By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
PROMINENT leaders, politicians and other stakeholders in the South-South region, have pointed the way forward for the Acting President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic ofÂ Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in his new challenge ofÂ plotting the affairs of the country pending the return of his bedridden boss, President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua.
They want the Acting President to review the seven-point agenda and properly restructure the Federal Executive Council (FEC) by dropping â€œdisloyalâ€ ministers from his cabinet, and not by merely redeploying the controversial Justice Minister, Chief Michael Aondoakaa to the Special Duties Ministry and swapping two others, because as a leopard does not change its spot, so the cabal in the FEC will continue to work against him for their loyalty lie elsewhere.
But the chief militant group in the Niger-Delta, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND), which lately repudiated its ceasefire, told Saturday Vanguard through its spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, during the week, â€œWe have no comments for now. We are monitoring the unfolding drama and the groupâ€™s position will be made known in the near futureâ€.
Other key recommendations of the leaders are the quick implementation of the report of the Justice Uwais (rtd) Committee on Electoral Reforms and pragmatic execution of the Federal Governmentâ€™s post-amnesty programme and the report of the Ledum Mitee-led Niger-Delta Technical Committee.
All those who spoke to Saturday Vanguard, including the first civilian governor of Edo state, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, veteran politician, Senator Francis Okpozo, a former national chairman of the Traditional Rulers of Oil Minerals Producing Communities Organization of Nigeria (TROMPCON), His Royal Majesty, Pere Charles Ayemi-Botu of Seimbiri kingdom in Delta state, aka, Lion of the Niger-Delta, defunct Biafra warlord and former Ohaneze scribe, Chief J.O.G Achuzia, alias Air Raid;Â Hon Patrick Obahiagbon , alias Igodomigodo of the House of Representatives, who was the first top PDP politician from the South-South to demand that President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua should handover power to Dr. Jonathan; and coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG), Comrade Joseph Evah, maintained that Jonathan Presidency is not a South-South affair, and so, they were interested in setting a national agenda not a South-South agenda, as some people may want to ingratiate themselves.
Ex- Militant leader, Victor Ebikabowie Ben, alias Boyloaf also spoke to Saturday Vanguard on the same matter.Â However, a number of South-South leaders that were contacted categorically refused to set any agenda for Dr. Jonathan, saying some people in the North would deliberately pick on such a venture to say the South-South wants to hijack the Presidency.
Jonathan should find out Godâ€™s mission for his life â€“ Odigie-Oyegun
Chief Odigie-Oyegun said the Acting President should have a sense of history and not see himself as somebody who has been pushed to the position he is today by mere good luck because his name is Goodluck. He said it was clear from the sojourn of JonathanÂ on the earth planet that the hands of God were upon him. So, the proper thing for him to do should be to ask God why He has chosen him. Oyegun said Jonathan should see himself as a man on a mission.
He should identify the problems of the country and address them.
â€œHe has to also ensure that there is free and fair elections in the country by implementing the Justice Uwais committee report on electoral reforms. Once the vote of Nigerians count in elections in this country, that is one man, one vote, like we witnessed in the last bye-election in Edo state and the Anambra governorship polls that saw the re-election ofÂ Governor Peter Obi despite the avoidable flaws, then, things will begin to look better for this countryâ€, Oyegun added.
Re-prioritize 7-point agenda- HRH Ayemi-Botu
His Royal Majesty, Pere Ayemi-Botu stated, â€œ The face- saving resolution by both Houses of the National Assembly on February 9thÂ 2010 (after 78 days of Yar Aduaâ€™s absence) by making Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as Acting President, thus stalling the country from total disintegration and sudden catastrophe is a divine intervention and a clear evidence that , indeed,Â God loves Nigeria, otherwise because of unnecessary politicking by some unscrupulous and selfish politicians, Nigeria would have turned to a laughing stockÂ before the entire world.
â€œNow that His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has assumed the mantle of leadership as the Acting President, he is no doubt going to grapple with major challenges and indeed Herculean tasks to actualize the seven -point agenda within the next fifteen months of this present dispensation but suffice to say that none of the seven -point agenda has been achieved in the past two years and seven months.He should take charge of energy himself
â€œSecondly, he should dissolve the Committee on Energy and formally take charge of ensuring adequate and uninterrupted power supply in the country, where both Obasanjo and Yar Adua have failed woefully after wasting billions of Naira.
In the same vein,Â he should tackle the cankerworm of fuel scarcity and bring down the pump price of PMS, Kerosene and Diesel to Sixty Five Naira per litre as obtained in other member states of the Organisation of Petreleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) of which Nigeria is the sixth largest producer. â€œThirdly, Electoral Reforms should be pursued vigorously in order to usher in a very free and flawless election which will be better than the recent Anambra Gubernatorial Election.
To achieve this, he has to purge INEC as it is presently constituted and release the blueprint of the Justice Uwais Electoral reforms without further delay.
â€œLastly,Â there should be Constitutional Reforms that will be in conformity with what is obtained in the civilized world, where the principles of justice, equity, fair play and true fiscal federalism is practiced in a presidential system ofÂ government and of course, the amendment of the Military Indoctrinated (1999) Constitution that would have almost caused disaster in the recent political quagmireâ€.
Cleanse the Augean stables â€“ Achuzia
Ex-Biafra warlord,Â Achuzia who spoke to Saturday Vanguard from his domicile in Asaba,Â said, â€œIfÂ I were Dr. Jonathan, the first thing I will do is to cleanse the Augean stables.Â I will make sure I have only loyal persons around me. Itâ€™s not a question of so and so persons being used in the corridors of power, no; he should use only loyal persons to execute what he has for the nation. He is not a President of the South-South or a President for the Christians, he is the President of Nigeria as at now and so, he should have loyal people that will move the country forward with himâ€.
Achuzia warned that Dr. Jonathan should not retain any person that has the ability of stabbing him at back later in the federal cabinet and urged him to examine the membership closely and do the â€œright thingâ€ by removing them.
â€œThe next thing I expect the Acting President to do is to pray to God for wisdom to see that the issue of security is tackled.
Nigeria is insecure, there is no security in Nigeria and the country is also not united. You know a kingdom or nation that is divided against itself cannot stand. Nigeria is divided along ethnic lines, he has to do something about this because itâ€™s one of the reasons for insecurity in the landâ€, he added.
Purge the FEC-Â Sen. Okpozo
Senator Okpozo urged the Acting President to purge the Federal Executive Council by doing a proper reorganization to weed out the criminals in the FEC who call themselves Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.Â He said it was important that Dr. Jonathan purges the FEC first, otherwise, some people would be counter-plotting against him in his cabinet and that would be very dangerous.
The Isoko leader suggested that good, honest and patriotic Nigerians who can champion the cause of the nation should be appointed in the stead of the disloyal ministers.
He also said the EFCC should be strengthened and given necessary powers to perform its job, while men ofÂ integrity from the security agencies and the judiciary, including lawyers should be recruited into the agency.
What should also be very critical to Dr Jonathan is the implementation of the Electoral Reforms and this should be done within his first one month in office while the processes of elections should be completed before May, this year.
â€œHe also has to look into the activities of the oil companies, which are conniving with some officials to produce and export our oil without the knowledge of the Federal Government. They areÂ cheating the entire nation and the operations of this cabal in the oil industry must be stopped in the interest of the country.
â€œFinally for now, I will have cause to give further advice in future, he should strengthen the labour force of Nigeria by giving employment to the many unemployed Nigerians so that they can be productively engagedâ€.
Electoral Reforms should be his priority-Igodomigodo
Hon Obahiagbon who spoke to Saturday Vanguard from Abuja said, â€œThere are a vaudeville of issues the Acting President, Dr.Â Goodluck Jonathan must bestir himself with almost immediately to retrieve the ship of the Nigerian State from its imminent nosedive into a miasma of eschew-able cataracts and oxbow lakes.
Legislative abracadabra â€“ Hon Arigbe-Osula
According to Hon Arigbe-Osula, â€œI want to tell you that this is legislative abracadabra and it has no place in constitutional democracy. It is an assault on our constitution, and a play on the intelligence of our people. As good intentioned as they were, the means people are wont to say justify the end.
In this case, the means was wrong and so is the end. The 1999 Constitution, sections 1(1), 1(2), 1(3) and 145 as well as their oath of office in the Seventh Schedule were violated flagrantly.
Moreover, the Vice President is the acting president by virtue of the Nigeriansâ€™ mandate and the consequential oath of office also in the Seventh Schedule.
There is nothing sacrosanct in the provision of section 145. It is only discretionary for the president to inform the Senate, not to empower the Vice President to be Acting President, but to state the inherent power that the Vice President has and can only exercise in the absence of the President as in the circumstance described in the section. The Vice President does not need a resolution of the National Assembly to Act, neither does Section 145 require their resolution either.
â€œIfÂ their resolution was to acknowledge the power of the Vice President to act in the absence of the President, then they were only restating what ought to be obvious, obscured only deliberately by mischievous and overzealous people who wanted to exploit the situation for personal gains.
However, going beyond that to authorize and seem to be giving to the Vice President what he already has ran foul of the provisions of the Constitution. The Vice President by virtue of Section 145Â can act as the President if the President is absent as stated expressly there.
However, while the Section 145 helpsÂ to qualify the title whenever the Vice President does the Presidential duties, it is obvious from the section that it is not the letter that empowers and qualifies the Vice President to Act.
The qualifying authority is his office as Vice President and the fact that the President must be temporarily absent from duty. The importance of the letter is to inform the legislative house and not for further qualifying action from them.
He should see himself as Nigeria, not S-SouthÂ leader – Boyloaf
Ex- Militant leader Victor Ebikabowie Ben (Boylaof) speaking on the present state of the nation, and what the acting president shouldÂ focus on,Â pending the return of the President said,Â â€œIn my opinion, first and foremost,Â he has to see himself as leading the entire Nigeria, the day he took over as acting president,Â his top most agenda would be first to see himself as leading the entire Nigeria and not any particular ethnic zone, yes he may be from the Niger Delta, but when once he took over, he is now the leader of the entire people of the federal republic of Nigeria irrespective of where anybody comes from.
â€œSecondly he must understand and I believe he is fully aware of some very important programme of the ailing President Yarâ€™Adua, which includes the Niger Delta crisis, the electoral reform, the power sector problem, the security of the nation and many more; all these issues have to be tackled sequentially and systematically to balance the entire nation.
If you have been following events in the last one year, one of the burning issues has been the Niger Delta, President Yarâ€Adua laid dawn some key fundamental foundation for peace, infrastructural development and security of the Niger Delta region, as acting president, he should understand that there are agreements reached with the stakeholders of the Niger Delta Delta region, regarding the amnesty, peace and security of the region.
â€œThirdly, the Senate decision to pass a resolution making him acting president was purely the will of God, and as he puts it in his words, â€˜Itâ€™sÂ uncommon in the history of Nigerian political systemâ€™, what this has shown the whole world is that Nigeria as a country can leave in peace and unity.
In the interest of the entire country,Â we,Â leaders and all those who took up arms to fight for the emancipation of the Niger Delta region are ready to give him all our support to see that he succeed in his new office as acting president in the best interest, unity, and co_existence of the nationâ€, he asserted.