The Sokoto State Deputy Governor, Alhaji Mukhtari Shehu Shagari, Monday stressed the need for northern leaders to reciprocate the support given to the North by the South-south over the years, by ensuring the re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015.
He also said the average northerners were preoccupied with meeting their basic needs and not really against Jonathanâ€™s aspiration, despite the propaganda and misinformation being peddled in the region that Jonathan is anti-north.
Speaking in an interview with THISDAY in Sokoto, Shagari maintained that Northern leaders should reciprocate the gesture of the South-south over the years, saying the relationship between the North and Niger Delta was not brought about by the present politicians but by the late Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Ahmadu Bello, Shehu Shagari and Melford Okilo.
He explained that through the relationship established long ago by such illustrious Nigerians, the people of the Niger Delta came together to help the North to form the federal government during the first, second and third republics.
Shagari asserted that the Northern Elders Council led by Prof. Ango Abdullahi could not deny the fact that there was a political relationship between the people of the Niger Delta and the North, which they should reciprocate by ensuring Jonathanâ€™s re-election in 2015.
â€œI donâ€™t really want to talk about the northern elders because I donâ€™t know for whom they are speaking. But all what I am trying to say is that nobody in the North can deny the fact that there was a political relationship between the people of the North and people of the South-south brought about by the late Sardauna, Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Shehu Shagari and Melford Okilo.
â€œAnd that relationship has helped the North many times because it helped the North to form the government in the first republic, it helped the North to form a government in the second republic. During the 1979 presidential election, the Niger Delta people gave more votes to Shagari than the people of Sokoto and in 1983, they supported us and we won the election.
â€œEven when the late President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua came, he was given an overwhelming support by the South-south and he won the 2007 elections. I am telling you the reality that nobody can deny such relationship. So, the North should reciprocate the gesture of South-south over the years because one good turn deserves another,â€Shagari argued.
According to him, if all sections of the country can come together and have better understanding with one another, Nigeria will be a better place.
The deputy governor asserted that the people of the North have the responsibility of supporting Jonathanâ€™s re-election bid next year so that in the future other Nigerians would support Northern candidates.
â€œAnd now that their own (Jonathan) is there, if he decides to go for a second term, I think we have the duty to support him and after that, the possibility of a northerner becoming a presidential candidate under the PDP is there and then we will need their support. So, the relationship between the people of the North and South-south politically is a very strong pillar of unity in this country,â€he said.
Shagari emphasised that the PDP is a national party which comprised all various shades of opinion than religious leanings, saying that is why it is different from the others.
He further said the PDP is not a regional party put up by few individuals for their own selfish interest but a party put together for national unity.
The PDP leader said his recent visit to some local government councils in Sokoto, convinced him that the average northerner was not against Jonathanâ€™s aspiration in 2015.
â€œEven in the remote areas of Sokoto where we visited, you can hear people chanting my name and that of Jonathan. People are more interested in what should be done to improve their communities.
Meanwhile, President Jonathan has sent a congratulatory letter to the first Nigerian first democratically-elected president, Alhaji Shehu Shagari on the occasion of his 89th birthday which comes up tomorrow.
In a letter addressed to the former president at his residence in Sokoto, Jonathan praised his continued dedication to the unity and well-being of the nation.
â€œOn behalf of the government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and on my own behalf, I write to felicitate with you as you celebrate your 89th birthday anniversary.
â€œMay Almighty Allah ceaselessly prosper you and bless you with robust health as you continue to give of yourself in the service of our dear nation.â€
Jonathan wished Shagari a very happy birthday and also conveyed assurances of his highest consideration and warm personal regards to the former president.
The president also sent a condolence letter to the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero on the death last Friday of the Tafidan Kano, Alhaji Tijani Abubakar.
He prayed that Almighty Allah will grant the Emir, Alhaji Tijaniâ€™s family and the people of Kano the fortitude to cope with the painful loss of the Tafidan.