Notwithstanding his constant denial that he has made up his mind to seek re-election in 2015, President Goodluck Jonathan has already kick-started his campaign in the United States.
A major outfit, the Goodluck Jonathan Support Group (GJSG), run by his foot soldiers has berthed in America.
The group's national coordinator is President Jonathan's political adviser, Ahmed Ali Gulak, and it is oiled by the chairperson of a federal government agency. GJSG was recently inaugurated in Abuja.
The launch of the US chapter of GJSG by Gulak came three days to the visit of President Jonathan to the country where he had gone to attend the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.
But the presidency has denied that it gave its blessing to the move, just as it re-iterated that President Jonathan was focused on providing quality leadership to the country.
Gulak, accompanied by his deputy, Dr Eddy Eniola Olafeso, on Friday launched the US chapter of the Dr (Mrs) Temitope Ajayi-led GJSG at the Millennium Hotel at the United Nations Plaza in New York with a charge to the members of the body to serve as good ambassadors of President Jonathan's Transformation Agenda.
"We are not telling anybody that we are campaigning for the 2015 re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan; what we are here for is simply to tell Nigerians what the president is doing back home and to charge them to be good ambassadors by propagating the ideals and achievements of the Transformation Agenda," he said. A highpoint of the off-shore campaign came at the 2013 International Convention of the Nigerians in the Diaspora Organisation (NIDO AMERICAS) where he solicited support for the president.
Gulak, while addressing Nigerians during the event which was held at the Renaissance Hotel in Newark, New Jersey, noted that it was only President Jonathan that could stabilise the current positive change, physical transformation and political process in Nigeria, adding that the president was God's gift to the country. "This has been the only president that knows what he says and really means what he says. Before, an ordinary Nigerian never believed whatever his leader said, but Goodluck Jonathan has proved that he really means all he is saying. Go home and see what this man is doing. The transformation agenda of Mr President will confront you immediately you land at any of our airports," he noted. "You need to be in Nigeria to see what this administration has done to improve the lives of the people. Our railways that had been dead for more than 40 years -- this administration has been able to exhume it, give it life and it is now functioning."
The presidential aide further said: "Even though President Jonathan has the constitutional right to run in 2015, he has not told anyone he would contest; in Nigeria, there are no second-class citizens and the rumour that President Jonathan had an agreement with some governors not to seek re-election should be disregarded by all peace-loving Nigerians. As a Nigerian, Jonathan can only be judged by Nigerians through a democratic process if and when he feels he would run."
But responding to LEADERSHIP's enquiries about whether the US visit was a lobby trip to seek the blessing of President Barack Obama, Gulak said only the support of Nigerians was needed if President Jonathan desired to run in 2015.
"He may need his moral support but, most importantly, he will only need the support of Nigerians. Good and cordial relationship between the USA and Nigeria is of great essence," Gulak said in a terse text message to LEADERSHIP from the United States. Also addressing the convention, the minister of state for works and overseeing minister for national planning, Ambassador Bashir Yuguda, said Nigeria had never witnessed the rapid and consistent transformation it has witnessed under the administration of President Jonathan under any of the previous administrations in the country.
In his keynote speech, Nigeria's Ambassador to the United States, Professor Adebowale Adefuye, urged members of the Nigerians in the Diaspora Organization (NIDO) not to use the organisation for political purposes, warning that using it for partisan politics would make it lose its original focus.
Adefuye stated: "Agriculture has now become a business in Nigeria; education and infrastructure have received serious attention from the federal government. I want you all to join hands with the federal government in its efforts to achieve a growing economy because Nigeria belongs to all of us regardless of the languages you speak. I want to assure you that there has been no second-class Nigerian under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. Under him, everybody has been given an opportunity to prove himself or herself. I urge you to go home and partner with the government in order to take Nigeria to the next level of development because the government strongly believes in Nigerians that live in the Diaspora."
Meanwhile, the special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, has said there is no law restricting the movement of Nigerians, including Gulak, as he takes the president's message abroad.
Abati said the president has not launched any campaign for 2015, but it was not within his purview to know the whereabouts of Gulak.
He said: "Gulak is not part of the president's entourage to the United Nations General Assembly; and I am not aware that he has travelled to the United States. The president has not launched any campaign; he remains focused on providing quality leadership. May I add that wherever Gulak may be, I am not aware of any restrictions on his right to free movement by any court. So why second-guess his whereabouts and actions?"
Ministerial lobbyists storm US as Jonathan visits
As President Jonathan commenced his visit to the US, politicians, especially lobbyists, have thronged the country to push for favours and special advantages as the search for ministers to fill vacant positions continued.
A source in the United States told LEADERSHIP that Nigerians from all walks of life have turned New York and New Jersey to "another Nigeria".
"The whole of New York and New Jersey have been turned to another Nigeria; our country has virtually been moved to the US here. It's like you are back home when you see the multitude of Nigerian leaders and politicians who have arrived here in the last three days. I am surprised at the turnout that has greeted both the anniversary of NIDO and the president's visit," the source said.
LEADERSHIP gathered that most of the visitors were Nigerians who are in the US to lobby the president's men ahead of the submission of list of ministerial nominees to the National Assembly.
Another source sighted two leaders of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who are lobbying to be appointed as ministers. Jonathan meets Nigerian community in US, keeps mum on 2015
Meanwhile, as part of activities during his US visit, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday met with the Nigerian community in New York where he briefed participants on all the activities of his administration including the economic and security situations of the country.
Curiously, President Jonathan shunned questions regarding his rumoured 2015 presidential ambition.
At the event which was held at the New York Plaza Hotel, the president, who was answering questions from participants including the one about his decision on the 2015 presidency, refused to declare if he would or not run during the next general election.
But, unconsciously, the president alluded to more years as he promised to meet with the Nigerian community every year.
While speaking on security, he said that the issue of terrorism was not limited to Nigeria alone but said that his government was doing its best to tackle the current insecurity in the country. "Before the emergence of Boko Haram, we had never heard anything like terrorism in Nigeria but I can say that we as a government will do everything to ensure that these people that have taken us by surprise are phased out," he added.
On corruption, the president berated those saying that his administration was not fighting corruption, maintaining that his administration had been able to sanction corrupt officials without sparing anyone because of his or her position in the polity.
He stated: "Before we came on board, fertilizer used to be a big scam; about 11 per cent of farmers was being raised with N11 billion, but with N5.6 billion, we are now raising over 80 per cent of farmers. If we were looking for money to steal for election, we would have been able to do this. So this goes a long way to say that we are not corrupt and we are seriously fighting corruption."
Speaking on Nigeria's quest to occupy a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, President Jonathan said that the ECOWAS, African Union and others had already signified their intention to throw their weight behind the country to ensure the realisation of that aspiration.
He said: "From 1960 that we became a member of the United Nations, Nigeria has only appeared four times on the Security Council. The ECOWAS has said that Nigeria should go back to represent the zone on the Council in the election coming up in October this year and this will really energize the country to participate more in the activities of the United Nations and the global body's Security Council," the president said.