President Goodluck Jonathan is under intense pressure by various interest groups and individuals to declare his ambition to run for a second term in office, but he has kept a golden silence over it although his body language has left no one in doubt
| By Olu Ojewale | Aug. 11, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
IT has, no doubt, been a turbulent tenure for President Goodluck Jonathan. Since he assumed office as elected president more than three years ago, Jonathan has been battling with national security issues and their attendant problems. The savagery of Boko Haram sect assaults in the North East of the country with the abduction of more than 200 school girls of Chibok Government Secondary School in Borno State, more than 100 days ago, should be enough to frighten or discourage any sitting president from wanting to continue in office. But it appears that Jonathan, like a good soldier, would want to shoulder on not minding the unfriendly campaign which opposition political parties have mounted against his presidency.
Although the president is yet to make clear his ambition for re-election in 2015, keen watchers of political events are ready to bet with their lives that the president is not tired of being called the commander-in-chief of the Nigerian armed forces yet. To that extent, a good number of interest groups and individuals have been in the forefront of the campaign for his re-election and urging him not to forsake his legitimate right to a second term in office.
Hence, it was not surprising when members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the House of Representatives held a meeting recently in which they endorsed the president’s second term ambition. The caucus members of the House, after their meeting with the president at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on the night of Tuesday, July 14, endorsed his second term bid in 2015. In a short chat with State House correspondents after the meeting, Mulikat Akande, leader of the House, said the endorsement became necessary as a result of the achievements recorded by the Jonathan administration. Akande told the anxious reporters: “We are PDP caucus of the House of Representatives; a meeting like this is not strange because we met with the President, who is our leader. We deliberated on issues affecting our party and on our own, we decided to pass a vote of confidence on Mr. President and also endorse him for a second term.” Asked whether the president accepted to contest, she replied: “We did the endorsement and we are urging him to run for a second term.”
Observers said the meeting must have been engineered by the president to intensify his consultation ahead of a possible declaration to run in the 2015 presidential election. Present at the meeting were Adamu Mu’azu, national chairman of the PDP, Godswill Akpabio, chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum and governor of Akwa ibom State, as well as Uche Secondus, deputy national chairman of the PDP. Other governors at the meeting were Theodore Orji, Abia; Sullivan Chime, Enugu; Martin Elechi, Ebonyi; Seriake Dickson, Bayelsa; Gabriel Suswan, Benue; Sule Lamido, Jigawa; and Saidu Dakingari, Kebbi. The rest were Isa Yuguda, Bauchi; Ibrahim Shema, Katsina; Ibrahim Dankwambo, Gombe; Liyel imoke, Cross River and Emmanuel Uduaghan, Delta. The four remaining governors were represented by their deputies.
The president got a similar endorsement from the anti-Governor Chibuike Amaechi members of the Rivers State House of Assembly on Wednesday, July 23. In a statement issued in Port Harcourt, the lawmakers, namely, Evans Bapakaye Bipi, Martin Amaewhule, Michael Okechukwu Chinda, Victor Ihunwo, Kelechi Nwogu, and Ibani Ikuiyi, said they had to back Jonathan because of the success of his transformation agenda. They said: “We members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the Rivers State House of Assembly, have endorsed President Jonathan for a second term as president in 2015. This is due to his transformation agenda which is fast tracking development in the country. The transformation agenda of the Jonathan administration has been felt in critical sectors of the economy such as power, aviation, oil and gas, education, agriculture, trade and investment, health and tourism.
“The transformation agenda has also led to the development of key infrastructure particularly roads as well as economic empowerment of the citizens and the improvement of the well-being of Nigerians. If the Jonathan administration could achieve these in less than four years, we believe that if given a second term, it would achieve more and place Nigeria in a better position among the comity of nations.”
“Your Excellency, we welcome you back to your home. Welcome. We love you as our son. We are giving you something so that after 2019, you will go home and rest. It is our duty as traditional rulers to give advice. Here in Enugu, we have one government, one people and one ruler. The South-East has already given you a traditional title. But we did not give you a seat that day; now, we are giving you a seat.”
With that statement, Lawrence Agwu Buji, chairman of Enugu State Council of chiefs, who spoke on behalf of the traditional rulers of the South-East, present at the reception for President Jonathan at the Unity Rally of the zone in Enugu on April 11, conveyed the endorsement of the zone to the president for the 2015 polls. The traditional rulers, thereafter, presented President Jonathan with a seat carved in gold.
In his speech before the actual rally, Governor Chime said the significance of the traditional rulers’ presence was to afford the royal fathers an opportunity to formerly welcome the president to the South-East and for him to know that they were totally in support of his government. “They are not politicians otherwise, they would have stayed inside the stadium. They are here to let you know that whatever we tell you has received the backing of our traditional rulers. Mr President, what we decided to tell you, will be said before everybody in the open at the stadium, so that everybody will be aware,” Chime said.
At the rally that took the president to the state, Governor Chime finally made public what he had earlier promised during the royal blessings by the traditional rulers when he announced that the rally was organised to make only two requests to the president. He said: “Mr. President, the essence of this gathering is very simple. Our people have been meeting and we have only two requests. One is that you run for 2015. Our second request is to plead with you to please say yes to our first request. We are not here to discuss your budget, we are not here to assess your government, all we want is that you say yes to our first and second requests.”
Arthur Eze, a prominent PDP chieftain and business mogul, speaking on behalf of the people of the South-East, insisted that Jonathan deserved a second term in office. “You are from the South-South; you must continue in 2015, thereafter, you can transfer the power to the north. If you refuse Jonathan a second chance, another civil war is coming and we do not want another war,” Eze said. Labaran Maku, information minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, health minister; Viola Onwuliri, minister of state, Foreign Affairs, Ojo Madueke, Nigerian Ambassador to Canada, and Emeka Wogu, minister of Labour and Productivity, similarly spoke in the same vein. “We have no apology for supporting Jonathan, although the zone has been said to be putting all her eggs in one basket, it has no apology because it will enable the zone to fight harder to protect her eggs,” Madueke said.
Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State, in his own contribution, said: “If you say no, we shall conscript you. We know that it is under this PDP government that we got an Inspector General of Police, Chief of Army Staff after 40 years. Under this government, we have the Secretary to the Government of the federation, SGF, and a Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for Economy. You have fulfilled all you promised that you would do, and you have done even more.” Try as they did, the dignitaries at the event could not get a verbal commitment from the president who repeatedly told them that at the appropriate time, and after wide consultations, he would make his intention public.
Earlier in the year, leaders of the PDP in the South-West similarly endorsed the President’s second term ambition and urged him to contest the 2015 presidential election. The leaders took the decision to adopt Jonathan as the presidential candidate for the South-West at a meeting of stakeholders held at Ijebu Igbo, Ogun State, on Sunday, January 26. Prominent among the PDP South-West leaders at the stakeholders’ meeting were Adeseye Ogunlewe, former minister of works; Deji Doherty, acting Zonal vice-chairman; Isola Filani, former South-West caretaker committee chairman; Pegba Otemolu, former zonal secretary, Gbenga Osinowo, former Ogun State commissioner for commerce, and Adewole Adeyanju, national auditor of the PDP.
In supporting the president’s second term bid, Ogunlewe said Jonathan was the most qualified candidate the party could field in the forthcoming poll. “President Jonathan is performing wonders,” the former minister said, while Adeyanju declared that the zone’s support for Jonathan in 2015 was total.
As if taking a cue from the PDP, the Labour Party, LP, in Ogun State under the leadership of former Governor Gbenga Daniel, on Saturday, July 26, said that the party and the PDP would work together to actualise the second term ambition of President Jonathan in next year’s presidential election. Daniel hinged the decision on the president’s meritorious performance in his first term. Daniel insisted: “We need a better government in Ogun. If that means working with President Jonathan, PDP and LP, it does not matter. My support for President Jonathan is not surprising. I led his campaign in the Southwest in 2011. I am working for him because I have looked at the terrain. For now, within the framework of contemporary challenges, he is better supported to have a second term. If there is another reason that I should not support him, let them say it and we debate it,” adding: “We need to maintain the equilibrium. Let President Jonathan have a second term and we will work for who will succeed him later. This country will not make progress, until we appreciate our responsibilities in governance. There is the need for consistency.”
Although the president himself has said on several occasions that his political ambition is not worth anybody’s blood, there are some people who have been threatening fire and brimstone that he must either be given a second term or there would be bloodshed. Leading this campaign is Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, a former Niger Delta militant and leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, NDPVF. In his usual tough, offensive, provocative and insensitive language, Asari-Dokubo said Nigeria would be on fire in 2015 if the nation failed to re-elect Jonathan as president. Addressing a press conference in Abuja, late last year, the former militant warned: “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 Nigerian constitution. We must have our uninterrupted eight years of two tenures; I am not in support of any amendment of the constitution that will reduce the eight years of two tenures that Goodluck Jonathan is expected to be president of Nigeria.”
In a tacit endorsement of Asari-Dokubo’s stand, Edwin Clark, an elder statesman and prominent Ijaw leader, is also campaigning for President Jonathan’s second term bid. An unrepentant supporter of President Jonathan, he has never shied away from discussing why the president should be allowed to lead the country for another four years. During the sixth Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, inauguration, in Yenogoa, Bayelsa State recently, Clark told the gathering that it must work hard to ensure that Jonathan was returned to office in 2015. “We all know that these are, indeed, trying times for the Ijaw nation and the IYC constitutes the foot soldiers of the Ijaw. There is a need for unity among us to be able to rally support for our son, President Goodluck Jonathan, in his 2015 re-election bid. I am happy the Ijaw youths have closed ranks and put all their differences behind them. I am happy that Eradiri said the struggle for Ijaw unity would be taken to an intellectual level through capacity building for the youth,” he said.
Supporting the call, Broderick Bozimo, former minister of Police Affairs, who also addressed the youths, said the entire Ijaw people were committed to the Jonathan 2015 project. He, therefore, urged the president to contest again in 2015, and expressed optimism that Jonathan would win by a landslide. “We are totally committed to the Jonathan project. All of us in Ijaw land are with Jonathan. We are urging him to contest and it has to be done peacefully because he is going to win,” Bozimo said.
As the campaign for the president to go for a second term gains momentum, so is the voice of the opposition also rising in decibel. One of such voices is that of Joe Igbokwe, a pro-democracy activist and member of the APC, who addressed a press conference in Lagos on July 6, urging President Jonathan to jettison his re-election bid in the interest of the nation. He said the harassment of the opposition, the Boko Haram insurgency and impeachment of opposition governors underscored the president’s desperation to retain power. Igbokwe who said all these incidents were threatening democracy, opined that if the quest for power was anchored on good performance, Jonathan would be unfit for a second term because his handling of national affairs had been tragic and disastrous.
Besides, the activist advised the president to respect the zoning in the ruling PDP, adding that Jonathan’s plan to rule for 10 years could break up the country. He argued: “Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, from the South ruled Nigeria for eight years. It was also expected that the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, from the North, would rule for eight years, all other things being equal. But he died after two years in office. President Jonathan, Yar’Adua’s erstwhile vice-president, from the South, took over the mantle of leadership. It was expected that he would complete the first term of Yar’Adua’s tenure and step aside for the North to complete its eight years.
“Against protests from the North, Jonathan sought another term and got elected. By 2015, he would have ruled for six years. Seeking another term of four years, will endanger our polity and create ethnic and religious tension, as we are witnessing now. We are in a democracy and, if we are still one country, there is need for equity and justice. Jonathan’s ambition to rule for 10 years may break Nigeria.”
Chukwuemeka Eze, a former PDP chieftain who defected to the APC last year, wants President Goodluck Jonathan to either forget a second term or be ready for a serious war from the opposition. In a statement issued in Port Harcourt, a few months ago, the former spokesman of the defunct new PDP, which later merged with the APC, said Jonathan should prepare for war come 2015 because the APC would send him packing out of the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
“State Governors who left the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, last year to form the New Peoples Democratic Party before finally merging with the All Progressives Congress, have vowed to abort the second term ambition of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan,” Eze said. According to him, the former PDP governors were working in collaboration with other democratic forces in the APC to unseat Jonathan and rescue Nigeria from the doom which he and his party, were leading the country to.
Holding a similar view is John Odigie-Oyegun, national chairman of the APC, who believes that the president is too desperate for a second term. Addressing a press conference at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja on Wednesday, July 16, Odigie-Oyegun warned the president not to use his second term ambition to destroy the country. The party’s boss, who was apparently sour about the recent removal of Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, from office through an impeachment, accused the president of being the hand behind the act. He said: “Our freedoms are being emasculated, our economy is being run aground, and our only hope of bringing about change – our democratic expression – is being smothered before our very eyes- all because President Goodluck Jonathan is so obsessed with re-election in 2015 at all cost that he is destroying not just all our key institutions, but, indeed, the entire country.”
However, Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State believes that President Jonathan cannot win any of the 19 northern states in a free and fair contest come 2015. Kwankwaso, in some of his posts on his twitter handle @Rkwankwaso recently, claimed to have arrived at this conclusion after undertaking a survey of northern states. He explained that his findings showed that none of the affected states would be willing to vote in favour of the current state of affairs.
Kwankwaso said: “I have not taken the time to go to the South to study what is happening, but I had time to study the North. In the 19 states, I don’t see any state where, under a free and fair election; people will go and vote for the status quo. The status quo is not good for anybody because it has failed to provide the basic services to justify why the people voted for this government.
“Being a President is not about personal enjoyment, it also does not mean protecting some and ignoring others. Once anyone is elected as a President or a governor, you are no more than the chairman of your party, you are no more Edwin Clark, who is the leader of the Ijaw nation, but you are the President for both who voted for you and those who did not, those who like you, and those who do not like you.”
Despite the calls and attendant controversy, the president has refused to publicly declare his second term ambition. But there are signs that he wants to go for a second term. Many individuals and organisations have thus, been cashing in on this to place adverts on radio, television, newspapers and the social media extolling his virtues as well as enumerating why he should go for a second term. One of such groups is called Transformation Agenda of Nigeria, TAN, which recently promised to ‘capture’ six states in the South-West for the president’s ambition. Beside TAN, there is GEJlites as well as many other small ones rooting for the president to contest the 2015 presidential election. The fact that President Jonathan has not stopped any of them or dissociated himself from their activities is evident that the president is already in the race by proxy.
In one of his press statements recently, Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary of the APC said: “It is sad that a government that apparently cannot adequately fund the war on terror, a government that has lost the initiative to terrorists, a government that cannot provide jobs for its teeming army of unemployed youths, a government that is running Nigeria aground, has suddenly found huge funds to engage in a re-election campaign that is going nowhere, touting tokenism as achievements.”
But whether Mohammed is to be believed or not is another thing. In the meantime, the president is keeping the decision out of public domain, but it is obvious that whatever he decides, it is not going to be long again before it gets to the public because arrangements for all elective posts must be concluded this year ahead of 2015 elections. Is the waiting game worth all the trouble? Your guess is as good as mine!