It is safe to say that keeping Nigeria United under stable democracy requires building dependable block alliance across the Niger. This also reminds me of the popular statement made by the Plateau State-born statesman and Nigeria’s war time Head of State, General Yakubu Gowan who said that, “keeping Nigeria one is a task that must be accomplished”.
The 30 months Nigerian civil war which ended on 15th January 1970 with the popular aphorism, “No victor no vanquished,” gave birth to modern Nigeria unity, and peaceful co-existence amongst the heterogeneous groups and ethnic nationalities that make up the country.
This quest for a united Nigeria and healthy political system and unbiased interest inform part of the criteria that king makers across ethnic divides and political parties in Nigeria consider before choosing a candidate that will fly the flag of their party in general elections. This unwritten norm has continued to play a prominent role in deciding who the democratically elected President of Nigeria becomes.
In 1999, when the country returned to civil rule after over three decades of military rule, the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), decided to elect Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba man to compensate for the death of Chief MKO Abiola who died in detention after the annulment of 1993 election, of which he was the acclaimed winner.
This singular decision by a major political party led to the gradual healing of the wounds thrown up by the annulment of 1993 elections and eventual demise of the winner of the election, which was annulled by the then President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida.
Before the end of President Obasanjo’s two terms of office in 2007, the militant Lagos press dominated by Yorubas and the civil rights activists, as well as political actors, sheathed their swords.
Unfortunately, President Musa Yar’Adua’s which succeeded Chief Obasanjo’s administration died in office. His emergence as the PDP candidate and eventual winner of the 2007 Presidential elections was in line with power sharing arrangement or understanding between North and South as is the practice in a plural society like Nigeria.
Following a doctrine of necessity invoked by the National Assembly to rescue Nigeria from impending constitutional crisis thrown up by a lacuna in the nation’s legal framework, the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan had to be made to complete the remaining tenure of his principal. He also contested the 2010 election and won. His presidency was, however, cut short by President Muhammadu Buhari’s overwhelming victory in the 2015 Presidential election.
Though that was the first time the opposition party was winning a presidential election after the return of Nigeria to democratic rule in 1999, former President Jonathan congratulated the winner and peacefully exited office on May 29, 2015.
Since then, he had kept a low profile except for his role in ensuring that the Malian military junta returned the country back to civil rule. As the ECOWAS Special Envoy and Mediator for Mali, he has however, remained visible within the sub-region as a proven and dedicated pan-Africanist.
Former President Jonathan is not only an apostle of one Nigerian and solid bridge between the North and South but a man of peace that Nigeria needs now to rescue the country from imminent collapse.
It is on the premise of these towering attributes of peace and bridge building that Nigerians of all shades of opinion, political persuasion, religious and ethnic affinity as well as cultural background are clamouring for his return as President Buhari approaches the end of his constitutionally guaranteed two terms of office.
Some Nigerians strongly believe that Nigeria as a country does not need a new comer who would learn on the job but an experienced person who would hit the ground running so as to reunite the country, revitalize the economy, create jobs for the teeming unemployed youths and bring an end to the rampaging terrorists, bandits and secessionist agitators. Nigeria needs a man whose hands of fellowship would be accepted across the Niger.
There are, however, toxic opinions amongst former President Jonathan’s political detractors that the only interest of the northern strategist is hinged on the fact that he can only do one term, in which case the hope of power returning to the North is guaranteed in a shortest possible time.
However, this lame argument is easily drowned by his popularity with a track record of integrity and statesmanship, which is a glaring reality that Nigerians from every divide, North or South, Christian or Muslim, Kanuri, Ijaw, Yoruba, Igbo, Fulani or Tiv, longs for.
Former President Jonathan is a person with wide public acceptance cutting across religious, ethnic and regional divides. It is obvious that from the current political firmament in the country, Jonathan fits this mould from the South.
In an article titled, “The Post-Presidential Legacy of Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan,” which was published on the blog of Council on Foreign Relations, it was also posited that “Since his concession, the former President is experiencing something of a renaissance as a senior statesman, at least in certain circles.
“He has been honored with international awards and invited to deliver keynote remarks at global conferences on everything from peace-building to improving educational opportunities. He is particularly sought-after as a champion of democracy, and recently led international election observation teams for the National Democratic Institute in Liberia and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in South Africa”, the article read in part.
His solemn tweets on respect for the rule of law in Ethiopia were also given wide publicity. He was known to have favoured the North when he was at the helm of affairs in Nigeria between 2011 and 2015 when he handed over to the incumbent President Buhari.
In his appointments up to personal aides, former President Jonathan was known to have somehow favoured the North more. The construction of Almajiri schools across the North is also something that has endeared him to many northern elites that see him as a better version of Northern visionaries.
On infrastructure development, former President Jonathan would be remembered by the northerners for such infrastructural developments like the Dry Season Fadama Farming. He was reported to have approved the release of a whopping N26 billion for the 2015 dry season farming.
The scheme launched in 2012 provided thousands of jobs to teaming unemployed Nigerians, especially in the north where the dry season farming is mostly practiced. According to the former President, ”not only is food produced, we are now processing food. Food production is rising rapidly and thousands of jobs are being created for our young people”.
Also of note is the Great Green Wall Project which curtailed desertification in the area. The project was launched in Kebbi State by the former president himself.
Revival of the Cotton Industry in Zamfara State was another major project that benefited the North immensely. The Jonathan’s administration resuscitated the moribund cotton industry in Gasau, Zamfara State. His administration also built 15 ginneries in the state which can hold up to 2,000 tons of cotton.
His administration’s investment in the rice economy was also something that was received with joy by all rice-producing states in the country with many of them in the North. Local rice production was reported to have contributed N320 billion to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country in 2014. Rice production at that time was also reported to have created over 760,000 jobs according to the then Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, providing the first ever 2.6 million metric tons of rice in the country.
Jonathan’s administration was also known to have been gender-sensitive. Some 2000 women were trained under Information and Communications Technology (ICT) under the G-WIN scheme supervised by the then Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zainab Maina.
His administration also unveiled a new ICT paradigm for women which led to a greater number of women and youths having unhindered access to IT knowledge for wealth creation and improvement of their socio-economic well-being. The process provided available infrastructure for women and youths to have easy and strategic access to e-commerce, e-government, e-education and e-society infrastructure.
The Kashimbilla/Gamovodam was part of the over 30 dams that was constructed by the administration of former president. The dams were constructed to boost water supply across the country under the watchful eyes of the then Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe.
The federal government under the leadership of Jonathan also awarded a contract for reconstruction of the 655-kilometre Sokoto-Yauri-Kontagora Road aimed at improving movement of goods and services across the North-West and North -Central zones of the country.
Considering these achievements and the fact that the Jonathan’s administration spread its development evenly across the North and Southern parts of the country, one would not be wrong to conclude that the reported plans to return him to the political arena to complete his remaining four years would be overwhelmingly accepted across the divide. It will also strengthen the North-South alliance.