After months of loud silence on his desire to seek re-election,the stage now seems set for President Goodluck Jonathan to publicly declare for the race after the Muslim Ramadan fasting period.
The decision to declare his ambition openly followed the endorsement by the governors and members of the House of Representatives elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
This was one of the main outcomes of the Monday meeting between the President and the PDP Governors led by the Akwa Ibom state governor, Godswill Akpabio with the PDP members of the House of Representatives.
It was gathered that President Jonathan would be officially declaring for his second term in office after the Muslim fasting period, specifically any time in August as the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party would summon a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting to approve the guidelines for the presidential, governorship, National and State Assembly elections.
The meeting which ended in the early hours of yesterday was attended by Governors Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), Sullivan Chime (Enugu), Theodore Orji (Abia), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Martins Elechi (Ebonyi)and Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta). Others are Idris Wada (Kogi), Gabriel Suswam (Benue), Seidu Dakingari (Kebbi), Ibrahim Dakwambo (Gombe), Isa Yuguda (Bauchi), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina) and the Deputy Governor of Sokoto State, Mukhtar Shagari.
The meeting with the PDP governors in the first place was aimed at informing the governors of the decision of the President to seek a second term in office instead of hearing it from outsiders. Though, the source explained that it is an open secret that the President would seek a re-election as all machinery towards it are already in motion.
A source who spoke to Nigeria’s THISDAY Newspaper said no single governor at the meeting spoke against it, stating that he has lived up to his campaign promises.
According to the source, “the meeting was merely to inform us as nobody at the meeting opposed the plan. In fact, if there were to be any opposition, it would be like standing in front of a moving train. The stage was set and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
“The meeting to some of us was merely for your information and not to seek approval”, the source said.
Chuks Okocha and Jaiyeola Andrews report that the meeting agreed that it would not be proper for the President to declare within the month of Ramadan, when the Muslims are fasting and apart from that, it was agreed that most of the Muslims would be travelling outside Nigeria for the lesser Hajj.
It was therefore agreed that the President would be declaring his intention to contest for the second term in office after the fasting and that the PDP NWC would be setting the machinery in motion by submitting the draft guidelines for the election to the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting for approval.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had released the timetable for the 2015 elections. The commission, in a statement issued in Abuja last year, fixed the Presidential and National Assembly elections for February 14, 2015. The statement was signed by the Secretary of the Commission, Mrs. Augusta Ogakwu.
The commission also fixed state assembly and governorship elections for February 28 same year. She said the release was done in pursuant of the powers conferred on the commission by the constitution and the Electoral Act (2010) as amended. The statement was however silent on when politicians could declare their interest in contesting for any of the offices. The Electoral Act 2010, Section 31 (1) states that, “Every political party shall not later than 60 days before the date appointed for the general election under the provisions of this Act, submit to the Commission in the prescribed forms list of the candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections.”
Meanwhile, buoyed by its victory in Ekiti State governorship election, the PDP has said it is aiming at coasting home to victory at the 2015 governorship election by increasing the number of states under its control from the present 19 to 28.
In achieving this, it said it was already strategising on the deepening of its internal democracy.
Akpabio who briefed State House correspondents after the meeting, said: “We moved into a further meeting with Mr. President and all the PDP governors and members of the NWC-led by the National Chairman of the party, based on the fact that in the next few months we shall be gong into major primaries.
“When I came in, there was a period that PDP had up to 29 governors. In 2011, we still had up to 25 governors and then of course some governors tried to decamp to other political parties which they are liberty to do, because this is democracy, but we are gaining more, now we have at least 19 governors with the coming of Ekiti State and we also have three deputy governors who are still with us.
“That of Sokoto, Adamawa and that also that of Nasarawa, that brings our number to about 22, so if we shoot to 28, it is not too bad in the 2015 elections, so it was an appraisal and for us to use that opportunity as PDP governors to congratulate the party leader on the very successful election that was held in Ekiti State which was very free and fair and applauded by the international community and all Nigerians to a point where even the candidate of the opposition announced that yes indeed this was a victory well deserved and there was no need to contest such a victory in court.
“That is the kind of thing we would like to see and Mr. President has entrenched true democracy in Nigeria and this has happened in Edo State, it has happened in Ondo State and it has happened now in Ekiti State, and it will happen in August in Osun State.
“And for me, as a chairman of PDP governors in Nigeria, my hope and prayer is that God should increase our numbers and make us to have majority of governors in the country, because PDP is the only true national party in Nigeria. The hope of every Nigerian lies in the party.”
He said the meeting held with the caucus of the House of Representatives was fantastic, saying such meeting should be held regularly with the party leader, president and members of the National Working Committee ( NWC) at the national level in attendance together with the governors.
“Of course you are aware that the National Assembly Caucus met earlier in the day and passed a vote of confidence on Mr. President, the vice-president and the national leadership of the party and in turn, they also urged Mr. President to step forward and contest for the 2015 presidential election” the governor said.
He added that PDP House of Representatives caucus urged Jonathan to re-contest for a second term in office.
“We were witnesses when that resolution was taken and of course, they also pledged their unflinching support to the leadership of Mr. President and then congratulated him for being able to pass through times despite the distractions as a result of the insecurity situation in some parts of the country,” he stressed.
Akpabio further told journalists that Jonathan was commended for the strides he had made in governance particularly the educational sector, where he has built over 150 Almajiri schools, as well as efforts being made to tackle insecurity in the northern part of Nigeria using education.
He noted that Jonathan was the first Nigerian president to establish up to 10 federal universities all at a go, which he said was highly commendable.
“We don’t need to talk of the strides in the power sector and other areas. We believe that our performance will still endear us to Nigerians and that is what we looking forward to.
“Politics is all about democracy dividends, not about propaganda, so those who want to do propaganda can do so, but our meeting was to strategise on how best we can serve the Nigerian people so that the populace will continue to love the PDP and vote for us come 2015,” Akpabio stressed.
On whether the PDP Governors’ Forum also endorsed Jonathan, he said: “The PDP governors were present when the National Assembly Caucus did what they did, I do not want to pre-empt the action of PDP governors, but I can attest to their loyalty and their commitment to the success of Mr. President come 2015.”
On Jonathan response, the governor told journalists that the president though elated, but did not say anything.
“But as you know, INEC has not given the timetable for election yet, we are still waiting for INEC to release the guidelines, so Mr. President didn’t give anybody any answer, he did not say he will contest or he will not contest, but rather, he thanked them for the interest and confidence reposed in him.
“But I think from his body language, he is very mindful of the law and the need to wait for the guidelines from INEC. That was what I noticed,” Akpabio concluded.