This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: Middle Belt Endorses Jonathan for 2015

The Middle Belt Forum (MBF) Tuesday joined elders from the South-south and South-east in endorsing President Goodluck Jonathan for a second tenure in office.

Second Republic Governor of Plateau State, Chief Solomon Lar, who led the about 70 members of MBF were at the State House in Abuja, where they had a closed door meeting with the president.

The MBF which is the successor of the United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC) led by First Republic politician, Joseph Tarka, is a regional socio-political group in Nigeria that promotes the interests of the people of the Middle Belt region. It had, at inception, proposed control of state resource and payment of 75 per cent tax to the federal government.

At the end of the meeting, Prof. Jerry Gana, who briefed journalists, said the group, which rejected northern control and advocated constitutional solution to complex national issues, "had in the past supported President Jonathan and would not waver now or in the future. We have done that before and we shall do it again."

He recalled that in December 2009, when late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua was still ill, erstwhile leader of the forum, Isaac Shaahu, had in a statement observed that while the group would not support northern attempts to force Jonathan to resign, it saw no reason why Yar'Adua should not continue in office despite his state of health.

A year later, Shaahu offered that the problem could be constitutionally solved if Yar'Adua were to transmit a letter to the National Assembly directing them to transfer power to the Vice-President. The argument subsisted when the Senate President, David Mark, came up with idea of the 'doctrine of necessity', which gained currency with the admission of Yar'Adua's interview with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Hausa Service as his letter to the National Assembly.

Gana stated that the group was impressed by the performance of the president as catalogued in his recent mid-term report, noting that: "Essentially, we came to see Mr. President to appreciate what he has been able to do so far as contained in his mid-term report. "We appreciated the area of achievement and we also pointed out areas that needed further attention so that their completion will give tremendous credibility to this government and also help those of us who are supporting the government from the part of the middle belt the credibility to speak about government. So it was a very frank exchange, appreciation and also areas to be given attention."

He added that the leaders from 14 states in the Middle Belt region also discussed problems of insecurity, economic empowerment, solid minerals development, the completion of key major projects, like the Ajaokuta Steel Company (ASC) and construction of dams in the area with the president.

"The interactive session pointed out a number of problems at stake, particularly the security challenges, so many people have lost their lives, property and suffered tremendously and we are expecting that the government, through the processes already in place, would ensure fair and just compensation where appropriate," Gana said.

Speaking also, Plateau State Governor, Mr. Jonah Jang, said taking a cue from the support being drummed for the president by his (president) people in the South-south, the Middle Belt region was also an indication that he was supporting them too. "South-south forum is the zone of the President, so if they have started making the noise, it is good because it is their President. Ours is to support the good of Nigeria," he said.

Jang, who for the second time in a couple of weeks had been referred to as the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors' Forum (NGF) by President Jonathan in public, however, observed that it would amount to jumping the gun if groups started campaigning for him before he declared his intention to run.

"But you don't start shouting before the man says this is where I am going. So, when he talks, supposing he says he doesn't want to go, so allow the man to talk. So when he talks, if people are supporting, we shall come out to support him," he declared. Some of the dignitaries at meeting were Jang's predecessor, Senator Joshua Dariye; Fidelis Tapgun, former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu; first woman Speaker in Nigeria, Mrs. Margaret Icheen and the Special Adviser to the President on Ethics, Mrs. Sarah Jubril.

Others were former governor of Taraba State, Mr. Jolly Nyame; former deputy governor of Kogi State, Mr. Phillips Salawu; Senator Jonathan Zwigina; Mr. John Darah, Hon. Jonathan Asake, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha and former THISDAY State House correspondent, Josephine Lohor.

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