Despite continued insistence of President Goodluck Jonathan that it is too early to start campaign ahead of 2015 elections, elders from the South-south and north-central on Monday insisted the President must run in 2015.
They practically took the campaign to the Presidential Villa when they visited the President under the aegis of Congress for Equality and Change to present their position that he must contest for second term as guaranteed by the constitution.
Speaking with correspondents after the meeting with the President, a former Federal Commissioner, Edwin Clark, noted that a northerner, former President Shehu Shagari had a second term before it was truncated by the military.
He also recalled that former President Olusegun Obasanjo ran eight years maximum term, wondering why the northerners should now kick against Jonathan exercising his right to a second term.
On the powerful delegation were a former Senate President, Ameh Ebute, Commodore Dan Suleiman (rtd), General Lawreence Onoja, Mrs Ketembu Igwe, Senator Roland Owei as well as Ministers and Advisers from the zones.
Mr Clark said the group believes minority must be given equal opportunity as the majority, insisting President Jonathan must exercise his constitutional right to run for second term come 2015.
“You know very well that I will never lead a group that will be opposed to 2015 not because Clark is saying so. It is written in the constitution of Nigeria. Shagari did so, Obasanjo did so. Shagari’s second term was taken over by a military man, I was also a Senator at that time.
“When it came to Obasanjo, he did eight years under the constitution. And some of my northern friends have said all they said was a second term for Shagari. If Jonathan wants thereafter, he could do so. If Shagari was entitled to two terms, why not Jonathan. Is it because he is a minority?
“So any group that is coming to meet Mr President with a view that he should not contest in 2015, count me out. The group I have brought, we are here, and the elders believing that Mr. President should contest as the constitution provide the 2015 election”, he said.
The Ijaw leader also spoke further, “This was the meeting of the elders of middle belt and the south-south. You know middle belt is made up of north central and north-east, all together 19 states. We have an organization known as Congress for Equality and Change.
“Everybody in Nigeria is equal to the other. Nobody is superior to the other. Nobody is inferior to the other. That is why we named it equality and change. There must be changes in this country We have to move forward. We have been living in a country where we have been building bridges between the various groups in this country.
“There are minority groups, there are majority groups and unless we understand one another, it will be difficult for us to survive as a country. So the minority of the middle belt, the middle belt is made up of minorities and the south-south, these are the minorities of this country to live together on equal basis with the majority ethnic group.
The leader of the group insisted that for Nigeria to survive, equality of all Nigerians must be guaranteed in a manner that anybody that is qualified to run for the office of the President must be allowed to do so.
“For us to survive in this country on equal basis, anybody who is qualified to be President of this country whether he is a minority or a majority, he must be given the opportunity to do so. That is what we stand for. Since 2010 we have not been able to meet Mr. President and we thought other groups have been meeting him, we too should meet him.
“All that we want is a united country, a country where you and me, where the press will not be one sided because some people have conspired in this country to suppress and misinform the people of this country about the activities of this present administration which has done so well more than any other government in the history of the country.
But there has been a deliberate attempt to tarnish the name of this administration. So we came here to exchange views with Mr. President who is also from the minority area”, Chief Clark said.
Chief Clark said they were not taking other groups for granted hence; they have started to dialogue with them to reason in the interest of the unity of the country.
His words, “we are dialoguing with people to educate people. You had your turn. For the past 50 to 53 years, we have not ruled in this country. Are we not citizens of this country? Let us be fair to one another”.
Meanwhile, President Jonathan expressed the unwavering commitment of his administration to moving Nigeria progressively forward along the path of development articulated in the Transformation Agenda.
He commended the elders for “working tirelessly to bring us to where we are today,” and for their continued support, promising that “as our leaders, we will continue to do our best to justify the confidence you have reposed in us.”
President Jonathan also thanked the Middle Belt and South-South regions of the country for their contributions to national unity, stressing that the unity of this country “depends on the cooperation of all.”