By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North
Some would say it’s too early in the day to predict who the majority of the people of the 19 northern states will vote for in the impending presidential election. It is slightly difficult to say so with certainty for now given the fact that the sitting President, who, by body language, is set on running for second term, has refused to make the pronouncement officially.
But those who are on the political turf with him have not denied that Jonathan is hell bent on seeking another four years so that he could end his Boko Haram-assailed regime in 2019.
Before now, the North had been united in the rejection of the continuation of President Goodluck Jonathan beyond 2015.
The vociferous ones among its leaders have been very clear in their campaign against Jonathan’s Presidency in the first instance, saying that he ought to have relinquished office after serving out the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua tenure in 2011. As their argument goes, Jonathan breached the zoning formula that had been agreed upon by contesting the 2011 election, which one of theirs should have done.
The breach, according to them, means that Jonathan, a southern minority from Otueke, Bayelsa State, is occupying the exalted office in the land at the expense of the North. But having lost the office to Jonathan, many key political actors from certain parts of the north appear unprepared to listen to any discussion that would bring back the President in 2015.
They have made their opposition to him very clear from the outset and are not ready to back down as the election date draws nearer. When it became apparent to the northern political protagonists that the mantra of zoning would not bring the presidency to the region in 2011, they changed the campaign by reminding Jonathan that he signed an agreement with them to do a single term of four years from 2011-2015.
That argument would have held water but the man, who broached the idea-Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliyu- known for his oratory prowess, painfully dashed the hope of the northern people by failing to produce the deal purportedly entered into with Jonathan. As it stands, not many Nigerian politicians believe any such deal exists, thus casting doubt on the story.
Even after that, Aliyu, who was seen as an anti-Jonathan campaigner, refused to quit the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the All Progressives Congress (APC) when the golden opportunity came for him to demonstrate in practical terms his opposition to the President and his government.
The governor, like his Jigawa State counterpart, Sule Lamido, who has used his eight-year stint in Dutse to transform the once barren land, insisted that they cannot leave the PDP, which they founded, to tenants, who have no idea of how the party came about. That position has not only emboldened Jonathan to push ahead with his re-election plan but has also motivated him to depend on the two governors to garner the all-important support of the North for his second term.
Now, Jonathan, through his Vice, Namadi Sambo, is working round the clock to break down the massive northern opposition against him and has succeeded in raising some friendly political groups and individuals to key into his second term agenda. One of the groups-the Northern Elders’ Council- headed by elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai; and suspected to enjoy the tacit endorsement of the Presidency – emerged, last week, promising to work for the progress and unity of Nigeria.
At its inauguration in Kaduna, the NEC leader, Yakassai, simply said the group came about to work for Nigeria and not any individual. The former Adviser to President Shehu Shagari of the second republic said he was too big to be recruited to work for Jonathan or Sambo, as he did not belong to any political party, having left partisan politics over 12 years ago.
Yakassai said, “”What I am doing now is to achieve peace in Nigeria because we are concerned about the threat to the corporate existence of the country. If we allow a few reckless but vociferous elements cause trouble in the land, it is the ordinary Nigerians, who would be the worst hit.
”Why should we keep quiet and allow a few troublemakers to cause havoc for the majority?
Describing himself as one of the northern leaders who have suffered to make Nigeria great, Yakassai said that those who were criticising him and his group are talking rubbish and seeking undue attention.
He said, “Those who are making noise today about the north have never worked for Nigeria. They are self-seeking persons out there to work for themselves only.
“But I have always been at the forefront of the development of this country and I have been put in the prison 14 times because of working for Nigeria. “I’m still committed to keeping Nigeria as a united country because if there is no Nigeria, there will be no north South.” “The North is benefitting from the unity of Nigeria and it should continue to work together with other Nigerians.”
The emergence of NEC not withstanding, notable groups such as the Northern Elders’ Forum, NEF, headed by Prof Ango Abdullahi, and leading political commentators such as Dr. Junaid Mohammed, do not see any need to allow Jonathan to occupy the Presidential Villa a day longer than May 29, 2015. According to them, Jonathan was unfit to continue in office or having completed the tenure of Yar’Adua, which was a joint ticket of the two leaders.
Ango Abdullahi and Junaid Mohammed are certain that the people of the North deserve to prop up one of theirs to take over from Jonathan next year.
Mohammed insisted that by the common interpretation of the Constitution, Jonathan would be committing an illegality if he contests the 2015 Presidency having been sworn in more than two times as President of Nigeria.
Mohammed, a former member of House of Reps, said, “As far as I am concerned there should be no two ways about it. People who made promises must be made to abide by such promises. And even without the promises an ordinary reading of the Constitution at face value will indicate that Jonathan cannot avail himself of another term in 2015 simply because the constitution provides for two terms for anybody whatever the intervening circumstance.
“Secondly, the Constitution provides for people taking the oath of office only twice in their lifetime. Now how this President can now proceed to take oath of office three times is something I cannot understand and they are unwilling to subject the matter to the Supreme Court for interpretation.
“This shows that they have something to hide and they believe that by mere propaganda through the lies of the people being used they can now change the constitution.
“To me, the easiest way to amend the Constitution is to follow what the Constitution says. Nobody wants to do what the law says and they think they can get away with illegality simply because they are in power. It will not work.”
Ango Abdullahi, a former ABU Vice Chancellor, is unwilling to join issues with Jonathan but maintains that it is the turn of the North to occupy the Presidency in 2015. While describing the emergence of sundry political groups in the North as the work of those opposed to the interest of the region, Abdullahi said the people would field a northern candidate to fly their flag in 2015 but did not say who the candidate was.
The former Food Security Adviser to erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo described the NEC headed by Yakassai as a baby of the Presidency, saying the group was geared at thwarting the interest of the North.
Abdullahi noted, “They (NEC) are advocates of Goodluck Jonathan for President in 2015 but we are advocates of a Nigerian President of northern extraction. “The matter is before the public domain to decide between their position and that of NEC. The forces behind NEC formation have always been on the other side against the interest of the North.”
One trait that has clearly emerged from the averments of the protagonists and antagonists of Jonathan’s Presidency from the North is that a wide gap now separates those in favour and those opposed to his re-election. But it is also apparent to those who are frontally opposed to Jonathan that he is not just sitting down and watching them as they attempt to edge him out of the 2015 contest.
Even though the President has not made any speech concerning his re-election, his foot soldiers have taken it upon themselves to drum up support for him at every forum, showcasing his ‘monumental achievements’ in the various sectors of the economy as the justification for the support.
Jerry Gana, a northerner and a member of Jonathan’s party, believes nobody from the North should tamper with the President’s right to run for second term. Gana, who has worked with almost all the administrations since the dawn of democracy in 1999, insists that to ask Jonathan not to run in 2015 would be very unjust and unfair to the people of the South-south, who have always supported the North to ascend to power.
The PDP BoT member argues that it the matter was ever beyond Jonathan, as he cannot say no to second term and hope to have a safe ride back to Otuoke.
A few days after his postulation, Jonathan was in Adamawa State to commission some projects undertaken by the Nigerian Air Force in Yola. It was expected that Governor Murtala Nyako, who crossed over to the opposition APC last December, would, at least, accompany the President to the PDP secretariat for a meeting.
But apparently to show his disdain for the party, Nyako, who drove in the same car with the President to the secretariat, quickly alighted from the vehicle and joined his personal car and left Jonathan at the venue.
He drove to the airport and waited patiently for the President to conclude his meeting with the PDP stakeholders and return to the airport for takeoff to Abuja.
The governor later issued a damning statement predicting that, with God on his side and with the broom in his hand, he would be able to join other Nigerians to sweep away the PDP from the nation’s reins of power in 2015.
The governor said, “Let’s face it, the level of impunity and lawlessness within the PDP had reached an unprecedented level in the democratic history of our great Nation.
It is a situation where both the party and the Federal Government it controls have become instruments of oppression and incompetent to prevent unwarranted killings of innocent citizens in the hands of paid killers guided by those we call ‘the evil few’, who surely lack the sense of decency in dealing with fellow Nigerians.
“We feel that Abuja has become a captive in the hands of ‘the evil-few’ who are bent on destroying this country in pursuit of their narrow selfish interest. For now they have succeeded in strangulating the economy, derailing our democracy and most of all destabilizing our peace and unity.
“Unfortunately, rather than engage in deep introspection in trying to find solutions to the many problems facing the Nation, they indulge themselves in self-adulation and grand deception. They claim that theirs is the best government ever, and they do so without any tangible proof.”
It is obvious that as the 2015 polls draw nearer, the angst against Jonathan in the North will continue. But it is also easy to say that the pro-Jonathan elements in the region will also whittle the attempt to vote against Jonathan and this could lead to a resounding second term victory for the President.