On Tuesday, March 8th 2011, Bayelsa State will witness a rousing reception for her illustrious son ,President Goodluck Jonathan at the Sampson Siasia Sports Complex. This reception originally expected to attract more than one million people has been toned down because of the obvious logistic difficulties it will present in terms of crowd control. Accreditation to this event has been tight even for journalists. This has been the case with every stop of the President in his nationwide campaign. His popularity and widespread acceptance is not in doubt. The question has always been that of space constrains and how to secure the people and their visitors never whether the crowd will come.
I say this because of the euphoria follow the crowd pulled by the Gen.Buhari, the CPC presidential flag bearer’s campaign in Kaduna and attempts by the press to judge his popularity with this criterion. There was also the talk about the PDP’s Lagos campaign which “attracted a smaller crowd”. Some analysts have even been fixated lately on the relatively small voter’s numbers in Bayelsa State vis avis the so called opposition States as signal that the President was already disadvantaged in going into the polls. These things happen in politics but the reality is different from visuals being created by opposition parties. Let me crave your indulgence to explain the reality here.
The issue of crowd in Nigeria is not what you see. It is easy to present a big show like the Kaduna spectacle even by churches. It smacks of deep seated Religious and fanatical ideology. You can make it mandatory that all your church members and all worshipers present themselves in a large place for a stipend. But for the ruling party campaigning in Lagos under the heavy dose of sabotage, security was more paramount. Most people who wanted to attend the rally were advised to watch on television. Lagos is presently not a PDP State. Even then, there huddles for anyone invited to a Presidential function in Nigeria and this should settle the question of crowd.
On the issue of registered voters in States, people should understand that voting within the new system of DDC machine is a different ball game altogether from what we used to know. Here the nitty-gritty will be as different from theory as black and white. It is true that there were inexplicably some double registration and you wonder how they could still do it but nothing is perfect. It is true that under aged registration may have occurred in those Northern States with figures that defy logic but not to worry,the voting proper will rectify things. For instance those in Puddah during registration; whose registration could not be effected but through their computer literate husbands or relatives will come out to vote and we shall see their faces and determine whether they are toddlers even if we cannot know whether they are Nigerians or from across the border. At that time it will be the Party on ground that has the right to make a complaint or query a result. To be on ground requires a lot of finance and logistics input and not many parties today can match the national spread of the ruling Party.
So what may happen is that those States with inflated numbers will have actually reduced voting population to the extent that eyebrows will be raised again. The taste of the pudding is in the eating they say. So do not be carried away yet. Sectional parties have always found it difficult to survive the Nigerian political terrain all through history and this time will not be an exception. The fact that a party takes control of the States of South-West with the second highest voter strength does not translate to a loss for the President in the Presidential election here. The revise is more likely to be the case however because it is more likely that the people will vote a winning President of southern extraction than anyone else and this may create a bandwagon effect on even the result of the gubernatorial elections here. The safeguard here is that the South Western electorate is relatively better informed and therefore also more flexible in their choice patterns.
One of the reasons for caution in making predictions from voter registration is of course the statutory requirement for spread in electoral votes across two thirds of the country. It is better that you are everywhere accepted in smaller numbers than you score ninety percent in few. We have seen it in Chief Awolowo and his Action Group AG; we saw it in Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and his Nigerian peoples Party NPP in the past. The issue of drawing crowd by raising local sentiments has always been counterproductive in this political system. It may win you some states but the Nigerian Presidency is not for extreme ideologues.
The Jonathan Presidency is sponsored not by Bayelsans nor Southerners but by all Nigerians who yearn for change. We decided that he should be the bridge in our effort to cross this putrefying river of national stagnation. Our overriding judgment was the question “Who is capable of going for us? We saw that under the circumstances Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was and remains the best choice so we decided to support him. Each mission is limited by the goal. Nigeria is in a transition because we are yet to attain the Nationhood that would enable us act as one people more easily. What we need most is a uniting element not a tiger. A tiger acts for the body that is already united and strong otherwise by his sudden strength he will only pull it apart. The South South Presidency is the uniting factor for Nigeria because it will give the so called minorities a sense of belonging and will restore hope for a permanent move towards nationhood through citizenship. Therefore competence is qualified in this instance to suit the goal. We cannot be looking for someone to unite Nigeria towards nationhood and we are seeking the one that can tear her apart.
So this day as the President comes to campaign in his home state Bayelsa state, it is important that all well wishers know that the true place of his Presidency amongst the array of candidates seeking their votes come April. Since the time of Dr.Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria has never seen another bridge builder like Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.He may not be entirely the charisma that is Azikiwe but certainly he is faced with even more onerous task than Zik faced at his time. This assertion will become clearer with time. Permit me once again to introduce Mr President to readers here.
Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON, and President, Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, was born to a humble Niger Delta family of canoe makers on November 20, 1957. He attended St. Stephens and St. Michaels Primary Schools, Oloibiri, finishing in 1969. He proceeded to Mater Dei High School, Imiringi, where he passed his West African School Certificate with flying colours in 1975.
On completion of his secondary education, he worked as a Preventive Officer with the Nigerian Customs Service for two years before proceeding to the University of Port Harcourt as one of the pioneer students of the new University nestling on the shores of the Choba River. He graduated with Second Class Upper honours in 1981. In 1985 and 1995 he studied for his Master’s and Ph.D degrees in Hydrobiology and Fisheries Biology, and Zoology respectively, from the same University. But this was not until he had completed his mandatory one year of National Youth Service in Iresi, old Oyo State, and now Osun State of Nigeria.
Returning to the warm embrace of family and friends in 1982, he was appointed as Science Inspector of Education, Rivers State Ministry of Education, while studying in between for his post-graduate and graduate degrees. Between 1983 and 1993 he took up employment as a lecturer in the Department of Biological Science, Rivers State College of Education. In 1993, he was appointed Assistant Director (Ecology of the defunct Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) in charge of Environmental Protection. He resigned his job in 1998 and went into politics.
His honesty, simplicity, charisma, quiet strength and determination made him an ideal running mate to Chief D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha on the Bayelsa People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and gubernatorial ticket. They won the elections, and he served as a Deputy Governor from 1999 to 11 December 2005. On 12 December that year, he became the substantive Governor of Bayelsa State.
It wasn’t long after that fate once again beckoned. He was busy preparing for re election to his first full term as substantive governor, when the PDP, which is the largest political party in Africa, nominated him as running mate to the Presidential candidate, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua. After a keenly contested election, the Yar’adua/Jonathan ticket won, and on May 29, 2007, he was inaugurated as Nigeria’s Vice President.
Precisely on February 9, 2010, Dr. Jonathan assumed office as Nigeria’s Acting President by virtue of a National Assembly resolution empowering him as Acting President, following President Yar’Adua’s long absence for medical attention in Saudi Arabia. This popularized the doctrine of necessity. Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was sworn-in on May, 6, 2010 as President, Commander-in-chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria following the passing away of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on May 5, 2010.
Dr. Jonathan has received several local and international awards. He was voted the ‘Best performing Deputy Governor’ in 2002 by IPAN, given the ‘Democracy and Good Governance Award’ by Nigeria Union of Journalists in 2004. The Africa International News magazine league conferred on him the ‘Niger Delta Development Award’; the Nigerian Bar Association, the ‘Distinguished Personality’ award in 2006, and the All African Students Union in South Africa, the ‘Africa Leadership Award 2006’.
Additionally, the Nigerian Union of Teachers voted him the ‘Best Performing Governor in Education in the South-South’ in 2006. He was also recognized by the International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP) in 22 July 2006, with ‘Ambassador for Peace Merit Award’ as well as the ‘Leadership and Good Governance Merit Award’. There is no complete introduction of the President without mentioning the indefatigable First Lady Dame Goodluck Jonathan who is actually the engine room behind the President’s success.
As Bayelsa’s turn out in large numbers led by Governor Timipre Sylva to welcome a man whose personality has literally shut down all quarrels between brothers in the State, it is expected that all political parties and their supporters will be represented at this unique rally of solidarity. The only problem to grapple with is space and consideration for the safety of the crowd. Organizers are toying with the idea of setting up large TV screens for those who cannot make it into the Stadium. The last time he visited Otueke, the logistic problem forced some visitors to watch the event on television from their hotel suites. This time around the focus is on accrediting only leaders and representatives of the people to such rallies but in Yenagoa, the President is likely to interact directly with the crowd of his home State.
Mr. Nworisara, a Public Policy Analyst and Media consultant, writes from Port Harcourt.