EX-MILITANTS, GROUPS HIT ABUJA FOR JONATHAN'S DECLARATION
Ahead of Saturday's public declaration of President Goodluck Jonathan for the 2011 presidential election, leaders of a coalition of Ijaw youths and political groups have arrived in Abuja for the event.
The coalition comprises the national leadership of the Ijaw Youth Council, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, and a prominent ex-militant, Chief Government Ekpemupolo (a.k.aTompolo).
Other members of the coalition are the spokesperson of the Ijaw Republican Assembly, Mrs. Ann Kio Briggs, and a member of the Presidential Committee on Amnesty, Mr. Kingsley Kuku.
The political groups whose members have taken over most hotel rooms in Abuja include Goodluck Jonathan Presidential Worldwide, Goodluck Support Group, Goodluck Nakowa, Builder Builders Front, Move Nigeria Forward, Goodluck Nigeria and Grassroots for Jonathan and Sambo.
The public declaration ceremony which will begin at the Eagle Square, Abuja at 10am, is expected to be attended by the Peoples Democratic Party governors as well as the national and state officers of the party.
THE PUNCH gathered that people that would deliver goodwill messages included a former Peoples Democratic Party chairman, Chief Barnabas Gemade; Senator Ibrahim Idah; a former governor of the defunct Bendel State, Chief Samuel Ogbemudia, and a former Governor of Ondo State, Chief Olusegun Agagu.
Also a group, Naija Artistes for Jonathan, is expected at the event. A popular artiste, Francis Duru, is scheduled to speak on behalf of the group.
One of our correspondents who visited the local wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja reported that there was high volume of traffic.
Some of those seen at the airport wore tags with Jonathan's photograph on their shirt pockets.
Traffic was also high on major streets in the city.
At one of the hotels in the Central Business District, an attendant told one of our correspondents that their rooms had been fully booked.
The Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters to Jonathan, Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji, assured on Thursday that finishing touches were being put to the declaration.
He said the national coordinators of the President's campaign in the six geo-political zones of the country would meet in Abuja on Thursday (today) night.
One of the coordinators, Governor Gbenga Daniel, assured that the South-West would put up a spectacular show on Saturday.
Daniel, who is co-ordinating the campaign in the zone, spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Adegbenro Adebanjo.
Before Abba-Aji and the governor spoke with one of our correspondents on the telephone, the Coalition of Ijaw Youth Leaders had told journalists that its members were in Abuja to support Jonathan because he had displayed 'quality leadership' in office.
The coalition comprises the national leadership of the Ijaw Youth Council, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the spokesperson of the Ijaw Republican Assembly, Mrs. Ann Kio Briggs, and a member of the Presidential Committee on Amnesty, Mr. Kingsley Kuku.
At a pre-declaration news conference on Thursday, the coalition dismissed media reports that some of its members were backing a former military dictator, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.
Their spokesman, Mr. Abioye Kuromiema, added that all the youth organisations in the Ijaw speaking of the Niger Delta took the decision to back Jonathan due to their conviction that his leadership style had very great potential to move the country forward.
Kuromiema, who is also the IYC president, warned Babangida, who publicly declared his intent to run for the Presidency in Abuja on Wednesday, against taking Nigerians for granted.
The coalition's spokesman pointed out that apart from the fact that a prominent journalist, Dele Giwa, was killed with a letter bomb during Babangida regime, 'his government symbolised corruption, insincerity and insensitivity through the Structural Adjustment Programme.'
The coalition also dismissed claims by the Chairman of the Babangida's Campaign Organisation, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, of plans to kidnap him and members of his family as lies designed to scuttle 'a smooth process that is emerging.'
He said that the Niger Delta youths would not have come out to declare support for Jonathan if he had been found wanting in the performance of the sacred duty of giving a deserved leadership to the country.
Kuromiema said, 'The leaders express absolute confidence in the exemplary and courageous leadership style of Jonathan/Sambo Presidency so far. To us, it is a clear departure from the old attitudes of our leaders. It demonstrates sound, maturity, tact and balance with a lot of potentials.
Also, the Ekiti State chapter of the GSG said that it had mobilised over its 2,000 supporters for Jonathan's declaratation.
The Coordinator of the group, Mr. Femi Akinyemi, who made this known in a statement on Thursday, said, 'Ekiti people's support for President Jonathan's presidential ambition is total. Therefore, about 2,000 of us are moving to Abuja in thousands to support him.'
In Bayelsa State, government activities have been paralysed as the state executive council relocated to Abuja.
THE PUNCH gathered that the state Governor, Chief Timipre Sylva, had been in Abuja for the past two weeks, but it was not clear on Thursday what his mission in the FCT was.
It was further learnt that the weekly executive council meeting of the state was moved to Abuja for yet-to-be announced reasons.
The state Commissioner for Information, Strategy and Orientation, Mr. Nathan Egba, confirmed that members of the state executive council were in Abuja.
Egba, who spoke with one of our correspondents on the telephone, did not give any reasons for the Abuja venue of the state's executive council meeting. But a source claimed that the members were in Abuja to back the President's declaration.
The Anambra State chapter of the GSG said it had mobilised about 3,000 people to attend the declaration.
The group, which met at the Holiday Resort Hotel, Onitsha, on Thursday to finalise arrangements for the Abuja trip, said it intended to prove to the world that the people of Anambra State were fully in support of Jonathan.
The spokesman for the group , who is also its Legal Adviser, Mr. Azubuike Uzorachuike, said the cap fit Jonathan the most.