By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Henry Umoru, Abdulsalam Muhammad & Luka BinNIyat
ABUJA—Prominent political stakeholders from the North were at the weekend divided in their response to the renewed bid by elder-statesman Chief Edwin Clark to position President Goodluck Jonathan for another term in office in 2015.
While nearly all of them including those who vehemently opposed the president in his 2011 bid showed outrage over the renewed campaign, they nevertheless disagreed among themselves on a common position with some vowing that they would meet the President on the field in 2015.
Some of the Northern leaders also revealed that a prominent Ijaw leader pledged on his knees before northern leaders prior to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP presidential primaries of 2011 that Jonathan would only serve a single term if supported by the Northern leaders.
The Ijaw leader who supposedly made the plea could not be reached last night and was said to be with the President at a function when Vanguard sought his opinion.
The PDP which controls power at the federal level has itself dismissed the renewed clamour, describing it as a distraction for the party and the president.
Chief Clark had at a press conference on the eve of his 85th birthday last Thursday, given vent to a second term for President Jonathan, the first person from the South-South geopolitical zone to lead the country. He based his claim on the fact that all other leaders of the country were not constrained in the bid for a second term.
Northern political leaders with the connivance of some Southern politicians had vehemently opposed Jonathan’s bid in 2011 on the basis of what they claimed as an infringement of the PDP’s zoning configuration. Among the most prominent vocal groups was the Northern Leaders Political Forum, NPLF led by Mallam Adamu Ciroma, a former Minister of Finance.
Yesterday, Ciroma whose bid to stop Jonathan failed at the PDP primaries refused to offer a comment maintaining the silence he has kept since the NPLF lost its fight against Jonathan in the 2011 presidential primaries.
Other northerners were, however, nonplussed on the issue. Among those who spoke were Ambassador Yayaha Kwande, Tanko Yakassaqi, civil rights activist, Shehu Sani, National President of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Organisation, SOKAPU which is the umbrella group of the non-Hausa population in Kaduna State and former vice chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Alhaji Nasiru Garba Dantiye.
Speaking on Clark’s bid to sustain the Jonathan presidency beyond 2015, Kwande said yesterday:
No agreement stopping Jonathan — Kwande
“Even when we had an agreement in which Jonathan himself signed, it wasn’t put to practice so how much more when there wasn’t an agreement. So, if Clark said Jonathan will contest, Jonathan is a citizen of this country, so why do you think it is something extraordinary? Is there any agreement stopping him?
“Even when an agreement stopped him, it did not materialise. Leave Clark to talk, we will talk too. Clark has right to talk. If he didn’t obey known agreements why should he obey no agreements? Why?”
Clark refused to be dragged into assertions that a prominent supporter of the president from the South-South promised that Jonathan would serve only one term in office.
“I don’t even know whether we have three years ahead of us and we are talking. Those who have been elected should go and work we will meet them on the field in 2015 if we are alive,” he said.
Leading Kano politician Yakassai on his part refused to see Clark’s comment as an issue saying that debate on the issue could be a distraction for the president.
Yakassai who served as National Assembly liaision officer for President Shehu Shagari in the second republic said that the debate “may hand him excuses and license not to perform”.
“It is rather too early to begin this kind of debate when the President has a subsisting mandate and backlog of campaign promises to be fulfilled within the next three years”.
Yakassai who was one of the most prominent northerners to back Jonathan’s bid for the presidency in 2011 said: “Let’s help Jonathan deliver, let’s help him succeed because I believe this kind of debate over the prospect of being fielded by his party in 2015 has the capability of distracting Mr. President.”
Mallam Sani, one of the leading civil rights activists from the zone speaking in the same wise called for caution. Reacting to Clark’s declaration, he said: “That was a very weighty statement. Because the North and Southeast are also thinking that it is their turn too. But, you see, I cannot say anything now, because I believe that Chief Clark is not the official spokesman of Mr. President. I will be seeing Mr. Reuben Abati (Media aide to President Goodluck) to find out the position of the president on that statement. It is after that meeting that I will be able to voice my opinion. My concern now is that the President has not said anything so far. And, you know, if something is said about you, and you did not refute it, it would look as if you have no problem with it. So by tomorrow (today) I should be able to tell you my stand on that.”
SOKAPU, which is the platform for the non-Hausa population in Kaduna State in its reaction to the controversy gave fillip to the Clark declaration saying that there was no constitutional encumbrance to the President seeking another term in office.
Speaking through its national secretary Marshall Adamu, the group said:
“There is nothing that stops President Jonathan from contesting the 2015 Presidential elections. As a Nigerian, who has met the criteria, nothing in the constitution says he cannot contest.
“Yes, we understand that the PDP has some zoning arrangements to give other zones some sense of belonging and equality. But the constitution of a party is inferior to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So we are not a union that would want to discourage anybody from pursuing his constitutional franchise. This is a simple matter that should not be stretched too far,” he told Vanguard in a telephone interview.
Dantiye, a stalwart of the opposition All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP on his part, however, saw the debate as a window for the opposition to throw out the PDP from office.
The former lawmaker who represented Garki /Babura federal constituency told Vanguard that “the dismal performance of the incumbent President has boxed him to a disadvantaged line and in effect boosted the campaign effort of the would be candidate of the opposition by 80 percent.
“As it stands today President Jonathan can not win a free and fair contest in Nigeria because he has proved his incompetence before us and his candidacy should elicit celebration among patriots.
“I for one I am beginning to see the prospect of demystifying the so called incumbency power for the first time in our national life and we only hope that we are ready to seize the opportunity” Dantiye stressed.
“We should not lose sleep over the plan by PDP or Aso Rock to field President Jonathan by 2015. What those of us in opposition should be doing for now is to harness our resources and make the final putsch by the next election and it is a sacrifice we must do for generations yet unborn”, Dantiye stressed.
It’s a distraction — PDP
Dismissing the debate as a distraction yesterday, the PDP said it would not waste its time on the issue.
Speaking with Vanguard yesterday, the PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh said the party was presently preoccupied with how to deliver dividends of democracy to the people of Nigeria.
He said the debate was a scheme by the opposition to distract the President, adding, ‘’2015 is diversionary, we are not interested in 2015 now, we are more focused to ensure that we deliver on our promises to the electorate.
“Nigerians do not have to live from election to election and the issue of election at the moment is secondary to us, we are very busy with governance and how to improve on the present situation. The National Working Committee, NWC that is led by Alhaji Bamanga Tukur is supporting President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure that dividends of democracy were provided for the people of Nigeria. ‘’The opposition parties want us to focus on election and who will win or not instead of democracy.”