Premium Times (Abuja)

27 February 2013

Nigeria: Jonathan Can Contest in 2015, PDP Chairman, Tukur, Says

President Goodluck Jonathan may have received the nod of the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to seek a second term in office despite the agitation by a section of the party that he should honour his word and not contest.

The PDP National Chairman, Bamanga Tukur, told journalists in Abuja on Wednesday that there was nothing wrong if Mr. Jonathan decides to run.

"Let me tell you: that is in order in politics. Jonathan is the President under our party and what is wrong if he decides to run?

"The others have the same opportunity to promote their candidate, if they have," Mr. Tukur said in response to a question on whether the creation of the PDP Governors' Forum was meant to foster Mr. Jonathan's presidential ambition in 2015.

When asked to clarify if the party had agreed to field the president as its candidate for the 2015 presidential election, Mr. Tukur merely retorted, "But the Governors Forum isn't the platform for electing candidate; we have our own system."

There is a raging controversy in the ruling party over an alleged plan by Mr. Jonathan to contest the coming presidential election.

The Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliyu had, in a recent interview with Liberation FM Radio, said the president signed an agreement with PDP governors in 2011 to spend only one term in office, which will end in 2015. The presidency has denied the existence of such agreement.

Findings by PREMIUM TIMES, as stated in an editorial, indicate that Mr. Jonathan did indeed commit himself to spending only one term in office during campaigns for the 2011 election.

Despite the obvious machinations in favour of the president, the presidency is yet to confirm or deny Mr. Jonathan's ambitions.

In a statement by Reuben Abati, Mr. Jonathan's spokesman, last week, the presidency said it would not join issues with those saying there was an agreement because he (the president) wants to focus on the development of the country.

Mr. Jonathan's alleged ambition is already splitting the ranks of Nigeria's 36 state governors.

PDP Governor's forum

The creation of the PDP Governors' Forum last Sunday night is believed to be part of a plot to ensure Mr. Jonathan runs in 2015.

Mr. Jonathan's allies believe the Chairman of the larger Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers, is opposed to the president's re-election and see the new PDP Governor's Forum as a ploy to weaken the Rivers State Governor's influence. This view was supported by the Niger State Governor, Mr. Aliyu, a PDP Governor.

Mr. Tukur, however, denied Mr. Aliyu's claim that the PDP formed a forum for its governors in order to enhance Mr. Jonathan's chances in the 2015 presidential contest.

"Well, it is an opinion. It doesn't mean that all our governors agree with him (Mr. Aliyu). He can say so, but I have explained to you as the chairman of this party that they are all my governors.

"We may not share the same position on the formation of PDP Governors Forum. But I have explained to you our intention, as a party. We want our governors to come together," he said.

The PDP chairman also claimed that his party was not behind the crisis bedeviling he Nigerian Governors Forum, and the plot to unseat Mr. Amaechi, a PDP Governor, as its chairman.

"No, we aren't behind it. They have an arrangement of two year tenure for their chairman. So, neither the party leadership nor Mr. President is against Amaechi or whoever they elect as their leader for the NGF," he said.

The party boss explained that with the conclusion of the Board of Trustees election, which saw the emergence of Tony Anenih as chairman, the party would soon convene the meeting of the National Executive Committee, NEC.

On the allegation by the opposition leader and former presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, that the PDP was working with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Police, and other institutions to rig the 2015 election, Mr. Tukur said he would need evidence of the statement before he speaks on the issue.

"I'll only react to things that are factual, not rumours, not antics," he said.

See live transcript of the interview with Mr. Tukur below.

Can you tell us the need for PDP Governors' Forum, because there have been so many perceptions coming from different angles that it was to checkmate the NGF?

Well, I see the NGF as very important I can tell you why. Look at Nigeria, we have so many colourations: ethnic, religious. Now if you don't have this kind of association, whereby people have to meet and discuss how Nigeria can sustain its role as a regional power. You

cannot do that, unless the help come from governors. So, NGF is very healthy, because we have to be frank with ourselves. If we understand our differences then we can work together better. If they are working together to ensure peace and whatever is good we all agree to that extent it is a very important forum.

There is insinuation that the PDP Governors' Forum is meant to foster President Jonathan 2015 ambition.

Let me tell you, that is in order in politics. Jonathan is the President under our party and what is wrong if he decides to run? The others have the same opportunity to promote their candidate, if they have.

That means that the party has agreed on President Jonathan as a candidate for 2015?

But the Governors Forum isn't the platform for electing candidate; we have our own system.

You just told us that the PDP Governors' Forum wasn't created to undermine the NGF. How do you reconcile your submission with the declaration of Niger State governor, Babangida Aliyu that President Jonathan was behind this, with intention to supplant the larger body, the NGF?

Well, it is an opinion. It doesn't mean that all our governors agree with him. s He can say so but I have explained to you as the chairman of this party that they are all my governors, we may not share the same position on the formation of PDP Governors Forum. But I have explained to you our intention, as a party. We want our governors to come together.

Do you share the opinion of certain eminent Nigerians who have dismissed the Governors' Forum as a threat to democracy?

Well, if you say people are criticizing them, it is politics--it is an opinion, people can criticize. That was why I took my time to explain to you the basis of our action.

PDP as a political party hasn't convened its NEC meeting for quite some time now. Now that you have a Board of Trustees Chairman, when are you going to convene your NEC meeting?

You are very correct. We are going to have our caucus, then we shall have our NEC meeting. It is part of the structures of our party and we follow due process in line with the structures in our party. That's the only way we can continue to keep in touch with our members, from

the lowest level to the highest. We are going to do that.

How do you react to the statement credited to General Buhari that PDP doesn't need any merger, because it has already merged with Police, INEC, the judiciary and Pension Fund?

I don't think one need to react to this kind of statement. I think the best thing to do is to ask for evidence, but if you cannot show evidence, there is no need to react. I am only react to things that are factual, not rumours, not antics.

Can you give us an update on efforts to resolve the crisis in Adamawa?

There is crisis in Adamawa, what crisis. If there is crisis in Adamawa, please, tell me.

There is speculation that the leadership of the PDP and the Presidency was behind the move to remove Governor Amaechi, as Chairman of NGF, because it isn't comfortable with his leadership style

No, we aren't behind it. They have an arrangement of two year tenure for their chairman. So, neither the party leadership, nor Mr. President is against Amaechi or whoever they elect as their leader for the NGF.

Can you tell us whether the party has dropped the idea of e-registration, or will still implement it?

It is in the works, we are going to do it. We believe that now in the age of technology, you don't need to do a cumbersome process of registration.

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