Ripples of Jonathan's suspected second-term ambition

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Allwell Okpi

Barely one year after the 2011 general elections, politicians from different regions of the country, are already preparing for the 2015 elections.

As usual, the contention for the presidency is the toughest, with different individuals and ethnic groups laying claim to the topmost political office in 2015.

However, the shape of the campaigns would be dependent on whether or not President Goodluck Jonathan decides to run for a second term.

Two weeks ago, the former President of the Ijaw Youth Council, and Leader of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, Alhaji Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, said Jonathan would occupy Aso Rock for eight years as president.

But before and after the 2011 elections, Jonathan had mentioned on different occasions that he would only serve for one term as president.

However, indications emerged last week that the president may change his mind despite the agreement he reached with the governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party before they agreed to support his transition from acting President to President.

Indications emerged last week that the real reason some of the governors opposed the recommendation that the membership of the party’s National Executive Council be enlarged was because they felt that the amendment was a ploy to bring in the president’s loyalists preparatory to his suspected 2015 ambition.

However, Jonathan had earlier warned members of the PDP and his cabinet to stop campaigning ahead of the 2015 elections.

Jonathan reportedly gave the warning at the National Executive Committee meeting of the party in Abuja and threatened to fire any member of his cabinet who is found wanting.

“Let me also plead that those who are interested in the general elections in 2015 should follow the rules. I have noticed that some people have just started some meetings, it is too early to hold meetings. The electoral laws and the constitution speak on this.

“At the federal level if you are holding a political office and I notice that you are involved in meetings for 2015 election, I will ask you to leave and go and hold your meetings, because that meeting is too early,” he said.

It would be recalled that as a way of reinforcing his lack of interest in the office of the president beyond 2015, shortly after he was sworn-in, Jonathan proposed a constitutional amendment to restrict the presidential and governorship tenure to a single six-year term.

He had said the proposed six-year tenure would take effect from 2015 and that he would not benefit from it since he did not intend to contest the next election.

However, of all the geopolitical zones seeking to have their person take over from Jonathan, the North, which is a union of the North-West, North-East and North-Central geopolitical zones, and the South-East seem to be the most vehement.

At present, most of the individuals that seem to be subtly indicating interest for the presidency, including the Vice-President Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, and Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, are all from these two regions.

With Jonathan being encouraged by his kinsmen from the South-South to go for a second term, his sudden declaration of interest would no doubt alter the nation’s political calculations.

According to the leader of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Yerima Shettima, the North is prepared for such changes, considering that its leaders are meeting to advance the interest of the region and nominate a consensus candidate that can match the president, should he decide to contest.

“In these meetings, we are trying to solve the problem of insecurity in our region and advance the interest of North. I believe at the end of the day, the North would agree on a consensus candidate who not just represents the interest of the North but someone who clearly understands the problems of Nigeria as a whole. And I believe that such a candidate would be able to match Jonathan even if he eventually decides to contest,” he said.

Shettima added that the PDP agreement would not stop Jonathan from contesting since the Constitution did not bar him.

“I’ve not in any way believed in any arrangement between the North and the South on who produces the president or not. As far as I’m concerned and according to the 1999 Constitution, Jonathan has the right to contest for a second term in office by 2015. But what matters is whether Nigerians want him as president. The arrangement that said he cannot contest is a gentleman agreement of the PDP and that cannot be binding on all Nigerians. PDP cannot speak for the whole country,” he said.

Also on Thursday, the Coalition of Northern Leaders said, “The North will rise to oppose tenure elongation for the president.”

According to the group, the presidency was using the Justice Alfa Belgore Committee on Constitution Review to pursue a third term agenda for Jonathan.

In a communiqué signed by its Convener, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, it stated, “It has become clear that both the villa and the Chairman are relentlessly pursuing a sinister third term agenda/renewed tenure elongation for the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.”

The President of the Trade Union Congress, Mr. Peter Esele, who is a member of the Belgore committee, however denied the allegation on the third term.

On his part, former Governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, who is a prominent politician in the South-East said the Igbo were not interested in pushing Jonathan out of office, but were only waiting to take their turn after him.

“I don’t know how true that speculation is. But what I know is that we, the Igbo, are not interested in pushing Jonathan out of office. Whether he rules for one term or two terms, all we know is that after Jonathan it should be somebody from the South-East.

“All the geopolitical zones in the North have ruled this country for at least five years. Somebody from the South-West has ruled for two terms, that is eight years. By the time Jonathan would be through, South-South would have ruled for at least five years. So the South-East would remain the only zone that has not produced the leader of this country.

“When Aguiyi Ironsi came up, he didn’t last six months, he was killed and not only him, millions of Igbo were killed both in the pogrom and the Civil War that followed. But if you look at how Igbo people are spread all over the country, you will know that electing an Igbo as president is our best chance of having a truly detribalised leader in this country,” he said.

Although the South-West has alleged marginalisation in the appointment of key officers at the federal level, the quest for a president from the region in 2015 seems to be low.

According to the Chairman of the Afenifere Renewal Group, a Yoruba socio-cultural group, Olawale Oshun, it is too early to discuss 2015 presidential election.

He however stated that the South-West was more interested in the establishment of true federalism rather than the presidency.

“As far as the South-West is concerned, it is rather too early and too presumptuous to be talking about whether the South-West would be presenting a candidate for the presidential election in 2015. What the South-West is interested in is the political restructuring of the country to give more powers to the federating units and give way for true fiscal federalism, not who is at the helm of affairs in Abuja.

“We had a president from the South-West who to all intents and purposes could have come from the moon, because there is nothing to point to in terms of physical development in the South-West during his tenure,” he said.


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