By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
Our govs, leadersâ€˜re selfish â€” Concerned citizens
*Weâ€™re not self-centred â€” Govs
*I insist Yarâ€™Adua should handover to Jonathan â€” Ex-Gov Oyegun
Has S-Southdumped Jonathan?
SOUTH-SOUTH Governors and a number of prominent leaders of the zone have unusually chosen to keep mum rather than speak their minds and that of the people on the burning issue of whether or not Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, who hails from the zone should take over as Acting President from ailing President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, who will be spending his 54th day today (January 16) in a Saudi Arabia hospital.
Investigations by Saturday Vanguard showed that the attitude of the governors and some of the powerful leaders was not unconnected with the fear that they would attract the wrath of President Yarâ€™Adua and the power cabal at Abuja if they openly declare support for Dr. Jonathan to take over as acting president.
But there is a great concern in the region over the stand of the governors and leaders, as the interpretation many gave to their action was that they decided to sacrifice the interest of the South-South and dump Dr. Jonathan because of their personal political interests.
Yesterday, the first civilian governor of Edo state, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, former national chairman of the Association of Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities Organization of Nigeria (ATROMPCON), His Royal Majesty, Pere Charles Ayemi-Botu, coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG), Comrade Joseph Evah, chairman of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) in Delta state, Barrister Oghenejabor Ikimi and other Niger-Deltans challenged the governors, South-South leaders and the entire countryÂ to speak out and do the right thing. Governorship candidate of the People Redemption Party (PRP) in the 2007 governorship elections in Delta state, Engineer Emmanuel Odafe Igbini told Saturday Vanguard that Vice President Jonathan should not take over from Yarâ€™Adua and gave reasons for his exceptional position.
Weâ€™re not scared â€“ Govs A source close to theÂ governors who spoke to Saturday Vanguard on the condition of anonymity said, â€œItâ€™s a dicey situation the governorsÂ found themselvesÂ and they â€™re only being careful as politicians because what you say today can be used against you tomorrowâ€.
He added, â€œEven the Vice President who people are saying the governors should fight for to become acting president is standing aloof because he knows the implication of any scheming to become acting president. He knows what happened to the former SSG, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe when Yarâ€™Adua returned and found out certain things. So, why do you want the South-South governors to stick out our necks and run into trouble?â€
According to him, â€œItâ€™s not correct to say the governors are afraid, thatâ€™s not the issue here – they are only being tactical as politicians in making statements and taking position on the matter. In conjunction with other governors, five of them in the PDP, last week, and declared their support for Jonathan. They know there will be a constitutional breach if the matter is not attended to quickly and would want the constitution to be followed, but, they have to tread carefully as politiciansâ€.
Clark keeps sealed lipSaturday Vanguard contacted the leader of the Ijaw ethnic nationality, Chief Edwin Clark on Thursday but one of his aides said, â€œChief is not willing to speak on the matter you have just mentioned, so you can please leave him out of itâ€.
It was gathered that Chief Clark did not want his comments to be misinterpreted, hence his decision to keep silent and watch the unfolding events on the matter.
A monarchâ€™s worry A monarch, Pere Ayemi-Botu also thinks the Federal High Court, Abuja has clarified the matter with its ruling and that Dr. Jonathan has the imprimatur to act as president, whether there was a formal letter to the National Assembly to do so or otherwise.
The royal father was, however, at a loss over why President Yarâ€™Adua did not transmit such an important letter to the National Assembly, noting that even if it was vacation that the president had taken for such a period, he knows that the legitimate thing to do was to inform the National Assembly so that the vice president would be empowered to act as president during the period.
The monarch opined that it was not too late for President Yarâ€™Adua to officially notify the National Assembly of his absence so that Dr. Jonathan could rightfully be declared as acting president.
He said a lot of things, including the Federal Governmentâ€™s post-amnesty programme run into stormy waters as a result of the failure of President Yarâ€™Adua to write the National Assembly, as the vice president was not authorized by virtue of that limitation to take critical decisions.
Political intriguesIt was gathered that there were a lot of political undercurrents in the South-South, which might be responsible for the lean support Dr. Jonathan has recorded so far in the bid to make him acting president. Besides the former governor of Edo state, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun who was part of the eminent Nigerians that called on Yarâ€™Adua to handover to Jonathan as a result of his temporal incapacitation by illness and a few others, leaders of the region have been oddly calm on the matter.
Saturday Vanguard learnt that some powerful politicians from the zone who were not happy that Dr. Jonathan emerged as the choice of the powers- that- be in 2007 as the vice presidential candidate of the party were bent on frustrating anything that would make his political visibility grow larger.
â€œTheir intention is to present Dr. Jonathan as a deadly scheme who wants to take over the job of his boss and they are meticulously studying his every move since Yarâ€™Adua was flown to Saudi Arabia .
Oyegun spits more fire Speaking to Saturday Vanguard onÂ if he had changed his position on Yarâ€™Adua handing over to Jonathan giving the stand of the governors and other political leaders from the zone, Chief Odigie-Oyegun said, â€œGod forbid, changing my position on the matter should be ruled out entirely.
How can I can change my position, I stand by what I said earlier. I have done the right thing by joining other eminent Nigerians to call on President Yarâ€™Adua to transmit a letter to the National Assembly that he is away, either he is on leave, he is ill or on sick leave, whatever it is, for Dr. Jonathan to take overâ€.
His words, â€œThat is the only alternative; there is no other alternative constitutionally. Those insisting that he should not transmit a letter to the National Assembly as prescribed by law under the present circumstances are creating a national crisis.
In fact, they have already created it and itâ€™s threatening to consume us but I insist Yarâ€™Adua should do the proper thing and let Jonathan take over till heâ€™s back. Nobody is saying that he is not the president but since he is away and not well, the constitution should be implementedâ€.
He lamented that at the moment, Nigeria was being ruled by appointed officials who have hijacked the Presidency, telling Nigerians what the president has said or has not said. â€œIt is a country where anything goes for now because we are not seeing the president and they tell us whatever they want to say the president said. The other day, they brought a budget, which they claimed he signed, we donâ€™t have the facts up till nowâ€.
â€œI donâ€™t even know why they are afraid of letting Jonathan to be acting president, are they not all in the same party. We all know the president is not healthy enough to perform his duties, if he gets well and comes back next month (February) for instance, he automatically takes over his job as president, and Jonathan cannot stop him even if he is the acting president at that time.
â€œOn the other hand, even if the worse happens, that is something happening to Yarâ€™Adua, there are media reports that he is brain dead and all that, which we are not praying for, but, assuming something happens in the direction some people are thinking, Jonathan can only be President up till next year (2011) when nomination and election will take place. The party is free to choose who it wants as its presidential candidate. If they want to change Jonathan, they can do it a t that time but for now, let us follow what the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria saysâ€, he added.
Court ruling not the answer
Though the Delta CDHR boss, Barrister Ikimi said it was gratifying that the Federal High Court, Abuja presided over by the Chief Judge, Justice Dan Abutu ruled on Wednesday that Dr. Jonathan could perform the role of President Yarâ€™Adua as long as remained incapacitated by illness, Comrade Evah argued that the implication of the ruling was that whilst Jonathan could function as President in the absence of Yarâ€™Adua, his actions could be disowned by Yarâ€™Adua if thereâ€™s no letter to that effect the National Assembly.
He said the ruling of the court was apposite that Jonathan cannot function as acting president except there is a missive to the National Assembly, which the President has not done or is unwilling to do.
Jonathan, a loyal Deputy
Except for those who have not closely studied Dr. Jonathan, he is not a man that is desperate for power. As deputy governor of Bayelsa state, some years ago, under leadership of Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, he had the opportunity to take over from his former boss, but, he bluntly refused despite the entreaties.
He is one person that is very loyal to his master and that is the main reason he topped the list as Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s deputy. Itâ€™s reasonably suspected that former President Olusegun Obasanjo who ensured the emergence of Yarâ€™Adua as the PDPâ€™s presidential candidate at that time endorsed Jonathan, having watched him closely as President for eight years and monitored how he refused to mount the saddle as governor of Bayelsa state even when Alamieyeseigha has been chased out of the state.
Obasanjo reportedly apprised Yarâ€™Adua of his frosty relationship with his erstwhile deputy, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and its reverberating effects on government business and after the sermon on the dependability of Jonathan, Yarâ€™Adua who was more shocked that he was chosen above others as the partyâ€™s presidential candidate kow-towed.
To be fair to Obasanjo, his interest in Jonathan as Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s running mate was not a misplaced, as Jonathan is a reliable deputy who would find it difficult to overthrow his master.
However, the vice president has seen through the permutations of the powerful South-South politicians and is taking his time to accept any proposal that tends pushing him to assume the role of acting president without hearing directly from the president himself.
â€œYou can see it from the actions he has taken so far. Even when they gave him the photocopy of a fax letter from Saudi Arabia asking him to assume the duty of president, he read between the lines and rejected the request. It was all a game plan by some people in the group to ensnare himâ€, a source close to him told Saturday Vanguard on phone, last night.
A worried Comrade Evah told Saturday Vanguard, â€œThose politicians from the South-South who are plotting against Jonathan think they are undoing him but they are wrong,Â they are undoing the South-South zone, which has the chance of producing a president and maybe, righting some wrongs within the period.
He said, â€œFrom what I know of Dr. Jonathan, he is the least perturbed by such antics. Heâ€™s not even ready to take over as president. He is prepared to remain as vice president and allow the will of God to take place. And if you watch his political career since he emerged as the deputy governor of Bayelsa state, it has been like that, fate is leading him, he doesnâ€™t struggle for political office – the job comes to him.
So, the best thing is not to work against something that will come to the South-South because Jonathan is there. They are undoing him by doing such things; they are working against our zoneâ€.