27 GOVS BACK JONATHAN
President Goodluck Jonathan's ambition to fly the flag of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2011 presidential election received a huge boost yesterday as the party leaders, stakeholders and stalwarts across the federation and in the Diaspora declared support for his candidature.
They did at the formal declaration of intention by the President at the Eagle Square in Abuja.
However, the North, which was well represented at the event, still demanded negotiations on the way forward with other regions on the 2011 presidency and Jonathan's candidature.
Indeed, if the large turnout of the who-is-who in the party, taking into consideration the attendance by its 27 governors, is anything to go by, the PDP presidential primaries could just be a walkover for Jonathan.
Only Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State was conspicuously absent, but his sister, Senator Gbemi Saraki, was on hand to cheer the President to the pavilion.
Interestingly, the governors of Niger, Babangida Aliyu; Zamfara, Alhaji Shinkafi; and their Adamawa counterpart, Murtala Nyako who were guests of General Ibrahim Babangida last Wednesday at his declaration, also showed up at the venue and pledged their support for his bid.
However, Aliyu, who is chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, said he was at the event with a mandate to negotiate with other regions on the Jonathan presidential project in view of the existing zoning arrangement in the party.
Party faithful began trooping into the Eagle Square as early as 6:30am as most of them had arrived a day before.
Mr Ben Bruce, whose Silverbird Television aired the event live, was one of the early arrivals as he was seen strolling into the venue by 7am.
By 11am, the whole of the Three Arms zone where Eagle Square is located had been taken over, with those outside the venue almost outnumbering those inside. Majority of those inside however stood throughout the five-hour event.
Wife of the President, Dame Patience, the Vice-President's wife, Aisha Sambo, some wives of governors and other female government officials arrived about 11:13am in an unmarked white Coaster bus and made straight to the VIP box. They were followed closely by the 27 governors, who came in two white Coaster buses.
The whole of the arena virtually erupted in applause as the Vice President alighted from his car at 11:17am. He was followed within minutes by the President, who after alighting from his car walked round the pavilions to acknowledge ovation from the crowd before taking his seat in the VIP box.
The event started with the opening prayer by the Wakili Adamawa, Hassan Adamu, after which the chairman of the occasion, Alhaji Bamagar Tukur, eulogized the President, his Vice and gave reason they should be voted for to represent PDP in next year's presidential election.
He said the crowd was an expression of the confidence in their candidature and in the spirit of oneness of Nigeria and prosperity of her people.
'He is a man with deep passion for the well being of Nigerians as exemplified in his visits to Sokoto and Kebbi flood-ravaged areas recently. His (Jonathan's) choice of Sambo gives a combination that will take Nigeria to a greater height,' Tukur.
Each of the six geo-political zones gave a message of solidarity on the Jonathan/Sambo ticket. The zones gave their support through their representatives – Alhaji Kaulaha Aliyu (North East), Anyim Pius Anyim (South East), Senator Aniete Okonkwo (South South) and Segun Agagu (South West).
Also Chief Anthony Anenih and Alhaji Isa Mohammed spoke on behalf of the North and South respectively.
Anenih said the unprecedented crowd at the venue was instructive enough that God had a hand in the project because the voice of the people is the voice of God.
Then it was the turn of the 46 opposition parties that formed the Grand Coalition, which adopted Jonathan as their candidate. They warned that should the PDP deny him the ticket, they will jointly offer him another platform to realize his ambition.
Nollywood artistes led by Francis Duru and Stephanie Okereke and their colleagues from Ghana added pomp to the event when they spoke glowingly about Jonathan and Sambo as well as the need for Nigerians to rally round and vote for them.
More colour was however added to the ceremony when the governors mounted the rostrum and danced as musicians including Daddy Showkey, Sammie Okposo, D'Banj, Weird MC, Sasha, Yinka Davis and others sang in praise of the President.
After the dance, each of the governors spoke for few minutes each to express their state's readiness to give Jonathan their delegates' votes at the primaries and on the need for Nigerians to vote for him in the election.
Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State was first to speak among his colleagues. Governors of Oyo, Ondo Ogun, Osun, Ekiti, Nasarawa, Bauchi, Zamfara, Sokoto, Gombe, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Taraba, Kogi, Kaduna, Jigawa, Enugu, Niger, Imo, Cross River, and the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, all spoke in favour of Jonathan's candidature.
The crowd however shouted when it was the turn of the Niger governor, who said he was at Babangida's declaration on Wednesday.
'I was here on Wednesday. Now I am here again. Politics is all about relationship. I am here with a mandate to speak for negotiation. This is a PDP affair. We must negotiate. We believe in Nigeria and in the PDP. We cannot diminish anyone in politics because you will still need him,' he noted amid applause.
After him, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, and Senate President, David Mark, took turn to address the party stalwarts and urged them to continue to support to the President.
Then the Vice-President accompanied by his wife mounted the pavilion and extolled the virtues of Jonathan, whom he described as humble, gentle and patient. He said the cordial working relationship he has enjoyed with him is quite unbelievable.
'I have profound confidence in Dr. Jonathan to give us a Nigeria of our dream,' he stated.
At 3:10pm, it was time for the declaration proper. D'Banj mounted the stage and with his song Jonathan was ushered into the pavilion. With his wife by his side, the Vice President and his wife in tow, Jonathan danced and acknowledged cheers.
This he also did after his speech and together they all moved round.