By Emmanuel Edukugho
Obviously shaken and scared, the presidency, with an incumbent who already seemed to have burnt his fingers too early in the governing of Africa’ most populous, diverse nation, midway to the end of first tenure in 2015, he is at daggers drawn with perceived political opponents in the same party.
Elected as President in 2011, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who claimed to have attended school without shoes while growing up, made promises on spreading dividends of democracy the people with his programme of Transformation Agenda, job creation, reduction of poverty, corruption, improved electricity and enhancing infrastructure among others.
But widespread insecurity particularly in the north, had blurred his vision and focus. Several thousands, mainly Christians have been killed, while properties worth billions destroyed.
Almost torn apart by internal crises within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governors elected on the ticket of the party, under the aegis of Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF led by Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State were politically dicey and unpredictable. Aso Rock was jittery, worried about NGF becoming a political power bloc, likely determining the future of Mr. president in 2015. Meanwhile, the national Chairman of PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, had a running battle with the governors, but enjoyed absolute support of Jonathan, who feared his re-election bid in 2015 could be scuttled by the governors who had some grievances to settle with him.
Governor Rotimi Amaechi, as the NGF chairman, was seen as the arrowhead of the governors resistance to the imperial and dictatorial tendencies of the presidency more so as he was being alleged as having presidential ambition to be running mate to Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State in the 2015 race.
Even the opposition political parties were not relenting in their criticism of the Jonathan administration. They’ve alleged that he was not taking governance seriously, cannot be trusted,though promised to fight corruption, yet this cankerworm has become bydra-headed and getting more devastating as ever, no tangible promises made in 2011 realized, various committee reports put together with public funds were dumped into waste baskets. Oil theft, bunkering, subsidy fraud, inflated contracts galore. More Nigerians are without jobs in a spendthrift administration, fond of wasting scarce resources on white elephant, mundane projects not of benefit to the economic and social welfare of citizens. The Transformation Agendea has been described as amorphous and mere sloganeering with phantom, spurious statistics given by state departments to create wrong impression that things are going well.
The governors, embittered by Tukur’s leadership style and his nonchalant attitude to state chapters of the PDP, tried to box the chairman to a corner in what political analysts termed as their attempts (governors) to cage President Goodluck Jonathan ahead of the 2015 presidential vote.
Undoubtedly, Governor Amaechi had not been comfortable with the pace of development in the Niger Delta region from where Mr. President hailed. Take the case of the East-West road which is supposed to run through the oil bearing areas of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta States which would also be of benefit to Abia, Cross River, Edo, and Imo in terms of trade, commerce and transportation.
Inability of the Jonathan regime to handle the East-West road with the urgency and efficiency required is causing carnage and fatal auto accidents daily in that critical area as the major stakeholders including the governors seemed worried.
It reached a point at which Governor Amaechi challenged the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe, a kinsman of President Jonathan, to resign because he has failed to deliver in the region.
“I had gone through the region and no presence of his ministry was felt anywhere in the area of meaningful or people oriented projects. Under Orubebe, what development have we witnessed? None.”
Amaechi claimed that for every one project Orubebe can show him, that he had done in the Niger Delta region, he will show him 10 of sch projects in Rivers state. He advised him to face his work and make his presence felt in the region.
“After all, I don’t have any mansion anywhere, but I know Orubebe’s mansion. If he wants, we will show the world his mansions,” Amaechi was reported telling journalists in Houston, Texas, USA at a Town Hall meeting with Rivers State community.
He also clarified his rumoured presidential ambition which put him on collision course with President Jonathan. His words: “I cannot contest against Mr. President. We are from the same region. I respect him and he is a good man. I am tired of responding to this issue of presidential ambition. It is normal to have contrary views on some topics but it doesn’t transcend to hatred.”
Amaechi continued: “It is the likes of Orubebe that fans the embers of hatred. It is unfortunate that he can accuse me of corruption, nobody has accused me before. If he (Orubebe) wants us to go public any day, I am ready.”
Several things have happened between the two states – Bayelsa and Rivers which could strain relationships since the ascendancy of the Jonathan administration. The issue of disputed oil wells along the border towns in the two states still left much to be desired, with no amicable solution reached by both parties.
The Rivers government had accused various agencies of the Federal Government including the National Boundary Commission, NBC, of bias over the dispute. Although, Rivers has approached a court of law and got reasonable judgment, the government said that the decision of NBC and the Accountant General of the Federation to release the revenue proceeds from the oil wells to Bayelsa State was a clear case of injustice. As a result, Rivers had to pull out of the joint peace talks with Bayelsa interstate boundary.
According to the Rivers State government, to continue to allow Bayelsa State to take full benefit of some revenue proceeds from these disputed oil wells while NBC is in the middle of the delineation exercise, is “blatant injustice and therefore most unacceptable to Rivers State.
Tele Ikuru, Deputy Governor of Rivers had declared that under the circumstances, the commitment to speedy and transparent resolution of this “potentially volatile and protracted boundary issue cannot be guaranteed.”
Rivers State government had argued that the most effective and transparent way to make all parties genuinely focus on the settlement bid is by the immediate intervention of the Federal Government to direct the payment of all revenue proceeds from the disputed oil wells into an escrow account under the Accountant General of the Federation.
Rivers wanted all withdrawals hitherto made from and given to Bayelsa from the erstwhile escrow account maintained by the two state governments must be returned and a return to the status quo with regard to the 11th edition of the Administrative Map of Nigeria as reiterated by the National Boundary Commission.
In order to cut Governor Amaechi to size and bring him down as Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum, the presidency inspired a PDP Governors Forum with Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom as Chairman to undermine the NGF, make it irrelevant together with Amaechi. The aim of the presidency is to depose him and rid NGF of its influence in national politics, paving the way for full support of PDP governors ahead of 2015; as the Jonathan presidency saw Governor Amaechi as probably a stumbling block.President Jonathan has thrown his weight behind the candidature of Katsina governor, Shehu Shema as NGF chairman to replace Amaechi.
Presently, Rivers PDP executives have been replaced with that no longer loyal to the embattled Governor Amaechi, led by Felix Obuah who has suspended the speaker, deputy speaker, leader, whip and 23 other members of the state House of Assembly and declared their positions vacant, ostensibly for failing to rescind the suspension of Obio-Akpor Local Council executive and legislators. Earlier, an Abuja High Court judgement had removed the Pro-Aaechi executive led by Godspower Ake, which triggered the PDP crisis in Rivers State at the prompting of the presidency.
Matters came to a climax in Akure last Friday when the 700 Bombadier Global Express aircraft owned by Rivers Tate government to convey Governor Amaechi was temporarily prevented from leaving Akure for failure to provide a manifest. Thereafter, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCCA) said it was grounding the Rivers aircraft for operating illegally in the country as its documents had expired since April 2. In a swift response, the state Commissioner for Information, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari said all the documents were in order and had applied to the Minister of Aviation for the import license. It had been in the Minister’s office since September, 2012, the Commissioner claimed. But the new Chairman of Rivers PDP said, with facts available to him, the aircraft does not belong to the state and so Governor Amaechi should explain its true ownership.
In a Ray Power Radio programme called Political Platform aired in Abuja, the presenters expressed the view that, “the issue of 2015 presidential election is at the bottom of the Jonathan/Amaechi face-off”. At the same time a contributor reminded the two political leaders that they were not elected to wash their dirty linens in the public, but to provide good governance for the people. A top official of the Aviation Ministry had explained in the Radio programme, that an aircraft registered in this country can move within, but if from abroad, needs clearance to move about. He aircraft came from US into Nigeria. At Akure, it was found that it had no manifest of the crew and passengers, it is not a car which can move without a manifest. There was also no clearance. It had no fly plan. Aviation regulations were violated.
The Aviation official added: “Immunity is not impunity. This is about aviation regulations, not about politics.” The need for safety in air travel cannot be overemphasized considering important personalities and governor who died in private aircraft crashes including governors fatally injured;
However, the question here is about the timing of the action targeted at Amaechji to politically deal with him for romance with a Northern presidential aspirant. Prof. Wole Soyinka said it all when he expressed concerns over pettiness in governance at any level which is not appropriate for any government in a democratic situation to pay attention to unimportant issues rather than serious matters. To him, pettiness at any level is unbecoming of any democratic situation.