the defacto Prime Minister and others like Aganga, Adesina, Johnson etc were given more attention than the core politicians. Jonathan in trying to be fair as usual would have appointed some politicians too, no doubt but he wouldn’t take so long to do it. This answers my thoughts on the Economy: Okonjo-Iweala would never have let Nigeria lose several international economic ratings. She would have balanced stark pragmatism with economic theories to solve problems. She would have led us to borrow if things got bad as they had been going for a while as she kept the ship as steady as possible.
Diezani Allison-Madueke would have been sacked. There is simply no way she would have made it back into Jonathan’s cabinet – she had stepped on too many toes and showed much disdain for the party hierarchy and even fellow ministers in the Jonathan cabinet whom she didn’t consider technocrats. She would however not have remitted a single kobo – meek man Jonathan would either have simply let her walk away or passed the buck to his paper-tiger EFCC.
I’m not sure what Boko Haram would now look like but it could be one of two things: politics is such a game of balancing that the moment Jonathan would have been declared winner, northern politicians would line up to pay homage to him in anticipation of endorsement for 2019. You would be reading media stories of how Atiku had been backing him secretly all along or how Kwankwaso played the spoiler against Buhari in Kano. The northern elite would have resigned to fate and maybe, just maybe the Boko Haram matter may be on the decline in the face of that resignation.
Funnily, Jonathan would have been more ruthless with Boko Haram in his second term I think. Uncaged from all need to appear fair to the north (some of whose leaders had felt killing Boko Haram was genocide), the army would have been ruthless. Again, he may have opted for the amnesty option in line with his nature…these things are not always an exact science. If the option was amnesty, the Chibok girls would have been a crucial part of the deal for the Federal Government. If they hadn’t been found yet though, BBOG would almost be like the main opposition party by now.
The present Fuel Scarcity is the worst I have ever seen anywhere and it is ridiculous: NNPC’s insistence with being the sole importer of fuel whereas it doesn’t have the capacity to import enough fuel for daily consumption and now has to resort to outsourcing same through the backdoor to silent ethnic interests is why we are here. The only problem would have been the usual subsidy payment wahala but with Okonjo-Iweala and another Diezani-kind of Petroleum Minister constantly assuring the marketers that their subsidy was coming and with them knowing their combined clout with Jonathan, fuel would have been available. One thing though: public opprobrium against Jonathan would have risen to levels beyond this present “understanding acceptance” from Nigerians so far. The Diezani kind of petroleum minister would have been summoned to the Senate every week, NLC would have called for her resignation and the natural Wailers would be Wailing daily as they used to do.
I call them natural wailers because that’s all they used to do about a year ago – even though some of them had supported Jonathan, they had long followed Rotimi Amaechi out of PDP into APC and so they wailed. We in PDP would all be hustling for SA and PA, those of us shut out after a year would either tweet less politics in acceptance that perhaps it’s not our destiny but PDP Online would never have been this united – nothing unites a people more than fighting as an opposition force and nothing disunites a people more than jostling for the spoils of war.
For the Niger-Delta, a message would have been sent out: you do not have to be restive or violent to achieve your aim, sometimes, meek men like Jonathan are rewarded with good. Oronto Douglas would have been missed though and the only other person who could have replaced him would have been Yinka Odumakin or Ledum Mittee.
For me though, my joy would have been that a good but misunderstood man had once again been given an opportunity by fate to write his name in gold. The joy would have been that democracy was growing – that freedoms such as to liken Mr. President to a pig (that dirtiest of animals which meat Muslims and Jews do not taste) would continue unabated. Having not gagged social media in his first term, his second term would surely not have witnessed a gag as social media may even have become less restive. My joy would have been that elections would continue to be free and fair and more of us may have been encouraged to come into the polity – new parties may have been formed based on confidence that INEC would be fair. Jega would have gone but GEJ would have replaced him with someone perhaps more committed than Jega himself to a fair electoral process. Remember: having no higher direct stake in 2019 than in 2015, GEJ would have done this.
For me: this would have been my greatest joy as it is why I heartily supported him: this man was deepening Democracy. Why is that important? It is because when the supremacy of voters is restored, leaders perform. When there is confidence in the electoral process, true leaders come into politics and aspire to lead. This is how Democracy brings about development and why we must never compromise on it.
You’ll wonder about corruption, lol, – it will be there, even as I know it is now but it would be hidden from us, even as we can’t see it in this government. Aware though that this was a major campaign point against him, Jonathan may have done few things: not re-appoint anyone trailed by rumours of corruption, re-appointed someone else as head of EFCC. Importantly though, the wisdom in his goat and yam analogy would have been put to the test: he was working on a computer-based system that separated the goats from the yam i.e. separated government staff from handling cash.
Several other things wouldn’t also have happened. The Fulani herdsmen impunity would not go unchallenged as they would not feel any sense of being covered by their kinsman in Aso Rock – not about what President Buhari did, but what he is failing to do by not sounding a strong note of caution to them. The Niger Delta Avengers would not have come up. The budget would have been uploaded on the Internet from the moment it was passed also.
Several Shia Muslims in Kaduna would still be alive to criticise Jonathan and your usual Internet overlords would be telling us that if General Muhammadu Buhari had won, Nigeria would be far better.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer.