Although, President Goodluck Jonathan even earlier in the week parried questions as to whether he would or would not contest the 2015 presidential polls, but his recent tour of opposition controlled states is perceived by many as tacit campaign strategy to provide a soft template for his 2015 outing.
As expected the recent tour of President Goodluck Jonathan to mainly the opposition controlled All Progressives Congress (APC) states was greeted with mixed feelings. It was largely seen as part of the President’s strategy to bolster his chances of victory in the forthcoming 2015 presidential elections.
But the visits were garbed in such niceties as receiving the ‘big-shot’ decampees into the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and also, to pay homage to select traditional rulers of the states visited.
The President who is expected to visit Kwara next week started his tour from Sokoto, where the major attraction in company of Vice President Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark, PDP National Chairman, Adamu Mu’azu, and some ministers and PDP governors was to receive the former governor of the state, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa on February 8.
Bafarawa had on January 25 announced his decamping from APC to PDP since, the state governor Aliyu Wamakko who was one of the G7 PDP governors, decamped to APC. The move led to the polarisation of the party in the state between the pro- Bafarawa and Pro Wamakko APC until Bafarawa decided to move to PDP.
The President’s visit was however seen more as a move towards his re-election bid in 2015 despite the PDP’s assertion that the visit was not to campaign for any position but to receive Bafarawa into PDP.
However, many speakers at Bafarawa’s welcoming event had made reference to the 2015 election and President Jonathan’s re-election bid nearly overshadowed the reception for Bafarawa.
Deputy Governor of Sokoto State Mukhtari Shagari who did not decamp to the APC with Governor Wamakko assured the President that “Nigerians will in 2015 whether you want to run or not, we will drag you out, you will run, you will get the vote of the people of Sokoto state and all Nigerians. You are a good leader you have been patient, you have been calm, you have been cool.That shows how good a leader you are and we at the PDP in Sokoto state are proud of you. Don’t worry yourself for 2015; we will by the grace of Allah send you back to Aso Rock and you will be president of Nigeria once more.”
Former Governor Attahiru Bafarawa categorically assured the president of working for his victory saying; “Mr. President as far as Sokoto is concerned go and sleep. You don’t have any problem. We have been winning elections but we have been rigged out. But now that we are back to PDP which I believe, there is no any party that will get councillor in Sokoto come 2015.”
For Jonathan, with the entry of Bafarawa into, and Shagari with other strong politicians in the PDP, Sokoto State is for PDP.
The President, gladdened by the large turnout of people the PDP mobilized to welcome him, had declared: “In Sokoto State, now we are waiting for next election, we will deliver the PDP in all elections. In 2007 Shagari was the young man who won the PDP primaries but one way or the other some adjustments were made, but of course you know that he had been your great political leader”.
The APC in the state however alleged that the president’s visit was clearly part of his moves for re-election. Mallam Ibrahim Adamu Tudun Doki, an APC stalwart in Sokoto said; “The contractors working for him in Sokoto just want to show him they are on ground and can deliver Sokoto for him but we don’t know if they will be able to make 25 percent .The crowd was a rented one, mobilized from all states in the Northwest, the governors came with them. APC is not worried, not shaking. After that, what are they doing?”
Also, the Interim Chairman of the APC Sokoto State, Inuwa Abdulkadir described Jonathan’s visit to the state as a political jamboree, wondering why the President should have left serious government business in Abuja at a time that burning issues in the country such as insecurity and others should be given concerted attention.
To him, the visit will not translate into any electoral value for the PDP, but will expose those he alleged are being paid to undertake a political agenda against the people of Northern Nigeria.
However, the determination of the PDP to take back power from the APC in Imo State in 2015 clearly played out during a rally that attracted the who-is-who in the party to receive President Jonathan. Both the leadership, members of the National Working Committee (NWC) including the Board of Trustees of the party emptied themselves in Owerri using the arranged platform meant for the reception of some key personalities and their supporters in the state back into the party to converse for support of Imo people for the President who was also accompanied by Vice President Namadi Sambo.
Others present at the event included the Senate President, David Mark, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, National Chairman of the PDP Alhaji Muazu, the BOT Chairman of PDP Chief Tony Anini, Deputy Speaker House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, the chairman of PDP Governors Forum Godwin Akpabio. Governors Liyel Imoke of Cross Rivers, Theodore Orji of Abia, Idris Wada of Kogi, and Martin Elechi of Ebonyi were in Imo State also. The event also had Minister for Economy and Finance Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Supervising Minister for Foreign Affairs, Prof. Viola Onwuliri among others.
Though the PDP rally in Owerri was meant to receive some former members of the party who before that day abandoned the party because of the injustice meted to them, the platform was mostly used to also canvass support for President Jonathan’s re-contesting in 2015.
Though on arrival, the President, his Vice and their entourage were received at the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri by Governor Rochas Okorocha, it was amidst negative impressions and criticisms by the members of the PDP in the state.
The President recalled that Imo State from inception of the present dispensation has been a PDP state and promised to return the state to the party.
National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Muazu recalled that before 2011 election, the PDP has always swept the state in elections, regretting that due to internal wranglings, the party lost to another party. He reminded those aspiring for any positions in the party that power comes from God while urging them to work together for the interest of the party in the state.
The APC in the state said the visit of Mr. President has no benefit and any economic value.
Chairman of the party in the state Prince Marshal Okaforanyanwu regretted that President Jonathan only came to Imo to commission people, as against commissioning any project that may have been sited and completed by the Federal Government in the state.
The South/East APC youth led by Hon. Festus Bethel Onyekwulisi described the visit of President Jonathan to Imo as a disappointment to the people of the state. He also regretted that Mr. President only commissioned people and left and could not commission any single project initiated and completed by the Federal Government for Imo people.
The women in the state were not left in this mission as they took to the streets of Owerri in protest against the PDP rally, which culminated in applying broom to sweep the foot of the PDP loyalists out of the city. The protests almost paralyzed both commercial and economic activities in Owerri the capital of Imo state, a reminiscent of the defunct ACN sweeping of former President Olusegun Obasanjo out of Lagos State.
Reacting to the ultimatum givien by the President to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and the defecting governors and others to return to the PDP or risk losing “their seniority” in the PDP, the spokesman of the defunct New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) said the possibility of Atiku and the dissenting governors who defected to the APC returning to the PDP is zero.
“With due respect, President Jonathan is simply playing to the gallery. For the avoidance of doubt, Atiku, Amaechi and the other patriots who left the sinking and undemocratic PDP have no intention of returning to the party, either now or in the future. They are happy in the APC, so Mr. President can keep his seniority as Atiku and the rest do not need it. Only a mad fellow will run away from a sinking ship and run back to such a ship,” Eze said in a statement.
President Jonathan is expected to make more tour of states ostensibly for the 2015 elections, which he is seen to be interested in running, which is one of the reasons that has polarised his party. His recent visit to the opposition state is largely seen as a bold step to realise his ambition and would be used as a soft template for his campaigns, even though he yet to officially declare his intention to run in 2015.
The President later went to Kano, Oyo, Osun and Lagos States respectively on visits to the paramount rulers of the states. Thereafter, he proceeded to Imo and Anambra States to receive decampees and new members into the PDP and also to pay homage to the traditional rulers there including the Obi of Onitsha.