By Dayo Benson, Political Editor
In the last couple of days, the nationâ€™s political landscape has witnessed a floury of activities. There have been alignment and re-alignment of forces. Different geopolitical zones have also been taking positions, especially on the contentious issue of zoning.
Last week, the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, somehow doused the tension the issue has generated. The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party ratified the decisions of the PDP National Caucus and the Board of Trustees, (BoT). The partyâ€™s highest organ acknowledged President Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s constitutional right to contest next year presidential poll on the basis of Yarâ€™Adua/Jonathan joint ticket, which is expected to end in 2015.
It however, upheld zoning in the party as enshrined in section 7(2)(c) of PDP constitution. The NEC decision somehow cleared the coast for Jonathan to actualise his ambition come 2011. However, Jonathan is yet to formerly declare his intention to have a shot at the presidency next year. While the President is dithering in declaring his intention, other aspirants in the party have seized the moment. It was as if the duo of former military President General Ibrahim Babangida and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar were waiting for PDP NEC. Sunday, the two
of them at separate venues made known their intention to contest the 2011 presidency.
While Babangida made his in an unprecedented national broadcast on television from his Minna Hilltop residence, Atiku told a gathering of teeming supporters and journalists in Abuja that he was offering himself for the race.
Earlier, Kano State Governor Ibrahim Shekarau had also formerly declared at a grand ceremony in Abuja on the platform of All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP. Former head of state Maj-General Mohammadu Buhari who is expected to fly the presidential flag of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, may declare his intention any moment from now. But a prospective candidate that all have been waiting for is President Jonathan.
During a state visit to the US early in the year, Jonathan was ambivalent when he was asked whether he would run or not. But his body language so far suggests he will contest. With about five months to the 2011 eleven general elections, the President is yet to make his intention known. Thus, a foreign news agency, Reuters, had insinuated Tuesday that Jonathan might have dropped his presidential ambition.
According to the report, â€œNigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is considering not standing in elections due next January but will make his intentions known by the end of the month, a presidency source said on Tuesday.
â€œAn election bid by Jonathan, who is from the southern Niger Delta, could split the ruling party due to an agreement that power rotates between the Muslim north and Christian south every two terms, meaning the next president should be a northerner.
â€œThe Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party (PDP) has said Jonathan has the right to run, because he was previously vice president on a joint ticket with northern President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, who died mid-way through his first term earlier this yearâ€,
The news agency quoted a presidency source as saying, â€œHe is not likely going to run, simply because his party has retained the zoning of the presidency to the north for the next four years.
â€œThough his party said he can run despite the zoning, the party said this because they didnâ€™t want to offend himâ€, the presidency source who was not named, told Reuters.
The presidency had promptly reacted to the report, saying the President would declare at the appropriate time.
â€œOur attention has been drawn to a report published by Reuters today (Tuesday), quoting â€œPresidencyâ€ sources as stating that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan may have decided not to run in the 2011 presidential elections after allâ€, the Presidency said in a statement by Mr Ima Niboro, Special Adviser, Media and Publicity.
He added, â€œinformation at our disposal indicates that this is a story sponsored by interested parties. Unfortunately, the highly rated global news agency was misled into publishing itâ€. â€œThe truth is that the president has not said he will not run. Neither has he said he will. At different times he has given clear reasons why he considers it premature, in the interest of governance, to make any commitment both ways. At the appropriate time, the president will inform his country men and women of his future plans. Until then, every comment on the subject remains mere speculationâ€, the Presidentâ€™s spokesman said.
The question is: For how long will Jonathan keep the nation waiting and when is the appropriate time, especially when other contestants appear to be taking the shine off him?
Why they want to be President
â€œMy desire and interest to offer my stewardship by vying for the office of president in the 2011 general elections stemmed out of my belief and those of many other compatriots, that our country needs an experienced and tested leader, who has a rich knowledge of the socio-economic and political dynamics of our people and country. Without being immodest, I have implicit confidence that I fit into that consideration.
â€œI have built bridges of understanding across our great nation, and held wide consultations and discussions with various classes of people on this project, with a view to charting a new developmental agenda for our dear country. Generally, the consensus has been the dire need for a dynamic, visionary, pragmatic, experienced, knowledgeable and detribalized leadership, to steer the ship of state and create opportunities for addressing contemporary challenges of nation building.
â€œGiven my wealth of experience and decades of leadership study, plus the urgent need to confront the challenges of our national lives, I believe the time is ripe for me to serve our people as a civilian president, with your kind support, cooperation and understanding.
â€œWhy do I want to be President? Firstly, it is my constitutional right to do so. I have a fundamental right as a bona-fide Nigerian to vote and be voted for in an election. I am only exercising my franchise. Secondly, my previous government was a military one. I have seen over the years that many things could be done better. I have also spent many years to understudy democratic leadership in several countries and have mastered the art of democracy and learnt how to apply it better under our Nigerian conditions.
History is replete with leaders who despite their ages, staged a come back. More than ever before, IBB is back with a lot of new policies that will drive Nigeriaâ€™s plural society under a new federal system that will cater for the needs of the various nationalities for equity and unity. Additionally, we need to fix many things positively in our educational, infrastructural, energy, and economic, socio-political and moral lives. We must begin to address our minds on the practice of true federalism, creation of State Police to support our Federal Police, devise ways of running slim government, devolve power at the centre and build on our foreign policy and defense profiles. These are some of my attractions and motivation for leadershipâ€, Babangida declared.
Atiku â€œAfter due consultations with my family, friends and political associates, I have come here to formally announce, with humility and a deep sense of responsibility, that I shall be offering myself as a candidate for election to the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the 2011 Presidential Election. I shall do so on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP}.I want to chart a new course For our beloved country and lead our people to their manifest destiny.
I am seeking the presidency of our great country to realize my vision of a prosperous, secure, peaceful, democratic, caring and confident Nigeria. I intend to lead the efforts to create conducive conditions and incentives for productive investment in our country. These will create massive numbers of jobs which will keep our youth gainfully employed and help to tackle the high level of insecurity in the country. Our productivity can only increase significantly if we invest in education, research and modern technology, and infrastructure. As we become more prosperous through increased productivity we will be better able, as a nation, to provide more rewarding and enabling social services.
â€œWe will become a more caring society as we give more support to those who need help in order to have a more decent life. This will include fast_tracking the development of the Niger Delta as well as addressing the cries of marginalisation by different sections of the country.
When we are able to get our acts together, we will become more confident as a people and a country. We will be confident to visit our villages or any part of the country without the fear of kidnappers and armed robbers. We will be confident to present our green passports at international entry ports without the fear of being singled out as potential criminals. I am ready to lead the movement for the realization of that vision. Together we shall make good things happen.
â€œI have picked five key areas for immediate intervention because oftheir critical impact on all other areas of development. These are: Employment Generation and Wealth Creation, Power Generation and Infrastructural Development, Security, Good Governance and War Against Corruption, Education, Health and Social Services, and The Niger Delta.
â€œI cannot do these alone. With your support, we will put in place attractive incentives for investors to invest in our economy and create well-paying jobs. Together we will fix our crumbling schools, our roads, and our health care delivery system. Together we shall fix the electricity problem by taking advantage of the varying energy resources and needs in different parts of the country.
Together we shall address desertification, gully erosion and other lingering environmental challenges. Together we will tackle the infrastructural bottlenecks that have stalled investments. Together we shall provide our people with the tools to live productive lives independent of government handouts. Together we shall wage a genuine war on corruption by instituting a better reward and punishment system, ensuring true independence of the anti_corruption agencies and the speedy trial of corruption cases.
â€œIn 2007, I proposed a separate ministry of the Niger Delta in order to fast_track the development of the region, the way we have been doing for Abuja. As you can see, the idea of a separate ministry has not been fully implemented to be able to fast_track development of the region. Under my watch that will change. Together we shall clean up and restore the environment of the Niger Delta, speed up the development of the area, ensure that oil and gas extraction is carried out in a responsible and sustainable manner, and hold those responsible for environmental degradation accountableâ€, Atiku said.
Shekarau According to the governor, what the country needs now to overcome all the challenges it is facing is a government that would work for the people and not allow people to â€˜relentlessly struggle to improve their lives.
â€œThey are tired of a system that is weak and often unpredictable; a system where hardly any thing gets done without some waste of resources. They are tired of a federal government that is not working for them, a government that could not fulfill its pledge to entrench the rule of law, attain food security; deliver electricity in spite of repeatedly shifted deadlines and changed promises. What is lacking is a focused leadership.
â€œThe PDP have ruled this country for almost twelve years but they have nothing on the ground to show apart from inconsistency. Day before yesterday in was National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy, (NEEDS) where the states were asked to be benchmarked for best practice and the Federal government itself refused to be benchmarked; yesterday it was seven point agenda and today, what? Nobody knows.
â€œLet us all today resolve to stand up and get involved because in order to put the kind of leadership that we want for our country, we must unite and work for it because the task of electing such a leader cannot be allowed to be an exclusive enterprise for politicians. It is our common enterprise as citizens of this countryâ€, Governor Shekarau said.