By Tony Nwankwo
SENATOR Jonathan Zwingina, former deputy Senate majority leader, was in the Senate between 1999-2007.  The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, member has incorporated an NGO, the Centre for Development, to engage in capacity building for the legislature at state and national levels.

Today, he is member, Presidential Campaign Council and special adviser to the Director-General, Goodluck/Sambo Presidential Campaign Organisation.  In this interview, he sheds light on the campaign, the northern consensus presidential candidate move among other national issues.

The campaign has not gathered momentum considering the time for the elections.  What is the problem?

I wouldn’t say so. The campaign has gathered momentum from the day the declaration took place which was on the 18 September, 2010, when the president declared his intention to run. What has happened since then is that the campaign structures at the zonal levels have started. The director general, himself, has started a national tour. He has visited all the seven states of the North-West zone  Right now, he is in the North-Central zone.

He is going to take the North-East zone next week, which will complete the Northern states, and then he will move to the Southern states. So really the campaign has taken off and if you have watched some of the reports, the reception has been wonderful. There has been meetings with delegates and other stakeholders. And in the various states, all key stakeholders have also been meeting.  If you remember. about two days ago, four governors of the North-Central, under the leadership of the Senate President, Senator David Mark, met in Abuja.  The governors were Governor Gabriel Sus
wan of Benue, Governor Aliyu Doma of Nasarawa, Governor Idris of Kogi and the Governor David Jang of Plateau State. Four of them met and declared their strong support for President Goodluck Jonathan, an unequivocal support. And if you remember, that support has come soon after the support declared for the President by all the six governors of the South-West zone.

And before then, there was the support declaration of the South-South zone. So we have got the South-South, South-West, the North-Central.  We are now awaiting declaration from the North-East and the North-West zone, and I am sure it will come with the passage of time. The South-East has also made some moves and made that declaration. So, I think the president and his campaign have taken off.

What is the door-to-door campaign all about?

The door-to-door campaign is a novelty introduced by the Goodluck/Sambo Campaign structure and it really is the ability to get to the delegate and eventually to the voters in his or her home.  These are practices conversant in Europe. We want to modernize our own campaign.

We want to be able to reach the electorate, whether they are electorate for delegates election at the primaries or electorate at the general elections. We have hired many young people which is also assisting in reducing idleness and unemployment. We have hired so many people to mount telephone calls to various political leaders, to various stakeholders in their various homes.

For the first time in the history of this country, we have elder statesmen, coming together against an incumbent President. Does it say anything?

Yes, it says something and that is a good observation.  What it says is that there is a certain level of desperation among such leaders to gang up against a young man who has just spent five months in office as President.  A young man who did not have an ambition to be President. A young man who came to be President by divine intervention, an act of God that took away our beloved former President.  A young man who is constitutionally and legitimately entitled to the Presidency of this country.

He is not seeking to be president, he is already President by an act of God. It is fair to contest against him, it is fair to seek the nomination against him and I respect those leaders for seeking nomination. But it is unfair to demand that the person should not contest as some leaders have said,  and even more unfair to say that he should be stopped from contesting.

I think the best you can do is to say, ‘Well, you are a sitting President, you have a legitimate right to contest, but we too want to enjoy the protection of the Constitution and also contest’ and leave it at that.  But for some leaders to say let’s stop the President or the President must not contest, I think this is very undemocratic, fairly intolerant and in my view, also smacks of desperation.

Do you have any fear that Jonathan would not get elected in the elections?

I don’t have any fear at all.  First, because history has not demonstrated that a good candidate, a good incumbent who is working very hard would be denied the nomination by his party. In fact, what history has shown is that most political parties give respect to an incumbent and support him even without a rigorous nomination. But the fact that the President has allowed, and the other aspirants are also competing and making comments freely, shows that it will be a very clean exercise and that whoever emerges will get the support of the others.

So I have no doubt whatsoever that Jonathan will emerge. The evidence is not far to look for.  First, the number of states that have declared support for the President is much higher than for any other aspirant.  Second, the states that are not PDP have ministers appointed by the President who are now acting as leaders of the party in such states.

So, you can naturally assume that you have eight states which are not PDP and those states are going naturally to the President in the primaries, You add these to states that have governors who support the President, the President is home and dry with the ticket.  And a President that has 28 state governments in his party will most naturally win the general election. So I think that President Goodluck Jonathan definitely has everything going for him.

He is not only the candidate to beat, he is also the aspirant that is not only the front runner but appears very set to win. And, perhaps, the other piece of evidence that he is set to win is the attitude of his opponents who have admitted that individually they are no match to him and so are tolerating a discussion on consensus candidate. Consensus candidate means, this giant is too much, let us put our efforts together. And, as I told you, those efforts may not materialize, which means that obviously the President will head for victory.

You will need the governors who will lead delegates from their states.  Are you really with them as some of them speak from both sides of their mouth?

I agree with you completely. You are perfectly correct.  Some of the governors, I am happy you used that word, ‘some’.  But I would say, a few of the governors, and that will be a better adjective.  A few of the governors are speaking from both sides of their mouth and they will not be more than five. Five out of 28 is a tolerably comfortable minority, and we can sleep with that.  If they were 10 or 15, we will be losing our sleep.

I think one should not go for a 100 percent victory for that will be tending towards fascism. We should have some opposition here and there and the five governors are unsure, as we have not reached voting day yet.  They may just turn round and support the President, which I think they will. If only five governors are of this double speak, I think it is a good story for the President and I really do not think that the other aspirants will not get a vote at all because that will not be natural.  They have some supporters, obviously, in some states.

The point I am making is that their support base is not as strong and as enduring and large enough to secure them nomination as the support base of Mr. president.


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