President Goodluck Jonathan is at war with a host of his political associates who seem to be against his desire to contest the 2015 presidential election
| By Olu Ojewale | May 13, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THESE are not the best times for Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State. The last few months have been particularly turbulent for Amaechi over various issues. The latest of such is the directive by the state chapter of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, which gave the governor a 48-hour ultimatum to explain the real ownership of the Bombardier jet that was grounded on Friday, April 26, or face a disciplinary action.
Felix Obuah, chairman of the newly-inaugurated state executive council of the party, also announced the suspension of the speaker, deputy speaker, leader, whip and 23 other members of the State House of Assembly and declared their positions vacant. The suspended legislators are loyal to Ameachi and their offence is that they failed to rescind the suspension order on the Obio-Akpor Local Council executive and legislators.
Governor Amaechi’s offence is that there seemed to be no clear indication about the ownership of the grounded Bombardier jet. The governor had taken the aircraft to Akure, Ondo State, April 26, to attend the funeral of the late Funmilayo Olayinka, former deputy governor of Ekiti State, who was buried that Friday. After the funeral the governor and his entourage returned to Akure airport to board the aircraft back to Port Harcourt, but the National Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, detained the aircraft saying it had no valid papers to navigate the nation’s airspace. The governor was in the company of Aminu Tambuwal, speaker of the House of Representatives, who is also understood to be interested in running for the position of president.
Thus, the dignitaries were stranded for about two hours at the airport. It took the intervention of Nkiruka Onyejeocha, chairman of the House of Representatives committee on Aviation, to reverse the no-fly order. On Monday, April 29, Ibim Semenitari, the state commissioner for Information and Communications, said that all the documents of the aircraft were in order and that the state formally applied to the minister of aviation for the import licence, which was received in the minister’s office in September last year. Semenitari said the aircraft in question belonged to the state and not a personal property of the governor.
Obuah, who replaced the Godspower Ake-led state executive which is said to be pro-Amaechi, said the PDP as a unit of government, would not allow anybody or group of persons to corruptly enrich themselves under any guise. He still does not believe that the aircraft in question is the property of the state as clamied by Semenitari.
As it has turned out, the problems facing Amaechi and his supporters seem to have the backing of the higher order in the land. The Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, succinctly captured the grip when it faulted the grounding of the aircraft and described the situation as “a glaring case of political witch-hunt, despite the tepid denial of all concerned.” Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary of the party, said in a statement that the action also amounted to “gross abuse of national institutions, and a pointer to what lies ahead for all perceived enemies of the Jonathan administration.”
President Goodluck Jonathan has also not been happy with Amaechi because he feels that the governor has not been using his position as chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, to rally support for him ahead of 2015. Therefore, the President engineered the selection of Governor Godwswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, as chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, to whittle the influence of Amaechi among the governors. Fearing the dangerous turn of events, Amaechi cried out in Kano, on Thursday, April 25, that he was not quarrelling with the President.
Said he: “I am not aware that Mr. President and I are quarrelling. As far as I am concerned, we are not quarrelling.” But that appears to be too little, too late. Ahmed Gulak, special adviser to the President on political matters, said in Abuja, on Monday, April 30, that the governor should not see himself being above the law. “Nigerians should be told in clear terms that no governor is above the law and the fact that you have immunity does not mean that you flout the law the way you want,” Gulak said.
Besides, Amaechi is believed to have an ambition to contest as a vice-presidential candidate to a northern presidential candidate. This is regarded as an affront to Jonathan’s ambition. Incidentally, Amaechi is not the only perceived enemy of the president. The outburst of former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Sunday, April 28, put to rest all pretences that all was well between the two leaders. Speaking in Abuja at the 50th birthday thanksgiving of Oby Ezekwesili, former minister of education and World Bank vice-president for Africa operations, Obasanjo accused President Jonathan of not being serious about fighting corruption.
He said if the President was serious, he would not direct his fight against Ezekwesili but him. The former president said that as head of government for eight years, he should be held liable if any of his ministers was found wanting. “I have always said this. Whatever you want to blame in my government, blame me, don’t blame any of those people who assisted me. If there is any credit to dispense, we share it. But for anything you want to say is wrong, I was the one in charge,” Obasanjo said. And facing Ezekwesili, Obasanjo retorted: “Those who wanted to probe you, you should have asked them to, because if they are honest probers, they will find out that the government of Nigeria should give you money for what you have done for this country without stealing money.”
Obasanjo also used the occasion to castigate the government on the planned pipeline protection contract, which he described as an avenue for corruption. “This morning, I was travelling from Abeokuta and I was listening to the radio. I heard that they said that they are going to set up an agency for pipeline protection. Now, what are the police there for? What are all the security agencies that we have doing? This is another chop chop,” he said.
Ezekwesili attracted criticism from the Jonathan administration when she queried what the Jonathan Presidency had done with the $67 billion purportedly left by the Obasanjo administration. She had spoken at a convocation of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, about three months ago. Since then, Obasanjo’s and Jonathan’s aides have been at loggerheads, leading to another call by Ezekwesili for a public debate on the issue.
Instead, the government has been snooping around to nail Ezekwesili, who is fondly called ‘Madam Due Process,’ over any suspicious contract awarded during her tenure as a minister. It is obvious that President Jonathan has only been trying to use any close associate of Obasanjo to discredit him or wane his powerbase because of his opposition to his re-election bid. Obasanjo has been President Jonathan’s political protégé since he became governor of Bayelsa State, following the impeachment and removal of the then Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha in December 2005.
The pardon granted Alamieyeseigha by Jonathan was said to have deepened the conflict between him and Obasanjo in whose era the former governor general of the Ijaw nation, as Alamieyeseigha is fondly called, was impeached, arrested, prosecuted and convicted for corrupt practices. President Jonathan, who was deputy to Alamiesyeseigha, became the governor when his boss was removed from office.
Before the pardon, Obasanjo had openly accused him of not doing enough to tackle corruption. The face-off was said to have been responsible for the sack of Obasanjo’s loyalists as officials of the PDP at both local and national levels. Besides, Obasanjo had reportedly told Jonathan that he should honour the agreement reached with the party that he would only serve one term. When the face-off between the President and the former President was becoming a source of embarrassment for the party, the PDP sent out Tony Anenih, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the party, to visit Obasanjo and reconcile him with the party. But the effort seems to have failed.
Anenih also held talks with Governors Sule Lamido, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Babangida Aliyu, and Mukhtar Yero, of Jigawa, Kano, Niger and Kaduna states, respectively. His rescue mission was to “ensure that a proper reconciliation is engendered between the President and the state governors.” Some of the governors have expressed interest in contesting the 2015 presidential election. But it is not yet known how successful the talks had been. But what is apparent is that Babangida Aliyu has not stopped asking the President to respect the agreement he reached with the party to contest for only one term. For that audacious pronouncement, the Presidency was reported to be looking into the governor’s record of service with a microscope to find some hidden skeletons for which to nail him.
Another thing of concern for the President are the posters of Kwankwaso and Lamido, with Amaechi as vice-presidential candidate of the two purported presidential candidates that have been flooding some prominent cities intermittently. Jonathan was also reported to have warned Bamanga Tukur, national chairman of the PDP, that his job was on the line if he did not reconcile party members or allow them to join the new merger party, the All Progressives Congress, APC. Giving a report of his reconciliatory tour, Anenih was reported to have informed the President that Tukur should be blamed for the crisis in the party, especially with the governors. The BoT chair cited the crisis in Adamawa State, Tukur’s home state. He also alleged that the peace tour by the party chairman was so badly arranged that it was boycotted by many PDP governors and consequently, it failed to meet its desired goal.
Desperate to survive the raging storm from both the Presidency and the National Working Committee, CWC, of the party, Tukur recently sacked all his 14 aides, including Mike Okiro, retired inspector-general of Police. Members of the CWC had complained that his aides have been usurping their functions. On his part, Tukur in a statement on the sack, said the decision was taken to reorganise his office for service delivery. “Informed by this necessity to reorganise my office for service delivery, I therefore relieved all my political and personal aides of their appointments,” he said.
Although the president is said be unhappy about the situation in the party, making enemy of his party members does not seem to be a better option for someone who wants a re-election or is it? Your guess is as good as mine.