By Ehichioya Ezomon
Former President Goodluck Jonathan has become the latest target of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to direct its angst for its defeat in the November 16, 2019, poll in Bayelsa State.
The initial prey, as usual, were President Muhammadu Buhari; the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); security agencies, especially the Police and Military; and thugs allegedly “recruited” by the APC.
This time, former Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State is leading the charge, alleging that Dr. Jonathan traded off the PDP to APC in Bayelsa, for a reprieve in the controversial $1.6b Malabu Oil (OPL 245) scam.
According to Lamido, in an interview: “The leadership of the APC and the government are blackmailing Jonathan, and I think I can say it anywhere that he traded this for his own freedom.
“Jonathan worked against his party because he was very, very angry with Governor Seriake Dickson. It was because he sure knows his problem with Buhari and his government. And the issue of Malabu, I think, played a key role.”
What a contradiction! How could Jonathan be angry with Dickson because he’s afraid of being held to account in the said Malabu scandal?
Should the public infer that Lamido has swapped, for his freedom, the PDP in Jigawa (where the APC has won all elections since 2015) because the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is trying him (and his two sons and two firms) for fraud?
It’s easy to see where Lamido is coming from: First, he likely smelt a rat when, prior to the poll, Jonathan visited President Buhari, and concluded that, “the sojourn must be for a trade-off of the PDP in Bayelsa, to get amnesty in the Malabu racket!”
Second is Lamido’s animus against Jonathan since 2015 when he aspired to be president, but was checkmated by the “right of first refusal” that Jonathan enjoyed seeking re-election.
This shows in his attack, hence: “To me, Jonathan is a creation of an accident hoisted (foisted) by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo on Nigeria. I don’t think, in terms of looking at the Nigerian landscape, you can rate him as a leader outside the office he occupied.”
Plainly pathetic! When it suits the likes of Lamido, they advertise Jonathan as a great leader, staunch ally, and statesman; yet, when their self-worth is deflated, they strive to bring him down.
Jonathan has denied the Lamido charge, and dared him to prove same or be quiet, even as the Presidency has refuted the blackmail report, and advised critics to stop blaming President Buhari for everything, “including issues that are not his business.”
Jonathan, via his media aide, Ikechukwu Eze, said: “Apparently seized by some inexplicable resentment, Lamido held on to the lie… by a few mischief-makers, to the effect that former President Jonathan helped the APC to win the last gubernatorial election in Bayelsa State.
“Unfortunately, the former Governor jumped into this convenient bandwagon of grovellers without first thinking of the burden of substantiating his claim…”
On Malabu, he said: “We feel that it is important to reiterate, as we have always done, that former President Jonathan did nothing wrong, as far as the Malabu deal is concerned. He therefore doesn’t need to cut a deal with anybody within or outside Nigeria.
“We call on anyone, including Mr. Sule Lamido, who has any shred of evidence linking former President Jonathan to any wrongdoing in the case of the Malabu incident, to waste no time in publishing such evidence or forever remain silent.”
As Lamido chews a response to Jonathan’s gauntlet, I reference my last week’s article, “November 16 poll: Can’t PDP examine itself?” which urged the party to look inward, and learn where it got it wrong, rather than blame imaginable forces for its defeat.
But afresh, the party has left the substance, and turned on another soft spot, Jonathan, to massage it’s bruised electoral ego. It embarked on a faulty raison d’être, to arrive at, “If Jonathan had supported us (PDP), we would have won the election.”
This is simplistic reasoning that discounts other variables, which, in the case of Bayelsa, were as many as the 45 political parties that presented candidates for the poll.
These variables: how the policies and programmes of Dickson’s eight-year rule had impacted the people, and the political undercurrents in the state, were capped by the governor’s desire to “install” his successor.
Going forward, Dickson rejected the views and feelings of leaders of the PDP, and indeed, concerned members of Bayelsa’s polity, who craved that the candidate or running mate be zoned to a particular council or district.
Thus, with a primary election conducted for the aspirants, the governor allegedly “foisted” on the party members Senator Diri Douye, who was declared winner of the poll.
The PDP running mate, Senator Lawrence Ewrujakpor, was chosen from Dickson’s council, Sagbama (Bayelsa West), instead of Ogbia, as canvassed, to counter the high votes in Southern Ijaw (Bayelsa Central), the fort of APC’s candidate, Chief David Lyon.
Jonathan is credited to having the capacity to influence elections in his council of Ogbia in Beyelsa East, where “he did influence the November 16 poll to favour the APC,” his critics alleged.
But here are the posers: If the PDP hierarchy knew Jonathan’s political relevance, and capability to swing votes, why didn’t they take his counsel for a level-playing field at the primaries?
If he’s invincible in Ogbia, and Bayelsa East in general, why didn’t they choose the PDP running mate from there, after his “anointed” aspirant, Chief Timi Alaibe, lost the governorship ticket?
And if Jonathan is Dickson’s “Leader,” as the governor espouses, why didn’t he defer one position – the candidate or running mate – to him?
Picking on Jonathan is like asking a wife who, among several men, including her husband, will she fight with. Definitely, she will choose her husband on the belief that he won’t hurt her!
Because the former President is viewed as gentle, harmless and “powerless,” the PDP, as represented by Lamido and others, has picked on him, to let off the steam of its political disaster.
Why not pick on Governor Dickson, the alpha and omega in the choice of the candidate and running mate, and the campaigning, which he led, as if he’s on the ballot?
What would it have cost the governor to yield one position to the Jonathan camp, and shelve his “senatorial ambition”? Nothing, but accolades as “a listening leader, and a man of the people!”
Dickson was the reason the PDP, since 1999, lost its power in Bayelsa, as he didn’t play his card justly, fairly and equitably. So, the aberration of November 16 had nothing to do with Jonathan!
* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.