By ABDULKADIR KHALIF
Puntland leader Said Abdullahi Deni on Saturday confirmed what had been rumoured for months, that he will be contesting for the federal presidency in the upcoming polls.
Mr Deni who heads the oldest federal state in Somalia is entering an already crowded race for the presidency of Somalia, but his bid could now roil waters for several contenders including those who share his clan, or natives of Puntland.
He spoke at a dinner he held in Garowe town, the capital of Puntland, some 1,000 km northeast of Mogadishu, in honour of the members of Somalia’s bicameral parliament elected in Puntland.
The grapevine on Deni’s intention has been around for almost a year, but the closest hint that he was aiming for Somalia’s top office was announced by Jubbaland State’s President Ahmed Mohamed Islam Madobe while visiting in Garowe town in November last year.
At a special meeting with Puntland’s Vice President, members of the cabinet and the members of the local legislative assembly, attended by Madobe and Deni, the former informed the audience about Deni’s intention to run for Somalia’s presidential palace in Mogadishu.
Madobe stated, “My brother Said Abdullahi Deni is going to run for the post of the federal president and needs the support of all of us.”
“This is the reason I came to Garowe town and called for this meeting, realising that Deni needs all of us to prop up his ambition,” added Madobe as reported by individuals in the meeting.
On Saturday, Deni made clear and beyond doubt that he is not only a candidate but also a challenger to incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo.
“In this evening, I am here to inform you that I am going to run for the President of Somalia,” Deni stated.
“I urge all the other (opposition) candidates to unite to drive out the president whose term in office lapsed, Farmaajo,” he added, proposing that such cooperation should be priority number one to fashion a change.
Deni held a separate meeting with the members of the federal legislative houses elected in Puntland, briefing them about his will to run for the State House in Mogadishu.
The Puntland leader informed the elected legislators that he has been sturdily working on ways of uprooting the current administration of President Farmaajo over the past three years and is ready to closely work with any candidate or groups with the same objective.
“Somalia cannot remain under the administration of Farmaajo and we are compelled to initiate change that can bring stability and development,” he remarked.
Deni is not the only top politician from Puntland vying for Somalia’s top political seat.
Just over a week ago, Mr Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke who also hails from the northeastern regions expressed his intention to join the race for the presidency of Somalia.
Sharmarke, twice prime minister (2009-2011 and 2014-2016), says he will bring into play that experience to steer the country from the current quandary.
“If I am elected president, I’ll employ the vast experience I gained while I served the nation at various capacities to lead Somalia to political, social and economic stability,” said Sharmarke who was also an ambassador to the US remarked in an interview with a station Hanoolaato TV.
Deni and Sharmarke’s contests mean they may split up votes in Puntland. Under the indirect election system, elected legislators in the federal parliament, senate and the Lower House, gather to elect a President in a secret ballot. The date of elections is yet to be announced as some federal states have not completed electing their MPs.
But Federal state leaders hold a sweeping influence on who becomes MP and have been accused of dropping rivals from lists of contenders for parliament.
In his backyard, Deni managed to promote the election to Somalia’s bicameral parliament individuals from his cabinet, officials from the regions’ armed forces and regional governors, envisaged to vote for him.
Many predict that Deni also counts on legislators elected from the Jubbaland State that are loyal to the state’s president who happens to be his closest friend Ahmed Madobe.
Some media commentators anticipate that the race this time will be tougher with the obvious participation in the contest of many high powered candidates including the incumbent Farmaajo, at least two former presidents, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo as well as two former prime ministers, Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke and Hassan Ali Khaire.
As the election of the members of Somalia’s Lower House of the parliament is about to be completed, a joint session of the 54 senators and the 275 MPs are mandated to vote for the federal president in a date not yet fixed.