By Tony Edike
ENUGU—Ijaw National Leader, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, yesterday, declared that nobody could stop President Goodluck Jonathan from seeking a second term in office, saying only the Nigerian electorate could decide his fate in 2015.
Speaking with newsmen shortly after the opening of the Southern Leaders Conference in Enugu, Chief Clark said it would be wrong for the South to return power to the North in 2015 when the incumbent president had all the rights to re-contest.
He said since the North had ruled the nation for 38 years and the South had done only 13 years, there was need for the purpose of equity, justice and fairplay, for power to still remain in the South
His words: “The Constitution provided for two terms. In 1979, Shehu Shagari from the North was president until 1983 when he got his second term but Buhari for reasons best known to them, they thought that at the end of his second ruling he will hand over to Ekwueme or to Akinloye. They then staged a coup and drove him (Shagari) away and imprisoned all the politicians. Who took over? Another Northerner.
“Then Ibrahim Babangida said we have had enough. He took over from Muhammadu Buhari. Babangida handed over to Ernest Shonekan, he didn’t even rule for only three months and Sanni Abacha overthrew Shonekan. Even when MKO Abiola was elected in 1993 he was not allowed to rule even one day. MKO Abiola was driven away and killed – one of the wealthiest men in Africa. Abdulsalami Abubakar also ruled after Abacha died.
“Then Obasanjo came and ruled for eight years and Umaru Yar’Adua was also going to rule for eight years. Why would Jonathan not be allowed to rule for eight years?
“Well, that is not what we have come here to discuss but quote me, the Constitution of Nigeria says a president will contest election for two terms and remain in office for eight years, four years each. Jonathan came in as president because his master (Yar’Adua) died. And somebody has to feel that position and you don’t count that period as if he has contested election. Swearing-in has nothing to do with that provision of the election. Jonathan has every right to re-contest in 2015 to complete his eight years. Nobody can stop him.”
Also speaking at the Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly (SNPA) attended by over 120 delegates from the South East, South West and South South, the convener and Chairman of the forum , Dr. Alex Ekwueme enumerated the gains of the meeting, the second of its kind, to include collective bargain and speaking with one voice in the nation polity, just like the monolithic north does.
Ekuweme recalled that after the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates on January 1, 1914, the Northern Nigeria continued to be administered as one unit whereas the Southern Nigeria was constituted of the colony of Lagos, the western and Eastern provinces, respectively.
The second republic Vice President further narrated that part of the reason why he was denied the Presidential candidate of the party he founded in 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was because of his “hard-line posture” in securing power shift and 13% derivation for the southern states during the General Sani Abacha’s midwived Constitutional conference of 1994-1995.
Ekwueme said that during the conference, the northern delegates summoned a meeting amongst them where they resolved to maintain status quo of retaining power in the north and he took a proactive step to ensure that the southern delegates sojourn to the conference was not a sheer waste of time and so he summoned a counter southern delegates meeting.
He said: “I therefore took immediate step to organize a Southern delegates’ caucus. In this initative I had the support of late Dr. Tunji Otegbeye and High Chief Dr. Emmanuel Nsan all under my leadership and chairmanship. The immediate task of the southern delegates’ caucus was to devise a strategy that would prevent continuation of the status quo, that is, continue retention of power by the Northern elements on return to civilian rule.
“We mounted a proposal for constitutional provision for alternating or oscillating the presidency of Nigeria between the North and the South after each five-year single term, a provision more popularly referred to as rotational Presidency.
“The proposal was strongly resisted by many northern delegates who eventually accepted it provided it was enriched in the political parties’ constitutions rather than in the national constitution. The unworkability of the political party constitutional provision arrangement was then demonstrated beyond all doubt.
“When opposition to the rotational presidency persisted, it was pointed out that if the purpose of the 1914 amalgamation was to ensure that the south was always under the leadership of the north, then it might become necessary to consider the option of de-amalgamation. With this show of brinkmanship, both sides opted to retreat in the interest of Nigeria continued existence and unity and rotational presidency was endorsed by consensus and became part of the draft 1995 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Ekwueme further traced the history of power rotation, saying the first hiccup was which zone, North or South, would produce the Presidency to start with, adding that since the idea of rotation was muted to check the prolonged northern rulership, it made sense to start with the South.
“At that point we changed our sloganeering from rotational presidency to power shift so as to put the question beyond doubt. It was this power shift that the subsequent leading party, the PDP, entrenched as one of its cardinal objective principles and which ensured that northern aspirant sought the presidential nomination of the party at the return to civilian governance in 1999; and which made it possible for General Obasanjo to become the Presidential candidate of the party in 1999,” said Ekwueme.
He further narrated that with the problem of power shift settled, the next was the percentage to be ascribed to derivation. Again, the north was said to have insisted on 3% but with the agitation and doggedness of the Southern delegates, 13% minimum was finally settled for even after the group wanted 50% as was the case in the 1963 constitution.
“It was suggested to me that my so called hard-line posture in successfully securing power shift and 13% minimum for derivation were contributory factors to my inability to obtain the presidential nomination of the party I founded and nurtured to success. Be that as it may, I have no regrets as long as my guiding principles were a search for justice, equity and fair play,” said Ekwueme.
Chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum and Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, urged the Southern leaders to endeavour to set things right both in the zone and in the entire nation saying Nigeria was fast drifting from the right path.
He commended the conveners of the meeting for their commitment towards ensuring the unity of the entire south, adding that the importance of the meeting made him to contribute meaningfully to its success.
“People are no longer shocked when dozens of their citizens are gunned down and bombed In his speech, Bishop Emmanuel Gbonigi, Leader of the Yoruba Unity Forum, called for immediate national dialogue of various sections expressed serious concerns over the challenges plaguing the country on behalf of Yoruba delegation, said that corruption, insecurity, inequitable and problematic constitution have compounded the problems, stressing that such ugly trend had continued to play negative impact on the progress of the country.
He said that the security situation of the country had continued to deteriorate; stressing that kidnapping for ransom had become rapidly blooming business as army of youths and unemployed swarm across villages and cities
by the Boko Haram. The massacres have become routine. It is not clear what government’s policy is towards Boko Haram. Is it dialogue or is it the use of force? It has become unconvincingly to call the terrorists faceless because recent developments show that they are known by our rulers”, he said.
Expressing disgust with the call on the president to dialogue with the Boko Haram as well as monetary compensation to their leaders and families, Gbonigi said it was akin to setting wrong standards and raising fundamental question as to whether every group needed to resort to violent acts against other citizens before they can attract government’s attention.
“There are groups in Nigeria today who believe that the mode of national revenue sharing is unfair to them, or that their part of the country is grossly marginalized, or that the constitution we operate is oppressive and disadvantageously constructed against them, or that it stifles their self realization and development. Must the government wait till all these groups mount their own insurgencies before it listens to them, and will it then proceed to have separate dialogues with each, accompanied by monetary compensation? If it is acceptable to dialogue with the Boko Haram, why can’t we have a dialogue that embraces all Nigerians once and for all, for all grievances to be expressed and mutual accommodation reached? Such a national dialogue is clearly what the nation needs, and is long overdue”, Gbonigi said
Among personalities from the three zones in attendance were Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Chief Edwin Clark, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, Bishop Emmanuel Gbonigi, Chief Gbenga Daniel, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Alabo Toye Graham-Douglas, Chief Ralph Obioha, Senator Rowland Owie, Chief Olu Falae, Dr. Walter Ofonagoro, Dr. Okwy Nwodo, Dr. Silas Iloh, Senator Adolphus Wabara, Senator Ofia Nwali, chief John Oyegun, Senator Syvester Ngele and Dr. Sam Egwu.