Events that will shape the outcome of the 2011 polls, beginning with the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP presidential primaries are unfolding at a head-spinning pace. The aspirants are on their toes aligning, re-aligning and perfecting strategies to garner advantages.
Sources close to President Goodluck Jonathan boasted yesterday that the President had secured the support of 15 out of the 28 PDP governors and the eight opposition governors for his yet-to-be declared presidential ambition.
Presidency sources said yesterday that the President secured the support of governors through intense horse trading.
In fact, the President said that a coalition of 46 out of the 62 political political parties had pledged to adopt him as their joint flagbearer if he decides to run, a decision that is expected in two weeks time.
The President spoke as one of his staunch opponents in the North, Alhaji Lawal Kaita boasted that the North would prevent Jonathan from picking the PDP ticket just as the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, said it would not succumb to blackmail or stop the current investigation of alleged corrupt governors. Northern leaders had recently urged Jonathan to stop harassing governors and opposition politicians with the EFCC.
I ‘ll count on 46 parties’ support – Jonathan
At a late night meeting on Thursday, Jonathan told a coalition of 46 political parties that he would count on its pledge of unconditional support for his presidential ambition next year should he decide to run.
He was presented with a written declaration of support signed by the National Chairmen and National Secretaries of 33 of the 46 parties, which said they were ready to subsume their structures into a national campaign organisation to ensure Jonathan’s victory at the polls.
Thanking the delegation for their approval of his efforts to provide effective leadership for the country,
the President told the group, which came under the auspices of the newly_formed Grand Coalition of Political Parties, GCPP that he was humbled by their declaration of support.
“I thank you for your kind words and appreciation of our achievements. With your support, we will work even harder to move Nigeria forward. We must build a country that our children will be proud of and we will contribute our best effort to this project,” he said.
The President also assured them that if he decides to seek re_election, they and their parties would be invited to play an important role in his national campaign.
Alhaji Danjuma Mohammed, the National Chairman of the Movement for the Restoration and Defence of Democracy, MRDD, presented the coalition’s support declaration to Jonathan.
Mohammed said: “We have chosen to support you because while all other candidates are only offering us proposals, you already have ongoing projects to improve the living conditions of Nigerians. “We will not only work for you, we will go
out and campaign actively for your victory.”
Others who spoke in the same vein at the occasion included Chief Udemba Chukwudolue, the National Chairman of the National Solidarity Democratic Party, NSDP, and Chief Emmanuel Osita Okereke, National Chairman of the African Liberation Party, ALP.
How North ‘ll stop Jonathan – Kaita
Amid the support, one of the founders of the PDP, Alhaji Lawal Kaita said he and some Northern leaders were opposed to Jonathan running because “they (Jonathan and Obasanjo, etc) are trying to take by force what belongs to the North. The presidency has been zoned to the North. Obasanjo did eight years for the South and it was zoned to the North. It is remaining four years (after President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died) but they don’t want the North to have it and we are going to resist it.”
Asked how the North would stop the President given the support he is amassing from many parts of the country, the Second Republic politician said: “The North will beat him hands down. From the PDP primaries, we will beat him.”
Sources said the Northern plot is in two parts. The first is the aspirants might drop their ambition and support a consensus candidate to slug it out with Jonathan at the PDP primaries. If that fails, the second plan will be for a ‘consensus northern candidate’ to use another political party platform to contest the election proper against Jonathan.
According to feelers, some opposition parties are already waiting on the wings to adopt one of the party’s northern aspirants as their consensus presidential flagbearer irrespective of the outcome of the PDP’s primaries.
Stop harassing governors, opposition with EFCC, NPLF tells Jonathan
To create a level-playing field for the 2011 presidential election, the Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF, has called on the President to stop using the EFCC to intimidate perceived opponents, which it said would not only pose a serious threat to the nation’s democracy, but also adversely affect the polity.
The group, which is addressed as the “G15”, urged t Jonathan to enthrone a regime of tolerance of political opposition and “to desist from the use of the EFCC to intimidate and harass governors and political leaders who are opposed to his ill_advised attempt to subvert the agreed zoning formula by seizing the PDP ticket in next year’s general elections.”
The NPLF also alleged that President Jonathan was using the same tactics former President Olusegun Obasanjo employed in the pursuit of his failed Third Term agenda, adding, “it is becoming clear to all that Jonathan’s candidacy for 2011 despite the PDP’s affirmation of the principle of zoning and rotation is a return of tenure elongation of President Obasanjo, which Nigerians unanimously rejected.”
In a statement signed by former Senate President, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, the NPLF warned that chasing political opponents with anti-graft agencies portended grave danger to the polity.
The statement read in part: “The NPLF wishes to draw the attention of all Nigerians to the inherent dangers of turning the EFCC into a Political Gestapo of a particular candidate. The NPLF recalls that this is the same tactics former President Olusegun Obasanjo employed in the pursuit of his failed Third Term agenda. The NPLF wants to make it clear that this development raises serious questions on President Jonathan’s repeatedly stated commitment to free and fair elections, and by extension the survival of the nation’s democracy. Sadly, it is giving President Jonathan away as a desperado who is prepared to whip everyone in line in order to confiscate a mandate that is clearly not his.
“In as much as the NPLF is not opposed to the fight against graft, it is, however, manifest that the current onslaught against state governors and political leaders is part of the measures at checking those not well disposed to the bid of President Jonathan. It is regrettable that we are witnessing today is a throwback to the Obasanjo days and portends great danger to the credibility of the political process, nay the polity. While we stand shoulder to shoulder with all our elected courageous governors in the current struggle, we call on the Presidency to retrace its steps by tolerating opposition without which there can be no enduring democracy and rule of law. We call on Governors and all genuine lovers of democracy to close ranks and stand up against this strain of dictatorship.”
We won’t succumb to blackmail – EFCC
However, the EFCC has dismissed as untrue allegations that it was being used to hound opponents of the President, insisting that it was focused on its function and would not be blackmailed into abandoning it.
The commission dismissed claims that it was targeting pro-zoning governors by launching investigations on the governors of Kebbi, Rivers, Kwara, Imo and Jigawa states for allegedly being involved in multi_billion naira fraud.
In a statement by Head, Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Babafemi, the EFCC stressed that no amount of blackmail would make it soft-pedal on the ongoing investigation of corrupt governors.
The statement reads: “We have a legitimate duty to investigate and prosecute all forms of economic and financial crimes in all parts of the federation. This, we have been doing since the inception of the Commission in 2003 and will continue to do within the ambit of the law. It is on record that the Commission has continued to investigate various fraud allegations in several states of the federation, local government councils, federal agencies and private establishments. As such, our on_going investigations of multi_billion naira fraud allegations in Kebbi, Kwara, Imo, Jigawa and Rivers states are not different from what we have done in other states before now.
“Rather than making desperate moves to blackmail the Commission by inputting illogical meanings to its legitimate duties in a bid to freeze its hands, the questions the brains behind this propaganda should answer are: Are there allegations of fraud against their officials? Is the EFCC empowered to investigate such fraud allegations? Is there any law barring EFCC from investigating fraud allegations before, during or after elections? Should election time be taken as a holiday period when law enforcement agents would have to close their eyes to the looting of public treasury?
“These are some of the pertinent questions whose answers will expose the hidden agenda of those behind the plot to frustrate the nation’s anti_graft war. We will like to re_assure the public as has often been stated long before now by the leadership of the Commission, that the EFCC is not under any pressure from the Presidency or any other quarters to do anyone’s bidding on any issue. Attempts to link our operations to political considerations remain a blackmail, which will not stop us from doing the needful within the ambit of our statutory responsibilities.”