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ANALYSIS: What’s next For Goodluck Jonathan?


As he embarks on a new life, the immediate past Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, faces a future that could be different from that of most past presidents of the country.

Mr. Jonathan handed over power on Friday to Muhammadu Buhari, who defeated him in the March 28 presidential election.

The former president spent his last 16 years riding on sheer chance and the underpinning of political patrons to achieve a hitherto unimaginable political success.

He served as deputy governor and later governor of his native Bayelsa State between 1999 and 2007. In 2007, he was hand-picked as vice president, became acting president upon the death of his boss, and then president.

When he won the 2011 presidential election, he cashed the last of his lucky dip cheques, with his defeat at the 2015 elections ending his lucky runs.

Although, at a recent event he announced his plan to be a peace ambassador, Mr. Jonathan will have to rely on a management skill he seldom showed while in office, to remain relevant locally and internationally.

Run a business?

Already, three post-presidency career paths associated with past Nigerian presidents appear unlikely for Mr. Jonathan. He is not widely associated with business, even though he jointly owns a farm with his mother in Abuja.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo owns and runs a large farm in Ota, in his home state, Ogun, South-west Nigeria. Abdulsalami Abubakar, who transited Nigeria to democracy following the death of dictator Sani Abacha, owns an oil and gas firm, Maizube Petroleum, indicted in 2012 of short-changing Nigeria in the petroleum subsidy probe.

Maizube Petroleum is a subsidiary of Maizube Holdings, “which is a collection of various businesses (farms, estates and all sorts of companies)” a research published by Sheriff Ibrahim, Abdulahi Liman and Kabir Mato in the International Journal of Current Research, shows.

Based on the skills Mr. Jonathan displayed at the times he was in charge of both Bayelsa State and Nigeria, many believe he would not run a successful business empire.

Influence Peddling or lobbying

Mr. Jonathan recently declined a responsibility to lead the party through its moments of crises to become a viable opposition after he rejected an offer to lead the PDP as its Board of Trustees chairman.

“If they didn’t listen to him when he was the Commander in Chief, how would they listen to him as the BoT chairman?” an aide to the ex-president asked in defence of his decision to decline the PDP BoT responsibility.

These concerns highlight the difficulties Mr. Jonathan would face if he dabbles into business or political lobbying, a trade which has helped many past Nigerian presidents, as well as top ranked politicians, remain relevant and financially viable after leaving office.

Mr. Jonathan is arguably Nigeria’s weakest president ever. In one of his presidential media chats, he admitted his meekness arguing that if he applied more than a third of his powers as a president, he would be regarded a dictator.

His inability to exert firm leadership in his PDP and also in government is widely believed to be the fundamental cause of his failure at the polls and the current crises in the party.

“Jonathan cannot call Buhari – the current president – and ask him to do something and that thing would be done,” the aide further stated.

Political future

Even though Mr. Jonathan has one more chance to contest and return to the presidential office, he has not shown any interest in pursuing a future in politics. Even if he does, the current mood in the party suggests that he might not be supported to actualise that ambition in the PDP.

The current president, Muhammadu Buhari, ruled Nigeria as a military dictator from 1984 to 1985. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was also a former military dictator – 1976 to 1979.

Former dictator, Ibrahim Babangida, ruled Nigeria between 1985 and 1993. He only gave up his ambition to rule again after three comeback attempts failed at very early stages.

The two factors – chance and godfather support – that helped Mr. Jonathan achieve success in his 16-years politics are currently untenable. If he must return as Nigeria’s president, he would have to undergo transformation to become dogmatic, assertive and a better speech maker.

Peace Advocate

Right now, it seems peace advocacy is the only logical pathway to a life of relevance for Mr. Jonathan.

“One thing I have decided I will do after leaving office is to be talking to faithful of all religions: Christians, Muslims and other religions, on the need for Nigerians to live in peace,” Mr. Jonathan said in one of his exit speeches.

According to reliable sources, his aides are currently putting together a Non-Governmental Organization that will embody his peace advocacy lifeline and take his advocacy beyond Nigeria. The NGO is being set up to provide a platform for Mr. Jonathan to travel the world and preach non-violent elections.

There are also plans to lobby him into becoming a United Nations’ peace ambassador.

His popular speech in which he said “My ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian,” and his heroic call to Mr. Buhari conceding defeat are the leading tools his team would depend on to push him through.

Even at that, Mr. Jonathan must improve on his management skills, as well as employ performance driven workers, rather than those driven by personal financial gains.

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