Nigeria News

NIGERIA: A Breath of Foul Air

President Goodluck JonathanDr. Goodluck  Jonathan, is no longer the president many Nigerians used to know.

In 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign design was structurally empathetic. It was no less a smart one. His handlers had a good knowledge of the Nigerian situation and successfully exploited it. An average Nigerian, at least then, would rather a president who had been through what he presently experiences. Here was a man who professed to have had no shoes; a man whose upbringing was said to be as rough as the man whose vote he sought to have. Naturally, there was something to share and relate to and you could be sure that such a voter would go his way.

That was the President many Nigerians voted for in 1999; the man who promised a breath of fresh air. A man who not only promised to sustain the legacy of his late boss, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (whose mien and disposition was alluring), but vowed to go steps further and do those Nigerians who share similar background proud.

It was a president who courted the opposition and wanted them to see his points; that with about 15 years unbroken experience in government since 1999 that he started as Bayelsa State deputy governor, he was duty-bound to hit the ground running.

Ironically, it’s been just two years on and looking back, all of those promises seem more like some familiar mantra. President Jonathan has simply ‘ported’ to a different personality- perhaps, the real him. The new President Jonathan may not be as vast in the art of good governance or economic wizardry, his politics are vindictively destructive. Except he changes his mind, for as long as he sets his eyes on a perceived or real enemy, what follows is better left to individual imagination.

When Jonathan decided that he would not avail his successor and former Bayelsa State governor, Timipre Sylva, another term in office, only a few governors could decipher the implication of his recalcitrant posture. Indeed, the few who saw the pattern and the implications thereof argued that their intervention was not because of Sylva because they knew Sylva equally had his shortcomings, but the need to nip in the bud, an evolving despotism.

Many, of course, did not see it that way especially that the president had whipped up sentiment by showing some munched up video clips of where Sylva was said to have threatened to deal with him. And in spite of the interventions from many quarters, the president had his way and Sylva was not only denied a second term, he is still battling for survival as he is likely not to get done with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission so soon for as long as Jonathan is president.

The president’s running bitter brawl with the Rivers State Governor, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, is perhaps, one development that has clearly exposed his rapid and shocking ‘porting’ from his otherwise known personality to his latest character exhibition.
Interestingly, the president is not alone in this, apart from having enlisted his foot-soldiers (both cabinet members and political allies), his wife, Patience is also a major protagonist in the crisis.

How did they get to this sorry pass? The story so far is lame. That Amaechi is believed to be nursing the ambition of becoming the nation’s vice-president in 2015 and being the chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum, he supposedly has a viable platform for mobilisation and an ambition which if pushed further, could impede the 2015 re-election chances of a president that is yet to deliver on the promises of his first term. Remember, the president and Amaechi are from the same zone- South-south. So, his fears are founded.

Since then, Amaechi,  despite strident denials has been blacklisted as “enemy of the state”. What started with sheer complaints may have now grown beyond reconciliation. The Rivers Governor had started by raising the alarm about the non-reimbursement of funds spent on federal projects in the state to the tune of N106billion.

Amaechi had suspected deliberate withholding of his money since a neigbhouring state governor gets his own easily. And then, a mere criticism of the East-west road was interpreted to mean an affront and thereto, the crisis of trust broke down irretrievably as the president is now alleged to be gunning for Amaechi’s jugular.

Soon, it was an oil well dispute between the president’s home state, Bayelsa and Rivers which the president was alleged to have brazenly conceded to his state. Naturally, Rivers reacted and insisted on fighting it through. The case is still in court.

Next on the script was the polarization of the Governors Forum. Fearing that Amaechi might secure a re-election as Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, more so that he has refused to play ball in his first term that is due for renewal this May, the president caused a faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to be formed and led by one of his loyal boys, the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio.

The issue here was not that a PDP Governors Forum was set up, the manner through which it was made possible startled many, as the president allegedly acted truly like some class prefect, instructing the rest of the class on what to do and to which no one must object or question his authority. It was brazen, despotic and a complete anathema to democratic tenets.

From there, the president’s train berthed in Amaechi’s backyard, insidiously and dislodged the Governor’s favoured executive committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Chief Godspower Ake.

This came on the heels of a judgment by an Abuja High Court presided over by Justice Ishaq Bello, who approved the election of a parallel executive of a faction loyal to the Minister of State for Education, Nyson Wike, one of the president’s foot-soldiers. The faction is led by Felix Obuah. Effectively and based on that ruling, the PDP political leadership in Rivers State has been taken from Amaechi and transferred to Wike. Of course, Amaechi still would not take that too as an act of God. He is also contesting that in court, and coming at a time the judiciary is cleansing its ranks of corruption, maybe justice is retrievable.

But soon after the new Jonathan executive assumed office, it began to deliver on its mandate by taking many controversial steps to suggest it was planted to act out a script. One of such, however, was the suspension of members of the state House of Assembly from the party, although a court of competent jurisdiction has since averted that order.

However, preceding this was the grounding of Amaechi’s private jet in Akure, Ondo State by the National Airspace Management Agency (NAMA). The BD 700 Global Express aircraft was grounded for what NAMA called non-compliance with the aviation regulations as regards maintenance of aircraft. This has since been greeted by intense criticism from across board such that the House of Representatives had even promised to investigate it.

In the midst of all these also, was the alleged plan to instigate the impeachment of Amaechi, using the minority loyal to the president
in the state legislature. To achieve this, the minority was said to have been handed a fake mace different from the one belonging to the Assembly. This also, had attracted condemnation and the tide has subsided a bit.

But that is not all. After the many reasons adduced to the grounding of Amaechi’s plane by the aviation agencies and their parent ministry, the EFCC has been reportedly drafted in to sustain the tempo. The anti-graft commission has reportedly come out to say that the cost of the plane was inflated by US$10 million. It probably just realized that now that the president is involved in a fight with Amaechi. No one needs to be told what that means. The commission has simply been handed an order and which must be carried out.

Side-by-side with the EFCC dimension, the police recently sacked the Secretariat of Obio-Akpro Local Government in Rivers. That also does not beg for answers.
It is clear where it came from. Only one man controls the police and it is the president. It is therefore understandable why the First Lady was alleged to have unilaterally changed the police commissioner in the state.

Certainly, the last is yet to be heard of the feud between the president and the Rivers Governor, which unfortunately is now threatening
both democracy and the federalist structure of the country.
Suspecting that the president’s attitudinal transformation could harm national interest, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) recently raised the alarm on the implications of some of the actions of Jonathan, citing specifically, the attacks on Amaechi. While the ACN may be enjoying the chances the development has thrown at it in terms of opposition politics, the party in its criticism of the development has raised vital points to which no one of rational thinking could look away.

''The Jonathan Administration is anchored on a Transformation Agenda. But the only transformation that we can see is the one from a democratically-elected President to an Emperor, a despot. If the President is not prevailed upon to change course, Nigeria may be in for another season of anomie, reminiscent of the days of the maximum ruler who took the country to the brink before his sudden demise.

“Like we said before, we are not perturbed by what is happening in the PDP. Our main concern is the fact that the party's internal crisis is overheating the polity and threatening the country's hard-won democracy.

“If the President can go to this length against his own party man, what will he do against the opposition? Why is it that a democratically-elected President cannot be challenged by anyone, whether or not he is a member of his party?” ACN said in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

Clearly, the president’s kind of ‘porting’ is not a positive one and therefore, not in national interest. And if the current trend is sustained, the inherent dangers are self-evident and the resultant effects might be irrecoverable. It is for that reason that analysts believe that the president must listen less to those sycophants who say he is superior to other component units in the federation and ponder, through self-appraisal, the implications of his actions. Maybe then, he would see, without being told, that danger truly looms on the horizon.

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