'We Will Conduct a Free & Fair Election… Imposition of Candidates Over' Jonathan
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has said his administration remains committed to its promise of delivering free and credible polls in the country come 2011. He stated this today at a civic reception in his honour at the Dan Anyiam Stadium in Owerri to mark the end of his two-day working visit to Imo State.
President Jonathan said, 'I have and will continue to provide the needed leadership in words and action in this direction. I have not only begun the process of restoring public confidence in the impartiality of the electoral body by appointing a credible chairman and non-partisan members into the commission, Without any form of interference, I have also given my full support to measures that will free INEC from executive control and ensure the restoration of the sanctity of the ballot as the only credible way of electing our leaders.'
The President however enjoined stakeholders not to scuttle these and other ongoing efforts, by shunning 'old habits' that smear the integrity of the electoral process.
According to President Jonathan, 'This election must set agenda that defeats poverty and abolish illiteracy. It must not be one of acrimony and bitterness. Nigeria's new political direction must lay emphasis on the progress of our nation, and less on individual, clique or sectional interest.'
While thanking the Imo State government for its expression of sympathy and solidarity with the Federal Government over the Independence Day bombings in Abuja, President Jonathan vowed that government will unmask the perpetrators of the heinous crime.
'The only honour we can do to the memory of the victims is to show that our justice system exists to protect the powerless and defenceless from the unprovoked acts of the wicked and the unpatriotic,' he stated.
He saluted the Ohakim-led government of Imo for its developmental strides, assuring that the Federal Government will continue to support every part of the country to achieve its development objectives to ensure good living condition for the citizenry.
Speaking earlier, Governor Ohakim thanked President Jonathan for the visit, assuring that the entire South East region is fully in support of the President.
'We are solidly behind you because you are a product of divine paradigm shift. Your leadership is not a product of permutation. You didn't bribe any caucus to become President.'
'Those bent on perpetrating violence at the next elections should desist from their inclinations. It is only God through the will of the people that give power. Let us engage in campaign of issues and not of violence. We in Imo State fully support Mr. President's leadership in totality.'
President Jonathan was earlier conferred with the chieftaincy title of "Chinemeze of Igboland" ( Kings are ordained by God) by the chairman of the South-East and Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Cletus Ilomuanya at his palace in Obinugwu in Orlu council area of the state. The occasion was attended by prominent traditional rulers in the South East including the Obong of Calabar and the Jaja of Opobo.
The President commissioned a number of road projects during his visit as well as the 4.5million-gallon Egbeada Water Scheme, the new Governor's office in the Government House and the Jonathan-Sambo State Campaign office located in the heart of the state capital, Owerri. It would however be recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan had on Friday night warned politicians in the country that the days of imposition of candidates on the electorate for public offices were over and gone for good.
The President made the stand of his administration known while speaking during a state banquet organized in his honour on Friday night at the Government House, Owerri. 'The days of imposition of candidates on the people are no longer here. We are no longer living in a military era when sometimes, commissioners were appointed from the office of the Chief of General Staff. Those days were the time of the military junta. We are now in a civilian dispensation where the votes of the electorate must count', Jonathan had said.
It was also the view of the President that if the votes of the electorate do not decide who governs, leads or represents them, then the nation cannot be said to be operating a democracy.
'I am totally committed to the practice of a democratic system where the electorate must decide their destiny by using their votes to appoint their leaders', Dr. Jonathan said.
On his purported frosty relationship with Governor Ikedi Ohakim, Jonathan had this to say: 'There is this story making the round that there are some problems between Governor Ohakim and myself. In our kind of politics, such insinuations are not unusual. But how could that actually be? Outside Bayelsa State, I have visited Imo State more than any other state in Nigeria. Since I came in as the Vice President, I think this is the fourth time of coming to Imo State. Even my wife visits Imo State more than any other state. 'There is no basis for anybody to insinuate that there is a problem between the President and either the Governor or the government of Imo State. I hear such stories but I always laugh.
He however urged Governor Ohakim to remain focused and not be distracted by such small talks.
'I have no problem with any governor. I don't believe that quarrelling with people is the best way of playing politics. As the President of the country, I do not have problem with anybody. I do not even have any problem with the Kwara State Governor, Bukola Saraki, who wants my job. Before he declared his intention to run, he told me. If we had problems, he wouldn't have had the courage to come to my residence to tell me he wanted my job. I believe that is the best way to play politics', Jonathan clarified
Making his own remark, Governor Ikedi Ohakim had said, 'Don't be surprised that when you get back to Abuja, you will read that the projects you commissioned in Imo state are non-existent. That is the brand of politics we have to contend with here. The only regret I have however is that your trip is brief. I know you will come back again to commission some of the projects you cannot accommodate during this trip. The entire Igboland stands firmly behind you.'
A cross section of Imo people and some visiting dignitaries, including the Governors of Abia, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom States, Chief Theodore Orji, Timipreye Silver and Obong Godswill Akpabio respectively, graced the function.
Meanwhile, all the markets in Owerri municipality were Saturday shutdown in honour of the visiting President, Dr.Goodluck Jonathan, who arrived Friday evening from Anambra State, on a two-day working visit to Imo State.
The President's first assignment as his helicopter touched down at the Cenotaph, Concorde Boulevard, Owerri, was the commissioning of the Umaru Musa Yar'Adua Drive, which connects Port Harcourt Road to Onitsha Road, Owerri.
The President thereafter paid a visit to the palace of the traditional ruler of Owerri, Eze Emmanuel Njemanze, where he expressed gratitude to Imo royal fathers for their support to his administration, adding that he was working harmoniously with Imo indigenes to see what the federal government could do to enhance the socio-economic development of the state.