2011 PRESIDENCY: DECLARE AMBITION NOW, OIL COMMUNITIES LEADERS TELL JONATHAN
Leaders of the nine oil producing communities at the weekend decried President Goodluck Jonathan's continuous silence on his presidential ambition, threatening to raise another candidate if he refused to declare his intention to contest in 2011.
The oil communities' leaders' position came just as the Federal Government assured that security agencies have been placed on the alert to checkmate election riggers. Minister of Internal Affairs, Capt. Emmanuel Ihenacho (retd), who disclosed government's security plan on the 2011 elections in Abuja said the security apparatus were being strengthened to effectively deal with any unsavoury situation that might arise during the elections.
The minister and the leaders of the oil producing communities spoke with newsmen during the commissioning of the Abuja office of the Oil Mineral Producing Area Landlords' Association (OMPALA). The Chairman of the Executive Board and National Leader of the association, Bishop Udo Azogu said the call on President Jonathan to contest the presidency in 2011 was not borne out of sentiment for his person but on the need for the South-south to seize the present opportunity to have a shot at the highest office in the land.
'Therefore, if he is not contesting, we will raise another candidate from the South-south to contest. We in OMPALA want him to contest just like many other groups and Nigerians, but if he refuses just as he has refused to announce his intention, then we will seek for another worthy individual to actualize it for us,' he noted. The community leaders said they were not against other contestants for the exalted position, noting that it was constitutional to allow every qualified person to run but that they would work to ensure that President Jonathan, who in this circumstance is in charge by the grace of God, runs and comes out victorious.
Bishop Azogu pointed out that the communities were happy that other contestants like Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Abubakar Atiku were in the race, saying 'it then means that it is the electorate that will decide who governs them as president in 2011 and not that a candidate emerged on the basis of exclusion, which the zoning represents.
'The Constitution is supreme, Nigeria cannot operate as if we are in an enclosed world, the electorate should decide who they want. This is why we in OMPALA are getting impatient with President Jonathan's silence over this matter. If he does not want to run, we want to know on time so that we can choose another person.'
Another leader of the South-south, Chief Jasper Jumbo said the people of the South-south were not begging President Jonathan to run, 'we are demanding our rights to be represented by our son at the highest level through electoral contest.' Meanwhile, the minister who commissioned the office told newsmen that by President Jonathan's arrangement on the issue of security, the professional election riggers had lost the battle even before the election.
Capt. Ihenacho explained that the security agencies had been placed on alert especially the Immigration Service to ensure aliens were checkmated from indiscriminate entry into the country for the purpose of voting during elections.
Said he: 'We have the Civil Defence Corps, the Immigration under my ministry and we have been doing a lot to ensure our elections are free from rigging. The Immigrations are already on the lookout to ensure aliens are not imported into the country to come and vote.'
He explained that the government was desirous of a free and fair election devoid of violence and therefore would do everything possible to guarantee credible elections in 2011 that would be acceptable to all. The minister pointed out that 2011 was very crucial and that government would be leaving no stone unturned to ensure that rigging was nipped in the bud in whatever form it might take.