Letter from Africa: Nigeria's bad luck party?
- 17 January 2014
- From the section Africa
In our series of letters from African journalists, Sola Odunfa in Lagos looks at how Nigeria's political elite already have their gaze firmly fixed on 2015.
Being the incumbent should, ordinarily, stand President Goodluck Jonathan in good stead in the run-up to next year's presidential election but at the moment he is not even sure of having a strong, united party behind him.
At the president's inauguration three years ago, the governing People's Democratic Party (PDP), which he heads, had a comfortable majority in both chambers of the National Assembly.
He could have any bill passed into law, notwithstanding opposition parties' views. That is no longer the situation.
Floor-crossing by its legislators has wiped out the PDP's majority in one chamber - the House of Representatives.
Although the party retains its dominance in the other chamber - the Senate - the president cannot pass any bill into law without co-operation by opposition party members.
This is one reason why this year's federal budget is sitting unattended in the assembly.
This time last year the ruling party had 19 of the 36 state governors.
By the end of the year, five of them had formally defected to the main opposition party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), and more may be waiting to do so.
This means that, because the governors control their legislatures, President Jonathan cannot get through any amendments to the constitution - under Nigeria's federal system, two-thirds of state parliaments must approve any such changes.
It also mean the president will have to work harder for votes in those states next year, should he run for president.
This leads on to why the ruling party is now in a crisis situation.
The major cause is the president's undeclared intention to run for another term in office next year.
This is why the tenure of the party's national chairman, Bamanga Tukur, became a problem for many party leaders, who accused him of arrogance and failure to consult.
He has now resigned after months of pressure; his opponents, angered by his perceived support for President Jonathan's re-nomination, had been demanding his removal.
While the storm within the party was gaining momentum, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, political benefactor of Mr Jonathan and a strong influence within the party, wrote a damning letter last month cataloguing alleged personal shortcomings of the president and his style of governance.
The letter was more devastating than if it had been written by the leader of the main opposition party.
President Jonathan replied, denying all the allegations.
He said that the former president had done him "grave injustice" with the public letter.
He accused Mr Obasanjo of trying to incite the populace against him.
His supporters within the PDP leadership and his political aides fired a barrage of denunciations against Mr Obasanjo but the resultant controversy has not helped the president.
Yet another political bombshell was delivered by the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He alleged that nearly $50bn (£30bn) was unaccounted for from crude oil receipts taken by the national petroleum corporation.
Official denials followed shortly afterwards but in the end it was admitted that about $10bn was yet to be accounted for.
There was a report last week that the president directed the central bank governor to resign because his letter had been leaked, but that the governor refused, apparently calculating that it would be difficult for the president to muster the two-thirds majority in the Senate needed to sack him.
It seems the president has dumped Mr Tukur in the hope this can save the party, which has won every election since the end of military rule in 1999.
His own political future remains uncertain.
It is not only raining over President Jonathan, it is like a deluge falling on him.
He may have to draw on all the luck of his first name to sail through.
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