For the second time in 48 hours, the presidency in Abuja again on Wednesday attempted to hedge off scathing criticism from internal party opposition that President Goodluck Jonathan is acquiring an integrity deficit by failing to keep faith to honour agreements he reached with political associates.
In a radio interview on Liberty FM Guest of the Week programme in Kaduna on Saturday, the governor of the state of Niger, Babangida Aliyu, led the charge, saying President Jonathan’s desire, and apparent silent moves for re-election amounts to bad faith since he entered into agreement with PDP governors three years ago “to run for only one term of four years.”
A day after Mr. Aliyu’s comments, the president, speaking through his Special Adviser on Political Matters, Ahmed Gulak, reacted angrily, saying he never entered such an agreement.
“The alleged agreement only exists in the figment of the imagination of somebody with presidential ambition,” Mr. Gulak responded, characterizing Mr. Aliyu’s comments as ‘frivolous allegation” and urged the governor, whose famous ambition to occupy Mr. Jonathan’s seat is an open book, to mind his ambition with caution.
Since Mr. Aliyu’s charge however, the issue has refused to die, and in another attempt to change the topic Tuesday, presidential spokesman, Doyin Okupe, claimed, “this is neither the time nor the season to begin electioneering campaign or related discourse for the 2015 presidential elections and so President Goodluck Jonathan will not jump the gun.”
Mr. Okupe added “Mr. President will therefore stoutly resist any disguised or open attempt to drag him into any debates, arguments or political discussions relating to a presidential election in 2015.”
“For now” said Mr. Okupe, trying to triangulate on the issues in debate, “we assure Nigerians of Mr. Presidents resolve to continue to devote his energy to a successful implementation of the transformation agenda, fix Nigeria and thereby justify the mandate freely given to him by the Nigerian people.”
In the radio interview, Mr. Aliyu claimed that: “at the time he [President Jonathan] was going to declare for the 2011 election, all the PDP governors were brought together to ensure that we were all in the same frame of mind…[and that] at that discussion, it was agreed that Jonathan would serve only one term of four years and we all signed the agreement.”
Mr. Gulak flung harsh words back at Mr. Aliyu, insisting that President Jonathan “did not sign an agreement with anybody to the best of my knowledge.”
But PREMIUM TIMES can confirm authoritatively that Mr. Jonathan indeed assured the governors and party top guns he would run for only one term.
In December 2010, when President Jonathan’s ambition to run for the 2011 presidency was brewing to tear the party apart, party elders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), huddled at Wadata House, national headquarters of the party, and after a marathon 48-hour meeting, 20 state governors came out with a three-point communiqué, read by the Katsina governor, Ibrahim Shema, claiming to endorse the candidacy of President Goodluck Jonathan “for one term of four years.”
Addressing journalists on the night of December 16, 2010, the governors, speaking through Mr. Shema said, “having deliberated extensively on democratic practices the world over,” they came to three conclusions regarding Mr. Jonathan’s ambition:
“1. Democratic systems all over the world recognise the principle of incumbency and continuity.
2. Entrenched democratic culture persistent in presidential system and our constitution entitles our President to run for a second term which the PDP Governors support.
3. The Governors also recognise the Yar’Adua/Jonathan ticket and therefore support and endorse President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR) to contest the 2011 election as the PDP presidential candidate for a period of four years only.”
Before the meeting commenced, Mr Jonathan and his deputy, Namandi Sambo had met with the members of the national working committee of the party and the governors in Okwesiliese Nwodo’s office, the then party chairman.
The vice president, Namadi Sambo, and party chieftain, Tony Anenih led the negotiation on behalf of the president, while governors from 17 states and three deputy governors from Ogun, Oyo, and Imo states who stood in for their governors, brokered the deal.
But after endorsing and adopting Mr. Jonathan, the governor’s claimed that presidential primaries would still hold “to allow other aspirants to contest.”
After Mr. Jonathan was endorsed, former vice president, who challenged the president to the presidential ticket, Atiku Abubakar, told a meeting of his supporters that political leaders risked making violent change inevitable the way they appeared to be making peaceful changes impossible.
The comments drew the sharp rebuke of President Jonathan and the State Security Services at the time.