By Biodun Ogundare
Alhaji Auwal Lawan is the National Coordinator of the Jonathan/Sambo Movement, the first group to organise a major rally to drum up support for President Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential bid and press on him to contest the election.
In this interview he spoke on issues surrounding the president’s aspiration as well as the recent bomb blast saga: Excerpts:
You are a pioneer Jonathan campaigner. What did you make of the call on him to resign following events after the bomb blast on Independence Day?
I must say that the reaction which came from some northern leaders is very unfortunate. In fact it is most unpatriotic. If they are well meaning Nigerians, they should have joined in the effort to solve the security problem of the moment and not make deliberate effort to inflame the situation.
It is even more pathetic that nobody is talking about those who lost their lives in the criminal bomb blast; nobody is talking about getting at the perpetrators; everyone is talking about how to get Mr President out of office.
This is a clear attempt to ambush the president and it is not acceptable. Why are people afraid of elections? Mr President has promised free and fair election and he has demonstrated that in all his actions and appointments so far.
So why won’t they go to the poll and test their popularity? We know they are fronting for particular aspirants but that is not the way to do it. I think people should not abuse the freedom of speech and association which this government has availed every Nigerian in the spirit of true democracy. This kind of freedom was never witnessed when some of them were in power therefore I think they should leave Nigerians to enjoy the new lease of life that is made possible by the Jonathan administration.
General Ibrahim Babangida said he did not attend the independence celebration because so much money was wasted in organising it. What’’s your reaction to that?
I am very sure that Nigerians do not have short memory. The teaming population of Nigerians still recall vividly the colossal waste of resources experienced during his regime as military leader for eight years.
We are therefore surprised that he came out to say something like that because I am not sure he expects Nigerians to believe him. Besides, this is a golden anniversary celebration which was planned in a grand way to merit the status of the event.
When Mexico celebrated its independence recently, the equivalent of N34billion naira was spent because of the importance of the event. Nigeria spent only N7 billion and government is trying to avail Nigerians with details of the spending. I think Nigerians should only be concerned that some unpatriotic and self serving leaders contrived to scuttle the event in the way they did through the unfortunate bomb blast.
You have led a group which held rallies to convince President Jonathan to run the race for President, now he has announced his interest; what does this mean to you?
We stand to thank God Almighty for everything that has kept us together as a people under one country and we will continue to support anything that will encourage brotherhood and peaceful coexistence among the various people of Nigeria.
Having said this, I would like to point out that the declaration of President Goodluck Jonathan for the presidential race means that our sustained efforts to ensure that he contests the election have yielded positive fruit.
It means that we did not labour in vain; it means that we did not waste our time, energy and resources. You will recall that we were the first group to come out to demonstrate our support and commitment to his presidential project. I led the Jonathan Movement to a successful rally in Bauchi where people from all corners of the North East geo-political zone of this country turned out en mass and urged Mr. President to contest the election.
That was in June this year, and two months later I organised another rally in Gombe, my home state, this time under the name: ‘‘Jonathan/Sambo Movement’’, where we had in attendance many dignitaries including the Minister of FCT and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives who commissioned the state of the art regional office which we have there now. Other people that attended are Minister of Culture and National orientation, Alhaji Sadiq Abubakar Mohammed, Senator Abdullahi Idris and many dignitaries.
Therefore Mr. President’s declaration means that he is a listening leader. It means he has listened to the calls from Nigerians to make himself available for service to the nation at a very critical time when the country needed people like him who are patriotic, selfless and detribalised.
Now, what are you doing as an group since there is a formal campaign organisation on ground?
Since his declaration, our focus has shifted to ensuring that Mr. President emerges as presidential candidate of the PDP. That is also the goal of the campaign organisation, so we are working together.
There is no conflict of interest because the objective remains the same.