By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
The presidency claims the politics of 2015 is not on its mind. So what then has been occupying the mind of the President?
IF not 2015, then what could be on the mind of President Goodluck Jonathan? That was the unfolding scenario at the weekend after a terse presidency statement denouncing what it claimed as distractions arising from the debate on the President’s alleged bid for re-election in 2015.
In the statement issued on his behalf by his Special Adviser on Media, Dr. Rueben Abati the President denounced the mounting speculation concerning his political future saying that he was presently focused on solving the present challenges facing the country.
“For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, President Jonathan wishes to reiterate that his primary concern and the focus of all his efforts now, just about a year into the four-year tenure for which he was elected in April 2011, is to deliver on his promise of positive national transformation,” Dr. Abati said in the statement.
The presidential declaration follows insinuations of an alleged pledge made by President Jonathan ahead of the last presidential election where he was quoted to have claimed that he would not contest the 2015 election if elected in 2011.
The president’s pledge has, however, turned into a matter of controversy as those close to him have claimed that no such declaration was made. Rather, associates claim that the President’s statement was misinterpreted.
2015 not in my mind — Jonathan
Addressing the Nigerian community in Addis Ababa during a visit to Ethiopia just before the April 2011 presidential election, the President had said:“If I’m voted into power, within the next four years, the issue of power will become a thing of the past. Four years are enough for anyone in power to make significant improvement and if I can’t improve on power within this period, it then means I cannot do anything, even if I am there for the next four years.”
Remarkably, the President did not disclaim the interpretation given to his Addis Ababa declaration at that time. Doing so it is believed would have been rather politically imprudent given the challenge from the Mallam Adamu Ciroma led Northern Political Leaders Forum, which was bent on wresting power from Jonathan at that time.
After the success of the 2011 it was not difficult for those around the palace of power to set their eyes on 2015.
President Jonathan’s adopted political father, Chief Edwin Clark has since after the last election repeatedly given vent to the eligibility of the President to seek a second term in office.
Speaking during a ceremony in Lagos last month where Presidential Adviser, Kingsley Kuku was honoured as Maritime Man of the Year, he said: “Even though I do not want to talk about 2015 now because the time is still far, the North should know that only Nigerians have the power to stop anyone from becoming president. If Jonathan wants to run today, the North cannot stop him because apart from the fact that he has the right to run, the North should equally know that they are not born to rule over others in the country.”
The assertions by Clark and some other associates of the President may have prompted the Dr. Junaid Mohammed led Northern group of professionals and politicians to accuse the President of seeking what it claimed is a third term in 2015.
The group has claimed that the President is now serving his second term as it counted the President’s succession of President having served a full year as President and some months in acting capacity as his first term.
Dr. Mohammed, one of the leading northern hotheads has been quoted as saying that the President was bent on contesting the 2015 presidential election.
“As far as I am concerned, there is no need deceiving ourselves. I believe President Goodluck Jonathan whom I knew since he was a director under me has every intention to contest the 2015 presidential election, even if it means throwing the country into civil war or other forms of civil disobedience or confusion or catastrophe,” he was quoted as telling a national newspaper last month.
Dr. Mohammed was a commissioner at the Oil Minerals Areas Producing and Development Commission, OMPADEC where Dr. Jonathan worked as a director before his advent into the political terrain.
Dr. Mohammed and his group had pledged some weeks ago that they would go to court to obtain a legal restraint against the President contesting in 2015 on the basis that he would have completed his second term in 2015. The hullabaloo over the President’s intention was apparently what the presidential statement sought to address.
Affirming the President’s commitment to governance, Dr. Abati his spokesman said:“The President’s sole preoccupation as the nation moves towards the first anniversary of his administration on May 29, 2012 is to continue to give effective and purposeful leadership that will steer Nigeria towards overcoming its immediate security and developmental challenges.
“Nothing could be farther from President Jonathan’s mind at this point in time than the 2015 elections. The President has definitely not directed or authorized any individual or group to launch any campaign on his behalf.”
The Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF in its reaction to the presidency statement noted thus: “President Jonathan told the world that four years is enough for a President to make a difference in the life of a nation; and that any leader who cannot do that is most unlikely to do so if given more years,” the ACF’s national publicity secretary, Anthony A.Z. Sani told Vanguard.
Noting why the President should be taken for his words Sani said: ‘’I see no reasons why people are eager to doubt the President’s words of honour. In any case, this is time for governance and not for politics,” Sani added.
The Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in its own reaction said it was not bothered whether Dr. Jonathan would contest the 2015 contest or not, but rather concerned about the state of governance.
ACN not bothered
In a statement issued by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party’s national publicity secretary the party said: “Mr. President, we in the ACN are not bothered about whether or not you plan to run in 2015. What concerns us now is how to alleviate the collective suffering of the Nigerian people, who have experienced more pain than gain in one year of your administration, and have yet to reap the fruits of democracy almost 15 years of the country’s return to constitutional order under your party’s watch.
’’If we must be frank, this past one year has been like four for Nigerians who have been subjected to untold hardship and the effects of a catalogue of bad and inconsistent policies.
“As governance takes the back seat and meaningless politicking becomes the order of the day, many wish the four years of your administration will just pass by fast to give them the opportunity to make a better choice of leadership. This is what is driving the 2015 debate,’’ it said.