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2011 - At Last, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to Declare in September

Published on Thursday 19th August 2010

After months of rumours and intense speculations, President Goodluck Jonathan will formally declare his interest in the 2011 presidential race early next month, THISDAY has learnt.

Although a British news agency, Reuters, reported yesterday that Jonathan was considering not standing for the presidential election, THISDAY learnt that on the contrary, the Political Strategy Committee set up by the president two weeks ago has asked him to run.

The report, according to THISDAY checks, was submitted to him on Monday, shortly before he left on a visit to Gabon for the country's 50th independence anniversary.

The committee was set up to examine the viability of a Jonathan presidency as well as make recommendations on the way forward.

The report, which this newspaper learnt has received positive consideration from the president, asked Jonathan to do only four years in the interest of the political balancing equation in the country and support a Northerner to succeed him in 2015.

The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) declared last week that even though the party would retain the zoning formula, Jonathan was free to run for office next year because he was still holding the joint ticket he won alongside the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua in 2007.

"The report maintained that in four years (2011-2015), Jonathan can make the desired impact on the development of the country. Four years is enough for him to make a change in three key areas: Niger Delta, power and credible elections," the source, a member of the strategy committee, told THISDAY.

The source added that the president had chosen early next month for his declaration because he believes he will have concluded his "wide and deep consultations" across the country by then.

"He has covered at least two-thirds of the people he is having consultations with, and the process will be concluded soon. The president believes that he has to be sure he has sought and received the counsel of the critical segments of the Nigerian polity before making any move," he said.

Reuters, quoting an unnamed Presidency source, had reported yesterday that "Jonathan is considering not standing in elections due next January but will make his intentions known by the end of the month".

"He is not likely going to run, simply because his party has retained the zoning of the presidency to the North for the next four years," the Presidency source told Reuters, asking not to be named. "Though his party said he can run despite the zoning, the party said this because they didn't want to offend him."

Presidential spokesman, Mr. Ima Niboro, has denied the agency report, insisting that the president was yet to make a commitment.

Niboro said in the press statement: "Our attention has been drawn to a report published by Reuters today, quoting 'Presidency' sources as stating that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan may have decided not to run in the 2011 presidential elections after all.

"Information at our disposal indicates that this is a story sponsored by interested parties. Unfortunately, the highly rated global news agency was misled into publishing it.

"The truth is that the president has not said he will not run. Neither has he said he will. At different times he has given clear reasons why he considers it premature, in the interest of governance, to make any commitment both ways.

"At the appropriate time, the president will inform his country men and women of his future plans. Until then, every comment on the subject remains mere speculation."

However, one of the president's aides, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, told THISDAY yesterday night that "some desperate politicians who want the president out of the race manufactured the story and had it published".

The aide said the "source" of the agency report was trying to pre-empt the president following the submission of the strategy committee report to him.

"Honestly, it is all politics. They want to push the president into making his position on the 2011 race public, that is why they engineered such stories and had it published.

"They want the president to either deny the story or admit that he is contesting, which will make his position on the 2011 race public.

"They have not succeeded because nothing will change as far as the position of the president is, regarding his participation, or otherwise, in the election.

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