Personalities who will shape Jonathan’s Presidency
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Clifford Ndujihe, Deputy Political Editor
THE Goodluck Jonathan administration that has just taken off would in the next four years and possibly beyond through its policies and programmes shape the lives of Nigerians and possibly the country’s international stakeholders.
How the administration progresses would be defined by the input and actions of its key members and stakeholders and possibly detractors.
Notable personalities that would shape the contents and character of the administration include First Lady, Patience Jonathan, Vice President Namadi Sambo, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Senate President David Mark, Governors led by their new leader Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, opposition leaders Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Muhammadu Buhari among others.
Below is a portrait of how they could influence the administration.
Mrs. Patience Jonathan may never have shied away from the limelight. In the next four years she is expected to use her matrimonial bond to the President to not just help him at the home front, but to also influence policy and programmes. While the capacity of the First Lady to influence policy may remain unknown, she is nevertheless expected to be in good position to influence appointments and shape the direction of the President’s relationships with some key actors in the polity.
One particular area of interest would be the relationship between the President and the new chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi. Mrs. Jonathan who comes from Rivers State had a well reported face-off last year with the Rivers State Governor when she visited home and publicly reprimanded the Governor over his public works projects in Okrika, her birth place.
While the duo have since then sought to play down their differences, it is largely believed that they continue to bear a mutual suspicion of one another.
Mrs. Jonathan was also the driving force in the decamping of Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State from the Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Her imprint is large in the politics of Abia State and it would not be surprising if her influence through her husband’s power expands to other neighbouring states, particularly Cross River State. She presently has very close relationships with Obioma, the wife of Governor Liyel Imoke.
Wives of public officers have made it a matter of necessity to embrace the First Lady with the consequence that the First Lady would also be in good position to influence the ministers to her favour.
Vice-President Namadi Sambo
Given President Jonathan’s declaration that he is going to spend only one term in office, Vice-President Sambo’s political schemes to position himself as a possible successor would expectedly influence the shape and character of the administration.
Given the difficult challenges of the last northern Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar in defending northern interests and at the same time aligning with a sitting President, Sambo would be expected to face similar challenges. He, however, unlike Atiku would not be faced with the problem of fighting a sit-tight President from within as Atiku did during the third term saga.
Well, that is unless Jonathan reverses his declaration on a single term.
How Vice-President Sambo deals with the interests of potential presidential rivals from the north would also be interesting. One prominent contender would be Governor Rabiu Kwankwanso of Kano State who is not eligible for another term after 2015 and around whom there are now speculations of a presidential race in 2015.
Such speculations were said to have inspired the internal intrigues within the national secretariat of the PDP ahead of the 2011 elections when some powerful forces sought to deny the Governor the party’s gubernatorial ticket until reports of a security breakdown in Kano forced the hands of the party.
Senator David Mark
Senator David Mark as President of the Senate was believed to have been a stabilizing factor in the difficult and teething days of the Jonathan presidency last year. He is expected to continue in the same role after his expected return as Senate President in the forthcoming leadership contest.
How Senator Mark utilizes his influence on the presidency remains a matter of conjecture given continuing buzz in some quarters of his own desire for the presidency.
Given that the presidency may be zoned to the North in 2015, such speculations may not be ruled out given the prospects of Senator Mark using the platform of the Senate to achieve what some say is a life ambition nurtured from his eventful days in military politicking.
Willy-nilly as Senate President, Senator Mark is in good position to shape the character of the Jonathan administration through his consideration of the administration’s legislative proposals.
As the chairman of the Senate committee on the whole which would screen the administration’s most prominent appointments, notably ministers, Senator Mark could readily block any nomination. He would off course as in the recent past determine the nominations from his native Benue State.
As the political godfather of the sitting President, Obasanjo would ofcourse not be easily discountenanced even if his vote bringing power was almost inconsequential to the President’s election victory.
President Obasanjo is expected to influence the administration’s appointments especially as they concern the Southwest. It was as such not surprising that a caucus of Southwest PDP leaders had some few weeks ago resolved that all appointments in the Southwest should be channeled through him.
It was in that direction that the Southwest caucus resolved on Rep. Maurina Ajibola as the zone’s choice for Speaker of the House of Representatives.
An insight into the negative influence of President Obasanjo on the Jonathan presidency was given when President Jonathan at the national caucus of the PDP ruled that the issue of zoning was settled and the consequent order on the members of the House of Representatives to honour the choice of the Southwest.
The unfolding dispute between the President and the members of the House of Representatives shows the extent to which Obasanjo may bring problems for President Jonathan.
Even before the administration had taken off the former President had already stirred trouble for him in his dealing with another vital arm of government.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu
The national leader of the leading opposition political party with control of six states including the commercial city state, Lagos Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is well positioned to bear influence on the administration for good or for bad.
How Tinubu responds to the administration may indeed depend on how the administration itself responds to lingering legal issues concerning the ACN leader.
What was supposed to be an attempt by the administration to put the Asiwaju out of circulation on account of some legal issues arising from his two term administration of Lagos State it is believed could have provoked a negative backlash with the Tinubu instigating trouble for him.
Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.)
The erstwhile Head of State and flag bearer of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC had prior to the election promised not to challenge the outcome of the elections in the tribunal. But party officials have since reversed him and taken the party’s case to the tribunal.
Buhari remains a very popular person among his core constituency in the Muslim North and has recently won credibility as a statesman among non- northerners in the South.
How he fights the case at the presidential election tribunal would bear much imprint on the administration’s efforts to woo opponents of the President in the north.
The controversial CBN governor has been known to dish out monetary promises that had kept the government, investors and the citizenry on their toes since he came on board two years ago.
He is expected to do more now.
Unless he is relieved of his job, he is expected to be a key player in Jonathan’s economic rejuvenation programme.
Barrister Oronto Douglas, renowned environmentalist, lawyer and civil activist is unarguably one of the President’s closest advisers. Since about 2004 when he crossed the Rubicon from activism towards public service he has consistently been nearby to offer advise to Dr. Jonathan.
Though he entered government as a commissioner for information and strategy under the Dipereye Alamaiseiyeha administration, he resigned when the later was impeached and though he was reportedly invited by Governor Jonathan to remain in office, he declined but remained very supportive of the Jonathan administration helping behind the scene.
He is expected to play a role in laying strategic blueprints and measuring key parameters that would define the Jonathan legacy.