by Ifreke Inyang
In a strange twist of events, President Goodluck Jonathan has pulled of the race to become the next President of Nigeria. Making the announcement at the end of a closed door meeting with members of his cabinet in Abuja, the President said: “Since the past week, I have been thinking a lot. And I think the best thing is for me step aside and give the chance to someone else to become the next President of Nigeria. This decision has been taken in the best interest of the country and everybody concerned with it.” And in a follow up to that, he went ahead to endorse Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, who is contesting on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. “I think of all the candidates I was suppose to contest against, he is the best. I have listened to him when he came on for the Presidential debates and I was personally convinced about his passion to bring about change in this nation,” the President said.
But as it seems, the President didn’t consult the hierarchy of his party before this announcement. Few hours after his declaration in Abuja, the Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, Haliru Mohammed Bello, who is presently in his hometown, Birnin Kebbi to attend the burial ceremony of one of the traditional rulers reacted to the report and called it unacceptable. “This is completely unacceptable!” he fumed. “If the President wanted to pull out, it should have been at the primaries when we had other candidates who would have been willing to go all the way. Right now, what this means is that the party will not have a candidate when the Presidential polls are conducted on April 9th.”
Ever since the news filtered into public ears, there have been varied reactions all over the country. The mood among the members and top level officials of the PDP has been that of shock and anger. “I just can’t believe this yet,” one of them who pleaded anonymity said. “I mean, just a few weeks ago, he was travelling all over the country for his campaigns. I wonder why the change of heart at this very last minute with the elections barely a few days away. This has totally thrown the party into confusion.” He stopped short of saying that Goodluck Jonathan should have given the chance to either Atiku Abubabakar – even Sarah Jubril – at the PDP primaries. In other camps however, the mood has been that of muted celebration. Other aspirants feel they now have an even chance of winning as the power of incumbency will no longer be a factor.
Not only is there confusion, several school of thoughts have arisen, especially with his endorsement of a rival contestant. There have already been silent whispers of sabotage and blackmail all over although there didn’t seem to be any air of pensiveness at the National office of the party as staff and officials present went about their normal business. In some quarters, there is talk that the President feels he is walking on sinking sand with his failure to appear for the Presidential debate. Although he eventually showed up and did his alone, he thinks that he is falling out with the Nigerian masses.
Goodluck Jonathan’s announcement comes just few days after Professor Pat Utomi, another Presidential candidate stepped down and then went on to endorse Governor Ibrahim Shekarau. This leaves only Muhammadu Buhari, Nuhu Ribadu, Dele Momodu, Chris Okotie, Chris Nwokoabia left as the race gets intense and more dramatic.
But of course, it’s April Fool’s Day!