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Saturday, 15 February 2014

Jonathan Begins Second Term Journey

President Goodluck Jonathan visited the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade; Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III; and Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwanu Babatunde Akiolu I, yesterday, in apparent attempts to make inroads into the South-west ahead of the 2015 presidential election.

This was as the national chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, continued moves aimed at bringing about a rapprochement with aggrieved chieftains of the party. Muazu, it was learnt, was giving special concessions to some PDP members who had defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and reaching strategic agreements with them deliberately to persuade them to return to PDP.

The president was billed to also visit the Oba of Badagry, Mhenu Toyi Akran, but the visit was shifted to tomorrow.

Before the visits to the South-west monarchs, Jonathan had paid a courtesy call on the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, who promised that the emirate would work with other traditional institutions in the country to sustain Nigeria’s peace and unity. 

A scheduled official reception for former Governor of Kano State, Ibrahim Shekarau, by the president and PDP, which was actually the main purpose of Jonathan’s visit to the state, was suspended due to a procession by the Kadiryya Islamic Movement.

Of the six geopolitical zones of the country, the South-west has the second highest voting strength after North-west, and both zones between them account for about 49 per cent of the country’s total voting population. 

The South-west and North-west are, thus, strategic electoral zones in the calculations of anyone aspiring to be Nigeria’s president.

The visits by Jonathan to the Obas of the South-west were, apparently, part of efforts to build some influence in the territory currently controlled by APC. Though, he had garnered huge votes from the South-west in 2011, the president may not repeat such feat in 2015, as most prominent politicians in the zone now belong to APC.

The president held a private meeting with the Ooni at his palace in Ife after arriving there about 3pm, accompanied by the Minister of State for Federal Capital Territory, Oloye Jumoke Akinjide, and other government functionaries and politicians. 

The Osun State Deputy Governor, Otunba Titilayo Laoye-Tomori, and a ministerial nominee from the state, Alhaji Jelili Adesiyan, were among the dignitaries that received Jonathan at the Ooni's palace.

Sources at the palace said the meeting centred on modalities for securing the backing of the Yoruba in the next general elections. Oba Sijuwade, a prominent traditional ruler in Yoruba land and president of the Osun State Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs, is a major factor in Yoruba politics.

The president left the Ooni’s palace about 3.45pm for Oyo State, where he met with the Alaafin of Oyo at his palace. 

Jonathan, who said he had gone there on a private visit, implored the South-west traditional rulers to support his administration. 

The president told a crowd of residents at a reception in his honour that he had come to thank the people of the South-west for the support they gave him during the 2011 presidential election.

But Oba Adeyemi refrained from ascribing any political meaning to the visit. He said the president had come to appreciate the peace in the state and wanted the monarchs to continue to maintain peace in their domains.

The president was accompanied to the ancient Oyo Palace by the Governor of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi, and Akinjide, among other government functionaries and politicians.

Former Governor of the state, Omololu Olunloyo, who was part of the entourage of Mr. President, told journalists after a closed-door meeting with the Alaafin that the president was doing the right thing by his visits to the monarch.

From Oyo State, the president came to Lagos. He arrived at Iga Idunganran, Akiolu’s palace, at about 8pm.

Before coming to the South-west, inside sources said protocols had been completed for the president and the National Working Committee of PDP to receive Shekarau in Kano before the plan was thwarted by the procession by the Kadiriyya sect. It was an annual event of the Kadiriyya Movement, popularly known in Hausa as "Waliyyai", led by Shiek Karibullah Nasiru Kabara.

But THISDAY gathered that Mu’azu had sealed a number of deals that may affect the shape of politics in at least three states, namely, Gombe, Zamfara and Adamawa. In Gombe State, the former governor of the state, Senator Danjuma Goje, who is among the 11 senators that defected from PDP to APC recently, is said to be considering a return to PDP based on the discussions with Mu’azu.

Two offers, allegedly, made to Goje, according to sources privy to the meetings, are the discontinuation of the corruption case against him and the equal sharing of the right to nominate PDP state officials between him and the state Governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is prosecuting Goje for alleged misappropriation of over N70 billion while he was governor of Gombe State between 2003 and 2011.

In Adamawa State, Mu'azu was said to have offered an automatic PDP governorship ticket to Engr. Marcus Gundiri of the APC. Gundiri had run against Governor Murtala Nyako in 2011 and made a good impression by losing narrowly to the incumbent.

Gundiri is currently a member of APC and if the deal with Mu’azu sails through, he may defect to PDP, where the 2016 governorship ticket for the party would be given to him.

The PDP national chairman is also said to have reached agreements with PDP stakeholders in Zamfara State. With the coming on board of General Mohammed Gusau, who is currently a ministerial nominee from the state, PDP may concede the governorship ticket to Hon. Ibrahim Gusau, who defected to PDP from APC last week.

Also, the Goodluck Support Group, an organisation dedicated to marketing the Jonathan administration, has started a nation-wide campaign for his re-election in 2015.

The group disclosed this at the weekend in Abuja during a Valentine’s Day event organised at Unity Fountain to appreciate Nigerians for supporting the Jonathan administration.

Deputy Coordinator of GSG, Dr. Eddy Olafeso, said Jonathan had through his Transformation Agenda proven to be a capable hand qualified for a second term. Olafeso noted that the agenda had yielded results in several areas, including power, agriculture, and aviation.

The group's Director of Logistics, Yeye Bola Dare said: "We have so many programmes lined up, about 200 activities starting from next week to tour all over the country. 

We want to say that the train is moving, people should come join the train, even Mr. President is joining and we have kick-started."

Meanwhile, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Linda Thomas Greenfield, has arrived the country to attend a workshop on strategies for 2015 general election.

Nigeria’s Ambassador to the US, Professor Ade Adefuye, who spoke to THISDAY yesterday said the meeting put together by the Nigeria-US Bi-National Commission will be discussing issues bordering on Good Governance, Transparency and Integrity.

He said all the major stakeholders, including the INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, would be discussing the challenges, prospects, and preparations for the 2015 elections.

Other participants include the Solicitor General of the Federation, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs, representatives of the Nigeria Police and the EFCC.

At the commission’s workshop holding tomorrow and Tuesday, Hon Jerry Manwe, Chairman House committee on Electoral Reforms, will be discussing issues on the implementation of electoral reforms and the role of security forces in facilitating credible elections.

Greenfield is being supported by the USAID, the International Democratic Institute and the Republican Institute all of who will present papers on Governance, Transparency and Integrity.

Apart from focusing its concern now on 2015, the commission has been able to bring to the fore of the US government, the need to assist the Nigerian government on combating terrorist organizations especially Boko Haram through weapon support and military training and logisitics.

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