NEWS AND STORIES
Former Secretary of the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, and Publicity Secretary of the National Democratic Coalition, Chief Ayo Opadokun, in this interview with LEKE BAIYEWU, explains the national mistakes in June 12 and the danger ex-military chiefs pose to Nigeria’s democratic system
Have you ever been worried that June 12, is being celebrated annually only in the South-West?
A significant number of those who have succeeded in capturing power – those who were military apologists, con-federates, sympathisers and friends – will not understand where the shoe is pinching ordinary Nigerians, since they did not participate in the various campaigns that the National Democratic Coalition established. They got into political offices through influence peddling and commercialisation of the Nigerian political landscape. They have failed to show a modicum of etiquette and attitude to those who made it possible for the restoration that took place in 1999.
Each time some of those characters tell you that June 12 is just one of those days and there’s nothing more to it, it is not difficult for you to understand where they are coming from. Some of them got into public office too cheaply; they neither bargained nor worked for it. June 12 was a unique day, when Nigerians of all shades of opinion decided to unify their ranks by establishing a pan-Nigerian mandate for Chief Moshood Abiola. Not only that he won massively, he got at least 25 per cent in 28 or 29 states. That was a mandate that would have, for the first time, established a pan-Nigeria.
The military, however, struck and took a very dangerous, unreasonable and criminal action by ignoring the constitutional right of all Nigerians to vote for persons or group of persons to govern them at every point in time. They exhibited the highest form of contempt for the Nigerian people. They stole our money and killed many people in their penchant to capture power. The election was held by the mercy of God because at that time, the immediate constituency of (the then military ruler) Gen. Ibrahim Babangida did not want the election to hold. The election was held and it produced the June 12 phenomenon. If the military had not subverted the completion of that process and Abiola had governed, it would have established a united Nigeria. By doing what they did, they denied Nigeria and Nigerians a very unique opportunity to create a nation out of the country called Nigeria. You will remember that what Nigeria did on June 12, 1993, was to bury the various dubious national divides – North/South, Christian/Muslim, haves and have-nots. We were united to establish a modicum of decency for ourselves. But the military did what they did under the leadership of Babangida. It was very unfortunate and we are still suffering the consequence of the annulment of the election.
Today, there’s no cohesion in our country. There’s mutual suspicion all over the land. How do you reconcile a situation where 12 states in the North are now being governed under Sharia law? The Sharia law totally opposes the 1999 Constitution. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo did not do anything about it. So, Boko Haram that you now find to be objectionable is an enhancement of what Shariah was established for. People should stop shedding crocodile tears. If in early 2001, when those states established Shariah, Obasanjo ensured that the Nigerian constitution prevailed, the chances are that we won’t have Boko Haram.
Would you agree with those who believe the annulment was influenced by the Western World?
I don’t know of any external force that could ask him (Babangida) to frustrate the popular will of the people. In their environment, it is the popular will of the people that prevails. Every government in Western hemisphere has to comply with the public and popular will of the people. That is why they conduct opinion polls regularly to test the popularity of government, persons and policies. In fact, a popular policy must be relevant and satisfy the demands of the people. When that is not done, they know they have lost their popularity and democratic forces will bring them down. We have seen similar things happen in the Arab Spring.
I don’t know of any pressure from any Western power to deny the people the grace of democratic dividends, which is a legitimate right of everybody. In the United States, they say ‘We hold this truth to be sacrosanct.’ Government is form for the greater glory of man and when such government becomes tyrannical, the people have a duty to ensure that it is put down. People are not being honest when they put the blame on external forces. Which external forces? It was clear: First, IBB knew from the first day he came in 1985 that he wanted to remain in power in perpetuity. Not up to one year after he got into office, he dispatched a number of his immediate constituency to visit Middle East and Latin American countries where military despots were governing to get recommendations on how they had sustained themselves in office for a long period of time. He was not prepared or ready to go. He used all the transition processes to fill the time, while he continued with what he was doing.
When the election was held and result was against their expectation, they had to first utilise the judiciary. One Justice Ikpeme, a lady, sat at 9:30pm. You know that was extraordinarily illegal, professionally destructive and morally unfortunate. She wanted to give an exparte order and the defendant was not there, the people to be served were sleeping in their homes. To make the matter much more revealing, the then Director of Legal Services, Buhari Bello, filed an appeal to get Justice Ikpeme’s order discharged. It was right there in the court, the following morning, when the Federal Court of Appeal in Abuja had already acceded to the request of the electoral commission that the order was treated. It was when Bello left the court room that he heard the announcement at 4pm that the entire electoral commission had been suspended. This is to show the kind of wickedness that took place.
The then Attorney-General of the country, Clement Akpamgbo, was the one who took the exparte order to the National Electoral Commission’s office. The fellow that the government institution ought to report to and who should provide legal cover for the commission was the one who brought the exparte order, and he reportedly told some members of the NEC directorate that ‘you’re on your own if you disobey this order.’ He was not totally in control as of that time. The regime had split into two parallel constituencies. Gen. Sani Abacha and Gen. Oladipo Diya–his immediate lieutenants – were in Lagos stripping him of all his myths. He had to cave in.
What they did to Nigeria was very dangerous and unpleasant, and we are still grappling with the consequences till today.
Now that there’s democracy, can Nigerians bury their hatchets over June 12 and look forward?
Forgiveness is of God. But God says, “He who covers his sin shall not prosper. But he who confesses his sins and turns away from them will obtain mercy from God.” Has Babangida and his constituencies confessed? We have not seen them do so. What they did was for Babangida to say he took responsibility. Which responsibility? ‘Don’t punish my lieutenants, punish me.’ They have not really sought for forgiveness from Nigerians.
One of the greatest errors our people have committed is that we allowed the military men to go back to the barracks on their own terms. Once a country does that, it will continue to suffer the consequence of the military Shenanigans for a long time. Allowing them to go on their own terms has resulted in our inability to establish a well-ordered society. We have not been able to structure what a modern state ought to do for its citizens, in spite of the great resources – human and material – that God has endowed Nigeria with.
In the Latin American states, where military despots governed for between three and four decades, most of the military leaders have been prosecuted and sentenced. One of them, who was the military ruler in Argentina, died not long ago. Many of them have been convicted because they were forced to account for the evils they did in office – killing of people and stealing of public resources. In our case, the military went on their terms and retained their loot, and they are dangling it on our faces. I’m not sure that it’s possible for Nigeria to get out of the woods we are today, because this military clique and their cohorts have acquired too much wealth through military contracts, inflated contracts that they did not do but which funds had been withdrawn. They are the ones who can take part in monetised and commercialised politics.
The guard of the house forces out the landlord and sends him out. That is the experience we are going through. I restate that since they have done so on their own terms, we have allowed them to take a significant mileage in our national political journey.
As a result of the fact that the military left on their own terms, they have dominated the political landscape since then. You remember that Obasanjo was a military president. His Chief of Staff was Gen. Abdullahi. It didn’t take much time to sack Solomon Lar, who was the founding chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party. They also sacked Audu Ogbeh and brought a military man, Ahmadu Ali. His deputy in South-West, Bode George, was a naval officer. If you are not part of that conclave and circle, you’ll probably have problems emerging to win any significant office. They are still in control and that’s the truth. We had (a former governor of Osun State) Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
It was a costly error on the part of the populace to have allowed the military to go on their own terms. The consequences are what we are bearing today. I hope Nigerians will realise their wrongs and do the right thing.
When Obasanjo got into office in 1999, till today – about 14 years ago – there was no day that Nigeria did not export an average of two million barrels of crude oil at an average of N75 per barrel. Where is the evidence of such earnings in the Federal Government’s coffers? Where is it? Is it not irreconcilable that a country among the largest exporters of crude oil and with huge sums has over three-quarter of its people that cannot feed well, have sound education and its infrastructure totally decayed? How can you reconcile the fact that a country of this nature, with all its endowments, cannot provide power supply to its over 160 million people? We are still grappling to get 3,500 megawatts.
Can you recall your personal experience in the June 12 struggle?
It enabled me to understand and appreciate the power of resilience and commitment towards a particular goal. Nigerians united in several parts of the country to reject the annulment. The then Governor of the Central Bank, Adamu Ciroma, and a former minister, Mamman Daura, said Abiola won squarely and should be given the mandate Nigerians gave to him. The Eastern Mandate Union, led by a Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Arthur Nwankwo, spoke. The Council for Unity and Understanding under the leadership of Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, all of them rose up that the majority of Nigerians voted and their wish should be respected.
For my experience, I saw man in his elements. Some, in obedience to God’s injunction, fought for justice, equity and fairness. Some, for their selfish reasons, became hypocritical as if it never happened. Some of these people have gone beyond this terrestrial divide. Some said the totality of participants in Abacha’s constitution conference – who were less than 300,000 – were superior to Abiola’s victory, in which over 14 million voted. I saw human beings in their natural elements – selfish, wicked, unreasonable, pleasure-lovers, fun-seekers. These were elements who were concerned with only their daily bread and their stomach. They have no regards for any values provided they dominate the atmosphere, ply their trade with useful and formidable instruments in the hand of the military oligarchies.
While I was in detention at the annex office of the State Security Service in Ikoyi, where I spent 24 months, I heard the officials saying, “If they capture power, he would be the secretary to the Federal Government.” They wanted to use oppression to make me cave in. Whatever I suffered is insignificant to me. What Nigerians are going through today is saddening. It is not because we don’t have the resources. Since Obasanjo came into power we have been spending between 75 and 82 per cent of our earnings to run bureaucracy. I read the report that they’re going to collapse about 280 agencies.
The distinguished Chief Obafemi Awolowo, as first Premier of Western Region – now eight states – governed the region with 14 ministers and 14 parliamentary secretaries. Look at the eight states today, how many commissioners, special advisers and special assistants do they have? The allowance of these public office holders is too huge. We spend the valuable resources we have to serve political bureaucracy. That is why there’s no development. Tell me, in the last 14 years, which new road has been built. Before international flights depart, go to the First Class section and see the kind of people you’ll see there; military’s friends, colleagues, associates, loyalists and sympathisers. They stole too much money out of Nigeria and they can afford to waste it.
How true is it that some of Abiola’s kinsmen betrayed him during the struggle and why did they do so?
Betrayal, yes some did. I wasn’t in their minds; I cannot know why they did so except to figure out that they couldn’t have done what they did without selfish advantage. Some of them were hypocritical in their discourse on the matter. The military strongmen – Babangida and Abacha – were able to capture their longings for various positions, offices and money. Look at the characters in Abacha’s government, some of them pretended and lied that it was Afenifere or Abiola that submitted their names to Abacha. They knew they were lying.
Those who became ministers were ready as soon as Abacha declared his leadership, working as civilian counterparts of the military jackboots. I’m not sure any of them is happy with himself today. I don’t want to speak more than that for now.
Insiders in Aso Rock then have accused some prominent Nigerians and the West of knowing what Killed Abiola? What do you think led to his death?
My information is limited. I know it was not accidental that Abacha died the way he died. The implication of that is that there were too many ‘irresolvables.’
What were the ‘irresolvables?’
The key actors will never tell the true story. And because it was a matter that took place in a much hidden place – not open to the general public – it would be difficult for one to be authoritative. Like my earlier explanation, it was not accidental that Abacha died the way he died neither was it accidental that a month thereafter, Abiola equally died the way he died. Some people must have choreographed and perfected what they wanted to do – very wickedly and maddening – to resolve the national question.
Are you saying the two were killed to balance the scale?
I do not know but it is possible. Honestly, we have limited information.
Many people have criticised Obasanjo for not recognising Abiola, being his kinsman, while in power. Do you think the ex-president has a personal grievance against the June 12 election winner?
I would imagine so; otherwise there should be no reason for him not to do so. The little we know of Obasanjo is that he is essentially selfish and uncharitably ungrateful. With the price that MKO paid, the Nigerian political configuration decided to nominate him (Obasanjo), the undeserved beneficiary. Yet, he failed to say anything about Abiola. It should not surprise us. As soon as Abacha took over power, Obasanjo was outside the country attending the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as South African President. He said Abiola was not the kind of Messiah Nigeria needed. Here was a man from same Egba and they knew each other in high school in Abeokuta, and he could not recognise Abiola’s role and sacrifice. He died a democratic martyr and you benefitted, and you did not say a word. It is unbelievable. That is part of the explanation of the humanity in us.
You once described June 12 as a nemesis to this country. Are you saying the wound has not healed since 20 years?
Certainly not! How can you heal the wound when you have locked up the truth in a cage? And truth, no matter what you do, will one day be exposed. All the strength of falsehood will ultimately be crushed. This country is suffering from national mistrust, non-cohesion, centrifugal forces and the opposites are at the peak since then. That is why we have come into this irreconcilable position. It is difficult to understand that a country that exports this volume of crude yet have three-quarter of its citizens living below $1; living below the poverty line. You earn very huge resources but your social services are the worst.
What Nigeria offers today as education is a deception; it is a very criminal neglect. Any country that finds it difficult to train its younger generation, who are supposed to be the leaders of tomorrow, is subjecting itself to destruction. It will have to go under.
The Lagos State PDP opines that it has now come to a conclusion that the Governor Fashola led ACN administration in the state is a highly celebrated disgrace and cautioned that unless the trend is halted immediately, the promotion of mediocrity in the state will unavoidably disrupt actual developments in the State.
The Party's position is coming on the heels of the 2200 days celebration of the Fashola Administration on the campus of lagos state University.
According to the party, lagos tax payers money was used to mobilise the students and notable lagosians into the university Hall, only for the State governor to dwell more on rhetoric than presenting an actual score card of his administration's 2200 days in office.
"Governor fashola eventually only took his party's Campaigns into the university when he resulted to self Eulogy and reading out speculative Pseudo plans for the students, rather than showcasing at least one great achievement for the students in the last 2200 days of his administration"
The party says it is rather appalling that the State Governor could move the highly criticised 100 days in Office celebration into the university, their by
Disturbing students lectures and also exposing the young students to the culture of impunity and brazen characters. This is especially as the issue of the University's increased tuition fees is still pending before the State's House of Assembly, whereas the Governor is already enforcing collection of the controversial fees.
In the opinion of the party, "Governor Fashola ought to have used the opportunity of being in the University to apologise to the students for the inadequacies in the school and direct an immediate reversal of the increment in tuition fees, rather the Governor used the State's resources to mobilise into the university campus only to blackmail the students to invent a made in nigeria product, when himself has not laid down any motivating academic environment for such success in the University".
For sake of Clarity and under the Governor Fashola Administration:- LASU has become the most expensive government University in the country, whether State or Federal, with students now paying as much as 375,000 Naira per session. This ranks the State University as expensive like many expensive private Universities; The University does not have Hostel to accommodate the students. A lacunae that has contributed to the unfortunate killing of several Students whilst on their ways home after late lectures; The University is now faced with increased insecurity within and around its vicinity; The LAW course, erstwhile pride of the University was de-accredited in the University; There has been mass exodus of great lecturers to other Universities; The University staff school has been put up for sale, an indication that the whole University is about to be privatised!
The PDP finally submits that it is also worried because the LASU students have a long term culture of rejecting mediocrity and the fact that the Governor held the "celebration" on the LASU campus and at this time without any opposition, especially intellectually, confirms that the Fashola led ACN government in the State may have eventually coerced and or destroyed the psyche of students in d state.
Few days after the suspension of the Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, from the People’s Democratic Party, the party on Wednesday announced the suspension of the Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Aliyu Wamako, from the party
The party said in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, that the suspension was due to the breaching of the party’s constitution by the governor.
Metuh said the decision to suspend the governor was taken at the meeting held by the members of the National Working Committee at its meeting, in Abuja on Wednesday.
The statement read, “The NWC notes that on several occasions, Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko had ignored invitations and lawful directives of the NWC in this regard and has continued to show complete apathy to the affairs of the party and contempt to an organ of the Party.
“Consequent upon the refusal of the Governor to honour yet another invitation by the NWC to appear before it today, Wednesday, June 5, 2013 without any reason, the Committee, in exercise of the powers conferred by Articles 57 (3), 57 (7), 58. 1(c), (h), (f) and 59 (1),(2), hereby suspends the Executive Governor of Sokoto State, Dr. Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko, as a member of the party and refers the matter to the appropriate disciplinary committee of the Party.
“This is in furtherance of the determination of the leadership of the party to enforce discipline at all levels within the party.”
The suspension, it was gathered, might not be unconnected with an alleged refusal of the governor to recognise the chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Chief Godswill Akpabio.
The governor, it was gathered, was said to have been miffed at the way Akpabio was allegedly imposed on the governors by the Presidency and the leadership of the party.
Besides, he was also alleged to be working with the leadership of the All Progressives Congress and that he could have been the backbone of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mallam Aminu Tambuwal, who the Presidency and the party had recognised as an opposition figure.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that more governors may also be suspended from the party soon.
Sources close to the party named the governors as Dr. Babangida Aliyu(Niger), Rabiu Kwakwanso(Kano) and Sule Lamido(Jigawa).
Nineteen out of the nation’s 36 governors were absent when Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang-led faction of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum opened its secretariat in Abuja on Thursday. The secretariat is located at Nana Close, Maitama.
Signs that things were not going to work well started manifesting when words went round that Vice President Namadi Sambo, who was supposed to be the guest of honour at the event, would not come and did not send any representatives.
The acting Sole Administrator of the faction’s secretariat, Mr. Osaro Onaiwu, had told our correspondent on Tuesday that the vice president would inaugurate the secretariat.
Aside Jang, governors that were at the event, were those of Kogi, Taraba, Kaduna, Cross River, Katisina, Abia, Anambra, Delta and Ebonyi.
Others included Ondo, Benue (deputy), Bauchi, Akwa Ibom, Gombe (deputy) and Bayelsa. Others stayed away from the event.
While unveiling the secretariat, Jang said two governors sent their apologies. He, however, did not mention their names.
Flags of political parties that produced governors were hung outside the premises of the secretariat.
These are Peoples Democratic Party, the Action Congress of Nigeria, the Congress for Progressive Change, the Labour Party and the All Nigeria Peoples Party. Some aides of the governors were seen discussing the refusal of majority of the governors to be at the event.
They said the number of those who attended might have confirmed the number of votes Jang scored at the Governors’ forum, which was held in Abuja on Friday.
While Jang scored 16 votes, Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, scored 19.
But the Jang faction insisted that since their candidate was endorsed by the majority of the governors before voting, then he should be considered the winner of the election.
Speaking with journalists after a tour of the secretariat in company with other governors, Jang said he was impressed with what he saw.
He also said he would embark on reconciliation, adding that the opening of the secretariat was a new beginning in the Forum.
Jang said, “I want to thank you very sincerely for honouring our invitation to come for the opening of the secretariat of the NGF today.
“We have not had any formal meeting (today), we went round and saw what they have in the secretariat.
“We want to take this opportunity to congratulate Mr. President on the 14th year if Nigeria’s democracy and the presentation of his mid-term report, which he presented at the International Conference Centre on Wednesday.
“We wish him good health, we wish him everything and we support his transformation agenda.”
He disagreed with the notion that the opening of the factional secretariat was not a sign that the Forum was already collapsing.
He said, “Who said so? When did we just open the secretariat? You know we have been meeting at individual’s governor’s lodge before and we decided we should be meeting on a new real ground so that we are not under the influence of any governor.
“Every governor would be coming here for meeting and I wish to say that we are working hard to reconcile each other. You heard what I said in Jos and that we will be doing our politics for the nation.
“We are appealing to our colleagues to work together for the glory of the country.”
Also speaking at the occasion, the Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Seriake Dickson, said it was wrong to use the NGF for personal ambition.
He said the Forum was also not to be used to promote an agenda or an alternative government.
The governor said, “It (the opening of the factional office) is a new dawn in NGF; this is what we ought to have done in the first place.
“This Forum must not be used to promote personal ambition; it should be used to promote somebody’s ego.
“This Forum is there to serve as a non-partisan body for development and responding for critical issues. That is the new spirit here now.
“We are poised to make a new beginning and to serve a message that this Forum should not be used for personal aggrandisement, this Forum does not exist to be used to as a platform or a tool for antagonising the President and people in authority.
“This Forum is not to be used to promote an agenda or promoting an alternative government.”
Asked about the poor attendance of the event by the governors, Dickson said there was nothing new about it, adding that “the meeting in Kwara State where Governor Amaechi was elected was attended by seven governors and six deputies. That makes it 13.”
Youths of Urhobo extraction in Delta State under the aegis of the Urhobo Youths Leaders Forum have asked President Goodluck Jonathan to seek re-election in 2015.
President, Movement for the Advancement of Urhobo Nation, Mr. Rex Anigoro, said Jonathan was left with no option but to re-contest in 2015.
He spoke on behalf of leaders of youth organisations under the UYLF, when they visited the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Mr. Kingsley Kuku, in Abuja on Thursday.
Anigoro said Urhobo youths would not hesitate to protest if Jonathan failed to contest.
He said, “We have come to stand in solidarity with the President; Jonathan is a very experienced leader, he is not an accidental leader. Some Urhobo elders visited the Arewa Consultative Forum, and I must say that it is their right to do so.
“However, we youths from various organisations wish to say that the Urhobo people are not enemies of Mr. President.
“I won’t say if he contests, rather I would say ‘when’ because he does not really have any choice here. And if he doesn’t contest, we will march naked in the streets to protest; and when he contests, will vote enmasse for him again as we did in the past.”
The President, he said, had done well especially in fixing the nation’s dilapidated roads, addressing the intractable issues in the power sector, ensuring industrial harmony and creating an atmosphere for democratic growth among others.
Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, yesterday, slammed President Goodluck Jonathan for awarding multi-million Naira pipeline protection contracts to Niger Delta militants of Ijaw extraction, describing the action as illegal and self-serving.
Mohammed, who spoke in an exclusive interview with Vanguard, noted that it was unbecoming of the administration to single out certain virulent individuals and groups from a particular section of the country for undeserving economic and financial gratification and empowerment while others languish in abject poverty and deprivation under a democratic government.
The politician noted with dismay that the Nigerian police and other security agencies whose duties is to protect oil facilities and other national infrastructure, have been divested of such statutory roles ostensibly for the selfish interest of some groups and individuals who committed unmitigated atrocities against the country.
The former National Assembly adviser to President Shagari noted that apart from having no place in the laws of Nigeria, the outsourcing of such security jobs to private armies portended serious danger to the nation.
Mohammed stated that: “By flagrantly subverting the constitution to award mouth-watering pipeline protection jobs to terrorist groups, this administration is merely trying to overreach itself. This is a dangerous precedent in the annals of Nigeria.
“Any attempt to justify this on any ground will portend great danger for Nigeria and its people and it is important for Nigerians to rise up and speak against the emerging evil.
“As far as we know, trying to glorify or reward terrorism directly or indirectly will have far-reaching negative consequences for the country and dent our image as a peace-loving people.
“I am happy that former President Obasanjo has already spoken against the evil of rewarding terrorists with government jobs so as to win their support but let us not forget that trying to corrode democracy will certainly hurt the country in many ways”.
On the face-off between the Presidency and the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, Mohammed described the ugly political development as unfortunate and a calculated attempt by Jonathan to witch-hunt and blackmail the governor for daring to have a mind of his own.
He said: “It is disheartening that the Presidency and its allies have resorted to blackmail, intimidation and wholesale abuse of those who disagree with Jonathan ahead of the 2015 election, which they claim they don’t want to talk about.
“I salute Amaechi for the courage to resist blackmail and scaremongering even from his fellow PDP members, whose party, we have always known lacks internal democracy”. Questioning what the governor has done to be persecuted by the Presidency, Mohammed asked Nigerians of good conscience to stand up and resist the attempt by a few elements in the ruling party to muzzle the voice of dissent.
He asked, “what has Amaechi done to be so persecuted by the Presidency? If they believe strongly that Amaechi has broken any law of the land they should take him to court and stop embarking on the persecution of an innocent man, whose only offence is that he is alleged to be planning to contest election.
“They should immediately restore the state’s aircraft to the governor because as far as we know, the man has not broken any law of the PDP or Nigeria to warrant the kind of onslaught being unleashed on him by the Presidency.
“What Jonathan should remember is that nobody occupies the Presidency for life and that some of these ill-advised actions would certainly hit back. No condition is permanent” .
Obasanjo had at a church service last week condemned Jonathan’s government for giving out juicy pipeline contracts to Niger Delta militants, saying that it was a form of corruption.
According to him, the job should be undertaken by the security agencies, as part of their core mandate to the nation.
THE Presidency on Wednesday said President Goodluck Jonathan was ready to forget his ambition to run for second term in 2015 if the Senate passed its proposal for a single non-renewable six-year tenure into law.
Though Jonathan had made half-hearted denial of his ambition for another term in office, the body movements of the President and his loyalists had clearly shown that he was preparing to run in the 2015 general election.
But the President’s Special Adviser on Political Matters, Dr. Ahmed Gulak, said the ambition to stage a return would be shelved if Senators decided in favour of a single term for the President and state governors.
Gulak who spoke to The PUNCH in Abuja said, “Nigerians will remember that it was President Jonathan that suggested an idea of a single term tenure from the beginning. So if the proposal becomes a law, the credit should go to the President.
“If it becomes a law and is enshrined in our constitution, the President and everybody will be bound by the provision of that law. Let us wait and see what happens.
“We are not seeing the move as a way of stopping President Jonathan from re-contesting in 2015. The law cannot be made because of one individual.
“When it takes effect, everybody will be bound by it.”
Our correspondent had asked Gulak on the response of the President to a proposal by a Senate committee to introduce single-term tenure and whether the Presidency felt the proposal was targeting at derailing Jonathan’s 2015 ambition.
The PUNCH had on Tuesday reported exclusively that the Senate Committee on the Review of the Constitution had recommended non-renewable single six year tenure for the offices of President, Vice-President, governors and their deputies.
The Senate panel’s recommendation disqualifies Jonathan and incumbent governors from benefitting from the new arrangement if the recommendation becomes law.
In justifying the move, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and Media, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, was quoted on Wednesday as saying that the development was the outcome of public hearings across the country.
If passed into law, Jonathan will not be eligible to contest the 2015 presidential election.
Gulak noted that the President should even be given credit for being the originator of the single-term proposal.
Jonathan had in 2011 suggested a single-term of seven years for elective offices to avoid the wrangling often associated with second-term bids.
In a related development, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, said on Wednesday that the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution would answer questions about the nature of Nigeria’s unity.
Tambuwal spoke at the opening of a retreat for members of the House AdHoc Committee on Constitution Review in Abuja.
The committee, headed by the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha, organised the retreat to allow House members appraise the report of the People’s Public Sessions on the constitution and prepare them for the next stage of the review process.
The public sessions were held across the federation on November 10, 2012, where Nigerians voted on a 43-item template on sections of the constitution they desired amendments.
Tambuwal acknowledged that Nigeria was facing many challenges, which had forced the citizens to ask questions on the nature of the country’s union and assured that the fears expressed by the people would be addressed by the new constitution envisaged.
He said, “As you well know, our country today faces many challenges and some of our people have been asking questions about the very nature of our union.
“We hope eventually to provide Nigerians with a constitution that will answer some of these questions and further cement our hard fought unity.”
The Speaker claimed that reactions from Nigerians since the House publicly tendered the report of the People’s Public Sessions on April 18 suggested that they had confidence in the National Assembly to do a thorough representation of their views in the constitution.
However, he warned the committee members against cutting corners or attempting to impose their own views on the people in the course of appraising the report.
“So far, you have all shown remarkable patriotism but I must again emphasise the need for your work to be free of all personal bias.
“You must work only on data provided by the nationwide public hearing and your conclusion should reflect the aggregate opinion of fellow Nigerians”, the speaker stated.
But the deputy speaker said, “The results of the Peoples Public Sessions as unveiled by the House would be subjected to proper legislative action as required by the Standing Orders of the House and by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.
“There are no short-cuts. This retreat will give members of the committee acting on behalf of the entire House the opportunity to brainstorm on the language of the amendments where consensus has been reached.
“It is pertinent to note that the National Assembly is one. For this process to work, the House and Senate Constitution Review Committees must work together to propose the same bills and vote on the same issues.
“The Senate and the House of Representatives must an reach agreement before any section of the constitution is amended. Indeed, two-thirds of the 36 State Houses of Assembly must agree (as well).”
The cold war between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Goodluck Jonathan Administration came again to the fore on Sunday at a thanksgiving service held in honour of a former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, in Abuja.
At the service that had many eminent Nigerians, including a former Head of the Service of the Federation, Steve Oronsaye, and ex-Attorney General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Kanu Agabi, in attendance, Obasanjo said if the Goodluck Jonathan administration was keen on probing his government, it should come after him instead of people that served under him.
He also flayed the plan by the Federal Government to set up a pipeline protection agency, saying it was another avenue for corruption.
But Obasanjo’s comments drew the ire of the Presidency which said no past administration, either past or present, should be afraid of probe. It also advised the former President to allow Jonathan to do his work.
The former leader had at the 50th birthday thanksgiving service for Ezekwesili, said, “I have always said this, whatever you want to blame in my government, blame me; don’t blame any of those people who assisted me. If there is any credit to dispense, we share it. But for anything you want to say is wrong, I was the one in charge and I was in charge.”
Obasanjo, whose comments were necessitated by the war of words between Ezekwesili, and the Presidency over the $67bn the Jonathan administraion inherited from his government, said he had absolute trust in those that worked under him, especially as ministers.
Ezekwesili’s claim that the Federal Government squandered the sum was described by the Presidency as reckless.
Turning to the former Education minister, Obasanjo said he was sure nothing would be found against her because of her integrity and commitment to public service.
He said, “Actually those who wanted to probe you (Ezekwesili), you should have asked them to go ahead because if they are honest, they would find out that the government should give you money for what you have done for this country without stealing money.”
Obasanjo, who is the immediate past Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party Board of Trustees, then faced Oronsaye, Agabi, a former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Charles Soludo; and ex- Minister of Information, Frank Nweke Jnr., and said, “When I look at you, I thank God for making you available to serve in my administration, to serve Nigeria and serve God at the time you did.”
But he faulted Agabi’s earlier call at the service for the establishment of a National Commission for Integration, saying it was not necessary. According to him, the entire 1999 Constitution is for integration.
“What else do you need. You have a constitution that is intended to integrate the country. You have the Federal Character Commissiom for instance. What is that one meant to do? It is for integration. The entire constitution is all about integrating this country. If at all we failed to use it, it can even be said that we have breached the constitution. You don’t need a commission for integration,” Obasanjo added.
On the planned agency for pipeline protection, the former President said it would be another avenue for corruption.
“This (Sunday) morning, I was travelling from Abeokuta and I was listening to a radio station when I heard that they (government) are going to set up an agency for pipeline protection. Now, what are the police for? What are all the security agencies that we have doing? This is another chop chop.
For those advocating change in Nigeria, Obasanjo said they must be prepared to take insults.
“I just hope that we will get it right. We have no choice, we have to get it right. Let us decide individually that ‘I would do what I have to do to bring about change in Nigeria.’ If you do that, let me assure you, you will be called names; you will be abused; some people are hired to do that. But like Oby (Ezekwesili) say what you believe is right and stand by it.
But the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Dr. Ahmed Gulak, responded to Obasanjo’s comments, saying that any administration could be probed.
Gulak, in an interview with one of our correspondents, argued that even the current administration was being probed regularly by the legislative arm of government.
He added, “ This administration and past administrations can be probed. Nobody should be afraid of probe.”
On Obasanjo’s description of the planned pipeline protection agency as another chop chop, Gulak said as an elderstatesman, Obasanjo should not just criticise government for its sake, but should proffer solutions if indeed he loves the country.
He said since Obasanjo was not the present President, he should allow the incumbent to concentrate on his job.
Gulak said, “The former President is entitled to his opinion; but he is not the President. He should allow the President to do his work. People should stop making derogatory statements about the President. There is only one President in the country today and we should all support him.
“People should not just be criticising government. As an elderstatesman, if he indeed loves this country, he should proffer solutions rather than criticising.”
Some aides of the former President- Hassan Lawal, Nasir el-Rufa, Femi Fani-Kayode, and Adeyanju Bodunde - are currently being tried for various offences.
While Lawal, a former Minister of Works, is being prosecuted for N75bn fraud, el-Rufai, an ex- Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, is facing trial for irregular land allocation and abuse of office.
Fani-Kayode, who is former Minister of Aviation, is facing trial for money laundering while and Bodunde, an special assistant to Obasanjo, was in 2011 arraigned for his alleged involvement in the $180m Harlibutton bribery scandal.
Ezekwesili had in her remarks, recalled how her parents moulded her by teaching her moral values. She said she could not understand why people would wanted to enjoy a life that they never worked for.
“I was born to parents who are from a humble family. My daddy was a man of uncompromising integrity. My daddy worked in Nigeria Ports Authority. He used to say to us that the NPA had become a centre of corruption. That was so many years ago. My mother talked my father out of public service because she was afraid for him.
“My mother used to go to what we call bend down boutiques in Tejuosho Market in Lagos to buy clothes for us. She knew what they called grade one okrika (used clothes). We did not have money. We were poor but rich in values. Those values shaped everything about me. From young age, good governance and accountability mattered to me,” she told the congregation.
Ezekwesil, who said she felt “a sense of completion of a certain phase in my life,” added that corruption in governance today might not allow a child of similar background to survive.
“In a relatively decent society, I got the kind of education that has taken me thus far. I was Minister of Education. A similarly poor child, who comes from the kind of family I came from when I was young would not have the kind of opportunities that I had in this same nation.
“We must therefore build a decent society that does not sow this terrible seed of inequality that I see around me today. When I see the children of drivers, the gardeners and I see that they will not have the kind of education and opportunities that I had, it pains me.”
On why she criticised the government recently, she replied that “democracy is incomplete without the engagement of citizens in the process. The demand for accountability and results is the right of citizens.”
In his homily, Rev. Dr. William Okoye, appealed to Nigerians to shun corruption and be contented.
According to him, any nation that places values on materialism is doomed.
“Life is not about material things that some of us are concerned about today. Life consists of far more than that. When people value money more than life and God, they can do anything. The life you live pursuing mundane things at the expense of God has no blessing and can’t save you.”
Widow of the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Mrs. Ganiat, has described political leaders in the country as having some mental disorders saying this is the reason they have remained corrupt beyond pardon.
Mrs. Ganiat, who spoke during the 75th posthumous birthday organised by civil society groups in Lagos for her late activist husband, lamented that the country had been taken over by a syndicate accusing President Goodluck Jonathan as the head of that syndicate.
According to her, any Nigerian who thinks the President is truly committed to the fight against corruption would only be living in self-deception as “a corrupt President cannot rid the country of corruption.”
She said the country was currently wallowing in self-pity as those appointed by the President including the country’s Minister of Petroleum, Deziani Alison-Madueke, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and a host of others have now decided to wreck the system while the citizens look on.
She warned President Goodluck Jonathan not to contemplate seeking a second term in office as she, with many like-minded Nigerians would campaign against his success at the polls.
“Ebele Jonathan himself is corrupt. Therefore, how can he effectively fight corruption?
“If he is not corrupt, why would he grant pardon to Alamieyeseigha instead of asking that he return all that the man had stolen?
“This is a government by syndicate. People have made up their minds that they are not going to vote for him in 2015. He is deceiving himself, except they rig that election for him and that in itself has consequences.
“I am as resolute as before and stand for anything that will change this country for good,” she said.
She said the insecurity that has pervaded the country is the result of the insensitivity of the leaders of the country to the striking poverty in the land.
“Our leaders have mental problem. God will punish them. They would account for all the souls that were lost due to the Boko haram,” she said warning that the country was already drifting towards anarchy and must be rescued from President Jonathan at this stage.
She said her husband once discovered that the revenue generated from oil could cater for the education needs of every child of school age in the country and still fix infrastructure.
“There is no light and we spend a lot of money on diesel yet we get huge bills. Many industries have gone to other countries where they manufacture and bring finished products to us.
“We must become resolute and take our destinies in our hands. Let them continue to teargas us; our heavenly Lord will continue to teargas them and their children yet unborn.
“We should begin to vote for people who mean well for us. There are so many families who cannot even afford a square meal.
“We must stop hailing all those rogues. They steal your money and you call them baba o,” she said adding that this must stop.
She said she had it on good authority that President Jonathan actually wanted to remove subsidy on petroleum products January this year, but that he was quickly moved to rescind the plan because he and his handlers realised that the people were eagerly waiting to vent their anger on the system.
On the issue of the Boko Haram sect and their activities in major northern cities and communities in the country, Mrs. Ganiat said: “there cannot be smoke without fire.”
She said though the attack on the Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero, sometime ago was condemnable, there is the likelihood that leaders of the northern part of Nigeria know the insurgents and their mode of operations.
Some of those who she accused of knowing the Boko Haram members include former military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, the state governors in the zone, and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who once visited the group.
He said the President lacked the will to curb insecurity in the county
The widow of the late legal icon, further lamented that the Fawehinmi family had not been able to take care of beggars as stipulated in his will because the first trustees of her husband’s will have become a hindrance not making money available for the less privileged.
“In a decent society, I don’t think any organisation would clamour for his (Gani Fawehinmi) immortalisation especially considering what he has done for this country.
“But we don’t have leaders. There’s no security, infrastructure, no work for the youths. Is this a country?
“Those to whom he wants to grant amnesty have said they do not want it. Amnesty should come after a dialogue with the members of the sect, not granting it in a vacuum. And that is why we have advised him to change his advisers and bring in people who have brains and who can tell him the truth,” she said.
The civil society groups led by Comrade Ayodele Akele had urged the government to, among other things, name the Human Rights Commission headquarters after him.
The United States government on Friday indicted the President Goodluck Jonathan led Federal Government of massive and widespread corruption.
According to the United States Department of State, government officials and agencies frequently engage in corrupt practices with impunity.
This was contained in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012, which was released on Friday evening.
In the report, the judiciary and security agencies, especially the police, were said be lacking in transparency.
It read in part,“The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Massive, widespread, and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government and the security forces. The constitution provides immunity from civil and criminal prosecution for the president, vice president, governors, and deputy governors while in office.
“There was a widespread perception judges were easily bribed and litigants could not rely on the courts to render impartial judgments. Citizens encountered long delays and alleged requests from judicial officials for bribes to expedite cases or obtain favourable rulings.
“Police corruption remained rampant. Reports of checkpoint bribery and shooting incidents decreased in February after newly appointed Inspector General of Police Mohammed Abubakar announced the closure of all police checkpoints across the country; however, illegal checkpoints remained common in some regions. Police routinely stopped drivers who did not commit traffic infractions, refusing to allow them to continue until they paid bribes,” it stated.
Highlighting events that occurred in the country in last year that portrayed lack of transparency and probity, the US government listed the escape of the suspected mastermind of the Boko Haram 2011 Christmas Day bombing from custody, noting how the police commissioner, who aided the suspect went unpunished; the conviction of former Delta State governor James Ibori in the Southwark Crown Court in London of charges of money laundering and other financial crimes totaling N12.4bn, after he was acquitted by a Nigerian court; and the N1.067trn fuel subsidy fund lost to “endemic corruption and entrenched inefficiency” as examples.
It stated that, “In July, the government released a list of those who had benefited illegally from the subsidy program, which included relatives and colleagues of key government officials. In late July, the EFCC began arraigning suspects, first with a group of 20 indictments, including six oil companies and 11 individuals. By year’s end, the EFCC initiated prosecutions of approximately 50 cases related to the subsidy scam. The majority of these cases involved companies and individuals who had fraudulently received subsidy revenue. Investigations and trials had not produced any convictions by year’s end.”
The US document also faulted the refusal of public officials to declare their assets as stipulated by law.
It stated that in June 2012, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and other groups demanded that President Jonathan should disclose his assets from 2007 to 2012 but that Jonathan refused.
The report also rated the anticorruption efforts of the Independent Corrupt Practises and other related offences Commission and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission as “largely ineffectual,” adding that despite ICPC’s wide mandate, it had only achieved 60 convictions since its inauguration in 2000.
It also listed a number of cases being handled by the EFCC that have remained inconclusive, including the case of alleged misappropriation of one N1bn against former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, and N40bn against his deputy Usman Nafada; and the cases against four former governors Gbenga Daniel, Adebayo Alao-Akala, Aliyu Akwe Doma, and Muhammed Danjuma Goje, for allegedly misappropriating N58bn, N25bn, N18bn, and N12.8bn, respectively.
Apart from corruption, the US accused the Federal Government of numerous unlawful killings.
It decried frequent abduction of civilians and lack of press freedom, highlighting cases, where journalists were harassed and beaten up.
It also noted widespread discrimination against persons with disability.
The Presidency, however, described the report as an incorrect assessment of the situation in the country.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, warned Nigerians to be wary of such assessments which he described as “parachute researches.”
He said contrary to the picture the report painted, the present administration has remained the most transparent government since the return of democracy to Nigeria.
He said it was in the spirit of transparency that the present administration exposed the scam in the downstream sector of the petroleum industry and passed the Freedom of Information Bill.
He said, “In 2012 that the report is talking about, the EFCC alone got more than 200 convictions. This is in public domain.
“This government did an audit to eliminate waste and leakages in the system.
“On the checkpoints they talked about, it is important that they identify the difference between checkpoints and stop-and-search operation which is required especially in tackling security challenges.
“Nigerians should be wary of these external assessors that jump into conclusion. What are the parameters used in arriving at their conclusion? How scientific are the analysis?
“They assess Nigeria based on the instinct of a parachuter who jumps put of an aircraft without a fair knowledge of where he is landing.”
Embattled Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, has broken his silence and disclosed that President Goodluck Jonathan is witch-hunting him because of his opposition to gargantuan corruption in the fuel subsidy regime by the Federal Government.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, also divulged that he has been blacklisted by the presidency and ostracised from some official functions, especially foreign missions.
Amaechi disclosed that efforts are also being made by Jonathan to bully him out of the chairmanship of the NGF because he has maintained that corruption in the petrol subsidy payments must stop.
At a seminar organised in Ikogosi Ekiti, Ekiti State, southwest Nigeria, by The Future Project, Amaechi said subsidy payment is mired in fraud, as federal officials “balloon the figures.”
He said the presidency is not happy with him for insisting that transparency and accountability are needed in the payment of petrol subsidy.
Amaechi said it was for this reason that the Governors Forum went to court to challenge the legality of the federal government’s action of using money meant for the three tiers of government to pay for petrol subsidy.
“It is one reason they don’t want me as governors’ chairman,” Amaechi said at the seminar.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Tony Anenih, on Tuesday, pleaded with Amaechi, not to defect from the party.
Anenih and other PDP stalwarts were in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital on Tuesday on a mission to mend fences with the governor.
The Federal Government has said that it would not extradite a former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, to the United Kingdom to face money laundering charges.
While reacting to a statement by the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Andrew Pocock, the FG accused the envoy of challenging the sovereignty of the country.
The President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration stated that it was not willing to extradite Alamieyeseigha because the British government did not go through ‘appropriate channels.’
An highly-placed government official who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter said, “The UK cannot dictate to us. The government is not willing to extradite the former governor because of what they (UK) are saying on the pages of newspapers.”
Also, SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that the UK request to extradite Alamieyeseigha predated President Goodluck Jonathan administration.
Pocock was reported on Thursday to have said Alamieyeseigha, who recently got state pardon for his criminal conviction in Nigeria, still has an outstanding case of money laundering to answer to in the UK.
He said the UK government would not give up until Alamieyeseigha was brought to justice.
According to the envoy, the UK had asked the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice for Alamieyeseigha’s extradition and was still awaiting his position on the issue when Jonathan announced the state pardon.
He had said, “The former governor skipped bail in the UK on a charge of money laundering and returned to Nigeria. So, he has an outstanding charge in the UK, which is there for him to answer.
“We have already discussed it and the Nigerian government knows our views. But we would like to see him return and answer charge in the UK.
“I am very sure we asked in the past. But I am not sure we got a formal response. So, we are still waiting for a formal response from the Nigerian government.”
But a government spokesperson, who pleaded anonymity, told our correspondent that the request which Pocock talked about was an old one that was made shortly after the former governor returned to Nigeria.
When asked why the present administration refused to take action on an old request, he said, “The request is an old one. It was not made under this administration, you can check the date. The request predates this administration.
“I am sure the request must have been made in 2005/2006 when the events happened. That surely was before the inception of this administration.
“In any case, it is inappropriate for the envoy to be addressing issues such as this on the pages of newspapers. There are established diplomatic channels to address such issues because diplomacy has its own rules.
“What is expected of a foreign diplomat in another country is to go through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs if he has such an observation to make.
“A diplomat is not expected to behave in a manner suggesting that he is interfering in the internal affairs of his host country. Diplomacy on the pages of newspapers is odd, it is almost like joining a protest movement.
“He is expected to go through the proper diplomatic channels. Reacting on the pages of newspapers amount to challenging the sovereignty of the country and meddlesomeness in the affairs of the country.
“The action also amounts to carrying placards and joining protest against the host country.”
When contacted, the Chief Press Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Ambrose Momoh, said he was not aware of the UK request.
Momoh also said the minister, Mohammed Adoke, was not in town, and as a result, he could not immediately reach the AGF to get his (AGF’s) official position on the matter.
Similarly, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ogbole Ahmedu-Ode, said he was not aware of the request.
“All I can tell you is that normally, such request is routed through the foreign affairs ministry.
“All communication between foreign missions accredited to the country is through the ministry. For example, if an ambassador wants to visit the president or any minister, he writes the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for clearance. The same thing applies to correspondence.
“Anything short of this is a breach of diplomatic procedure,” he added.
Meanwhile, the National Publicity Secretary, Action Congress of Nigeria, Lai Mohammed, has warned the Federal Government against endangering its ties with other countries. He said Nigeria might be ostracised in the comity of nations if government did so.
Mohammed said, “We live in a global world and there’s inter-relationship between countries. Without commenting on the rightness or wrongness of the recent pardon of Alamieyeseigha, we warn the government not to jeopardise the interest of Nigerians because of any man.
“There is supposed to be cooperation among various countries on issues such as terrorism, money laundering, drug trafficking, etc. To that extent, the government is not correct to say that the UK demand is an attempt to meddle in the internal affairs of the country.”
Also, the National Publicity Secretary, Congress for Progressive Change, Rotimi Fashakin, said Jonathan would be playing with fire, if he attempted to shield Alamieyeseigha.
He argued that Alamieyeseigha committed an offence in Britain and jumped bail to avoid prosecution.
He said, “It is within international law; Nigeria is a signatory to an international treaty. It is not about Britain meddling in Nigeria’s internal affairs, no. The UK has the right under a known international law to request that Nigeria extradites him. The judicial process of his trial has not been concluded.”
Similarly, the Executive Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Debo Adeniran, said the Nigerian government shields corrupt leaders.
He said, “President Jonathan had declared that Alamieyeseigha is his benefactor. So, he has to protect him by all means.
“Nigeria has not been respecting the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty it signed with the UK. That is why it could not give enough evidence against James Ibori, when the UK requested Nigeria to confirm that he was wanted for criminal activities. The Nigerian government is practically and openly protecting corrupt leaders.”
Alamieyeseigha, then a serving governor, escaped from the custody of the British authorities when he fled back to Nigeria in September, 2005.
The pardon granted Alamieyeseigha by Jonathan had also led to a diplomatic row between Nigeria and the United States with the latter threatening to sanction Nigeria for Jonathan’s action.
AMID mounting opposition to the presidential pardon that was allegedly granted former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, erstwhile Chief of General Staff, Lt.-Gen. Oladipo Diya (rtd) and others, the Presidency Wednesday rose in stout defence of the Federal Government’s move.
This came as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) absolved itself from involvement in the move by the Federal Government and Lagos-based right group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) threatened national and international legal actions to challenge the alleged presidential pardon.
The group said the legal action was also to challenge “this flagrant abdication of legal and moral responsibility to combat corruption, which can only ensure that high ranking corrupt officials profit from their crime.”
In a statement by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, SERAP called on the government of President Goodluck Jonathan to “rescind without further delay the alleged state pardon granted former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, and former head, Bank of the North, Shettima Bulama.”
The Senior Special Assistant for Public Affairs to President Goodluck Jonathan, Doyin Okupe, Wednesday morning questioned the overwhelming condemnation that greeted the state pardon granted Alamieyeseigha and other ex-convicts by the National Council of State.
The Senior Special Assistant, who was a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, said Nigerians should respect a decision taken by those in position of authority whether it was favourable or not.
“It is like a parent, it is not every decision a parent takes that is palatable or acceptable to the children,” he said.
The National Council of State reportedly on Tuesday granted state pardon to Alamieyeseigha and other ex-convicts, including Oladipo Diya, Maj. Bello Magaji, Mohammed Lima Biu, Maj.-Gen. Abdulkareem Adisa (post-humous), Maj. Segun Fadipe and former head of the Bank of the North, Shettima Bulama.
Okupe had told Channels Television he had no apologies for the decision which was taken by an institution created by the Nigerian constitution, asking: “What is wrong in giving a remorseful sinner pardon?”
At the end of the meeting of the National Council of State in Abuja on Tuesday, where the pardon was reportedly granted, State House correspondents were not briefed but sources confirmed that the former governor was granted presidential pardon alongside some others whose names were presented to the council.
“Yes. It is true that presidential pardon was approved for the former governor at the meeting,” one of the state governors at the meeting, who pleaded anonymity, said.
But that position was contradicted by one of his colleagues, Murtala Nyako from Adamawa State who claimed that no former governor’s name was mentioned at the meeting though he confirmed that the issue of “state pardon” was discussed.
Nyako had told some journalists that the council deliberated on the possibility of granting state clemency to a certain category of offenders both at state and federal levels.
“No such issue was discussed and I didn’t see the name of any governor. But we considered the issue of state pardon for people who committed certain offences.”
This development has brought to mind events that led to the resignation of Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe who was the Chief of General Staff under Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.
Sources then said Ukiwe had allegedly demanded from Babangida why and how Nigeria became a member of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) since the matter was not discussed at the Supreme Military Council (SMC) meetings where it would have come up for deliberation.
Infuriated at the seeming underhandedness with which the decision to join OIC was taken, Ukiwe was said to have resigned.
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Joint Campus Committee in Oyo State has also condemned the presidential pardon.
In a statement made available to reporters in Ibadan by the vice chairman, Lekan Salawu, the students said the ‘so-called’ pardon had once again demonstrated the inability of the Federal Government to fight corruption.
“At a time when corruption has become a ceremonial jamboree, it is unfortunate that President Jonathan can still go ahead in celebrating corrupt Nigerians. Nigerian students in Oyo State doubt the genuineness of the intention of the Federal Government on this action.”
“President Jonathan should have detribalised himself by not including the former governor in the list of those that will be pardoned if really the pardon is not ethnic and politically-motivated. We want to make it clear to Mr. Jonathan that if all these actions are in the interest of his 2015 election, no doubt this is a failed calculation.”
The students lamented that with the recent development, it would be a matter of time for the likes of the convicted PDP chief, Bode George, as well as erstwhile Inspector-General of Police, Tafa Balogun, alongside others to be pardoned.
The students called on the Federal Government to stop disrespecting Nigerians before the international community and put politics aside in the discharge of its constitutional duties.
Briefing reporters at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja yesterday, the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Olisa Metuh, declared that members of the party’s leadership read the news of the pardon on the pages of the newspapers like other Nigerians.
“The National Working Committee (NWC) of the party has not discussed the issue of the pardon. We read as other Nigerians read it. So, we have no comment on it for now,” Metu said.
The party also announced the commencement of its nationwide reconciliatory tour to all six geo-political zones, which it said, would facilitate party cohesion.
Metuh said that the tour would start tomorrow in the South- West in Ibadan and end March 24 in Abuja.
“The reconciliatory tour is meant to reconcile all interests, groups and contending issues in the party that posed threat to party’s unity and cohesion,” he said.
He condemned what he called a desperate attempt to blame the PDP for the failure of the All Peoples Congress (APC) to properly organise itself for registration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Metuh accused APC of being desperate to wrestle power from the PDP without any concrete plan to provide good governance for Nigerians.
Alamieyeseigha was convicted of fraud for false declaration of assets and money laundering and subsequently jailed for two years.
President Goodluck Jonathan was Alamieyeseigha’s deputy in Bayelsa State.
First elected governor on the platform of the (PDP) in 1999 and re-elected in 2003, he was arrested at the London Heathrow Airport by the Metropolitan Police on September 15, 2005 on suspicion of money laundering.
Alamieyeseigha jumped bail in December 2005 and returned to Nigeria and was eventually impeached by the Bayelsa State House of Assembly the same month.
Two major opposition political parties on Sunday raised the alarm over the arrest of former Governor of Zamfara State, Senator Sani Yerima, saying the act was aimed at intimidating members of the opposition by the Federal Government.
The two parties, Action Congress of Nigeria and the All Nigerian Peoples Party, described as unacceptable the arrest of Yerima in Kaduna State over alleged inciting comments on a live radio programme run by the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, Kaduna.
Though the Senator was released barely hours after, the National Publicity Secretary of the ACN, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the arrest might signal an impending clampdown on the opposition by what it described as “an increasingly jittery Federal Government.”
The party said Yerima’s arrest by the police, for saying in a radio interview that there would be a mass protest if the Independent National Electoral Commission refused to register the newly formed All Progressive Congress after it would have met all legal requirements, was nothing short of “budding fascism.”
It said Yerima did not say anything extra-ordinary by threatening a protest, adding that protests remained an integral part of liberal democracy and could not be wished away or banned by anyone.
The party also accused the ruling Peoples Democratic Party of working in conjunction with some unnamed people to register what it called a “phantom African Peoples Congress,” which it said was done to deny the APC registration with the INEC.
The statement said, “We will like to say, in support of Senator Yerima, that if INEC refuses to register the All Progressives Congress, when all the legal requirements have been met, the protest in Tahrir Square in Egypt will be a child’s play compared to what we will do at the Eagle Square.
“We say this because we are aware that the Peoples Democratic Party, which is mortally afraid of the rise and rise of the APC, is behind the phantom African Peoples Congress which has applied to INEC for registration, in an effort to instigate an acronym crisis and give INEC a reason, if it needs any, not to register the All Progressives Congress.
‘’But we will like to warn that if indeed INEC has not merged with the PDP, as one of our leaders, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) has brilliantly said, then we do hope that the electoral body, which by the way is not unaware of the All Progressives Congress as the authentic APC, will not succumb to the evil machinations of the apprehensive PDP.’’
The party said it expected more arrests, investigations by the anti-corruption agencies and other acts aimed at intimidating its leaders in the weeks and months ahead, but warned the Federal Government to make sure it had enough prison space to accommodate those it plans to arrest.
“After all, it is generally believed that the recent redeployment of Police commissioners in the states was done in readiness for the pre-2015 clampdown on the opposition. We know the arrest of Senator Yerima is just a tip of the iceberg, as the PDP-controlled FG gets ready to bare its fangs. But we must warn that fascism can never prevail over liberal democracy,” it said.
The ANPP, in another statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Emma Eneukwu, said the arrest of Yerima was “a sign of things to come from the ruling PDP as they are patently jumpy over the coalition of progressives in readiness for the 2015 elections.”
It said that under Nigeria’s democracy, free speech is allowed and that the Senator was merely exercising his rights without breaching public peace by any means.
“Moreover, peaceful demonstration is also legal. If Senator Yerima expresses doubts about the sincerity of the ruling party in supporting democratic best practices and calls for a future peaceful demonstration, it is only a government which has malicious agenda that would take offence at such opinion,” the statement added.
The party reminded all democracy lovers in Nigeria that dictatorship would not happen overnight but that it would start in trickles “until it culminates in a breaking point when the silent rivulets of evil break the dam of reason, and everything comes tumbling down.”
It added that history had shown that the German dictator, Adolf Hitler, began his career of turning his nation upside down by muzzling the opposition at the slightest excuse, and installing Nazi supporters to control the critical aspects of the national life.
Efforts made to speak with the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, were not successful as calls made to his mobile telephone indicated that it was switched off.
He also did not respond to a message sent to the same mobile telephone in which our correspondent asked for his reaction.
Also, the South-East zone of the yet-to-be-registered opposition alliance party, APC, on Sunday, condemned the arrest of the ex-governor, saying the action was unbecoming of the Nigeria Police Force.
It said in a statement by the Publicity Secretary of the interim management of the APC in the zone that, “The APC South-East wishes to caution that as we approach the 2015 general elections, intimidation and undue arrest should be consigned to the dark ages of the yore. And most importantly, that the relative frontiers of freedom which democracy bestowed on the nation shall not be abridged by any group or persons for self -preservation.”