A major crack has been noticed in the fold of loyalists of President Goodluck Jonathan: they are now engaged in a fierce battle for the control of the campaign structure of the president ahead of the 2015 presidential election, LEADERSHIP Sunday has learnt.
A top presidency official told our correspondent that, rather than harmonise their positions and state why they should be part of any move to “soften the ground” for the president towards 2015, those involved are in “a blame game of character assassination and name-dropping”.
The presidency has, however, declared that any move to link President Jonathan with campaigns toward 2015 was premature, saying those identified to be spearheading the move were on their own.
The presidency’s denial notwithstanding, LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that at least four major groups claiming to be working for the president’s 2015 re-election project have emerged.
Information at the disposal of LEADERSHIP Sunday rates the PDP as spending more funds than any other political party. For instance, in the 2011 presidential election, the party was said to have initially budgeted the sum of N40 billion based on an interim proposal prepared by a serving minister. The projection was however slashed to N10 billion on the intervention of a leading light in the party who played a significant role in the presidential election.
The PDP was followed by the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) with an expenditure profile of N2 billion, while the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), spent less than N1 billion each. The ANPP, ACN and CPC are now known as All Progressives Congress (APC).
Major items usually targeted for funding include; media/publicity, transportation, accommodation and security.
It was gathered that under each of the groups are lesser pseudo-campaign outfits with “not fewer than 1,000 in number”.
The emergence of the four major campaign cartels is coming on the heels of reports that the 2011 presidential outfit, Neighbour 2 Neighbour, financed and promoted by the president’s close allies, is embroiled in a crisis of confidence among its principal promoters.
The leading groups contending for favour in the presidential villa include the PDP Re-Loaded Group, Goodluck Jonathan Support Group, National Unity Group, and the National Consensus Forum.
Of the four groups, only promoters of the Re-Loaded Group — former deputy Senate president Ibrahim Mantu, former secretary to the Bayelsa State government Dr (Mrs) Boloere Ketebu and Chief Richard Lamai — are known to the public for now.
The three others are said to be oiled by some ministers and heads of a few federal government agencies.
For instance, while the National Unity Group is said to be funded by a serving female minister manning a juicy revenue-yielding ministry, the Goodluck Jonathan Support Group is bankrolled by the chairman of a labour-related federal government agency who is also a female politician said to be eyeing the governorship seat of a south-south state in 2015. She is being supported by a presidential aide. A serving minister is also behind the National Consensus Forum.
The source said: “We are not unmindful of the struggle for prominence among persons or groups trying to put in place one structure or the other for the 2015 presidential election; honestly, much as we appreciate the move and the zeal some of them have exhibited, it is disturbing that the pattern is becoming something else because the matter is gradually being seen as a struggle to control funds and structures for campaign more than moves to soften the ground for the president, if at all he would run in 2015.
“If we are all working for the same purpose and we are genuinely concerned, we need to be sincere and show some love, but what is happening now is nothing but blame game and character assassination, and it is disturbing. We will soon ensure that they are all brought together so as not to allow it get out of hand,” he told LEADERSHIP Sunday.
He further disclosed that not less than 1,000 campaign groups are being identified as belonging to the main four, each claiming to have mobilised more of the pseudo-campaign outfits.
LEADERSHIP Sunday’s efforts to speak with promoters of three of the groups were fruitless as only a stakeholder in the Goodluck Jonathan Support Group, Dr Eddy Olafeso, reacted to the development.
Olafeso, who is the deputy national coordinator of the GJSG, however, said his group’s immediate responsibility was to create public awareness for President Jonathan’s Mid-Term Score Card.
But he was evasive on whether a rivalry existed or not among the various campaign outfits.
Meanwhile, special adviser to the president on political matters Ali Ahmed Gulak has reiterated that President Jonathan has not told anyone to kick off the 2015 campaign for him, saying those involved “are on their own”.
“Without being immodest, all such groups are on their own; the president has said it over and over that his mandate is to deliver before 2015 the mandate Nigerians gave to him in 2011.
“All such groups campaigning for him are doing that on their own volition and no one can stop them. If I may ask, did they say they have the mandate of the president to start his campaign? I will say Mr President has no hand in what they are doing and, as a free society where freedom of association is guaranteed, they can do what they like and support whoever they want without anyone mandating them,” Gulak told LEADERSHIP Sunday.