•Backs merger of opposition political parties
Vincent Obia in Lagos and Chuks Okocha in Abuja
Niger State Governor, Dr. Mua'zu Babangida Aliyu, has said President Goodluck Jonathan reached an agreement in 2011 with Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders and governors to serve only one term as president.
Aliyu's declaration yesterday during a live radio programme, Guest of the Week, on Liberty Radio (91.7) monitored in Abuja may ignite the race towards the 2015 presidential poll.
He said the rumoured interest of Jonathan in seeking a second term in 2015 should be taken as a mere speculation.
The assertions of the Niger State governor, who is widely speculated to be interested in the 2015 presidential race, came as his Rivers State counterpart, Chibuike Amaechi, elected to reserve his own comments on his alleged vice presidential ambition at a public forum in Port Harcourt.
Aliyu said, “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.”
Aliyu restated his support for the merger of four opposition parties under the platform of All Progress Congress (APC), saying it will engender a situation where strong parties will challenge one another.
According to the governor, “I pray for the success of the merger because I want a situation where we will have parties that will challenge one another properly so that we don't take it for granted that because you have been winning elections you can do as you wish.
“There is a purpose for elections. There is a purpose for setting up government. You set up government for the competence and efficiency of running an administration.
“You don't set up government so that a group of people can enjoy to the detriment of the majority of the people. So for me, the success of the merger will look like what is happening in developed countries where one party does it for a period of time and another party does it for another period of time.
“We should encourage a situation where our party becomes rational and very organised and where our party has democracy within because that is the foundation of a democracy of a nation.
“A situation where a party is allowed to handpick candidates and put them up for elections should not be encouraged.”
Aliyu described the prediction that Nigeria would break up in 2015 as the result of normal intellectual research after looking at the variables and concluding that if our situation continues to degenerate, there is the likelihood of a breakup.
He, however, reminded proponents of a breakup that Nigeria did not fight a civil war to break up, adding that majority of Nigerians will fight to ensure that the country does not break up.
“Let us understand that a breakup is not going to be as neat as some people think because I recall that when we had the civil war, there were some people who said if you allow that group to go, we will also go.
“Majority of Nigerians don't want a breakup. Only a few individuals are calling for a breakup. And you don't call for a breakup simply because you have something today.
“We have gone to Mali to help them fight off what is becoming a civil war. So if it starts in Nigeria, I don't think the world will stand by and watch. We will ensure that we stay as one nation to enjoy the benefits of what we have been fighting for,” Aliyu stated.
Asked about his rumoured ambition to run for president in 2015, Aliyu said if it was the will of God for him to contest, God Himself would create the proper avenue for him to do so.
“But I have not said to anybody that this or that is what I want to do in 2015. We will cross the bridge when we get to it,” he said.
Amaechi Avoids Question on 2015
Meanwhile, Governor Amaechi has declined to make any comments on speculations that he would contest in 2015 as running mate to Jigawa State Governor Sule Lamido. But the Rivers State governor said he was qualified to vie for the highest political office in the country.
Amechi’s position was made known yesterday as he fielded questions at the Rivers State Citizens’ Forum, an interactive session between the governor and the people of the state, organised by the National Good Governance Tour (NGGT) team that visited the state to inspect government projects.
Asked to respond to speculations that he would contest in 2015 with Lamido, the governor said the question was rather personal. He refused to answer it.
Turning to the moderator, Amaechi said, “Moderator, you said you were not going to take personal questions, you have taken one personal question and I will not answer it; I will not please anybody in Abuja, if that is what you want to hear from me.”
Amaechi reiterated that the Nigeria Governors’ Forum was in court with the federal government over fuel subsidy deductions.
“We are doing it in the interest of Nigerians, and no matter how they sponsor opinions from Abuja, we will not listen. If that means that I want to contest for presidency, so be it,” he said.
He said his political struggles had always received divine sanction.
“If you follow my political history, there was no time God has abandoned me when I am fighting, I am praying now, except God says no,” he added.
Amaechi disclosed that there was a peer review rivalry among the state governors due to the visit of the NGGT to states. He urged Nigerians not to compare governors based on the level of development in the various states.
“You cannot compare apple with oranges,” he said.
Amaechi restated that the governors would not support autonomy for local governments, as he insisted that local councils are not federating units but mere administrative structures.
He said he would prevail over his political detractors with the record of his performance in office.
“The best way to outweigh these political detractors from Abuja and political EFCC is to perform, so that when they come to Rivers State we will ask them what they have come to do.”
Rivers State, Amaechi said, is demanding about N105 billion intervention funds that it has spent on federal government projects in the state. He called on the federal government to make its presence to be felt more in the state.
“We did Ikwere road, Ada-George, Port Harcourt-Aba road, Rumokuru- Airport road, Imo-Port Harcourt road. Maku, tell them to pay us,” the governor requested.
In his response, Minister of Information Labaran Maku said democracy had favoured the Niger Delta since the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1999. He said democracy enabled the region to get more from the federal treasury and attract development.
On the issue of the intervention funds raised by Amaechi, Maku said there was a laid down procedure for demanding the funds, saying once the processes are met, states that intervened in federal infrastructure would be refunded.
The minister said the federal government had no reason to abandon Rivers State given the enormous votes Jonathan got from the state during the 2011 presidential election.
He urged the people of the Niger Delta to remain peaceful and focused so as to sustain development in the area.