People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has reinvented the
wheels of democracy in Nigeria again by announcing President
Goodluck Jonathan as their sole candidate for the 2015
elections, insisting he has the first right of refusal before any
other candidate is considered. That in itself is not a bad thing to do, as you can find
happening in other more advanced democracies. However, when
considered along with other subtleties the declaration of the
sole candidacy of Jonathan as the PDP’s presidential candidate
makes one wonder if we haven’t regressed back to the times of
the late General Sani Abacha’s civilian transition era.
Abacha had a lot going for him in his bid to succeed himself as
civilian president of Nigeria before he died on June 8th 1998.
He had a clearly mapped out template of how he was going to
achieve his aim and his plans were falling into place through
subterfuge, blackmail, intimidation, outright bribe and
From the look of things it appears president Jonathan has
adopted the same template as the late Abacha and day by day
he is carefully following those steps laid out by the late
dictator in other to get himself re-elected in 2015.
Abacha, during his time as military head of state, perfected a
policy of silence and deceptive indifference almost bothering
on I don’t give a damn attitude to crucial government
Nigerians in the dying days of his regime wanted him to decide
on his long rumored self-succession bid as well as if he would
uphold the death sentence passed on the alleged coup plotters
led by Lieutenant-General Oladipo Diya (rtd.), but Abacha
never gave anything away.
The same can be said of president Goodluck Jonathan. Every
Nigerian and his pet dog knows Jonathan wants to contest the
2015 elections but for the better part of this year he has
remained tight-lipped about his ambition saying he would
announce his decision when the time comes.
When he was announced as the sole candidate of the PDP he
still did not categorically accept the nomination waiting instead
till December during his party’s convention to do so when it’s
an open secret that he is contesting.
Jonathan’s similarities with Abacha can also be seen by his
perfection of silence on the Chibok girls’ captivity during the
early periods of the ordeal, as well as his deceptive
indifference to serious national issues. Just like Abacha, he
never addresses serious national issues on time and only speaks
on burning issues when pressed on it by the opposition APC,
Nigerians with opposing views, civil right activists or the
It was the same with Abacha then. He would hardly address
any serious national issue on time except he was troubled by
opposition NADECO or by the international community.
But in terms of Abacha’s template to succeed himself and
Jonathan’s plans for re-election there appears to be no
difference. In February 1998 at the height of Abacha’s
transition to civil rule programme, the dark goggled General
met with the five political parties in the country then and
asked to be adopted as the sole candidate for the August 1
elections of that year.
Four of the political parties protested about the favoritism
shown to the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) which
Abacha and his henchmen favored. An “Election Formula
Victory” was worked out in subsequent meetings with then Lt.
Gen. Jeremiah Useni through which the political positions across
the whole country were parceled out amongst the five parties
with the UNCP getting the most governorship seats of 14
states months before elections were held just so Abacha could
be adopted as sole candidate.
The parties went ahead and adopted Abacha as their sole
presidential candidate – though some forms of blackmail and
threats were also used for politicians who dissented, and
thereby ensuring the dictator got his way.
With Jonathan it’s also similar, as the PDP decided to proceed
just like Abacha for an “Election Formula Victory” whereby all
PDP National Assembly members would be the party’s
candidates without primaries, their governors would get second
term tickets without primaries, while out-going ones have the
powers to elect their successors. For any member of the party
who dissented like Jigawa state governor Sule Lamido, then
blackmails and threats were used to get them on board.
The similarity continues with the Transformation Ambassadors
of Nigeria (TAN). Prior to Abacha being selected as the sole
candidate of the five leprous parties in Nigeria in 1998, there
was a Youth Earnestly Ask for Abacha (YEEA) group led by
Daniel Kanu that campaigned all over Nigeria for him
describing the dictator as the best thing that ever happened to
The group on the 3rd and 4th of March 1998 held their now
infamous Grand rally in Abuja tagged the 2 million man march
in support of the brutal dictator. The same can be said of
Jonathan and his cronies as they have adopted that from
TAN has been going round the country campaigning for
Jonathan months before his adoption as sole candidate of the
PDP and now he’s been adopted, they plan their own Grand
rally in Abuja.
The next plan from the script would be to get the other
nondescript political parties led by the likes of Federick
Fasehun of UPN, Chekwas Okorie of UPP, Labour Party etc to
endorse Jonathan as their sole presidential candidate. In fact a
faction of APGA has already endorsed him to confirm that
part of the Abacha template being used by Jonathan.
Just like Abacha found issues with his deputy Oladipo Diya and
wanted to send him to death for disloyalty, Jonathan is also
finding issues with his Vice-president Namadi Sambo and
wishes to send him to political death this time not because of
disloyalty but for perceived non-electoral value.
Abacha in his template in 1998 had other options, Jonathan too
has his own options. Abacha planned in 1998 to release M.K.O
Abiola and make him his Vice-president as a back-up option if
his sole candidateship option stalls, Jonathan on his part plans
to use the Islamist insurgency in the North-east as an excuse
to invoke relevant sections of the constitution to extend his
government by another six months as guaranteed by the
constitution if part of the country is being invaded and has
lost its sovereignty.
This he knows can possibly be done considering the National
Assembly members and state governors would also have their
tenures automatically renewed by a period of six months if
such section of the constitution is invoked. Like Abacha like
Jonathan you might say.
Abacha also had plans for the opposition against him and was
always quick to mention through people like Wada Nas that
NADECO and pro-democracy groups were being funded and
trained by the US, South Africa and Ghana to destabilize
Nigeria – an allegation the mentioned countries flatly denied.
Jonathan for his part has for the better part of the last one
year been accusing the opposition APC of sponsoring the
Islamist insurgency and wanting to destabilise the country with
no vital proof to show for it.
When the agitations against Abacha grew particularly in the
Southwest and the late Lamidi Adedibu and Alao Arisekola who
were staunch Abacha loyalists had their properties destroyed,
the likes of Bola Ige, Lam Adesina (both late) and Ayo
Opadokun secretary-general of NADECO then were arrested.
It won’t be far fetched as 2015 approaches for Jonathan to
arrest and detain opposition APC members as he follows his
Abacha template for self-succession. Bombs flew about under
Abacha and were blamed on the opposition NADECO, bombs
have gone exploding in Nigeria now and both the PDP and
homeland security agency, DSS, have blamed it on the
opposition APC. It’s all part of the Abacha template being
Abacha also had hit squads in place called the Strike Force led
by Sergeant Rogers (Barnabas Mshelia) and coordinated by
Major Hamza Mustapha. Jonathan, according to an open letter
written by former president Olusegun Obasanjo in December
2013, allegedly has his own trained Strike Force in place and
over 1,000 politicians – mostly opposition – are on his watch list
with possible intent to assassinate them with his hit men.
Obasanjo did not supply any proof about the allegations when
he made them, but judging that the Abacha self-succession
template is being used by Jonathan and his cronies nothing can
be ruled out I’m afraid.
Abacha was equivocal in his ambitions about succeeding himself
and kept telling the international press that only Nigerians can
decide his fate when all along he had decided it himself.
Jonathan has been saying to the foreign press that we would
have an election acceptable under global best practices but his
actions in the run up to the elections show a lot of underhand
dealings and subterfuge.
Another striking similarity is the fact that Tom Ikimi, who was
Abacha’s foreign affairs minister and staunchest defender
particularly to the US government who had sanctioned the
country for gross human rights abuse, is the same person
working hard for Jonathan’s self-succession bid.
Despite Abacha’s gross human rights abuses, deceptive
indifference to crucial national issues and repressing the June
12 mandate of late M.K.O Abiola he was still touted then in
1998 as the best thing that happened to Nigeria. In fact in
giving Abacha a posthumous award during the Centenary
honours award night held in January, Jonathan’s led federal
government described the late dictator’s regime as the first
to record unprecedented economic achievements in Nigeria’s
President Goodluck mentioned that during Abacha’s time
Nigeria’s foreign reserve increased from $494 million in 1993
to $9.6 billion by mid-1997. He reduced our external debt from
$36 billion in 1993 to $27billion in 1997. Abacha cancelled all
the dubious privatisation programmes started by the
administration of evil dictator IBB and reduced galloping
inflation from the 54% he inherited from IBB to 8.5% between
1993 and 1998, even as oil sold for $9 per barrel.
His administration was also credited with creating the most
comprehensive and realistic blueprint for Nigeria’s development
through Vision 2010 hence the need for honoring him at the
While all that stands credible and verifiable, what is also true is
that he single-handedly stole at least $3 billion of our nation’s
wealth and that is minus what he allowed many of his cronies to
loot away. But the similarity here is that Jonathan is already
being described as the best thing to happen to Nigeria just like
Some mostly South Easterners I speak to say he is the best
president Nigeria has ever had since 1966. They point to all his
sure and steady transformation efforts which like Abacha’s
achievements listed above may be true and verifiable, but what
is also true is that there is $20 billion of our nation’s wealth
Lots of Jonathan’s cronies and ministers including the ogle-
eyed female one are being allowed to loot our commonwealth
away, plus there is massive oil-theft going on in the Niger
Delta region whose sales are being linked to Jonathan and
people close to him.
Abacha’s overall plan was to become a president for life in
Nigeria. Jonathan’s more immediate plan is to succeed himself
as president in 2015 and then two or three years down the line
put the deliberations of the National Conference of 2014 to a
referendum so as to have a new constitution and he can start
another term based on the new constitution thereby making
him the longest serving Nigerian president and if possible a
Abacha did not succeed but right now we are moving towards
having a life president and his name is: Goodluck Ebele
Bamidele Ahmed Jonathan, he may become our president for
Ola’ Idowu is a management consultant and researcher writing
from the UK.