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Jonathan’s National Conference Is Due Second Term Interest, He May Break Nigeria

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By Ben Ikari

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan

Mr. Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to set up an advisory committee that will bring about modalities for a National or otherwise Conference in Nigeria is suspicious of his political intent and interest. Ordinarily, a genuine call of this nature, particularly if a Sovereign National Conference (SNC), which most Nigerians have demanded will not be a problem. Rather such SNC or Ethnic Nationality Conference (ENC) will be great for the peoples of the country to sit down and talk with a view to resolving lingering issues that continue to threaten the nation’s existence.

Grave concerns, including the minority fears deliberately avoided during and after the Sir Henry Willink Commission of 1957-1958 can be resolved once and for all. With such boldness, trust and sincerity the peoples of the country can unite and be stronger in nation building against fears of disintegration, which is likely where disrespect, dishonesty or charades and greed pervade the talk-shop or without it.

Jonathan’s National Conference decision is, however, for his second term interest and will not achieve the above positives, unless heavy criticism, mass action or acts of commission and omission forces the hands of the clock. This is unlikely, though not impossible. This is regarding Jonathan’s intent, because he hasn’t talk about or to accept a National Conference until he feels sufficiently threatened and has the blessing of the Ijaw militants and some political and otherwise leaders from South-East and South-South. Meanwhile, what’s likely alongside the possible turning of the hand of the cloak, and Jonathan, his team/people aren’t confused, as a result of this threatening conference is massive and destructive strife or war, which I discussed recently. It will for the most part be between the Ijaws (Jonathan’s ethnic group) and the Hausa-Fulanis of Northern Nigeria, starting from Abuja or Jonathan’s place-BAYELSA State, and could also be avoided with common sense. We can see that the level of insecurity and bloodbaths are high. Who knows what anyone is planning? Like no one knew Ijaw militants’ accidental action may grab the kind of attention it got, though others from Niger delta communities supported them and now that some success has come, Jonathan chooses to focus on his people, the Ijaw-Kalabaris alone. Thus the suggested war between Ijaws and Hausa-Fulanis of the North that may be supported by any group interested. Some may fight in self-defense to protect their territories from those who may eye their land and violate their space. Jonathan’s threatening conference could as well bring a peaceful breakup without war. This could be before the proposed conference, which might not take place until election is near in 2015 or sometimes in 2014, and if there is no military coup where the tension rises beyond words. Of course, if Jonathan runs and loses the 2015 election/selection, which is likely, there will be no conference hence the most probable conference if any will happen between 2014 and few months before 2015 election, and where Jonathan and his people/team fears not succeeding in his second term bid or shall be beaten during the election. Jonathan’s fear increases daily as his opponents seems tougher.

The New PDP seems to be pushing harder too. This fear started in 2011; the New PDP members and seven governors including Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State (Niger delta), which Jonathan depended on breakaway from the original party, thus left Jonathan with more fear. The PDP crisis and pressure on Jonathan not to run in 2015 because he promise not to, according to them forced Ijaw militants to reiterate their call for a SNC and Niger delta Republic which will come through breakup. South-East and South-South leaders also reportedly wrote to Jonathan for the same SNC call to check and stop the PDP crisis. These fears and call booster and suffice Jonathan’s decision to call this conference. So Jonathan may be serious in reverse and cause the conference, which will likely be a breakup type. Remember that many PDP governors are or may be joining the new group that breakaway. These party governors mobilize their states and help mostly through rigging to deliver needed votes and grant their presidential candidate desired winning. With these governors new camp and fears, mistrust, enemy-type situations Nigeria may be in for serious trouble even before the conference is held, if at all.

When things are placed analytically and factored on historical or contemporary scales, we can conclude that Jonathan’s conference decision is aimed at twisting the hands of opponents, especially the North, which mostly fears a Sovereign National Conference (SNC), even though the committee may not recommend the kind of Ethnic Nationality Conference they are scared of. Instructively, however, some Northerners have also said they aren’t afraid of a Sovereign National Conference or breakup. See the story in Africanspotlight.com and OSUNDefender of Oct. 3, 2013, titled: “We’re not afraid of Nigeria’s breakup,” as example. Contrary to this not afraid rhetoric other Northern Leaders or groups, especially the apex cultural and political forum, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) declared that the North will support any talk that will strengthen Nigeria. They’re against a Sovereign National Conference, “because a sovereign national conference amounts to vote of no confidence on our democracy and its institutions, which nobody or group has the right to do” (The Herald, Oct. 1, 2013). A SNC could also unite the country and re-brand it anew, only if common sense actions aimed at respecting and treating all groups and individuals equal through a new people’s constitution based upon proper federation, because Nigeria is a federation of ethnic groups, and in such arrangement all groups are equal, no matter how small or large. The more Nigerians deny this factor, the more conferences shall be called until disintegration that is inevitable, yet avoidable.

Now, the argument of the New PDP rest on their allegation that Jonathan signed or promise not to run in 2015 if he’s supported in 2011, though no agreement signed by Jonathan has been produced to support this argument.  Jonathan has strongly denied signing any agreement or making such promise alleged by the breakaway PDP. What’s obvious here is that there were serious arguments amongst governors and other interest groups, politicians on whether Jonathan was qualified to run in 2011 as president having expended the remaining term of late Pres. Umaru Yaradua, who died in 2010.

An Editorial page of Premium Times, Feb. 19, 2013 has it that, “Jonathan personally promised not to run in 2015, a denial today that is bareface lie.” The page continued: At a press conference in Abuja in late 2010, a day ahead of President Goodluck Jonathan’s formal declaration to run in the 2011 presidential election, Mr. Dalhatu Tafida, then Director General of the Jonathan/Sambo campaign organisation, said the president won’t seek another term in 2015. The president, he said, would be available for only a single term if elected.” “I’ll not contest in 2015-Jonathan (2011),” see Daily Independent, Sept 9, 2013.  “Four years is enough for anyone in power to make significant improvement and if I can’t improve on power within this period, it then means I cannot do anything even if I am there for the next four years” (Nigerian Vanguard, Feb. 1, 2011). The New PDP is also pointing to a 2011 statement credited to Jonathan in Ankara, Turkey, which states that “President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, said he has no ambition to stay in office beyond 2015, assuring Nigerians in Diaspora that while he will not contest the 2015 election, he will ensure that this year’s election is free and fair.”

To buttress how Jonathan came about the conference decision, see some evidence of Ijaw militants’ misnamed “Niger delta militants” ’threats, though Ijaw is an ethnic group in Niger delta and not that it’s Niger delta itself which consist of many other groups. There’s been several calls for a secession conference in 2011 before Jonathan’s election/selection as president and while he’s hindered by some Northern politicians and friends in other regions from running as president or even taking over as Acting president, having been the vice to Yaradua and qualified to be president by this fact, where his boss was no more and as provided by the constitution. Other than Asari Dokubo’s recent threats as the leader of an Ijaw militant group, Nigerian Vanguard of July 12, 2011 has it that, “Niger Delta Liberation Force, NDLF, has urged President Goodluck Jonathan to convene a sovereign national conference, SNC, to afford Nigerians the opportunity to discuss and possibly give birth to the Republic of Niger Delta as was witnessed in Sudan, where the people met and agreed on the formation of a new nation, South Sudan Republic, without spilling blood.”

Nairaland.com also published a story on Sept. 6, 2013 titled, “Ijaw threaten secession over president’s re-election, if frustrated in 2015.”  The recent threat and Sovereign National Conference and secession call was made by the militants’ alleged to be a coalition of all the groups (not MEND), Coalition for Militant Action in Niger delta (COMA), which asked Jonathan to call a SNC in the next six months, if he isn’t given the chance to contest and win a second term. The group wrote, “For decades, the Niger Delta has stayed with Northern Nigeria in its pursuit of political leadership. If the ungrateful power hungry bloc in Northern Nigeria cannot afford to stand with the Niger Delta for four more years, then our people must be allowed to peacefully decide if we will like to remain in this contraption called Nigeria” (Pointblanknews.com, Sept. 4, 2013).

Finally, as mentioned earlier the South-East and South-South leaders were also reported to have sent Jonathan a letter. They demanded a Sovereign National Conference to check and stop the PDP crisis. After all these rants and threats The Nigerian Guardian of Sept 15, 2013 ran the headline titled: “Jonathan may convene Sovereign National Conference.  Of course, as mentioned inter alia, unlike the National Conferences we’ve seen government select through proxies, making them fail since the different peoples didn’t freely choose their representatives on equal strength (that’s one, two or four, even six each from all ethnic groups), a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) will bring all the ethnic nationalities forced to form Nigeria against their wishes to the roundtable for talks. They’ll renegotiation or a possible disintegration where there is no agreement due to highhandedness, dishonesty and greed to continue the culture of forcing the land and resources of others, particularly the small and perceived to be weaker groups. A SNC (or usual fail National Conference), which Jonathan must not call because he fears losing his political oil and bid for second term as it’s the case, but great if it were genuine demands that the current government structure be dismantled. That’s, the government, which Jonathan controls be dissolved and a new body that is neutral, if there is such thing as neutrality in Nigeria politics, should be formed.

This implies, to renegotiate a new Nigeria in a Sovereign National Conference there will be no functional government such as Jonathan’s capable of causing confusion or influencing the outcome of the conference for its benefit. In the case where Nigeria isn’t mature to dissolve existing government, set up a neutral body to oversee the affairs of such Conference as will be the situation. Jonathan will seize this opportunity to get fortified, influence the National Conference’s recommendations due in one month to suit his purpose or the country will disintegrate based on the demands of his militants and people, and reaction from the north and others. This shall be so if he believes he’s pushed to the wall, can’t succeed on his second term bid, thus has no escape route to feather his political ambition.

By Ben Ikari

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