Day Northerners Living In South Endorsed Jonathan
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s re-election bid got a boost last Saturday when the Arewa Initiative for Peaceful Co-existence in Southern Nigeria endorsed him at a well-attended rally in Asaba, Delta State.
THE EVENT, tagged ‘Solidarity and Endorsement of His Excellency Dr. Goodluck (Mainasara) Ebele Jonathan by Arewa Initiative for Peaceful Co-existence in Southern Nigeria’ was organised to achieve two purposes. The first purpose was to draw attention to the widening divisiveness in the country ahead of the March 28 and April 11 general elections and call on Nigerians to embrace the spirit of unity in the interest of the country, while the second and primary purpose was to endorse President Jonathan’s re-election bid and dispel the insinuation in some quarters that the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), General Muhammadu Buhari, enjoys overwhelming support among northerners.
The rally, held at the Cenotaph, GRA, Asaba, started off on a good note with the early arrival of members of the organisation drawn from the 17 southern states of the country. In fact, they were so punctual that before 12noon when the rally was billed to kick-off with the arrival of the President, the venue had been filled to the brim with men decked on traditional Hausa/Fulani attire of flowing gown, and women wearing hijab. The President and his entourage, which included the Director-General of his campaign organisation, Dr. Ahmadu Ali and Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, among others, arrived as scheduled and the rally started in earnest.
A keynote address by the chairman of the occasion and former governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, set the stage rolling. Bafarawa, in his address, gave reasons for the formation of the organisation and why the members were rooting for the re-election of President Jonathan.
He started off on the first purpose of organising the rally, saying: “The organisation, for the avoidance of doubt, is my initiative. It was borne out of a deep and sober reflection on some of the contradictions and drawbacks of the Nigerian condition. Any patriotic Nigerian who has spared a thought for our nationhood will readily recognise the fact that citizenship and its adjunct, indigeneship, are some of the sore points of our federal arrangement. A situation where a bonafide citizen of the country is discriminated against and denied certain rights on account of indigeneship is worrisome, to say the least. We have a country where children born and brought up outside their ethnic origins are denied certain rights and treated as strangers because they are seen as non-indigenes. This is apartheid of some sort. But we have come to live with it for decades. This state of affairs has had a lot of negative effect on Nigerians who would, ordinarily, have contributed very meaningfully to the growth and development of their fatherland.”
Bafarawa, who noted that the objective and mandate of the organisation were unique given that it was the first of its kind in Nigeria, said he felt a sense of repulsion each time he reflected on the damage this discriminatory policy had inflicted and continues to inflict on Nigerians’ quest for a just and equitable country.
He added: “To a very large extent, the Nigerian born and bred outside his ethnic enclave is a dislocated entity. He does not fit in very well into his place of abode because he is seen, more or less, as a stranger. He is also not very much at home with his ancestral homeland because he is not in tune with its customs, traditions and mores, having been brought up in a cultural setting that is not strictly his. Yet, the land that nurtured and nourished him is not prepared to accord him the rights and privileges that he deserves. This unpalatable condition constitutes a dilemma to the Nigerian so affected. It makes him a Diaspora Nigerian in his own country.
“The idea behind this initiative is to organise and galvanise northerners living in southern Nigeria into an organic whole so that they will have a voice in the affairs of their country. Since they have been operating like sheep without shepherd, the initiative has taken it upon itself to manage and organise them not just for their own benefit, but also for the benefit of the country.”
On the second and primary purpose of the rally, Bafarawa explained: “The elections are here and many Nigerians, especially the not well-informed, do not know the way to go. Such people need to be properly guided in order for them not to fall into wrong hands and waste their votes.
“As well-informed Nigerians who recognise and appreciate the good work our President, Dr. Goodluck (Mainasara) Ebele Jonathan has been doing, we feel duty-bound to take the good message to our people and urge them to vote massively for the President on March 28, 2015, to ensure his re-election. Mr. President, that is the main reason for our gathering today. It is a solidarity rally in support of your good works and an endorsement for your continuity. Our objective is to ensure that you remain in office up to 2019.”
He added: “You will agree with me, Mr. President, that the mass of the people we have here constitute a very critical voting population. We have brought them here so that you will come face to face with them. We have brought them here so that you will hear them out and they will hear you out. We have brought them here because we believe that their proper integration into the mainstream of the nation’s affairs will be beneficial not only to your administration, but also to the country at large. Mr. President, here are your people. Take them. They are here for you. And they are ready to work for you.”
The event climaxed with the motion for the endorsement of Jonathan as the “sole candidate” of the organisation in the March 28 presidential election, which was moved by its Zonal Coordinator, South-West, Alhaji Danlami Isah. In moving the motion, Isah said Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda has endeared him to northerners, adding that after a careful soul search, they decided that “he is the best man for the job.” Another member of the organisation, Alhaji Gidado Saddik, Sarkin Fulani, Awka, adopted the motion on behalf of the entire members of the group amidst cheers.
Delighted with the massive turnout at the event, which again showcased Jonathan’s acceptance among Nigerians across board, Delta State Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, in his remarks, termed the rally a celebration.
“It is the celebration of a united Nigeria; it is the celebration of a man who has ensured that Nigeria remains united. Some members of the Arewa community were born in southern Nigeria; some of them grew up in southern Nigeria and are also working in southern Nigeria. We have listened to the challenges they are facing as itemised by the leader Arewa Initiative for Peaceful Co-Existence in Southern Nigeria, Attahiru Bafarawa. We want to assure you that such challenges would be dealt with not only in southern Nigeria but also all over the country. To achieve this, we need to re-elect our darling President come March 28. So, we should all go and collect our Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) and vote for PDP first on March 28 and then on April 11,” he said.
In his acceptance speech, Jonathan thanked the leaders of the organisation for the initiative, noting that the issue of peaceful co-existence was key to Nigeria’s development.
He promised to fully implement the 2014 National Conference report if re-elected, noting that doing so would encourage peaceful co-existence among Nigerians.
He said: “A full implementation of the Confab Report is the only thing that can bring an enduring change. We must work together to restore peace and we should not allow politicians to divide us on the basis of ethnicity and religion. PDP believes in one Nigeria. Nigeria is a great country because of the diversity of the people, religion and geography.”
Jonathan also pledged to ensure the enactment of an anti-discrimination law against non-indigenes if re-elected.
He reaffirmed his belief in one Nigeria saying: “I am not somebody who discriminates against other Nigerians. I am somebody who believes in Nigeria. God could have decided to place me in Zamfara or Sokoto or Oyo but He decided to place me in Bayelsa. While I was governor of Bayelsa State, I sponsored Moslems on holy pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia even though the state is overwhelmingly Christian.”
Jonathan stressed that it was cause for concern that a Nigerian born in America acquires American citizenship and enjoys the full rights of American citizens while his compatriot born in another part of his own country is not regarded as an indigene.
As critical as this issue is to Nigeria’s socio-political and economic development, how far the Arewa Initiative for Peaceful Coexistence in Southern Nigeria can go in realising its objectives is a question that the future would determine the answer. But one thing is clear — the organisation effectively used the Asaba rally to mobilise grassroots support for President Jonathan’s re-election bid and widen his edge against Buhari in the March 28 presidential election.
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