By Eric Teniola

From last week, this continues the  quotation  from Dr. Peter Odili’s book titled, “Conscience and History: My Story”  narrating what happened during the PDP convention in December 2006. 

‘THEN came the D-Day: December 16, 2006-the date of the convention. I was invited for morning prayers with the president at the presidential villa and after the prayers I had a brief chat with the then president in his private study at the residence. He acknowledged my letter of withdrawal from the race and informed me of his intention to get Umaru Yar’Adua – the now expected winner of the upcoming primaries at the convention- to make me his running mate.”

The former governor spoke of the late President Yar’Adua’s readiness to work with him. According to him: “I was persuaded to go and accompany Umaru to the convention venue. I had been informed earlier in the day that the news of my pairing with Umaru was in the air and that ‘some people’ were already ganging up to oppose the proposed pairing. It was, however, noteworthy that when I got to the Katsina State Lodge to join Umaru to proceed to the Eagle Square I met him downstairs in the company of some party leaders – Chief James Ibori, Chief Lucky Igbinedion, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Malam Nuhu Ribadu and Nasir el-Rufai.

“Their conversation stopped when I walked in but I read nothing sinister to the gathering or reaction to my entry. Umaru quickly took me upstairs and thanked me for coming and assured me of his happiness at the prospect of our working together. He called his wife Turai into the room and introduced us. We later proceeded to the Eagle Square together and were joined by other colleagues in walking round the square”.

He continued: “In the course of the night, I was invited to the VIP Guest Room at Eagle Square and was privileged to sight the typed copy of Umaru’s prepared acceptance speech. It was clearly stated that he had nominated Dr. Peter Odili as his running mate for the presidential race. This was at about midnight or so. In the course of the next few hours, information started reaching me that there was a strong pressure to drop me from the ticket.

“At about 3.30am or so, I was again invited to the VIP Guest room at Eagle Square and informed that there was a strong challenge to my being the running mate based on ‘some fresh information’ just received from Nuhu Ribadu, that would need to be sorted out later in the day. By the close of convention at dawn only two state delegate stands were still full – Katsina and Rivers – all others were empty or had one or two people left. The result was announced – Umaru was the winner and he promptly read a handwritten acceptance speech that excluded my name. He announced that further consultations were being made on the matter of his running mate.”

He said, however, that: “By 4pm on Sunday, December 17, 2006 Dr. Jonathan was announced as the running mate to Umaru Yar’Adua. By Monday, December 18, I congratulated Umaru and Jonathan and urged all my supporters nationwide and Rivers people to support the ticket. Odili was out of the race and the ticket.” To me if President Obasanjo had allowed a free and fair election, I guess that Alhaji Yar’Adua would not have emerged as the PDP candidate and the course of history would have changed today. 

With the selection of Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, the Obasanjo imperial presidency ended. Four days later he summoned his Chief of Staff, Major General Abdullahi Mohammed (83) and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ekaette and told them in clear terms that he would spend more time campaigning for Yar’Adua and that the two of them would be in charge of the day-to-day running of the government.

These two gentlemen were among the finest, loyal public servants anyone could wish for. Chief Ekaette summoned his own staff too that they will have to spend more time working in the office. He told his inner working staff made up of Dr. Goke Adegoroye, Dr J.N. Obiegbu, Yinka Olanipekun,  Tony Ekwere, John Tom, Jonathan Soja, Mamman Audu, Saleh Ahidjo, Danjuma Gambo, Tiamiyu Kasali, Chief Mrs Abiodun Akinola, Prince Kola Adeyemi from Ikirun, Mr. Tunde Kamilu Kasali and myself of the hard days that lay ahead. 

General Muhammed did the same for his staff made up of Ambassador O. Esan from Ilesha who later became a Minister, Taiwo Ojo, Bisi Ogunniyi, Gbolade Osinowo, Tunde Olushile, Chief Mrs J.O. Ayo, Inua Baba, Ambassador W.O. Baiye, Mrs G.M. Shasore, Bodunde Adeyanju and others. Of all the departments in the office of the Secretary of the Government of the Federation, the most guarded and protected are the Special Services Office and The Cabinet secretariat.

The special services office deals mainly with special assignments. That office has produced eminent civil servants like Alhaji Baba Gana Kingigbe, Mr Buka Usman, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed and many others. As for the cabinet secretariat, there you will get hardcore civil servants. 

When we refer to the office of the Secretary to the government of the Federation as the heartbeat of government, we are referring to the Cabinet secretariat and that is why the Secretary to the Government of the Federation is the Secretary to the National Council of States, the Secretary to the Federal Executive Council, Secretary to the Defence Council and Secretary to so many panels and commissions.

The Cabinet secretariat stores all the vital documents of the nation from 1914 till date. The Head of Service does not just post anyone to The Cabinet secretariat. Any one posted there must have gone through a lot of surveillance and security checks. The staff of The Cabinet secretariat keep secrets and guard jealously the secrets of government. 

From 1996 to 2007, top officials that have served in that CABINET secretariat included Dr Kaigama, Chief Olusegun Ogunkua(Baba Ijo), Funsho Osobukola, Venerable Peter Olukayode Okuromade, Babangida Aliyu, Mr Akin Arikawe, Ambassador Joe Keshi, who was Nigeria’s Consul General in Atlanta and others. In the lame Dock era of President Obasanjo, Ambassador Joe Keshi was the Permanent Secretary and it was a busy period for him and his staff. 

In the coming weeks and months, the CABINET Secretariat will become centre of activities to entertain memos from various Ministers and heads of government agencies. The question now is what will President Buhari do in the era of his lame duck Presidency. In the third Schedule of the Constitution, Section B states that The Council of State shall comprise the following persons-  the President, who shall be the Chairman; the Vice-President, who shall be the Deputy Chairman; all former Presidents of the Federation and all former Heads of the Government of the Federation; all former Chief Justices of Nigeria ; the President of the Senate; the Speaker of the House of Representatives; all the Governors of the States of the Federation; and  the Attorney-General of the Federation. 

The Council shall have power to- advise the President in the exercise of his powers with respect to the- national population census and compilation, publication and  keeping of records and other information concerning the same, prerogative of mercy,  award of national honours,  the Independent National Electoral Commission (including the appointment of members of that Commission), the National Judicial Council (including the appointment of the members, other than ex officio members of that Council), and the National Population Commission (including the appointment of members of that Commission); and  advise the President whenever requested to do so on the maintenance of public order within the Federation or any part thereof and on such other matters as the President may direct.

Between January 20, 2019 and April 21 this year, the National Council of State did not hold any meeting. When the Council met on April 21, the Council pardoned 159 persons. Till date, the gazette on the pardon of the affected persons had not been released. Since President Buhari got to power on May 29, 2015, no Nigerian has been given National Honours. The last time such honours were bestowed on distinguished Nigerians was on September 10, 2012 by the then President Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR. Does that mean no Nigerian deserved to be honoured President Buhari? If we are to go by the provisions of the Constitution, giving out National Honours and the prerogative of pardon, is obligatory.

For a start President Buhari has no choice but to support the Presidential flag bearer of his party, Chief Bola Tinubu. He must support him with all the means at his disposal or else it will be assumed that he never wanted him all along. It will be dangerous for President Buhari to allow the political opponents of his party to win the presidency. Even with his lame duck Presidency, he can, if he wishes ensure the victory of the Presidential flag bearer of his party. 

Shell has shut down all land facilities in the Eastern Niger delta (Bayelsa and Rivers) for about 12 weeks now. And there is no plan to restart them. There is no point. You are pumping over 200,000 barrels of crude into the pipelines and receiving only 3,000 barrels at Bonny terminal. The rest are stolen along the way, illegal bunkering. Shell is just marking time, waiting to dispose all their onshore assets. They are not worth the trouble anymore.

The Federal Government’s borrowing from the Central Bank of Nigeria has jumped to N23trillion. The amount as it currently stands is a 2,701 per cent increase under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari when compared to N648.26 billion it stood as of June 2015 a month after coming to power. The Federal Government takes loans from CBN through the Ways and Means Advances facility used to finance the government in periods of temporary budget shortfalls subject to limits imposed by section 38 of the CBN Act, 2007.

Breakdown of CBN data published on its website shows in 2021 alone the government turned to the apex bank for a loan of N4.34 trillion to push its total debt to N17.45 trillion. Another N704 billion was borrowed in January 2022. A breakdown from CBN data shows that as at the end of 2015, CBN loan to the government stood at N856.33 billion before increasing to N2.23 trillion in December 2016.

The amount grew by N1.08 trillion in 2017 to N3.31 trillion. It rose further by N2.1 trillion in 2018 to N5.41 trillion. Government borrowing from the CBN surged by 61.18 per cent (N3.31tn) to N8.72 trillion at the end of 2019. Borrowings hit N13.11 trillion in 2020 after FG collected another N4.9 trillion to plug its fiscal financing gap.

As of now, the economy is getting worse and worse daily. It is clear that the economic strategy of President Buhari is not working. The issue of the failed Economy is affecting all Nigerians as of today. Every home in this country is feeling the pinch. 

History will be unkind to him if he fails to act on the economy. He came to the scene seven years ago that he will do something about the economy and look at where are now.

In the past, when there is a security lapse, it is customary of President Muhammadu Buhari to summon his service Chiefs to the Villa. He is yet to the same on the economy. The situation of Nigeria economy is much worse than the security challenges we are now facing. He does not need to hand over a dead economy to his successor. That will not be a befitting legacy.

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