By Eric Teniola
The first part of this piece published last week said the lame-duck era was when ministers rush memos to the Cabinet secretariat for approval by the Federal Executive Council as was the case during the General Abdusalam Abubakar regime
THE only thing remarkable about the lame-duck era of General Abdusalam Abubakar was that it was successful, in that he handed over to General Olusegun Obasanjo on May 29, 1999. In January 2005, Chief Audu Innocent Ogbeh (74), an Idoma from Otukpo in Benue State, was forced to resign as Chairman of PDP.
It was assumed that Chief Ogbeh fell out with President Obasanjo on certain principles. Chief Ogbeh had earlier taken over the chairmanship of the party from Chief Bernabas Andar Iyoryer Gemade (73), also from Benue State. Chief Ogbeh’s resignation took effect from February 28, 2006. Chief Audu Ogbeh returned to his Efugo Farms in Makurdi.
He was replaced by retired Colonel Ahmadu Adah Ali (86) from Idah in Kogi State. Colonel Ali had served as Minister of Education between 1976 and 1979 during the era of General Obasanjo. Esprit de corps between Colonel Ali and President Obasanjo is so deep.
After Chief Audu Ogbeh’s removal, the PDP headquarters was being run as a department under President Olusegun Obasanjo. Rumours were circulating that President Obasanjo wanted a third term which was unconstitutional.
On May 16, 2006, the Deputy Senate President Alhaji Ibrahim Mantu (February 16, 1947- August 17, 2021) from Gindirin in Manga Local Government Area of Plateau State, representing Plateau Central, presented a bill to the Senate. The bill was to enable anyone, including President Obasanjo to contest election without a limit to his term. The bill was termed Third Term by the media.
The Senate presided by Chief Ken Ugwu Nnamani (73) rejected the bill. The rejection of the bill was conveyed to President Obasanjo through a telephone call by the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette (1939-2019) from Ikot Edor in Eket Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. President Obasanjo was attending a UNESCO event in Paris, France.
Chief Ekaette’s secretary then, Chief Mrs Abiodun Akinola from Fiditi in Oyo State, had to go through Mrs Remi Oyo, President Obasanjo’s spokesperson, in order to get President Obasanjo on phone. President Obasanjo flew that night back to Abuja. Having realised that he had to go following the defeat of the Third Term bid, he settled down to pick his successor. He reached his conclusion on Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua (August 16, 1951 – May 5, 2010) long before the PDP convention held at Eagle Square on December 17, 2006. Alhaji Yar’Adua who was the Governor of Katsina State at that time was not too close to PDP Northern governors.
The aspirants at that time were retired General Aliyu Gusau (79) from Zamfara State, who was then the National Security Adviser, Governor Ahmed Muhammed Makarfi (65) who was then Governor of Kaduna State and then Dr. Peter Otunaya Odili (73) from Ogba-Egbema-Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Odili, Governor of Rivers State, had the backing of South-South Peoples Assembly jointly led by Chief Edwin Clarke (95) and Dr. Joseph Wayas (May 21, 1941- November 30, 2021). The Secretary of the Assembly was Chief Raymond Dokpesi. The leaders of the Assembly toured almost all parts of the country. During this period the friendship between President Obasanjo and his Vice, Atiku Abubakar, had broken down completely. It was beyond repairs. With the selection of Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as the PDP presidential candidate, President Obasanjo’s imperial presidency ended and thus began the lame-duck era of his presidency.
Dr. Odili in his book titled, Conscience And History: My Story, narrated what happened at the Peoples Democratic Party’s convention. Odili said in the book: “On 12th December, a spurious and anonymous petition was posted on the internet from a questionable ‘source’ alleging corrupt practices against the Rivers State Government under me. These allegations were contrived into a petition by the EFCC under Nuhu Ribadu’s hand, to the President (Obasanjo) the same day.
“On the 13th of December 2006, Mr. President directed EFCC to investigate. On the 14th day of December, 2006, EFCC submitted a so-called ‘interim’ report to the then president who promptly minuted for my response on the same 14th December, 2006, but forwarded to me on 15/12/06, a day to the convention vide ref. PRES/44.
“I assembled what was left of my cabinet team, a few having been arrested and kept at the EFCC office in Lagos within these few days of urgent dramatic action. We submitted our response on the 15th day of December, 2006 by which time it had become clear what the whole exercise was about— ‘get Odili out of the race for the presidency at all cost’.”
He said: “Till date the innocent uninformed still make reference to that judicially nullified and voided report. This became lucidly clear with the instant release of my staff who were being detained in Lagos by the EFCC as soon as I voluntarily and wisely withdrew from the contest. There was jubilation at the EFCC office immediately news of my withdrawal broke and all my staff were asked to go home immediately. This was on the 15th of December.
To be continued…