Niger State governor, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, last week perhaps confirmed the speculations of pundits that he is indeed interested in the presidency come 2015.
Aliyu, leader of the Northern Governors’ Forum last week in what could be summed as the justification behind his ambition declared that President Goodluck Jonathan reached an agreement in 2011 with Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders and governors to serve only one term as president.
This declaration was made last week Saturday during a live radio programme, Guest of the Week, on Liberty Radio (91.7), Kaduna, has already ignited the race towards the 2015 presidential poll, as the governor had now become one of those to watch.
Aliyu during the media chat said the rumoured interest of Jonathan in seeking a second term in 2015 should be taken as a mere speculation.
His word: “I recall that at the time he was going to declare for the 2011 election, all the PDP governors were brought together to ensure that we were all in the same frame of mind.
“And I recall that some of us said given the circumstances of the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua and given the PDP zoning arrangement, it was expected that the North was to produce the president for a given number of years.
“I recall that at that discussion, it was agreed that Jonathan would serve only one term of four years and we all signed the agreement.
Even when Jonathan went to Kampala, in Uganda, he also said he was going to serve a single term. “For now, President Jonathan has not declared a second term ambition and we must not be speculating based on those who are benefiting from the campaign.
“I think we are all gentlemen enough so when the time comes, we will all come together and see what is the right thing to do.” Meanwhile, the presidency has denied Aliyu’s comments that PDP governors signed an agreement with President Goodluck Jonathan prior to the 2011 presidential elections that he would only run for a single term.
Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Dr. Ahmed Gulak, who made the presidency’s position known in Abuja stated that Jonathan did not sign any agreement with anyone and advised the governor who is rumoured to be nursing a presidential ambition to go about his pursuit without making what he called “frivolous allegations” against the President.
He said, “President Goodluck Jonathan did not win the presidential election in Governor Aliyu’s state, Niger. Anybody who has a presidential ambition, it is such a person’s constitutional right to have ambition.
Aliyu’s comments came at a time there were speculations that the party was planning to foist the candidacy of Jonathan on the party and make him the sole candidate of the PDP for the 2015 poll. In that case, the party would skip primary election for that office.
It has been alleged that the party’s top hierarchy of the party had agreed to amend its constitution to accommodate the new thinking. But denying the speculation, the party’s national publicity secretary, Mr Olisa Metuh, said there is no truth in the account.
He said: “I can tell you that under the constitution of this party, and the way we run our programmes, we are going to have primaries in 2015. We are completely unaware of any move to change the constitution of the party.
“The constitution that we have, which was passed at the last national convention, provides that we must have state and national convention.” Metuh, however, maintained that party could amend its constitution if it wanted to do so.
According to him, “A constitution can be amended at any time if the members decide to do so, or when the need arises.
I’m just telling you what the law is at the moment. Even the constitution of the country is being amended; the constitution of the party can be amended if they (party leaders) decide to.”
It will however be recalled that in July 2011,President Jonathan indicated that he would be sending a bill to the National Assembly to elongate the tenure of office of the President and Governors from the present four years.
As against the fouryear term elected officers currently enjoy, the bill would propose a single term of six years for the President and Governors. It was also stated that President Jonathan’s tenure would not be affected as the amendment would only take effect from 2015
According to a statement issued by the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, the proposed bill “is borne out of a patriotic zeal, after a painstaking study and belief that the constitutionally guaranteed two terms for Presidents and Governors is not helping the focus of governance and institutionalization of democracy at this stage of our development.”
It was also contained in the statement that the President is “concerned about the acrimony which the issue of re-election every four years generates both at Federal and state levels.”
It will also be recalled that discordant tunes trailed Jonathan’s proposal of a sixyear single term as many suspected the president had hidden agenda.
Former governor of old Kaduna state, Alhaji Balarabe Musa at the wake of the proposal said if accepted, the proposal could alter the 2015 elections. “If his proposal is accepted, you will be surprised that before 2015, he will declare another intention to declare for 2015 Presidency.
If the PDP could not accept the zoning system, they would definitely not accept excluding Jonathan in 2015. “So, what will happen is that just like he did in 2011, he will do in 2015. He has not demonstrated any confidence that he will complete his current tenure and he is already talking about 2015.
This government is controlled by money powers. “He could want to use money to achieve his agenda but Nigerians should ensure he doesn’t bastardise our constitution and Nigeria’s politics. He has already bribed the governors and the National Assembly by saying they too should benefit and that tells you he has a hidden agenda.”
In his own view, the governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Niger State during the last general election, governorship candidate in Niger State, Bawa Bwari, said the problem with the six year- single tenure has to do with elongation, and not the concept.
“It’s the elongation there that is the problem. What do you want me to say? For any responsible government, there are so many issues that should be a priority.
This issue of single term tenure is a distraction. If it’s for patriotic reasons, it will be good but there is a question mark for first term governors.
Secondly, Nigerians don’t trust Jonathan because of what happened with zoning. People will not believe he is doing it for patriotic reasons.” Aliyu overtime, according to analysts been seen a predictable voice among the Northern governors against the second term ambition of Jonathan.
In May last year, The 19 northern governors including Aliyu defended the Presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, in the last poll Major- General Muhammadu Buhari, on the latter’ s comment on Jonathan’s administration.
Buhari’s party had described the Jonathan administration as the “most corrupt ever,” in response to the Presidency and the Peoples Democratic Party’s attacks on his person over a comment in which the retired General threatened bloodshed in 2015 if the government dared rig the elections.
The northern governors said Buhari’s comment was in order, observing some other Nigerians had made worse comments. Aliyu, during a question-and-answer session with journalists after the Forum’s meeting in Kaduna, noted that Buhari had only sought to keep the Federal Government on its toes in order to ensure a freeand- fair election in 2015.
He noted that Buhari’s statement was subject to different interpretation and cautioned eminent Nigerians against further inflammatory statements that could heat up the polity.
He said, “In a democratic system every individual has his ways and there are many of us whose ways of communication are quite different from others. Give the same statement to somebody, he may have used a different vocabulary.
“Again, certain facts are understood, that if this happens that would happen, I think it is a natural thing to do. Maybe those who may be too concerned have not looked at what other eminent Nigerians have been talking about.
“I saw one that said Nigeria is going to be Somalianised. I saw another one who has been talking like there would be war tomorrow. That statement should be taken on its own value.
“All of us who are involved in elections political parties, contestants and voters themselves – we must all be careful so that there would be a semblance of good in whatever we do.
But, again, like I said, certain people are so much in that position, they should be careful with certain vocabularies they use. So, both ways let’s take it on our own strides and ensure that future elections are seemed to be transparent and are seemed to be good.”
Aliyu’s outburst makes him the second governor being viewed as eyeing the presidency after his Jigawa State counterpart, Sule Lamido, who is said to have been nominated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The former President, it was gathered had also tipped Governor Rotimi Amaechi as Lamido’s running mate.
It will however be recalled that last month, Aliyu said that he had not declared for the 2015 presidency and also dismissed the purported commencement of his presidential campaign as untrue.
He made the clarification in Minna when he received the Ethiopian Ambassador in Nigeria, Mr Ali Abdul Sulaiman, and the new Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Prof. Musibau Akanbi.
He disclosed that the PDP at the national level had barred aspirants from all campaigns for the 2015 general elections till 2014, adding that he was complying with the directive as a loyal party member and law abiding citizen.
He explained that it was the National Youth Leader of the party, Alhaji Garba Umaru, who incidentally was from Niger, who led a delegation to Plateau to thank the PDP members in that state for voting for him during the national convention of the party.
“This has now been misconstrued as a presidential campaign flag off by me,’’ the governor said. At that time, Aliyu, said his clarification of the situation was not an indication that he was afraid to contest for the presidency when the time comes.
“If it is God’s will that I would come out, believe me I am not afraid I will come out because what will be will be but I am not out yet.’’