– Alhaji Mohammed Abba Gana, former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, former special adviser to the president and presently, member of the Board of Trustees, BoT of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in this interview with newsmen gives his views on reasons why President Goodluck Jonathan should serve another four years in office.
What is your view on the agitation that the North should produce the next president in 2015?
Some people in the North want the presidency to go back to the North, some people also in the North do not see anything wrong in allowing Jonathan to finish his eight years. In the North, we have had about eight or nine heads of state of this country and allowing Jonathan another four years will not take away anything. We should not be talking as if the North has never had any president. We have had about eight or nine presidents, yet all the poverty, illiteracy, crises are in the North. So if the previous eight or nine leaders who are northerners did not make any difference, is it the remaining years of Jonathan that will make the difference?
The PDP already has a sitting president in Jonathan and if he says I would like to seek for a second term, there is no way the PDP should say no because there are all sorts of advantages for the party if the sitting president says he would like to seek another term that he is entitled to. It would be very unwise for the PDP to even bring in somebody when Jonathan is sitting down in Aso Rock and another PDP presidential candidate is running about. How do you expect him to support that candidate, so we will lose most of the advantages of incumbency.
T.Y Danjuma, our highly respected statesman told our northern elites that the North needs to plan very well, he also said that the North needs to work very hard and he also said that the North also needs to relate better and finally, he said the North should talk less. So, for me, if you ask me, the North needs another four years to plan, to relate better, to work hard and create a programme so that these our Boko Haram crisis, Jos crisis and so on will be settled. And we need a leader from the North. We should search for or groom a leader from the North who will unite the North and at the same time give Nigeria a very good leadership and you can’t do this in a crash program.
In a related development, other notable northerners, led by Gowon and Danjuma are now singing a different tune, arguing power shift to the North but insisting on a northern Christian President. It was gathered that the group would prefer a Christian as a presidential candidate as part of the larger agenda of the north to ensure that the presidency returns to the zone in 2015. As such, they are considering establishing a working relationship with any of the major political parties that will zone its presidential slot to the Middle Belt, which comprises states in the North-central and a part of the North-east.
The north has been agitating for the return of power to the zone on the basis that President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who took over from former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007, did not complete the constitutionally sanctioned two-term tenure as he died in office midway into his first term in the saddle. The agitation for power shift is believed to be one of the crucial factors fuelling the crisis in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), especially against the backdrop of the swirling rumours doing the rounds that President Goodluck Jonathan intends to seek a second term in office.
However, the president has neither confirmed nor denied the speculation, saying he would prefer to speak out on his political future in 2014. Northern Christian leaders believe that under the circumstances, instead of being the “pawn or kingmakers in the Nigeria’s political chessboard”, they should provide the king. Sources said Gowon, Danjuma and others in the group are contending that with Christians being in the majority in Benue, Plateau, Kogi, Taraba and parts of Niger, Kwara, Adamawa, Kebbi and Nasarawa States, this would be a propitious time for them to make a bid for the presidency based on their population.
It was gathered that the Middle Belt states are open to any of the political parties that would offer the presidency to the Middle Belt whose people are predominantly Christians. A source said that already, the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC) is mulling the idea of picking a Christian as its presidential candidate to satisfy this yearning. The party, if it goes ahead with the decision, the source added, might pick its presidential running mate from either the South-east or South-west depending on the outcome of the planned national convention of the APC slated for either November or December.
“Since both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and APC are banking on the Middle Belt states as determinant for who becomes the president in the 2015 presidential election, it is also our thinking that we should provide the king rather that being the kingmaker. This is the thinking of our leaders like T.Y. Danjuma and General Yakubu Gowon and stakeholders from the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN),” the source said.
Danjuma is from Taraba State, while Gowon is from Plateau State. The source said this understanding was made possible by the fact that if Jonathan, a minority is voted president, there is nothing to stop a Christian from the Middle Belt becoming president in a democracy. The source said though “the present leadership of CAN under Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor may not support the idea, as he is one of the ardent supporters of President Jonathan, but his tenure of office would soon be over and there is the chance that a successor from the Middle Belt would assume office as the CAN leader.
“A committee has been commissioned to work on the possibility of the Middle Belt presenting a candidate to contest the presidential election, irrespective of political party affiliations. As we speak, meetings are ongoing on this,” the source explained. According to him, already, the PDP is depending on votes from the South-south and the South-east states to make Jonathan realize his second term ambition, while the APC is relying on votes from the South-west and the North-west states for victory for its presidential candidate.
Both dominant political parties also see the Middle Belt as the “swing zone” and when votes from the zone are added to those from their core support zones, it would make the difference between victory and defeat in the 2015 presidential race.
“This strategy is partly based on the opposition of the governors of Sokoto, Kebbi, Kano and Jigawa States to President Jonathan with active support from Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State and Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, on the one hand, and the active approval of Christian stakeholders, on the other hand. With this, the idea of a Christian from the Middle Belt becoming the president would be achieved,” the source said.
According to the source, “Though Danjuma is not a member of the APC or even PDP, he is working for any Christian presidential candidate from the Middle Belt. If a Christian presidential candidate is made possible, then someone like Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State would pair with him as running mate in the presidential election.”
The source expressed doubts over the possibility of the APC fielding one of its chieftains, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, who has contested three presidential elections since 2003.