Election 2011: Northern elements vow to stop President Jonathan’s bid for the Presidency

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Barely few hours after Nigeria’s President, Goodluck Jonathan formally declared his bid for the 2011 presidential poll on Saturday, some northern Nigeria elements have vowed to stop his bid.

Jonathan announced his intention to run  on Saturday, three days after he launched his ambition  on his Facebook page- ending speculations and months of doubts over his next political ambition.

“I, Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan have decided to humbly offer myself as a candidate in the presidential primaries of our great party, … in order to stand for the 2011 presidential elections,” Jonathan had said at a rally in Abuja, vowing  to unite Nigerians and urging voters to cast their ballots for him.

“I have come to say to all of you that Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan is the man you need to put Nigeria right,” he said.

“I have come to launch a campaign of ideas, not one of calumny. I have come to preach love, not hate. I have come to break you away from divisive tendencies of the past which have slowed our drive to true nationhood,” he said.

The president had used his Facebook page last Wednesday to declare his intention to run in January amidst a row in his ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on whether to support him or a northern candidate.

In a dramatic anti climax to his announcement, a group of northerners headed by Adamu Ciroma has formed a clique within People’s Democratic Party to stop Jonathan’s bid.

??“We demand that the party issues a declaration, restraining President Goodluck Jonathan from participating and presenting himself as an aspirant in the 2010 (People’s Democratic Party) PDP presidential primary election,” read a letter by the group, a copy of which was seen by AFP.

“If we follow our party’s practice and constitution, which we must, the party must nominate a northerner as our presidential candidate and a southerner as our vice presidential candidate because the existing Yar’Adua/Goodluck ticket is zoned to the north not the south,” it said.

“Our demand is informed by a deep sense of commitment to the preservation of the PDP and the universal call for justice, fairness, peace, unity and stability of our country,” it added.

The northerners demand however has put a major strain on Jonathan’s bid as the powerful elements may create a major disunity within the ruling PDP as well as starting off a major national crisis by fermenting  political and religious  crisis  across the country.

A host of state governors, ministers and lawmakers had attended Jonathan’s  carnival-like rally in the nation’s capital as banner-carrying youth and cultural groups drummed and sang to eulogise the president.

Jonatahn, the  52-year-old southern Christian from Bayelsa State in the oil-rich Niger Delta succeeded president Umaru Yar’Adua after his death in May. He had been Yar’Adua’s deputy president since 2007.

The PDP, dominant in Nigerian politics since the country returned to civilian rule in 1999, is divided between backing Jonathan or a candidate from the country’s mainly Muslim north.

An unwritten party policy has long dictated that it rotate its candidates between the Muslim north and predominantly Christian south every second term.

The rule serves as a way of smoothing over ethnic, religious and social divides in the vast west African country of 150 million people and over 250 tribal groups.

Since Yar’Adua, a Muslim, died before his first term was up, some argue another northern candidate should be chosen.

Several northern candidates, including former military ruler Ibrahim Babaginda and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, have declared their ambition to seek the party’s nomination.

First Republic information minister and prominent ethnic Ijaw leader Edwin Clark urged Nigerians to back the president’s bid.

“Democracy has come to stay in Nigeria,” he said to the gathering  thousands of supporters massed for the ceremony.

“My message to all Nigerians, from the six geo-political zones, is to unite and stand behind President Jonathan,” he said.

Other leaders, including former ministers, governors, community and traditional rulers also spoke in the same vein in favour of the president.

But a group of some influential politicians from the north urged the PDP to bar Jonathan from seeking its ticket, saying the existing party policy on rotating power between the south and north should be respected.

“We demand that the party issues a declaration, restraining President Goodluck Jonathan from participating and presenting himself as an aspirant in the 2010 PDP presidential primary election,” read a letter by the group, a copy of which was seen by AFP.

“If we follow our party’s practice and constitution, which we must, the party must nominate a northerner as our presidential candidate,” it said.

The PDP has said that its flagbearer will be decided on October 23.

Shehu Sani of the northern-based Civil Rights Congress said it was “unethical and politically immoral” for Jonathan to run.

“The declaration is on breach of ‘A Gentleman Agreement’ between the political leaders of Nigeria and his party to rotate political power between the north and south of which he Jonathan was a signatory to,” he said in a statement.

Sani said the declaration was “nothing but desperation to (hang) onto power, rabid ambition and political opportunism.

  Adamu Ciroma
Adamu Ciroma

*Adamu Ciroma, other North powers vows to stop Jonathan.

A group of influencial politicians from northern Nigeria on Saturday urged the ruling party to bar President Goodluck Jonathan from seeking its ticket for the January presidential poll.

“We demand that the party issues a declaration, restraining President Goodluck Jonathan from participating and presenting himself as an aspirant in the 2010 (People’s Democratic Party) PDP presidential primary election,” read a letter by the group, a copy of which was seen by AFP.

Jonathan, a southern Christian, was due to formally declare his ambition to stand in the January 29 presidential poll at a rally in Abuja on Saturday.

He announced his candidacy on his Facebook page on Wednesday, amidst a row within his party on whether to back him or a candidate from the mainly-Muslim north.

The group which included former finance minister Adamu Ciroma and former senate president Iyorchia Ayu called on the party not to field Jonathan as candidate but instead nominate somebody from the north.

Jonathan was elected vice president in 2007, along with president Umaru Yar’Adua, a northern Muslim who died in May before his term expired.

The group cited relevant sections of the PDP constitution which provides that the party should rotate the presidency slot between the north and the south of the country as a way of ensuring stability in the polity.

“If we follow our party’s practice and constitution, which we must, the party must nominate a northerner as our presidential candidate and a southerner as our vice presidential candidate because the existing Yar?adua/Goodluck ticket is zoned to the north not the south,” it said.

“Our demand is informed by a deep sense of commitment to the preservation of the PDP and the universal call for justice, fairness, peace, unity and stability of our country,” it added.

It was not immediately clear whether key members of the PDP would attend Saturday’s ceremony, but the party has announced that its flagbearer will emerge on October 23.

Several northern candidates, including former military ruler Ibrahim Babaginda and former vice president Atiku Abubakar have declared their ambition to seek the party’s nomination.