Jaiyeola Andrews and Christopher Isiguzo
President Goodluck Jonathan came under severe pressure yesterday at the South-east Peoples Democratic Party’s Unity Rally in Enugu, with many speakers urging him to formally declare his interest to contest for the 2015 Presidential election.
The agitators were led by the South-east PDP governors who in their various speeches at Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, venue of the rally, urged Jonathan to immediately declare his interest to run in 2015. However, the President rebuffed the pressure, saying that he would respond to the request at the appropriate time.
Governors of the PDP in the zone led by Sullivan Chime of Enugu State, Theodore Orji or Abia and Martin Elechi of Ebonyi had announced that the rally was organised “to pass only two requests to Mr. President.”
Chime said: "Mr. President, the essence of this gathering is very simple. Our people have been meeting and we have only two requests. One is that you run for 2015. Our second request is to plead with you to please say yes to our first request.
"We are not here to discuss your budget. We are not here to assess your government. All we want is that you say yes to our first and second requests."
On his part, Governor Orji said: "If you say no, we shall conscript you. We know that it is under this PDP government that we got an Inspector General of Police and Chief of Army Staff after 40 years. Under this government, we have the Secretary to the Government of a Federation and a Minister of Finance, Coordinating the Economy. You have said all you promised, you will do, and you have done even more."
Elechi commended Jonathan for calmly withstanding all forms of unwarranted attacks perpetrated against his administration, saying it has become imperative for the President to continue to do the good works he started and complete them.
"You have set an unprecedented record in the Nigerian democratic landscape by allowing the people to freely elect their leaders in their respective states. You have also tolerated abuses even from the opposition, yet you never responded.
"Do not listen to those who claim that they are ready to rescue Nigeria. We say to you, do not reject our requests. You are the person we are waiting for," Elechi said.
Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State reiterated the position of the South-east.
"They want you to commission the second Niger Bridge you are building for them. It is the first Azikiwe that commissioned the first Niger Bridge and it will be the second Azikiwe that will commission the second Niger Bridge.
They South-east leaders also commended the President for opening up Enugu to the world by building an international airport there.
Other speakers at the rally who demanded for Jonathan’s formal declaration for 2015 included Chief Arthur Eze (for Anambra); Senator Sunni Ogbuoji (Ebonyi); Ike Nwachukwu (Abia); Senator Hope Uzodinma (Imo); Sen. Ken Nnamani (Enugu) and Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu.
"You are from the South-south; you must continue in 2015. You can transfer the power to the north thereafter. If you refuse Jonathan a second chance, another civil war is coming and we do not want another war," Eze said.
He noted that Jonathan lives with the poor, the widows and the down trodden.
Jonathan in response said: "You have asked me question whose answer will come later. Our party chairman has said it all that PDP is the number one party in Nigeria. We are yet to see number two; talk less of a rival part. There is no rival party in Nigeria. It is said that by their fruits, you shall know them."
Though, the President refused to accede to the numerous requests to formally declare for 2015, he declared confidently that the PDP would coast home to victory at the 2015 governorship elections in the zone.
He commended all the party members for their resilience and assured that the party which currently controls almost all the Senatorial seats in the zone would claim the Imo State governorship seat in the next election.
Said the President: "Here in the south east, we have seen that we have no problem. It is clear that south east is a PDP zone. We will take total control of the governments in the south east; I say total."
He gave kudos to the South- east zone for supporting his government, as well as “reducing to the minimum, security challenges in the zone.”
"Here, security challenges are minimal because of your support for the PDP and your believe that this government must move forward," he said.
On the uniqueness of the party, he said: "It is the only party without a dictator. It is the only party that people like me from an unknown background can become whatever they want. Other parties can never take Nigeria anywhere. Nigeria is a great country. To move forward in Nigeria, you have to have an open mind. PDP is the only party with that quality.
"Here, there is leadership and we follow everything based on the rule of law and due process. It is the only party recognized even outside Nigeria. Other parties are not even known outside Nigeria. This is the party that will continue to create jobs for our people.
"Somebody will tell you that they are progressing. Progressing to hell or to where? Do not make mistake, PDP is the only party."
The party also formally received Honorable Ezenwa Onyewuchi, representing Owerri Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. Onyewuchi, formerly of the All Progressives Party (APC) defected to PDP during the rally.