Anya, Shettima, Al-Gazali root for Jonathan
By Clifford Ndujihe
The next couple of days will be mind-rattling and decisive for President Goodluck Jonathan. After months of suspense, he has to tell Nigerians, next week, whether or not he is contesting the 2011 presidential polls. And taking that decision has not been an easy one for the President given the mixed bag of support and opposition heralding the move and the hurdles on his path.
Going by Section 32 of the new Electoral Act, all political parties must submit list of candidates 60 days before the date of general election, which by implication means that parties’ primaries must be conducted not later than October, 2010 for the 2011 polls. By extension, Jonathan has to declare this month if he is running and the much-awaited decision has been scheduled for September 14 or 15.
Sources said the President is very conversant with the hurdles and had been working discreetly to surmount them. This accounts for the deep-seated and marathon consultations he has been holding across the country and even offshore with ‘powerful’ stakeholders, it was gathered.
According to stakeholders and politicians, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard, the hurdles include: the insistence of the North to produce the president in 2011 and a possible gang-up of Northern presidential aspirants against him at the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP primaries; discordant signals from 28 PDP governors regarding backing him; fears that a Jonathan-led Administration might be tele-guided by former President Olusegun Obasanjo; fears that he might be over-ambitious and seek two terms instead of quitting in 2015 if elected; and fears that his election will throw zoning over board and thereby make it almost impossible for some areas of the country to produce the president in the nearest future.
How North ‘ll stop Jonathan – Kaita
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.”
Indeed, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former Military President Ibrahim Babangida said recently they were working on a common arrangement to checkmate Jonathan but were waiting for the President’s declaration before proceeding with their plan. The plot might also involve some Northern governors such as Bukola Saraki (Kwara) and Danjuma Goje (Gombe), who are also said to be harbouring presidential ambition as well as Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliyu. Aliyu is the chairman of the Northern Governors forum while Saraki heads the forum of the 36 states helmsmen.
Sources said the plot is in two parts. The first is they 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 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.
Citing a newspaper’s permutation on likely outcome of the PDP’s presidential primaries last week, Babangida said his chances were bright. According to the permutation, of the 3483 expected delegates, 1675 (according to current circumstances) will vote Jonathan; Babangida has 837; Atiku will have 127 while 844 delegates are undecided.
If the Northern aspirants close ranks and get the support of the undecided delegates, the consensus beneficiary will have 1808 votes, that is 133 votes more than Jonathan’s 1675.
Why zoning remains potent
In spite of opposition to zoning, Saturday Vanguard checks showed that it is still very potent and remains a factor in determining who emerges as president in the country. This is on account of long years of monopolisation of power by some sections of the country.
Since independence in 1960, which is 50 years this year, the North has held power for 38 and a-half years leaving the balance for the South. Broken down further, power has been shared among the six geo-political zones thus: North-Central (17 years, 11 months, 21 days); North-West (13 years, eight months, 18 days); South-West (11 years, 10 months, 11 days); South-East (six months, 13 days); and South-South (four months) excluding the two months and 26 days that Jonathan functioned as acting president between February 9, 2010 to May 5, 2010 that he was sworn-in.. (See table).
So, Former Health Minister and one of the founders of the PDP, Prof ABC Nwosu reportedly said that zoning would remain potent for a long time. Nwosu, who is in Babangida’s campaign team, said some South-East leaders were backing the former military ruler because he is in support of zoning, has promised to do a term and hand-over power to the South-East.
His words: “The zoning arrangement got re-affirmed in 2002. If you recall, the second term of Chief Obasanjo was threatened under the national chairmanship of Chief Audu Ogbeh, but it was re-affirmed by the national caucus. Many of those now repudiating zoning were signatories to the minutes, which have been published in various newspapers.
There is therefore the question of honour in politics and trust for nation-building.
“By next year, when a new presidential term will start, the South-East, a majority ethnic group, would have held office for six months of late Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi regime. The South-South would have held it then for about 15 months... It is important for me, or we from the South-East to know when we will test it (Presidency). If we are to test it next year, we want to know. If we are to test in 2015, we want to know.
And let nobody think he can pull the wool over the eyes of Ndigbo...We are challenging all these other groups and everybody in Nigeria to put the cards on the table and let us know the alternatives that will be fair to all, including the South-East.”
Second Republic Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme and former Biafran Leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu spoke in like manner recently. While Ekwueme hoped that he would see an Igbo man as president in his life time, Ojukwu said it would be a testament that the Igbo were no longer being punished for the civil war.
South-East governors, who declared recently that they were not gunning for the presidency or vice presidency but would rather chart a political course for the zone and endorsed Jonathan, have since moderated their stand. Now, they are keeping their endorsement until after the PDP primaries.
Some pundits say that Jonathan’s continued delay in declaring might hurt his ambition. “Let him declare so that people can extract firm promises from him. How long is he going to stay in power? Will he do second term? We need answers to these questions to make up our mind,” an aide to one of the governors said.
More stakeholders endorse President
In spite of the moves by some stakeholders to stop Jonathan, the president has continued to receive support. Among those, who want Jonathan to proceed to the next level are former Director-General of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, NESG, Prof. Anya Oko Anya; former Chairman of the Movement for Democracy and Justice, MDJ, Alhaji Kalli Al-Gazali and Chairman of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, AYCF, Alhaji Usman Shettima.
Anya, who urged that the President should be allowed to continue, said Jonathan’s approach so far was in order because he needed to consult widely.
The Zoology teacher and opinion moulder picked holes in the clamour for zoning because zoning is ungodly, undemocratic, stifles competition and promotes mediocrity.
Given the long years of marginalisation of the Niger Delta, political affinity between the North and South-South, he contended that it might be dangerous for the rest of Nigeria, especially the North to go against the South-South in 2011.
For the South-East, Anya said in the long run, it was in the interest of the zone to fight for a level-playing field instead of zoning because “the Igbo have shown over time that they perform best in a level playing field under a free and fair atmosphere.”
According to him, the emergence of Jonathan as president would end zoning in the country and create room for the emergence a true Nigerian leader thereafter devoid of imposition by cabal, which had been prevailing for long.
The revered academic also dismissed fears that Jonathan might be tele-guided by Obasanjo or that he would rig the polls. He noted that if late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua could become his own man shortly after assuming power, nobody should underestimate a man until he had been given power. Besides, he noted that Prof. Attahiru Jega, as electoral chief, was not somebody that could be manipulated easily.
Shettima shared Anya’s views. He urged the President to be courageous enough to declare. “I disagree with the threat by some old horses who forget that their days are over and are still living in the past. After Jonathan’s four years, there will be a level-playing field for some of us who are ambitious to come out. Let’s do away with the old generation, who failed their generation and now want to fail our generation. We need the younger generation, not necessarily Jonathan. We are tired of the old order,” he said.
On his part, Al-Gazali said the MDJ warned the PDP in 1998 when the party opted for zoning. “Since 1998, we have been condemning zoning. Regardless of where one comes from, one should be able to emerge as president so long as one can solve Nigeria’s problems. The idea of a Muslim, Christian, North and South should not arise. We warned them against presenting Obasanjo on the basis of zoning. We asked them to present him as a statesman but they refused. Now they are faced with the problem of zoning. Let Jonathan declare. The fear that he will manipulate the electoral machinery in his favour is imaginary because it is Nigerians that will decide his fate,” he said.
Nigeria’s past rulers and length of rule
Ruler State/Zone Tenure
Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Bauchi/North-East Oct 1, 1960 - Jan 16, 1966
Aguiyi Ironsi Abia/South East Jan 16, 1966 - July 29, 1966
Yakubu Gowon Plateau/North Central Aug 1, 1966-July 29, 1975
Murtala Mohammed Kano/North-West July 29, 1975-Feb 13, 1976
Olusegun Obasanjo Ogun/South-West Feb 13, 1976-Oct 1, 1979
Shehu Shagari Sokoto/North-West Oct 1, 1979 - Dec 31, 1983
Muhammadu Buhari Katsina/North-West Dec 31 1983-Aug 27, 1985
Ibrahim Babangida Niger/North-Central Aug 27, 1985-Aug 26, 1993
Ernest Shonekan Ogun/South-West Aug 26, 1993-Nov 17, 1993
Sani Abacha Kano/North-West Nov 17, 1993-Jun 8, 1998
Abdulsalami Abubakar Niger/North-Central Jun 8, 1998-May 29, 1999
Olusegun Obasanjo Ogun/South-West May 29, 1999-May 29 2007
Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua Katsina/North-West May 29, 2007 - May 5, 2010
Goodluck Jonathan Bayelsa/South-South May 5, 2010 till date
Power sharing among the six zones as of Sept 4, 2010
Zone No of States Length of stay Last time in power
North-Central 7 (plus FCT) 17 years, 10 months, 21 days May 29, 1999
North-West 7 13 years, 8 months, 18 days June 8, 1998
South-West 6 11 years, 10 months, 11 days May 29, 2007
North-East 6 5 years, 3 months, 15 days Jan 16, 1966
South-East 5 6 months, 13 days July 29, 1966
South-South 6 4 months Now