Just how clueless can President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan be if he has outwitted every other potential aspirant in the presidential candidacy politics of his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?  Or, how inexperienced, as claimed by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, can he be if he has effortlessly eclipsed the opposition within and put the fear in those outside his Party?

These are the pertinent questions to ask as this unassuming politician continues to thwart the orchestrated plans by some forces of darkness to plunge Nigeria into anarchy through terrorism.  The critical plot by these wicked forces is simple: make the country ungovernable and consequently weaken the moral basis of Jonathan’s presidency.

The abduction of over 200 school girls in Chibok, agonizing as it is, is part of the schema.  The planned bombings across the northern states, especially Borno, Yobe and Adamawa where there is a state of emergency in place, feed into the overall agenda to intimidate Jonathan from seeking a second term in office.

But in spite of the high jinks that have been woven around the terrorism ravaging parts of the north, Jonathan has remained focused on governance.  He is pursuing his transformation agenda with single-minded guts, translating campaign promises into concrete achievements in the nooks and crannies of the nation.

Yet, his opponents are engaged in flights of fancy.  They dismiss him as clueless and inexperienced!  I ask once more: how clueless can Jonathan be if he continues to quietly overwhelm all opposition?  How inexperienced can he be if he remains unshaken and undistracted by the ranting of the naysayers?

If I choose, for a moment, to be delusional like the members of the opposition gang, I will pass Jonathan off as clueless for failing to throw his weight around or exercise one quarter of the enormous powers that are vested in him and his office by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  And, sadly, I will be living in a Fool’s Paradise by so doing!

The truth is, if Jonathan’s “cluelessness” could secure him an unprecedented endorsement by his Party as its sole presidential candidate in 2015 general election, it continues to baffle why some people still view him from that prism.  It also amazes me how a “clue-full” predecessor of his could not perform a similar feat in 2003?

To be sure, Olusegun Obasanjo, the Ebora of Owu and then all conquering Emperor of Aso Rock, was supposedly on top of his game.  He deployed the powers of his office to maximum effects because he had every imaginable clue about governance.  He was once a military head of state; and, so, he had experience.  That was the general notion.  But what happened in 2003?

He was a victim of political subterfuge from within his Presidency.  His vice president, Atiku Abubakar, perfected a plot to supplant him.  So many things were, indeed, wrong with that Presidency that put tension on the polity.   Not like the loyal Vice President Namadi Sambo, who has been very supportive of President Jonathan, Atiku, as he is popularly addressed, worked from the outset to undercut his boss.

It took some leaders of the Party to rally support for a harried Obasanjo who was eventually able to survive the plot by a disloyal vice president to upstage him.  Securing the ticket of the Party for his second term in office was not an easy task.  It was a total war of attrition, which he won at a great price to his ego: retaining Atiku, whom he had profiled as disloyal and corrupt, on the presidential ticket was not Obasanjo’s original idea.  Indeed, Obasanjo’s plan was to feed Atiku with his (Atiku’s) proposed Mandela Option (a term in office).

Even though, the deadline for collecting the expression of interest form had gone past, Atiku and his gang of governors threatened to swing their delegates’ votes to Dr Alex Ekwueme who was in the race for the ticket at the presidential primary.  Obasanjo and the leadership of the Party did not allow that to happen by keeping Atiku, with his baggage of alleged corruption, on the ticket.

But Obasanjo had to placate the Nigerian people by ensuring that relevant agencies and institutions of government investigated Atiku’s alleged corrupt deals in government.  The investigation dwelled on his deal with the United States Congressman William Jefferson, which culminated in the Nigerian angle to the deal gone awry – the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) probe to authenticate Atiku’s complicity.

Obasanjo-Atiku’s second term was thus characterized by stress and strains occasioned by intrigues and vendetta in governance and power relations.  In retrospect, did a “clue-full” and “experienced” Obasanjo have to go through all that tension or bring the same on the Party and the nation? Was it that he never really had a clue about how to prosecute a successful presidential succession politics?

Now, why was it difficult for Obasanjo to achieve that feat and not difficult for Jonathan to do it?  Yet, Obasanjo is a reference point in the quarters of those who conveniently pass Jonathan off as “clueless” and “inexperienced” in politics and statecraft.  Today, a “clueless” and “inexperienced” Jonathan has achieved effortlessly in the PDP his endorsement as the Party’s sole candidate in the 2015 presidential election.

And, from all indications, Jonathan is primed to clinch a second term in office.  Perhaps, how he manages his exit trauma (which all second term presidents and governors experience) in 2019 will further distinguish how this “clueless” and “inexperienced” President can seize a great moment to define his eon and secure a place in the pantheon of great Nigerian leaders.  It will certainly differentiate him from a predecessor’s misadventure of a Third Term agenda that exposed his desperation to perpetuate himself in power.

  • Mr Ojeifo contributed this piece from Abuja.