The President is yet to announce his plan to run for another term, but his perceived ambition is overheating the polity.
Dr. Goodluck Jonathan said in New York on Monday that the constitution provides for “maximum of eight years for anyone who wants to become a president of a governor”.
To many, this is an indication that he plans to run – against the stand of some leading lights of his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who believe that such a step will weaken Nigeria’s unity.
The New PDP – a group of seven governors and some party chiefs who are against Jonathan’s yet unannounced bid – advised him yesterday to dump the idea.
But a forum of former governors said the President should be allowed to exercise his right to run.
The Abubakar Baraje-led PDP called on Jonathan not to seek re-election in 2015.
The faction said it decided to advise Jonathan not to run, after reviewing the state of the nation and the pulse of Nigerians on his ambition. Doing so would be against the interest of the country and its people, it said.
In a statement issued yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Chukwuemeka Eze, the party noted that the President has given enough clue of his intention to run, although he has not declared it openly.
“The latest of such clues came on Sunday in New York, USA. Speaking at a luncheon with Nigerian professionals in the United States, President Jonathan insisted that he is eligible to contest in 2015 as ‘we have a constitution that makes a provision for a maximum of eight years for anyone who wants to become a president or a governor’, the faction said.
Baraje observed that the President had made a similar statement in April 2012, in an affidavit in response to a suit instituted at an Abuja High Court by a PDP chieftain, Cyriacus Njoku, seeking to stop him from contesting the 2015 presidential election.
“We are worried that Mr. President is intent on running despite his earlier promise not to do so and in spite of the wise counsel of well-meaning Nigerians, including respected elder statesmen,” it said.
The faction reminded Jonathan of a statement he made in Ankara, Turkey in February 2011, during an interactive session with Nigerians and diplomats working in the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Union (AU).
The statement quoted Jonathan as saying: “I would have loved that the Nigerians in the Diaspora vote this year (2011) but to be frank with you, that is going to be difficult now. At present, the law does not allow the voting outside Nigeria and so this year Nigerians in Diaspora will not vote but I will the work towards it by 2015 even though I will not be running for election.”
It also quoted the President to have said: “Four years is enough for anyone in power to make significant improvement and if I can’t improve on power within this period, it then means I cannot do anything even if I am there for the next four years.”
The faction said there was no way the President could deny his own statements now, since he failed to deny them over the past two years.
“How does Mr. President want Nigerians and the entire world to see him for this volte face? Why can he not keep his word as a man of honour instead of allowing himself to be misled by selfish advisers to go back on his word, thereby overheating the polity,” the statement added.
The New PDP continued: “Mr. President should heed the advice of well-meaning distinguished personalities, such as constitutional law guru Prof. Ben Nwabueze (SAN) and Archbishop Emeritus of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, all of whom have advised him to correctly read the handwriting on the wall and stay away from the 2015 presidential race.
“By 2015, President Jonathan would have served our nation for six solid years. This, surely, is enough time for him to achieve whatever he is capable of doing for Nigeria.
“What else is he looking for that is making him desperate to participate in the 2015 presidential election despite warnings that doing so may spark a chain of events capable of culminating into the country’s disintegration’ thereby bringing to pass the predictions of Lord Lugard that Nigeria as a nation by 2014 may become history, which was later confirmed by the USA Think-Tank that Nigeria may disintegrate by 2015.
“Apart from all these, should President Jonathan contest and win by 2015, it means he would have spent ten years in office and will be sworn in three times as the President of Nigeria against the provisions of the country’s constitution.
“We wish to appeal to Mr. President to abandon this ill-advised move and save our nation from catastrophe. God has been merciful to you, Mr. President; lifting you from being a university teacher to President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in so short a time is something you should be grateful for and be contented with.
“We urge you Mr. President to listen to the voice of reason and avoid overstretching your good luck. A word is enough for the wise.”
But the President got the support of a group of former governors and governorship candidates on the platform of the PDP.
Former militant Mujahid Asari-Dokubo also supported Jonathan to run in 2015. To him, that Jonathan will run in 2015 is a “forgone conclusion”.
The former governors and candidates said yesterday that it would be unfair to deny the President the right to seek another term.
Speaking under the aegis of G13 Candidates/Former PDP Governors Forum, they said Nigeria’s problem should not be blamed on the Jonathan administration.
They were led by a former governorship candidate of the PDP in Edo State, Major-Gen. Charles Arhiavbere.
Also at yesterday’s meeting in Abuja were a former Minister of Sports, Damishi Sango; former military governor and one-time Chairman of Nigeria Football Association Col. Abdulmumuni Aminu; former governor of Adamawa State Boni Haruna; former deputy governor of Ogun State Alhaja Salimot Badru; former governorship candidate of PDP in Ondo State Mr. Olusola Oke; former Minister Dauda Birmah, former Military Governor John David Dung and retired Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) Donald Iroha
After the meeting, they asked the group of seven governors to embrace peace and return to the mainstream of the party under the leadership of Bamanga Tukur.
Gen. Airhiavbere who read the decisions, said: “The constitution provides for eight years for every office and I believe that going by natural justice, if there is a tenant in a house and it is going for sale, the first opportunity of refusal should go to the occupant.
“And I believe that based on the midterm report of the President, we believe that he should be given a second term in office to finish his project.
“President Jonathan has the right. It has not been published anywhere that he signed an agreement to run for one term. He should be given support and peaceful environment to implement his projects to completion.”
Asari-Dokubo described the G-7 governors and leaders of the Baraje faction as political miscreants who cannot stop Jonathan’s re-election.
Asari-Dokubo, who spoke exclusively with our correspondents in Abuja, said five of the G-7 governors worked against Jonathan in 2011 in their states and the President still won the poll.
He said: “They (the G-7 governors and those in Baraje’s faction) are political miscreants because there is no faction in PDP. PDP is PDP and there is only one PDP recognised by the law. What they are doing is illegal and against the law.
“They cannot stop Jonathan in 2015. How? Did the President win in Kano, Sokoto, Niger and Jigawa states?
When reminded that Joanthan won in Kwara and Rivers states, Asari-Dokubo said: “Yes, and Jonathan is going to win in Kwara; he will win in Niger now clearly and he will win more votes in Kano. He will win.
“Did Kwankwaso people not print his poster with Buhari in 2011? Did Kwankwaso support Goodluck?
“If it is Lamido, yes we agree but did the support translate into victory? So all this their bragging is nothing. Did Amaechi bring any vote? I was a chieftain of ACN. All other parties scored zero. Goodluck scored 100% vote in my ward. There were agents for all the parties but in my ward, every party scored zero; they didn’t score one vote. Did Amaechi bring it or did he come near my ward?
Asked why Jonathan had been having peace talks with the governors, Asari-Dokubo said: “That is why we are angry with Jonathan. Why should the President hold meetings with them? The President should put them where they belong to.
“Where they belong is to be chased from PDP and those of them that do not have immunity, the full weight of the law should be brought against them and they should be dealt with decisively.”