- Category: Politics
- Published on Thursday, 16 September 2010 07:42
- Written by Nigerian Compass
- Hits: 1917
IT was a cat-and-mouse game yesterday among some presidential aspirants on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the race for the 2011 elections began in the ruling party.
A few hours before former military President, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), formally told Nigerians his plans to occupy the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja, next year, at an elaborate ceremony at the Eagle Square, President Goodluck Jonathan declared to his fans on the social network site, Facebook, his plan to run with one condition: to promise less and deliver more.
He also told ministers during the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting that they should support his ambition.
Many of them wore badges and caps with Jonathan’s photograph.
In Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, Governor Bukola Saraki described as arrant nonsense the insinuation that he was fronting for Babangida in the race.
To the two-term governor, he does not need the ridiculous pretence of instigating crowds to persuade or beg him to run, neither does he need to wait on “mere good luck” to be a contender.
Speaking to a mammoth crowd of supporters and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) residents, Babangida, who formally declared his intention, pledged to restore good governance in the country.
He pointedly said that after 18 years of deep and serious reflection on the path the nation had taken so far, he was better prepared and more determined to fully engage the challenges and opportunities which lie ahead of the country.
The declaration by the Minna-born General, which was graced by three governors, Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Mahmud Shinkafi (Zamfara) and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), among other dignitaries, was attended by thousands of people. The venue was filled to capacity.
Also in attendance were former Senate President, Chief Ken Nnamani; former Governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili; former Chief of Army Staff, General Salihu Ibrahim (rtd); former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’Abba; former Minister of Education, Professor Chinwe Obaji; General Muhammadu Magoro (rtd); Senator Kanti Bello; Dr. Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi; Senator Jubril Aminu; Dr. Kunle Olajide; Chief Alex Akinyele; Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele; Mohammed Abacha; Hajia Gambo; Abdul Ningi; Bawa Bwari, former Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, and others.
Said Babangida: “After almost eighteen years of deep and serious reflection on the path Nigeria has taken and review of our past and present to which we have been exposed, I am, today, better prepared and more determined to fully engage the challenges and opportunities which lie ahead of my country.
“For me, therefore, the rationale for my involvement in politics is to lead a team of dedicated Nigerians who together can provide the courage, the focus as well as the wisdom and sacrifice to engage the necessary changes that will inspire and deliver economic prosperity.
“I have developed a definite conviction that these challenges, though complex, varied and often daunting, are not beyond effective resolution by the collective and concerted efforts of Nigerians and their leadership. All we require is the infusion of conviction and the strength of our people to make the required efforts and grapple with difficult decisions that lie ahead.
“I have drawn on my background, experience and the realities of our contemporary history to dedicate myself to the restoration of good governance in our country. The plight of our youths and women who together can safeguard out future must engage our collective attention.
“I worry about the large army of our youths and women that are unemployed or under-employed. I am even more worried about the relevance of their skills in solving contemporary issues of our economy, yet, they are our country’s most critical resource and I want to dedicate this period of my life to that cause,” he declared.
The former military President from 1985 to 1993 was escorted to the podium by his two daughters- Aisha Mahmud Shinkafi (wife of the Governor of Zamfara State) and Halima, his last daughter. His two sons were also in attendance. He noted with sadness that the reality of the present circumstance is that Nigeria is in crisis, saying: “We cry over the economy and we agonise over the state of our educational system as well as organised crime.
“Our infrastructure has collapsed and we continue to live with epileptic supply of electricity. We bicker over the never-ending issue of subsidy”.
While saying that the country is presently facing what he called “a qualitatively different challenge”, Babangida declared: “The reality in our country is that of an abysmal lack of governance. The state has virtually become overwhelmed by multi-dimensional crises constraining its ability to minister to the needs of the citizenry”.
He pointed out that there was no option open to this nation than to create an economic framework that prioritises job creation, entrepreneurship and productive engagement of the nation’s teeming population.
The former military President therefore said: “I am making a solemn undertaking to devote the four years that would be available to me, if elected President, to create the foundation for creating that economic framework”.
Babangida also promised to sustain, strengthen and complement the various anti-corruption institutions such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) “as well as complement them with other anti-corruption authorities such that the national and global constituencies of the Nigerian State shall bear concrete witness to our efforts in dealing with the phenomenon of corruption”.
The former Military President further said: “ Nigeria needs a new and better story. My administration shall give Nigeria a good story as it changes governance for better. I believe that every child, every Nigerian can learn and it shall be the duty of my administration to provide the opportunities and the environment for all Nigerians to self-actualisation.
“If voted as President in 2011, my government shall specifically focus its efforts to ensure that youths have better future to look up to”, he said.
Babangida assured Nigerians that he would clinch the sole PDP presidential ticket at the primaries.
About 11.29 a.m., Babangida was conveyed to the venue in a black Toyota open roof Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) marked BB 972 AAA (Lagos) accompanied by former Senate President, Ken Nnamani and his wife, Raymond Dokpesi and Senator Kanti Bello.
The former leader, who appeared in a cream-coloured native agbada, took another ten minutes to move round the venue in a long motorcade where he received a cheering ovation from the crowd.
Before he declared about 1.07 p.m., various placards and banners calling on him to take up the challenge and run against Jonathan littered the entire venue.
Virtually all key speakers at the event took time to read words of caution to Jonathan to discontinue with his presidential ambition since the presidency is believed to be zoned to the North till 2015.
While stressing the urgent need for change, Babangida identified poverty eradication, fight against corruption, Niger/Delta, power supply and job creation as the priority areas of his administration, if elected.
Describing his political step as timely in view of the nation’s 50th independence anniversary, he lamented that current crop of leaders have failed to harness the enormous human and natural resources to build national prosperity.
He expressed fears that “Nigeria is currently in grave danger of a state failure” but gave assurances that to pull Nigeria back from brink of collapse, “an experienced, visionary and tested leader like me is urgently needed”
Nnamani, who declared the event open at exactly 11.51 a.m., said zoning, which he called an internal affair of PDP, still stands and disclosed the readiness of IBB’s campaign groups to engage in a competitive primary to get the ticket.
He declared IBB as a card-carrying member who has worked assiduously for the progress of the party and would not be stopped from exercising his constitutional right to run as a full-fledged Nigerian.
Aliyu said zoning would not be allowed to cause doom for PDP.
He assured thousands of Nigerians at the gathering that Babangida, at the rate he is working on his ambition, would stir surprise at the PDP primaries.
Na’Abba, who spoke glowingly about Babangida, said he is the best candidate for Nigeria now giving his patience which lasted 17 years out of office as his reason.
The national coordinator of women wing of IBB Campaign Organisation and former deputy governor of Lagos State, Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, assured the retired General of the support of all Nigerian women, calling the gesture a payback for the legacy of the Better Life programme introduced by his late wife, Maryam.
She said Jonathan had almost completed his tenure with only a few months left, hence he should start preparing to leave office for Babangida.
It was, however, confirmed that frantic efforts by Dokpesi, who moderated the mainstream of the event, to bring Odili who was in attendance to speak, failed.
Most representatives of some northern governors were yesterday noticed at the declaration.
Ningi said Jonathan must follow a path of honour and abide by the zoning arrangement as contained in the PDP constitution.
The occasion came to an end about 2.13 p.m. Over 3,000 policemen and other security agents provided security.
Speaking to his fans on Facebook, Jonathan said: “Today, I confirm that after wide and thorough consultations spanning the six geo-political zones that make up Nigeria, with members of my family, my party, the opposition, civil society, the private sector, members of the Labour Unions, religious leaders, youths and student groups and our revered traditional institutions, I, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan by the grace of God, hereby offer myself and my services to the Nigerian people as a candidate for the office of President in the forthcoming 2011 elections.
“Dear compatriots, four months ago, providence placed me at the leadership of our dear country, following the untimely death of our dear former President, my brother and leader, President Umaru Musa Yar’adua. It was a very solemn and trying moment for me personally and for the country as a whole.
“My immediate task and priority was, and still remains, to give the nation purposeful leadership and to focus on the priorities of our administration to maintain national peace and stability and pursue our key development priorities. In these few months as leader of the country, I have concentrated on managing the affairs of the nation, and resisted all efforts to respond to the drums of partisan politics which have been sounding very loud across the land.
“As President and leader of government, I decided not to place partisan politics above the immediate needs and priorities of our people. I came under intense pressure to make a declaration concerning my political future, but declined to do so because that would have immediately distracted us from all the development initiatives we have accomplished so far.
“I therefore told Nigerians to give me time to concentrate on my work and that at the appropriate time, I would make a public statement on my political future after due consultations with all the segments and leaders of our nation.
“Today, I confirm that after wide and thorough consultations spanning the six geo-political zones that make up Nigeria, with members of my family, my party, the opposition, civil society, the private sector, members of the Labour Unions, religious leaders, youths and student groups and our revered traditional institutions, I, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, by the grace of God, hereby offer myself and my services to the Nigerian people as a candidate for the office of President in the forthcoming 2011 elections.
“In presenting myself for service, I make no pretense that I have a magic wand that will solve all of Nigeria’s problems or that I am the most intelligent Nigerian. Far from it. What I do promise is this – If I am elected President in 2011, I will make a covenant with you the Nigerian people to always do right by you, to tell you the truth at all times, to carry you along and most importantly to listen to you, fellow citizens in our communities and also those of you on this page.
“I do not want to win your affections by giving you promises of things I would do in the future which others before me have given and which have largely been unfulfilled. Rather, I would want you to judge me by my records. Since God Almighty and yourselves permitted me to serve you in the present capacity, I have busied myself with setting Nigeria on the path of peace and progress.
“My team and I made no promises on adequate fuel supply in Nigeria. We simply did what was expected of those who govern, we delivered it, and you are living witnesses to that. We made no promise to revamp the textile industry. We delivered a bailout package worth N150 billion that is being dispensed as I write. We made no promises of securing the highest U.S Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation clearance, the Category 1 Certificate which enables Nigerian registered airlines to fly to any U.S. city. We delivered. We made no promise to give Nigeria a brand new INEC under a proven God-fearing and incorruptible leader. We placed Nigeria first and delivered. We made no promises of protecting your loans, deposits and investments in the banking industry over and beyond what is covered under the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Scheme. We delivered it via AMCON.
“Rather than tell you what we could do to improve power, this administration demonstrated it by initiating a brand new national Super Grid as well as launching a concrete Road Map to the Power Sector with realistic goals tied to realistic dates. I understand from some of your mails that there has been some small improvements in electricity supply in some communities. We met an economy that was beginning to slow due to the global recession. Today, the economy has verifiably grown by seven per cent this half year ending in June.
“I know you are tired of empty promises, so I will make only one promise to you today. The only promise I make to you my friends, fellow citizens and Nigeria, is to promise less and deliver more if I am elected. I call on you to join me to work together in harmony and synergy to forge a nation where we understand our differences instead of pretending they do not exist and work towards a perfect union founded on transparency, equity and justice. A nation that is on her way to repairing her international reputation and project to the world that things have changed and the people of Nigeria have now taken Nigeria back from a few into the hands of her people who are eager, very eager to pull her weight in the forward movement of the African continent and the world in the pursuit of peace, prosperity and happiness.
“I will, by the special grace of God, be making a formal declaration to this effect at the Eagle Square, Abuja, on Saturday, September 18, 2011.
“I call on you my friends on this page and all Nigerians to give me your support and prayers so that, together, we can liberate our country from the confines and self –inflicted wounds and limitations of the past. My dear friends and fellow citizens, to borrow an often used slogan by our youths, please join me in proclaiming: Forward Ever, Backward Never! Please, let us all unite across tongue and creed to move our long suffering nation forward together. I thank you and may God bless our country Nigeria.”
At the FEC meeting, Jonathan told the ministers and aides his intention to join the race.
Minister of Information and Communications, Professor Dora Akunyili, who briefed correspondents after the meeting, said the President will make public his declaration on Saturday.
Jonathan, she said, announced his ambition shortly before he left for Kebbi and Sokoto to commiserate with flood victims. Ministers and close aides of the President are now wearing ‘Goodluck Jonathan’ caps and badges, ahead of his formal declaration.
She also disclosed that the Council, sequel to a memo from the Minister of Water Resources, granted an approval for the augmentation for the Owena Water Treatment Plant Project in favour of Messrs SCC (Nigeria) Limited, in the sum of N4,339,944,789.53 , thereby bringing the original project cost from N7,327,886,637.37 to the Revised Total Project Cost of N11,667,831,426.90. The completion period is 24 months.
Work commenced on the project in May, 2007. However, due to foundation treatment, changes in the final design and price escalation of construction materials, the contractor requested for augmentation to the tune of N4,703,236,922.69 to ensure completion of the project; but the BPP reviewed the augmentation downward to N4, 339,944,789.53.
The Council also considered and approved the ratification of the hosting agreement earlier signed between the Federal Government and the African Ministers’ Council on water and authorised the federal Ministry of Justice to prepare the Instrument of Ratification.
The hosting of the secretariat, according to Prof. Akunyili, would be of benefits to Nigeria, such as: greater international recognition, job opportunity and increased donor coordination with consequent access to more project funding.
From Saraki came yesterday clear indications of his readiness to vie for the Presidency with his dismissal of insinuations that he was only standing in for Babangida as a surrogate.
In a strongly-worded statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Alhaji Mas’ud Adebimpe, the Kwara State helmsman said his recent publicised visit to the former military ruler in Minna, the Niger State capital, was merely to inform him of his ambition to run as well. The same courtesy, the statement said further, had also been extended to Goodluck.
Apparently hitting at the various public statements asking Jonathan to contest, Saraki said rather than use the ‘ridiculous’ method of ‘instigating crowds’ to persuade him to run or depend on ‘mere goodluck’ to become a contestant, Saraki has the courage and capacity to make bold his ambition and pursue it.
The statement reads: “We wish to state categorically that His Excellency, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, the Executive Governor of Kwara State and a presidential aspirant of the PDP is not and would never be a “surrogate” of General Ibrahim Babangida or any other aspirant for that matter, as claimed in the story.
“Saraki, the current Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), is a serious-minded person and a frontline contender for the PDP presidential ticket. It is therefore preposterous of anyone to assume that Dr Saraki is entering the race as “surrogate” of any other aspirant.
“The said story, which relied on an “undisclosed” source, had based its conclusion on Dr Saraki’s visit to General Babangida in Minna last Sunday. We wish to note that the purpose of that visit by Dr Saraki was only to formally notify General Babagida of his intention to run for the presidential ticket. This graceful act of courtesy should be commended by all right-thinking individuals who desire to see a new kind of politics in Nigeria, characterised by mutual respect among candidates and aspirants.
“It is also worthy of note that just as Dr Saraki visited General Ibrahim Babangida and other major stakeholders across the country to notify them of his intentions to contest, he also visited President Goodluck Jonathan for the same purpose. Perhaps, in the vacuous logic of the surrogate mongers, Dr Saraki should also be labelled as President Jonathan’s “surrogate” as well. How absurd.
“Saraki has the courage and the capacity to make bold his ambition and pursue it. He does not need the ridiculous pretence of instigating crowds to persuade or beg him to run, neither does he need to wait on mere goodluck to be a contender.
“He understands the enormity of the task ahead and he is confident in his ability to offer Nigeria the kind of dynamic and energetic leadership that Nigeria needs at this critical moment. He also believes that no other contender out there is better suited for the enormous task than himself. And this is why he is contesting.” Saraki’s contributions to national growth in the past seven years as Governor, and in the last three years of Chairman Governors’ Forum is very clear. These are the credentials that he is bringing to the table, and the values of these credentials can neither be denied nor diminished.”