The last may not have been heard of the controversial exchange of letters between President Goodluck Jonathan and his estranged political god-father, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, especially concerning the 2015 presidential election.Since Obasanjo fired the first salvo in his December 2, 2013 letter, followed by the President’s December 22 response, there have been series of comments, for and against both leaders.While politicians, concerned stakeholders and several other Nigerians, as expected, have added their voices to the seeming political crisis, another stream of support yesterday came in favour of the President from a group of erstwhile militants and ‘warlords’.The group, ‘Transformed Niger Delta Ex-militants Forum’, did not only give an open support to the purported 2015 re-election ambition of the President, but also appealed to Nigerians to rally round Jonathan to “enable the first Nigerian President of Niger Delta origin complete his transformation agenda.”The group, in a statement issued in Warri, the Delta State capital, said the appeal became necessary to douse the rising opposition against the Jonathan administration by supposed power blocs.According to the statement made available to Sunday Newswatch by its National President, Comrade Meshack Bebenimibo, and National Secretary, Comrade Peter Goodday, the group of ex-militants said there was need for all Nigerians, irrespective of ethnic affiliation to support the second term ambition of Jonathan.The erstwhile rebels went ahead to list some of the achievements of the present administration, while showcasing potentials of the government.“President Jonathan deserves our support in view of the tremendous achievements recorded in the infrastructural development of the country. The present administration has increased power generation to 4,000 megawatts. The Benin-Ore, Enugu-Port Harcourt and many roads in the northern part of the country have witnessed massive improvement in the past three years.“This administration has also recorded successes in the rail sector; the near comatose rail system has been resuscitated, while there has been a tremendous facelift in the aviation sector. The security challenges are being tackled to the best of President Jonathan’s ability,” it added.The ex-militants also commended the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe, for “the 60 percent completion of the East-West Road, which has opened up the link between the South South and other parts of the country, as well as infrastructural development of the Niger Delta region.“We also express our appreciation for the Minister’s empowerment programme in the region, which has brought smiles on the faces of thousands of our people,” they added.Obasanjo had in the December 2 letter, covertly chided Jonathan for allegedly working towards getting a second term in office, as against the promise he allegedly made to the former President.
The former President added that Jonathan had sent some African leaders to him over his second term ambition, a statement Jonathan later denied in his response to Obasanjo.Obasanjo had, in the said letter, also written: “Up till two months ago, Mr. President, you told me that you had not told anybody that you would contest in 2015. I quickly pointed out to you that the signs and the measures on the ground do not tally with your statement. You said the same to one other person who shared his observation with me. And only a fool would believe that statement you made to me judging by what is going on. I must say that it is not ingenious. You may wish to pursue a more credible and more honourable path.”But in his response to Obasanjo’s letter on December 22, Jonathan replied:“You quoted me as saying that I have not told anybody that I will seek another term in office in 2015. You and your ambitious acolytes within the party have clearly decided to act on your conclusion that “only a fool will believe that statement” and embark on a virulent campaign to harass me out of an undeclared candidature for the 2015 presidential election so as to pave the way for a successor anointed by you.”He continued: “You will recall that you serially advised me that we should refrain from discussing the 2015 general elections for now so as not to distract elected public officials from the urgent task of governance. While you have apparently moved away from that position, I am still of the considered opinion that it would have been best for us to do all that is necessary to refrain from heating up the polity at this time.“Accordingly, I have already informed Nigerians that I will only speak on whether or not I will seek a second term when it is time for such declarations. Your claims about discussions I had with you, Governor Gabriel Suswam and others are wrong, but in keeping with my declared stance, I will reserve further comments until the appropriate time.“Your allegation that I asked half a dozen African Presidents to speak to you about my alleged ambition for 2015, is also untrue. I have never requested any African President to discuss with you on my behalf. In our discussion, I mentioned to you that four Presidents told me that they were concerned about the political situation in Nigeria and intended to talk to you about it. So far, only three of them have confirmed to me that they have had any discussion with you. If I made such a request, why would I deny it?”In a related development, a former chairman of the old Onitsha Local Government Area in old Anambra State, Chief Michael Okoye, has advised Jonathan not to be distracted by Obasanjo’s letter and his other critics, in his attempt at providing democracy dividends to the citizenry.Okoye, who holds the title of Onowu Igbo (the traditional Prime Minister of Indigbo), said that at the centre of the letter and the avalanche of criticisms against Jonathan was the 2015 presidential election, but insisted that there was no going back in Jonathan contesting and winning the election.“Jonathan must go for a second term in 2015. He is entitled to it in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. No grand alliance formed against him will prosper. They will all collapse like the wall of Jericho,” asserted Okoye.The Onowu, who spoke in an interview with Sunday Newswatch over the weekend, said it was unfortunate that it was what Obasanjo did when he was both a military and civilian President that he was accusing President Jonathan, “who in all ramifications has demonstrated a high degree of restraint and decorum against his political opponents,” of.“The problem with Obasanjo is that he wants to be in control of every government and if he is not allowed, the sitting President becomes a bad leader. Is it not ironical that Obasanjo, who wanted a third term, is asking Jonathan not to go for his constitutionally-guaranteed second term?” asked Chief Okoye.He requested that the former President should desist from “meddling in the government of President Jonathan and allow him to carry out the onerous responsibilities of administering Nigeria,” while warning that “nothing should happen to Jonathan or his government.”
By Sylvester Idowu, Warri & Alphonsus Eze, Awka