JONATHAN'S FOOT SOLDIERS
Ability to master and deploy subterfuge is one of the attributes of a politician. While President Goodluck Jonathan's 2011 presidential ambition remains at the realm of speculation, as he continues to be evasive on the issue, few discerning Nigerians know that it is for real; events in the last few months have been quite revealing and it is only an official declaration from the main protagonist in the emerging theater that Nigerians are eager to hear.
It was the impolitic declaration by the immediate past National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, [PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor after a meeting with PDP Governors at Asokoro, Abuja that the party's presidential ticket would remain in the North, until 2015 that cost him his job, zoning is about to be jettisoned by the PDP, because it remains the only hindrance to the incumbent president's emergence as the party presidential flag bearer for the 2011 election.
But while the battle of wits continues and Jonathan sustains his `indifference` and refrain from making an official pronouncement, his foot soldiers are straddling the polity—canvassing, [some, grandstanding] lobbying, galvanizing supports for Jonathan to pick the PDP presidential ticket and ultimately, get a fresh mandate in 2011.
Who are these men? Are they political heavyweights, capable of delivering the votes? Daily Sun unmasks them, albeit, the list is not exhaustive.
Chief Edwin Kingbodo Clark
Former Information Minister, he is the leader of the Ijaw, an ethnic group in the Niger Delta. Known for his frankness, Clark is respected in the South- South and he is seen as a rallying voice. In the uncertain days of Jonathan's emergence as acting President, he was in the vanguard of the agitation for the restoration of the sanctity of the 1999 Constitution and the intensive lobby, before the National Assembly came up with the `doctrine of necessity,` that ensured that Jonathan mounted the saddle as president in acting capacity
Today, Clark is in the mainstream of the Jonathan-for- President project and his sprawling residence at Asokoro, Abuja is as busy as Wadata Plaza, the PDP national secretariat. He was one of the brains behind last 's South- South Leaders Summit, held in Port Hacourt, Rivers State where the zone adopted Jonathan as its presidential ticket and told the rest of the nation, particularly the North to embrace the Jonathan project.
While Clark can be counted to deliver votes in the zone, his network outside the Niger-Delta is in doubt.
The North is not happy with his recent umbrage of the zone in a newspaper interview, where the Ijaw leader declared that no zone could stop Jonathan from wining the 2011 election and accused the North of trying to dominate the country, perpetually.
“The zoning was not meant that one particular section would continue to dominate the people. The North has been ruling this country from 1958 or 1957 for 35 years and eight months, both military and civilians. The West has ruled this country for 12 years and the East has ruled for only six months, when General Aguiyi Ironsi was Head of State.
But the South-South people, the minorities of the South have never produced a president of this country. Therefore, if by God`s wish, He decided that these people who produce the wealth of this country haven't been fairly treated, I will give them the President, who are those people to challenge the will of God,? Clark has submitted.
Such impolitic statement by a leader, who wants to market his son is being viewed in bad light. A Daily Sun source also revealed that some PDP governors, from South-South were not happy with a public declaration made by Chief Clark that they actually worked to undermine Jonathan emergence as acting president when the cabal held him hostage. In a recent media chat in Abuja, Rivers State governor, Rotmi Amaechi actually dismissed the misplaced zeal of certain leaders in the Zone who wanted the governors from South- south to protest naked in Abuja to indicate their loyalty to Jonathan in those uncertain days.
Chief Tony Anenih
The man with the sobriquet, `Mr fix it,` is very ubiquitous in Nigerian politics. Anenih, former chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, [BoT] is an household name in PDP. His recent recant on zoning actually courted him criticisms from prominent politicians in the PDP, of northern extraction, but it was not lost on them that a good mobiliser of men and consummate strategist has been lost to the camp of the anti -zoning team and the Presidency.
At last Monday's South-South leaders Summit in Port Harcourt, while Anenih was emotive, he was equally reconciliatory in his message to the North.
“ In the political history of Nigeria, South-South has been a close ally of the North. We have fought political battles together, contested elections on the same political platforms and formed alliances. We have given support to the north, when it mattered most.
The current situation therefore, calls for reciprocity and cooperation. Nonetheless, in appealing to the conscience of Nigerians in the prevailing uncommon circumstance, we would claim our right with dignity and determination in the interest of our country.
We would not be combative in our approach. Rather, we need to persuade our Northern brothers and sisters to understand and appreciate that we have made so much sacrifices in the past for the unity of this country; that we have contributed and we continue to contribute so much to her development and therefore, deserve our own turn of the Presidency which we have not had in the history of Nigeria.
More importantly, we must persuade our Northern brothers and sisters to appreciate the fact that we are seeking to occupy the presidency, not because we come from an oil rich region, but because our son, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, is a capable leader“
What Clark lacks in political diplomacy and network, the former Works Minister from Delta State would deliver handy for the Jonathan project.
Former president and current chairman PDP, BoT and beneficiary of the contentious zoning formula tearing the PDP apart, he was the first to raise his voice against the arrangement.
Obasanjo today, is the nemesis of the North. To the consternation of PDP stalwarts who were privy to the deal that produced him as the party presidential candidate in 1999, Obasanjo had declared on a foreign media agency, the Voice of America, [VOA] that zoning did not exist in PDP, as it was never concretized, even as Article 7.2[c] of the party constitution says, “the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public offices and it shall be enforced.“
The former president has succeeded in polarizing the North: he has been able to get support for Jonathan in the north -central and pockets of support for him in the north- east. Master of the bullying process, his ingenuity came handy in the removal of Ogbulafor and the choice of a successor, Okwesilizie Nwodo—having removed two PDP national chairmen unceremoniously while he was sitting president.
In the South-West, where Obasanjo prides himself as the leader of the party, support for the Jonathan project hangs in the balance. The zone is divided between the pro-Jonathan forces and Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida acolytes. While the south- west lacks a rallying voice, no thanks to Obasanjo who dealt a fatal bow to Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-cultural group, the former president may succeed in coercing certain PDP governors who have sympathy for IBB to deliver their delegates to Jonathan at the PDP national convention.
Former Information Minister, Prof. Jerry Gana, is the Chairman, Summit Organizing Committee, G-20, a coalition of prominent politicians that cut across party divide in the North, working for emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan as the PDP presidential candidate for the 2011 election.
In the team are former Minister, Federal Capital Territory, [FCT] Abba Gana; former Kogi State governor, Prince Abubakar Audu; former national organizing secretary, PDP, Alhai Dahiru Umar; Minister of Police Affairs, Senator Maina Waziri; former national chairman, PDP, Barnabas Gemade; Senator Paul Wampana and Alhaji Usman Ayetogo, national vice chairmen of PDP, north- east and north-central, respectively; Honourable Humprey Abbah; former military administrator, Colonel Bala Mohammed among others.
The group organized the recent Northern Political Summit held in Kaduna, which resolved that Jonathan be allowed to pick the PDP 2011 presidential ticket, since the YarAdua/ Jonathan ticket of 2007 are inseparable.
Part of the Kaduna summit resolution reads:''Umaru YarAdua and Goodluck Jonathan must be regarded as an inseparable ticket and the demise of one member does not invalidate the privileges of the remaining beneficiary.''
To the argument of those who insist that to deny the North the opportunity to present the PDP presidential ticket would amount to injustice, Gana's reaction has been that, 'justice must be balanced with equity, as what is just may not necessarily be equitable!.''
The G-20 has made impact in the North- central states of Kogi, Niger Benue, Plateau and North east states of Adamawa and Bauchi.
Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, he is the Chairman of Friends of Democracy for Goodluck Jonathan. The movement has serving and former federal lawmakers in its fold, along with serving and former governors. The identity of some members is shrouded in secrecy, but Aji told Daily Sun that the platform would ensure that President Jonathan emerged as PDP presidential flag bearer for 2011 election .
Aji and his team have the capacity to swing votes of PDP delegates, since it has in its membership, serving lawmakers in the national assembly who would be delegates at PDP national convention and who have loyalists in their various constituents. Senator Aji from Borno state, would be working in concert with Senator Maina Waziri, Minister of Police Affairs and Senator Al-Bishir to deliver the North- east votes of Borno and Yobe states to Jonathan.