President Goodluck Jonathan has devised various strategies to ensure that he gets the the People Democratic Party presidential ticket for the 2015 election
| By Ishaya Ibrahim | Mar. 11, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
FOR the second time in his political career, Rotimi Amaechi, governor of Rivers State, is again faced with a decisive political battle that could either make or mar him. The first was in 2007 when he emerged as governor of Rivers State after winning a court victory that ousted Celestine Omeha from Creek House, the seat of government in Rivers State. But unlike the Omeha victory which came through the aid of the judiciary, Amaechi is now locked in a political battle with President Goodluck Jonathan. Can he survive this one?
Of course, the president holds the ace in this battle because he controls the vast resources in the country. And with that, it is believed he has started implementing plans against Amaechi which include removing him as chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, where Amaechi seemed to hold sway.
Before now, the forum was known to be in harmony in taking unilateral position on issues in the polity. Amaechi’s problem with some of his colleagues, allegedly sponsored by the Presidency, might not be unconnected with his reported ambition to run on the same ticket with Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, for the president in 2015. But since that ambition clashes with the 2015 second term bid of the president, the NGF has since been split into two camps – the pro-Amaechi group and those against him.
The rivalry between the two camps was said to have given birth to the formation of another parallel body of governors called the Peoples Democratic Party Governors Forum, which is led by Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State. This is because Amaechi still presides over the NGF, at least until May when his tenure will end. A source said the plan was to vote out Amaechi on February 25, but having survived the plot, the meeting ended in a stormy session in which some governors were said to have engaged in a shouting match. Both Amaechi and Lamido have denied such ambition.
The NGF’s opposition is said to have prompted the president to be working on strategies to free himself from the clutches of the governors hostile to his 2015 ambition, by empowering ministers, especially those from the PDP states. But how he intends to do that is still unclear because most of the ministers were nominated by their respective state governors.
That notwithstanding, there are some ministers who are already working for the president’s ambition. Recently, Amaechi, and Godsday Orubebe, the Niger Delta minister, and a supporter of Jonathan, engaged in a media war over the poor state of the East–West Road. They used the media to discredit themselves and make unsavoury allegations against each other.
On January 24, Edwin Clark, an elder statesman and former minister of information, said the NGF was a threat to the nation’s democracy. Clark, a confidant of the President, added that members of the forum were violating the nation’s constitution with impunity as well as behaving like an opposition party to the Federal Government.
Amaechi’s ambition is not the only thing that has brought him on a collision course with the president. About four years ago, the governor and Patience Jonathan, the first lady, quarreled openly over the demolition of the Waterfront in Okrika, Rivers State. The governor also incurred the wrath of the president when he showed support for Timipre Sylva, former governor of Bayelsa State during the power struggle in the president’s home state. Sylva eventually lost in the law court and could not re-contest the governorship seat. But the vexed issue that pitched him against the president, it is believed, was when a campaign poster for 2015 appeared showing him and Lamido as vice-presidential and presidential candidates in the coming election.
That, perhaps, has prompted the President to step up his machinery to help him strategise for 2015. On Tuesday February 26, the PDP Board of Trustees, BoT, announced the election of Tony Anenih, former minister of works, as its chairman. It is Anenih’s second coming as BoT chairman, having served previously under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration. The election of Anenih as BoT chairman is seen in the political circles as an indication that Jonathan will run for the 2015. Another pointer in that direction is that Obasanjo was reported to have kicked against his re-election bid in 2015, and had therefore struggled to control the BoT chair, the position Obasanjo himself vacated last year. Hence, two previous attempts to elect the party’s BoT chairman, had been stalemated because both Jonathan and Obasanjo wanted their candidates in the post. While Obasanjo was rooting for Ahmadu Ali, a former PDP national chairman and former minister, Jonathan’s anointed candidate was Anenih, who is widely known as Mr. Fix It. Now that Anenih is on the driving seat, observers say Jonathan’s re-election bid on the PDP platform is guaranteed.
The president has also started putting his own men in some key areas to further his interest. On Friday February 15, the national executive of the PDP sacked Bode Mustapha, national auditor of the party and Segun Oni, the national vice-chairman (South-West) and also dissolved its South-West Executive. The sacked officers are believed to be loyalists of Obasanjo. Mustapha was immediately replaced with Adewole Adeyanju.
Mustapha has threatened to take the party to court over his sack and dissolution of the party executive in Ogun State. But in spite of the threat, the PDP went ahead on Wednesday, February 20, to swear in the caretaker committee led by Ishola Filani for the South-West branch.
It was the same South-West caucus’ case that led to the removal of Olagunsoye Oyinlola as the national secretary of the PDP. Oyinlola is also one the loyalists of Obasanjo. Ogun State is the home state of the former president Obasanjo and its coming under the ambit of Jonathan it is believed, will swing votes in the state in favour of the president. Jonathan’s message seems to be coming clear to all that he would not brook opposition, especially from his party, to get the party’s ticket for re-election.