Competitive Sycophancy: The hijacking of a presidential aspiration

VANGUARD Newspaper

Eight hundred and forty six groups and still counting! That is the number, at least, according to Alhaji Ibrahim Mantu, of the groups promoting the aspiration of President Goodluck Jonathan ahead of next year’s election.

Mantu, a former Deputy Senate President, was enmeshed in the tenure elongation programme of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, otherwise tagged Third Term. With his headship of a new group, Friends of Democracy (For Goodluck Jonathan), he has bounced back to the lime light. Then there is Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, co-convener, Friends of Democracy. The list is endless. Director General of Friends of Democracy, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh told members of the group that Governor Gabriel Suswam had also sent a goodwill message and support for the Jonathan support group. But to effectively take control of Jonathan’s presidential destiny, the party moved to Kaduna last Thursday.

Sources say a former minister from the North West has been appointed to co-ordinate the groups rooting for Jonathan’s presidential aspiration.

Sunday Vanguard gathered that leaders and conveners of one of the more popular pro-Jonathan groups, Friends of Democracy, have been instructed to work closely with the former minister “who has already been mobilized for the job. In fact, he has been given so much money.”

President Goodluck Jonathan
Interestingly, the Presidential Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Mohammed Abba Aji, the man who was at the centre of the alleged transmission of a letter from the late President Umaru Yar’Adua to the National Assembly, has joined the fray. He said, last week, that “Babangida will not contest the election with Jonathan”, drawing a sharp reaction from the Babangida camp. “He was speaking in tongues”, was the response from Babangida’s spokesman, Kasim Afegbua

The Kaduna Rally For Jonathan
The political fireworks between the old monolithic North and its former ally in the Nigerian game of power, the South-South entered a new phase that Thursday with the formal approval, at a summit in Kaduna, that President Jonathan can contest the 2011 election if he so desired. On the eve of that event, frantic telephone calls were made from both sides of the divide as they tried to out do each other with presence and attendance

The move to hold the summit began on July 1, this year when the protagonists and antagonists of the Jonathan presidency beyond 2011 confronted one another at the Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF) which took place at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House (Government House), Kaduna.

For the uninformed the fight against the continuation of President Jonathan in office beyond 2011 is a double project in the North as some power brokers in the region are said to be against the idea because it would mean allowing a Christian to govern the country and another Christian in power as governor of Kaduna State, the centre of the Muslim north.

Many Nigerians did not believe the level of tension that was witnessed in Kaduna State when Governor Patrick Yakowa, a minority Christian from Fadan Kagoma in the southern part became the automatic successor to Alhaji Mohammed Namadi Sambo who had been appointed Vice President.

His emergence provoked protests from Muslims who were opposed to the idea of power shift. Even as the summit got underway at the Kaduna State International Trade Fair Complex on Thursday, some almajiris carried placards, opposing the agreement by a section of northerners to allow power shift to the South-South.

According to the placards, “the north will unite”, meaning that the current discordant voices would soon be over. As some of the placard carrying youths spoke in Hausa, it was very clear that they were also bitter that those they described as “some northern political undertakers” had the audacity to come to Kaduna in their purported bid to sell the north.

When the PDP came on board in 1998 following an arrangement by the then military government, there was a consensus on zoning as a tool to deal with the intractable problem of access to power at the centre and this eventually trickled down to the state and local government levels. The acceptance of zoning this time around was facilitated by the crises occasioned by the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election won by late Chief MKO Abiola by the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida’s regime.

Before zoning there was the quota system which was used for the purposes of admission before it was further elevated to the federal character principles in the 1999 Constitution as stated in Chapter 2, section 14(a) states that the composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government. Section (b) also enjoined the practice of the same at the state and local government councils particularly in ensuring the recognition of the diversities of the society and the need to ensure balance.

Among those who attended the summit in solidarity with President Jonathan were, the Governor of Kaduna State, Mr. Patrick Yakowa, Senator Abubakar Sodangi representing Senate President, David Mark; Alhaji Usman Bayero Nafada, Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives; former Governor of Plateau State and pioneer National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Solomon Lar; Ambassador Shehu Malami, Sarkin Sudan Mai Wurno; and Ambassador Hassan Adamu, Walin Adamawa.

Lar, Gemade and Adamu were the co-chairmen at the summit. Also in attendance were, Lt. Gen. Saliu Ibrahim and Lt Gen Ishaya Bamaiyi (both former Chiefs of Army Staff), Maj. Gen Lawrence Onoja, Prof Iya Abubakar, Prof Jerry Gana, Sen. Jonathan Zwingina, Sen. Walid Jubril, Sen. Bala Mohammed,( FCT Minister), Mr. Mark Jacob, former PDP National Legal Adviser, Sen. John Wash-Pam, Sen. Nasir Ibrahim Mantu, Col. Dungs, former Military Governor of Delta state; and Sen. Isaiah Balat. They further include Alhaji Abubakar Audu, former Governor of Kogi state, Ambassador Onu Isaac, Nigerian High Commissioner in Botswana, Alhaji Garba Mohammed Noma, former Governor of Plateau state, Mr.Joshua Dariye, Alhaji Abubakar Audi, Mr. Labaran Maku, Minister of state, Information, Sen. Usman Wowo, Chief Mike Aondoakaa, former Attorney General and Minster of Justice, Mrs. Sarah Jubril, presidential aspirant in the PDP, Bala Kaoje, former Minister of Sports; Alhaji Tukur Jigamchi, former deputy governor, Bauchi State, Alhaji Ali Abacha, national chairman of National Patriotic Front, Sen. George Akume, former governor of Benue State, General A.B. Mamman, Dr. Muktar Mansur, former minister of Finance, Dr. Idi Hong, Minister of state, Foreign Affairs, Humphrey Abba, Minister of state, Interior, Babanginda Nguroje, Salisu Buhari, former Speaker, House of Representatives, Ambassador Isa Maina, Sen. Abba Aji, Sani Mohammed Ndanusa, Mr. Damishi Sango, former Sports Minister, Muktar Yero, deputy governor, Kaduna state, Alhaji Yusuf Ayitogo, National Vice Chairman, PDP North Central, Alhaji Kaulaha Aliyu (BOT) member, PDP; Mr. Clarence Olufemi, Speaker, Kogi state House of Assembly and Obadayan Audu, Minister of Water Resources.

Kaduna’s War of Posters
As the two formidable groups strategize on how to wrestle power from the incumbent President Jonathan next year, the war of posters has heightened in some parts of the North.

Even as the summit was on, some political jobbers were busy pasting posters of Jonathan and Vice President Sambo.

Similarly, posters of Ibrahim Babangida were also being pasted on walls.
Those against zoning, especially the youths, primarily believe that the North has ruled the country for 38 out of the 50 years of independence without much to show for it. They also believe that the North should not gamble with the 2011 election as there is no unity in the region.

For and against zoning
Former Secretary of the Political Committee of the ACF, Abdulrahman Mohammed has been consistent in his criticism of the North trying to stampede Jonathan out of power.

Mohammed believes that there is lack of cohesion and unity in the North adding that it would be suicidal for anybody to use the fabled northern unity to deceive himself about the wide gulf between the rich and the poor in the region.

The North, according to him, should use the next four years of the expected government of Jonathan to put its house in order by grooming younger people who will take over from the same group which has been in power in the last 50 years in the area as well as settle the issue of discriminations against “core northerners” and those in the periphery on the one hand and the core northerners against the minority Christians on the other hand.

Those for zoning also believe that Jonathan must respect the gentleman’s agreement which he was party to as the number one citizen whose yes should mean yes and no should also be no.

According to the National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Mr. Anthony Sani, a president who cannot respect a gentleman’s agreement which he voluntarily entered into cannot be accountable to the electorate.

Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, a former minister is among those who are asking Jonathan to respect the zoning formula. “There is a moral imperative of leadership, the ethical factor in the actions and conduct of leaders and those in positions of authority which enjoins them to live above reproach”, he said, pointing out that the fact that Dr. Jonathan participated in the zoning arrangement poses a moral imperative of leadership, the ethical factor in the actions and conduct of leaders and those in positions of authority which enjoins them to live above board.

However, one of the more articulate supporters of President Jonathan, Omo’ba Ademola Odubanjo, the convener of the Omoluabi Movement for Goodluck Jonathan, said, “we’re supporting Jonathan for him to fulfill his divine assignment for Nigeria

“We need a leader that can connect the past with the present with a view to charting a way forward for the future.

President Goodluck Jonathan is a Ph.D holder and to get to that level he must have developed his intellect to do good for Nigeria. It shall be well with Nigeria, Amen”.

A Third Force On Zoning
To further drive the point of a shambolic North home would be the fiery Dr. Usman Bugaje and Colonel Hameed Ali of the Coalition For Social Justice. In an advertorial entitled: The North, Zoning and the Nation: The need for a paradigm shift, they lampooned those they called charlatans.

“We are particularly concerned that some of these self appointed leaders of the North have not been known to have stood-up for the North at its most difficult times.

That people in their 70’s should be willing to be mercenaries is a double tragedy. We cannot continue to be hoodwinked. The North has suffered in the hands of these charlatans for too long. As a Nation it is time to reassess and re-examine the value of zoning. It may bring the peace and sense of belonging but that will appear to be at the expense of quality of governance and development.

As a Coalition for Social Justice, we strongly believe that our choice of leaders must be based on their competence and abilities and not the part of the country they come from”, their statement said. And not to be confused for supporting some southerners who are saying zoning should be junked, the statement made it clear that “We must warn these opportunists who wish to ride on the back of Northern or indeed Southern sentiments to power to desist from doing so”.

Earlier in a conversation with Sunday Vanguard, Dr. Bugaje insisted that he should not be misconstrued as a supporter of the speculated ambition of Jonathan: “Never! Why should I support Jonathan’s aspiration? Even his election as Vice President I still do not believe in.

What we are saying is that we as Nigerians should begin to talk about the quality and substance of whoever will become president and not on a warped arrangement of zoning. All we are saying is that some people can not just sit down because of their own selfish aspirations and arrogate to themselves monopoly of the desires of northerners.

These people have been known to be political prostitutes. I am not supporting Jonathan and I will not support him if it is going to be on the basis of zoning or no zoning. If the PDP has agreed on zoning, that is their problem; they should not make PDP’s problem that of Nigeria and force it on us. It is not acceptable”.

Professor Ignatius Ayua, Dr. Abubakar Siddique Mohammed, Professor Yakubu Mukhtar, Dr. Sule Bello, Sen. Davis Iornem, Professor Nuhu Yaqub, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, Alhaji Usman Alhaji, Basher Yusuf Ibrahim, Farouk B.B. Farouk, Omar Shittien, Prof. Maxwell Gidado, Sen. Salisu Ibrahim Matori; Mallam Adamu Ciroma, General Ibrahim B. Babangida (Rtd), Gen. I.M. Wushishi )Rtd), Maj. Gen David Jemibewon (Rtd), Chief Audu Ogbeh, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, Amb. Yahaya Kwande, Alh. Shaba Lafiagi, Prof. Daniel Saror, Mr. Patrick Adaba, Alh. Mohammed Hassan (Ciroman Keffi); Atiku Abubakar, Dr. Shettima Mustafa, Alh. Mohammed Bello Kirfi, Prof. Saad Abubakar, Amb. Yarima Abdullahi, Sen. Abubakar Mahdi, Prof. Isa B. Mohammed, Alh. Dahiru Bobbo, Alh. Yakubu Tsala; Alh. M.D. Yusufu, Alh. Umaru Aliyu Shinkafi, Alh. Lawal Kaita, Sen. M.T. Liman, AVM Hamza Abdullahi, Alh. Magaji Dambatta, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Magoro (Rtd), Sen. Garba Ila Gada, Alh. Yahaya Abdulkarim, Alh. Usman Alhaji, Alhaji Magaji DAMBATTA – Chairman, Chief Audu Ogbeh, Alhaji Sani Zangon Daura, Mallam Mohammed Haruna, Mallam Bukar Zarma, Alh. Ahmed Mohammed Gusau, Amb. Zubairu Dada

Their Position:
In a 12-point statement issued in Abuja on Thursday, the Forum described the retention of the zoning arrangement as the guarantee for the stability of the country and assurance that all ethnic groups in the country, including ethnic minorities will have a fair share of power and have a sense of belonging in the country.

It listed 25 prominent political leaders including former President Ibrahim Babangida, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar ,former Senate President Iyorchia Ayu, former Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Audu Ogbeh, Mallam Adamu Ciroma and Alhaji Bello Kirfi as members of the Forum, marshaled arguments in favour of retention of zoning and warned that the abandonment of zoning could have significant consequences for the stability of the polity because it has been embraced in all levels of government.

Arguing that its mission was not to stop President Jonathan Goodluck from contesting the 2011 elections as it is being portrayed, the Forum said it was out to safeguard “ the system of equity and fairness which will give all Nigerians a sense of belonging. It is our view that the system of zoning and rotation will secure every Nigerian the opportunity to access political power and thus engender peaceful coexistence of the various components of the country”.

It said the demand for zoning emanated from the Southern part of the country prior to 1999 , and expressed regret that the nation was now sliding back to its pre-1999 situation whereby a deliberate and dangerous propaganda is being deployed to confuse Nigerians about which section of the country can produce the nation’s next president. “This was an issue, which has long been resolved, leading to the emergence of Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Umaru Musa ‘Yar’adua in 1999 and 2007 respectively. Some of us have played a key role in ensuring that a Southerner has emerged President of Nigeria in 1999. We did this, not just as Northerners, but more importantly, as Nigerians who remain convinced that the only way to stabilize this country is to continue to give and take.

On the argument that zoning is not provided for in the 1999 Constitution, the Forum argued that no section of the Constitution outlaws zoning and rotation. “There is also no provision in that Constitution that prevents political leaders from going into special arrangements to share power, ensure equity and stabilize the polity. We also believe that every segment of Nigeria is endowed with qualified and competent leaders able to face the challenge of providing high quality service at different levels of public life.”

The Forum said it was insisting on zoning and rotation “ on the grounds of principle and not targeted at the speculated aspiration of President Goodluck Jonathan or any other person in 2011. In fact, it is not even about the presidency; zoning and rotation affect all levels and segments of public office in the country. We believe that zoning and rotation will, for the foreseeable future serve the best interest of Nigeria and its political stability, at least in the short- and medium-term. For instance, there would have been no need for a special political arrangement to concede power to the South in 1999 if Nigerians were ready to accept their presidents to come, perpetually, from any part of the country.

“In practice, zoning and rotation as political mechanisms to stabilize the country since 1999, have applied to every political office in Nigeria at all levels.

We must be certain that we are ready, as a nation, to jettison the practice at all levels before we throw it overboard or set in motion a process that may lead to avoidable chaos and anarchy in the land. And once we do that, we must make sure that we will not return to the regime of allegations of political domination by one section of the country.

Northerners Opposed to Zoning:

Their Position: “The summit expressed the strong desire for free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria and called on the Chairman and commissioners of INEC to do everything within their power to ensure preparation for credible elections in Nigeria come 2011. “The summit also called on governments of the federation to make adequate resources available to the electoral commission to ensure that free, fair and credible elections are conducted in Nigeria.

“There was a strong desire by the summit for every effort to be made to use good governance to bring development to every sector of the economy in the northern part of Nigeria in terms of infrastructure, education, industries, employment and uplifting the lives of our people. The summit resolved to hold a northern economic summit next year in order to focus attention on the economic and social conditions of communities in the northern part of Nigeria.

Power sharing and rotation
“The summit considered the various positions, viewpoints and options together with the related implication to the peace and stability of the country. It resolved that the zoning produced the presidency of Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua and President Goodluck Jonathan was an inseparable ticket, therefore, the demise of one did not invalidate the privileges of the remaining beneficiary of that zoning.

“The summit called on the leadership of the PDP to allow superior provision of the Nigerian constitution to guide the party in producing guidelines and regulations in the conduct of primaries to elect presidential candidate.

In the circumstances, the most viable option is what has been expressed. First, to ensure that indeed, the conduct of the primaries are such that the best candidates are given the opportunity to run for the office of the president.”


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