President Goodluck Jonathan has refused to say whether he will run for the presidency in 2015, although many Nigerians expect he will. The current efforts among the opposition parties to come together behind a single presidential candidate is based on the assumption that Jonathan will run.
Jonathan may not have much choice. His constituency in the southern half of the country and among fellow Christians is likely to insist on it. A notorious Delta militant and thug, Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo Asari, posted a reminder on May 6 of that reality. In a rambling and often incoherent press conference, he said that if Jonathan, a fellow Ijaw, is not re-elected in 2015, not only will there be no peace in the oil-rich Niger Delta, there will be no peace anywhere in Nigeria:
“I want to go on to say that there will be no peace, not only in the Niger Delta, but everywhere if Goodluck Jonathan is not president by 2015 except God takes his life, which we don’t pray for. Jonathan has uninterrupted eight years of two terms to be president, according to the Nigeria constitution.” According to Nigerian media, he said, “we will continue to support and stand by Goodluck.”
In effect, Dokubo Asari’s statement is a threat of renewed Delta violence and is directed at those who would try to deny Jonathan the ruling party’s presidential nomination or those who would vote for an opposition presidential candidate.
The threat is credible. Dokubo Asari is a former president of the Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC) and leader of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDVF), one of the most important militant organizations involved in the Delta insurrection during the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo. The fighting ended with an amnesty established by President Yar’Adua and has continued under President Jonathan. The amnesty involved limited disarmament, retraining, and re-integration of militants. It also involved massive payoffs to militant leaders like Dokubo Asari. But, militant groups like the NDVF have not disbanded, they appear to retain access to sophisticated weapons, and they could relaunch mayhem at any time.
Dokubo Asari was born into a distinguished Christian family. He converted to Islam when he dropped out of university. The conversion appears personal rather than political because few Ijaw are Muslim, and the Muslim population in the Delta–the center of Dokubo Asari’s activities–is very small. He claims to be a friend of President Jonathan. He regularly denounces the Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria, saying that Boko Haram and its nominal leader Abubakar Shekau are un-Islamic because of their “arrogance,” especially for their call for Jonathan’s conversion to Islam. He also denounces the mal-governance of Nigeria by a succession of northern military leaders. He is a reminder that southern bitterness toward the north is based on more than anti-Islam sentiments.