BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME
Port Harcourt, just like any other state in the Niger Delta region where President Jonathan hails from, is already agog ahead of the swearing- in ceremony tomorrow. President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan is a ‘Port Harcourt boy’, which is a slang reserved for successful adults that have lived a larger part of their growing up in Port Harcourt.
Until 1998 when he relocated to Bayelsa state for active politics , Jonathan shared a twin three bedroom flat apartment at N0 6, Terama road off Aboloma with Pastor Power Ziakedi Aginighan. They were both pioneer Assistant Directors in the defunct OMPADEC.
Recalling old memories, Power Aginighan who is now the Executive Director Finance and Administration, of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC said President Jonathan was a complete gentleman who showed no sign of any interest in politics.
“He was everything that was not political.“ Aginighan said the two families enjoyed every moment they shared together as neighbours.
During his first visit to the state as President of the federal republic of Nigeria, Jonathan said much about his stay in Port Harcourt when he told the large crowd that turned out to welcome him at the Alfred Diete Spiff Sports complex, Port Harcourt that he had lived a better part of his life in the state. He said that in spite of the creation of Bayelsa state from the old Rivers state, most Bayelsans still live in the state and he would continue to see himself as someone from the state.
During his campaign, he repeated it but this time he added colour to it when he told South South delegates of his party in Government House, Port Harcourt before the presidential primaries of his party that he was a ‘Port Harcourt boy’.
The state did not disappoint Jonathan as the people gave him the highest vote in the last presidential election.Governor Chibuike Amaechi and former Minister of External Affairs, Odein Ajumogobia were among those that worked round the clock to secure victory for Jonathan in that election. The people voted across party lines. Most of those in the Action Congress of Nigeria and several other parties from the state voted for Jonathan. They saw him as one of them.
Some of them who spoke to the Saturday Vanguard on Jonathan’s presidency said it was as good as saying that a Rivers man is in power.
They prayed God almighty to grant him the wisdom, courage and all he would need to govern the Nigerian federation.
Before Jonathan, the farthest any one from the Delta region had attained in terms of political power at the centre was a Vice President during the military. Admiral Augustus Aikhomu was Vice to former President Ibrahim Babangida between 1986 to 1993 while Vice Admiral Mike Akhigbe held a similar position under the brief tenure of former Head of State, Abdusallami Abubarkar, 1998 _ 1999.
Jonathan has broken that jinx. Not many thought that a President of the country could emerge from the region at this time given the region’s numerical strength. Democracy as the saying goes is a game of number. The region’s population is not half of some section of the north. So, it was a miracle for many that it could happen at this time.
Jonathan is standing in the eyes of history. For many, his presidency has some level of divinity.
He is not new to the challenges in the region. As one who went to St Stephen Primary School, now, State School Otuoke and St Michael Primary school, Oloibiri and also Maiter Dei High school Imiringi , he certainly would have good knowledge of the pains and plight of the people of the area. It is strongly hoped that his presidency would take a very significant step in tackling these challenges. It would set the standard for subsequent political leadership in the country.
How Jonathan handles these challenges of the region will go a long way in determining how others will go about it.
Ledum Mittee, speaking on his expectation from Jonathan’s presidency urged him to immediately dust up the recommendations of the Niger Delta Technical Committee for action. The document should not be allowed to continue to gather dust. Mittee had argued repeatedly that the document is the road map to enduring peace in the Niger Delta region.
Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi added his voice to this debate recently when he called on the federal government to make efforts to identify the issues that informed security challenges in the region and endeavour to tackle them from the root.
Expectations are high as people of the South -South celebrate the first among them to be President of the country. They hope that Jonathan’s presidency will set the pace for genuine development of the Niger Delta.