Awaits President’s declaration next month
BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE
BARRING unforeseen events, President Goodluck Jonathan will tell Nigerians whether or not he will seek re-election next month, exactly nine months to the February 14, 2015 presidential polls, Vanguard has gathered. He would have broken the ice this month but has to tarry awhile, according to what a source described as ‘inclement political climate’ in the country.
The decision is coming on the heels of pressures being mounted on him by leaders and faithful of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) across the country. If he decides to seek a second mandate at the Aso Rock seat of power, President Jonathan will have unalloyed backing of the PDP Governors Forum (PDPGF) going by the stance of the 18 governors.
Following the release of the 2015 election timetable by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, last January, Special Adviser to the President on Inter-Party Affairs, Senator Ben Obi, told Vanguard that President Jonathan would soon hold a strategic meeting with his kitchen cabinet to decide on whether or not to run and take a decision this month.
Asked then if Jonathan would declare his ambition given that the INEC had released the election timetable, Obi said: “I want Nigerians to understand one thing. I have been on the side of the opposition for very long. Now, I am in the executive, current leadership. President Jonathan appealed to Nigerians and said he would not discuss politics until 2014.
Despite all the pressure mounted on him by the opposition to draw him into politics much earlier than 2014, he resisted it; he continued on the path of governance and maintained that he would say something in 2014. Now we are in 2014. INEC has spoken, we do expect that with all of these, I am sure he will sit with his kitchen cabinet and look at the pros and cons, what his administration has done and then take a position clearly on what his next line of action will be.”
Jonathan’s consultations: Apart from his kitchen cabinet, Vanguard gathered that President Jonathan has consulted stakeholders in most parts of the country, albeit discreetly, and received ‘a go ahead’ nod to seek re-election.
Indeed, the president has got support from stakeholders in most states and the six geo-political zones he has visited in recent times to receive opposition big shots defecting or returning to the PDP. The places he has visited include Sokoto, Owerri, Ilorin, Bauchi Kano and Enugu.
Blessings in disguise
With the endorsements the President is getting, pundits now see the November 17, 2013 defection of five PDP governors to the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a blessing in disguise for the PDP and President Jonathan.
APC’s tsunami: When some PDP national leaders on the banner of the outlawed new PDP (nPDP) defected to the APC with five governors and 37 members of the House of Representatives with a threat to further deplete the ruling PDP, there were apprehensions that the PDP may not recover from the debilitating blow in one piece.
Then, the APC, which gained from the development, basked in the euphoria and hope of overthrowing the PDP in the National Assembly, especially in the lower chamber, become the majority party and possibly initiate impeachment proceedings against President Jonathan for his alleged ‘numerous impeachment offences’ and thereafter pave the way for APC’s victory at the 2015 polls.
The governors who left the PDP for the APC are Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso (Kano), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers) and Abdufattah Ahmed (Kwara). It was also rumoured that 22 PDP senators would defect to the APC in the first batch of the exercise. Although 11 PDP senators later wrote Senate President David Mark that they had defected to the APC, the move has not been perfected due to litigation.
Since the last November defections, the PDP appears to be emerging stronger from the setback. First, it got Alhaji Bamanga Tukur to step down as national chairman and former Governor of Bauchi; Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu emerged as his successor.
Incidentally, Mu’Azu’s acclaimed arch enemy in Bauchi politics, Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi nominated him for the post at the emergency National Executive Committee meeting of the party.
The collaboration between the national chairman and the PDPGF has so far been impressive. The expected series of defections seem to have been put at bay and the party still retains its majority in the Senate and House of Representatives. Also, the PDP got APC big wigs in the five states its governors decamped, which necessitated the president’s ‘tours,’ which the opposition has branded campaigning before the whistle is blown by INEC.
Behind PDP’s recovery: Faced with the growing decapitation of their political footholds, leaders of the PDP, backed by their remaining 18 governors on the banner of the PDPGF, rallied round to save the day.
A series of consultative meetings among the President, PDPGF Chairman, Obong Godswill Akpabio, Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Tony Anenih and other stakeholders created a dramatic turn around in social cohesion and stability in the party.
If things remain unchanged, the PDP will go for its National Convention and presidential primaries as a united front and President Jonathan will have little or no problems picking the party’s presidential ticket.
It would have been a different kettle of fish, if the five governors and the aggrieved leaders did not defect to the APC, a reason some analysts see their departure as a blessing in disguise for the PDP.
Second term ticket
Currently, none of the PDP governors is angling for the presidency job. Most of them are interested in going to the Senate. None of them is against Jonathan re-contesting.
This is contrary to what prevailed in 2003 when former President Olusegun Obasanjo was seeking a second term ticket. Apart from then Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Obasanjo faced a high hurdle erected by then PDP governors and federal lawmakers.
No hurdles: Jonathan is not expected to face such hurdles as the attention of the PDPGF appears focused on how to return him to office in 2015 given their stance at virtually all the zonal rallies held so far.
Akpabio, the PDPGF chairman, who often times spoke for his colleagues, had attended all the rallies so far, where he assured the president of their support to his administration and political future. Specifically, the governors have assured the president that they will back his re-election bid.
At the South-East zonal rally in Enugu, the PDP governors asked Jonathan to run. Abia State Governor, Theodore Orji, said that the huge crowd at the rally showed the popularity of President Jonathan, whom he said remains the man to beat in 2015.
In like manner Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State said that the rally was meant to woo President Jonathan to contest the 2015 election because the people appreciate his laudable achievements in the South-East.
He said: “The essence of the rally is simple: our people want to present two requests. The first is that Mr. President, you should run for Presidency in 2015. Our second request is that he shouldn’t disappoint us by saying no. He must say yes! We aren’t here to discuss your projects, but to make that request with one voice.”
Endorsing Orji and Chime’s comments, Akpabio said that the PDP governors were united in making the demand and hope that the President would respond positively.
Akpabio said: “On behalf of the governors of PDP, we want to thank the governors of PDP in South-East. Mr. President, we want you to contest in 2015 and not to reject to contest. That’s our two requests.
They want you to complete the Second Niger Bridge. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe completed the first Niger Bridge and another Azikiwe has started the Second Niger Bridge; they don’t want another person to complete it.
“Again, the International Airport in Enugu, they are worried that if you don’t contest, who will complete that project? The only person who can do that is the son of the South-East: Azikiwe Jonathan. They are assuring you that come 2015; they are going to reclaim that South-East state in the hand of the opposition that is Imo State.”
Lending his voice, Chief Anenih told the governors that the President would respond at the appropriate time. Describing himself as an advocate of a rancour-free primary process in the PDP, Anenih advocated a situation whereby the incumbent President would be granted a right of first refusal.
“In 2015, we shall come again to seek for your votes. The governors have asked the President to say, yes; the opportunity will come very soon. When INEC lifts the ban on campaigns, we shall bring him here and he will give a response to your request,” he said.
Will Jonathan yield to the pressure to run? Will the PDPGF maintain their support till the end? These are questions that will be answered with time.