By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
The security cordon around the Eagles Square in Abuja last Saturday only masked the bottled down excitement among the numerous partisan crowd that gathered for the President’s last open campaign for votes.
Seated among the numerous dignitaries in the State box, President Jonathan Goodluck intermittently managed a smile as the proceedings got to a start. What was the bother? No one at least seemed to know for the moment.
Sitting beside him was First Lady Patience Jonathan wearing a more cheerful disposition in her dazzling attire. As she was introduced by Eugenia Abu, the NTA broadcaster, one of the about five Masters of Ceremony but specially designated to announce her movements, Mrs. Jonatan gave a thumb up sign.
The other MCs were Abba Dabo, the Director of Media at the Jonathan Presidential Campaign Council, Rufus Alkali, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Bisi Olatilo, the veteran publicist who took turns entertaining the crowd. Nigerian artistes were also fully represented and one of the more popular actors in the film industry, Mr. Kanayo O. Kanayo represented them.
The palpable tension around President Jonathan was understandable. It was the first time in an eventful twelve year political career that this one time lecturer was standing for election in his own right. Against the tradition of deputies falling out with bosses, Jonathan had through a culture of self discipline and humility survived intrigues to be promoted from being a deputy Governor to a substantive Governor and then from a Vice-President to President.
The piece of good luck attached to his name is manifested by the fact that of the 35 deputy Governors that emerged with him in 1999, that only one went on to become a Governor, and only him, of the lot emerged as a Vice-President and now President.
The tension around the President that Saturday afternoon was in the view of some a reflection of the physical and emotional stress that he had passed through in the last few months. In 37 days the President had gone through all 36 States of the country in his quest for votes. The open campaign rallies in the 36 states were after the several other initiatives by the President to strategic stakeholders in the polity since he formally indicated interest in contesting the presidency last September.
While the physical stress may not have been very visible, the emotional stress on the number one citizen on winning the open support of some key political figures from the northern section of the country may have even been more excruciating.
Dr. Jonathan, however, had good company to cheer him. Among them were President Olusegun Obasanjo, Senate President David Mark, Speaker Dimeji Bankole, former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme who it seemed now felt more comfortable associating with Dr. Jonathan’s campaign after the resounding primary victory of the incumbent.
Also present were Senator Ken Nnamani, former President of the Senate, nearly all serving members of the National Assembly and all serving Governors of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP with the notable exception of Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State.
The Governors took turns lauding the President and pledging their support for the President’s campaign.
Senator Bala Mohammed, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory who left both the Senate and his former party, All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP after his ministerial appointment was chairman of the Planning Committee of the grand finale presidential campaign rally.
While expressing gratitude of the planning committee to the National Chairman of the party, Dr. Bello Mohammed for the opportunity giving the committee the opportunity to serve in the planning committee, he said that President Jonathan was a very marketable product.
“It is easy to sell a good product,” Mohammed said even as he cited some of the achievements of the President to include among others the repositioning of the party and the bureaucracy.” The Minister while noting that the President emerged as the party presidential candidate through a clean process did not fail to thank the First Lady!
One of the most ironic twists of the grand finale rally was the appearance of the National women leader of the party, Hajiya Maryam Ciroma, wife of the leader of the Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF Mallam Adamu Ciroma.
Introducing her to the podium to make her speech, the announcer made sure he announced her full names as Maryam Adamu Ciroma to drum to the hearing of all that even though the pro-zoning leader of the NPLF may be against Jonathan but that his other half was full in attendance at the Jonathan rally.
Mrs. Ciroma added a humorous tone to the affair by equally introducing the candidate as Dr. Goodluck Mainasara Jonathan, adding the hausa name as a way of indicating to her hearers that Jonathan was an acceptable candidate in the North.
She went on to praise the candidate praising his sensitivity to the needs and demands of Nigerian women.
Following her, the Governors took turns to make very brief speeches noting what they hailed as the achievements of the President in their respective domains. Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State was a remarkable exception in his remarks which was delivered mostly in pidgin English.
“Delta no dey carry last,” he said as he urged Nigerians to follow the man who knows the road.
Governor Rotimi Amechi of Rivers State in his own contribution debunked insinuations of bitterness between him and First Lady Dame Jonathan saying “We are prepared to show Nigerians that PDP has the best candidates. Forget April 9, just go and sleep. You know you are from Rivers State and you are also our in law.”
Another remarkable irony on that day was when Speaker Bankole withdrew from giving a speech as he conceded the floor to the President of the Senate in a swallow of the former proclamations of equality between the House and the Senate.
“I want to call my boss the chairman of the National Assembly, and the President of the Senate,” Bankole said. He even repeated the fact that there is only one chairman of the National Assembly!
As Mark finished his speech, he patted Speaker Bankole on the back, “you are now a good boy,” he would have muttered.
Following Senator Mark, President Obasanjo normally regarded as the godfather of President Jonathan rose to the podium to give a seemingly controversial speech. Unusually reading from a prepared speech, he said that he had been mandated by the Board of Trustees of the party which he chairs to make a declaration on the issue of zoning which had divided the party since before the primaries.
He affirmed that the emergence of Jonathan was an accident of history which did not in any way destroy the party’s position on zoning and rotation.
“Zoning and rotation is alive in PDP,” Obasanjo said.
Obasanjo was to take a great step in revealing that President Jonathan would not seek for another term in office in 2015 as a way of mollifying the present opposition to his emergence as the PDP candidate.
Following President Obasanjo, the incumbent who the whole crowd gathered for stepped up to give his speech. He was escorted by among others his running mate, his wife and several other leading party and government officials.
The President thanked all and pledged himself to achieving the key milestones he had promised during his several campaign rallies.