Alhaji Mujaheed Asari Dokubo needs no introduction in Nigeria. He is the foremost leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force who has continued to champion the cause of the Niger Delta, including doing so in the past through organised militia mostly made up of able-bodied men of Ijaw origin. As a charismatic leader, Asari has been viewed as a folk hero in the Niger Delta. His brevity, outspokenness and his confrontational posture on Niger Delta issues earned him the status of chief enemy of the Nigerian State. He has at various times paid for his opposing stand and outbursts by being a guest of Nigerian prisons. Asari Dokubo is an action man; as a leader, he commands his troops by being in the forefront and he is never afraid of pulling the trigger when the need arises.
When Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, his fellow Ijaw man, was made the vice president, Asari Dokubo and few other militant leaders did not waste time to seize the opportunity. It is no longer news that the demise of Musa Yar’Adua that promoted GEJ to president provided the platform for Asari Dokubo to become a force to be reckoned with in the presidency. He has no choice but to play along and work for the actualisation of the Niger Delta project till date. In his characteristic manner, he has continued to shout in defence of the president, taking on forces bent on destabilizing his government.
Asari Dokubo has continued to challenge the terrorist group, the Boko Haram, whom the president alleged at some point has infiltrated his cabinet. In August this year, Asari threatened to bomb the North if the region failed to stop the killing of innocent Christians from the South. He also warned of the dire consequences, including civil war of unimaginable proportion, if anything untoward happens to GEJ. As a devout Moslem, Asari Dokubo is not new to the teachings of the Koran and has challenged the boko haramists to open debate. Therefore, his recent interview granted to a sun newspaper in which he openly chastised GEJ for his feud with prominent people that made him president and warned him of greedy people and nonperformers in his cabinet including the alleged corrupt minister of the Niger Delta, Elder Godsday Orubebe, should be viewed with every sense of seriousness in the context of GEJ’s seeming unpopularity and 2015 permutations.
Many who followed the drama that led to the emergence of GEJ as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria know that Obasanjo deserves all the credit. Prior to becoming the vice president, it was on record that Obasanjo cleared the difficult terrain for GEJ to become the governor of Bayelsa State after nailing the political future of his principal Chief Diepreye Solomon PeterAlamieyeseigha. The choice of GEJ to run for the highest office in the land with late Musa Yar’Adua did not come on a platter of gold. Obasanjo destroyed every opposition in the mould of Dr. Peter Odili and James Ibori. With the then vice president Atiku Abubakar in the race and with his huge war chest many believed that without Obasanjo, GEJ becoming a vice president could have been described as a pipe dream. Having rescued power from this group and handed it to GEJ, many believed that Obasanjo had built a political dynasty for himself with GEJ as a major beneficiary. Therefore, Asari Dokubo was merely stating the obvious when he berated Jonathan for openly disagreeing with Obasanjo. He also frowned at the fact that GEJ abandoned the former Information and Communication Minister, Prof. Dora Akunyili.
Obasanjo put up a strong fight for corruption during his time using the dreaded anti-graft czar, Malam Nuhu Ribadu. Though he was accused of fighting his political enemies, however, not many agreed on this because the likes of Tafa Balogun, Joshua Dariye, Ayodele Fayose, Ade Bendel, Fred Ajudua, Emmanuel Nwude, Maurice Ibekwe and others are still very fresh. It was on record that Obasanjo also sacked and subsequently prosecuted serving ministers, among whom was Prof. Fabian Osuji, the then Minister for Education. Therefore, it should be noted that Obasanjo raised the fight for corruption to the next level and created a good platform for which the war could have been won. Unfortunately, the fight appears to have been lost under the current administration and immediate past administration. Former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori, currently languishing in London prison and who had been cleared of any wrong doing by the previous administration is a classic reference.
Political analysts also agreed that Obasanjo has a strong knack for recruiting tested and competent professionals during his time. Some of them include; Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Oby Ezekwesili (a.k.a Madam Due Process), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Prof. Dora Akunyili, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, Prof. Charles Soludo, among others. The contribution of this team was visible in the areas of telecommunication, privatisation, debt relief, bank consolidation, food and drug regulation, recovery of looted funds and restoration of Abuja master plan, among others.
Asari Dokubo admitted that he has benefitted immensely from Jonathan. However, he re-iterated that benefit is not enough to make him keep quiet when the period is very challegeing for his people who have continued to die in hundreds as a result of bad leadership and corruption. He made a particular reference to the deplorable state of the East West Road and the resulting accidents all to the shame of the incumbent minister of Niger Delta, Elder Godsday Orubebe.
Despite the fact that Asari Dokubo openly declared that he hated Obasanjo, he refused to join issues with greedy and political jobbers who where fanning the notion that Obasanjo is manipulating GEJ. He asked those who cared to listen what GEJ has achieved to show a departure from other governments since 1956. He also wondered what kind of advice Obasanjo gave to GEJ that was so difficult to fulfil. Asari Dokubo equally brought to the fore how Prof. Dora Akunyili was frustrated out of the cabinet. While Obasanjo brought GEJ to the presidency, it was Prof. Dora Akunyili that dared the cabal and showed her heroism through the controversial memo that cleared the road for GEJ to become the acting president and subsequently the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Prof. Akunyili had earlier distinguished herself as an administrator of international repute when she was the DG of NAFDAC. Her uncommon courage and doggedness also led to her victory against the fake food and drug cabals, bringing sanity to a once comatose NAFDAC.
Akunyili was posted to the Ministry of Information and Communication to give credibility to the government using her reputation. On assumption of office, she vowed to crash the prices of GSM calls within few months. She also fought to reverse the sale of 2.3 GHz spectrum licence due to lack of transparency in the biding process. Not knowing she had stepped into another landmine, the cabals were not sleeping. Curiously, the presidency wielded the big hammer and transferred the telecom regulatory agency, Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), from her office to that of the Minister of State, the first of its kind. Many had wondered why it took the presidency six months to reverse the sale of the controversial 2.3GHz spectrum licence and order the NCC, to refund the three companies, Mobitel, Spectranet and Multi-Links Telkom, their licence fees and start a fresh bid immediately.
Questions were asked why GEJ returned Akunyili to the Ministry of Information and Communications despite the fact that key ministries that needed urgent turn around were available. Without doubt, Dora, if given the opportunity, could have solved the problems in Aviation, Works, Health, Education or the Ministry of Petroleum. As things turned out, Prof. Akunyili excused herself to run for a senatorial post under APGA, which had a working agreement to work for Jonathan’s election, with a promise that the party would be given ministerial slots. Akunyili put up a satisfactory performance in the senate run. Twice she won her appeal against Dr. Chris Ngige of the ACN but later lost the seat because the case had dragged for more than the constitutional 180 days. Many have wondered why GEJ has not returned Prof. Akunyili to his cabinet after the tribunal verdict.
Asari Dokubo was not alone to voice out his concern on the dwindling electoral fortunes of his kinsman. Just last week, a foremost security consultant from Northern Nigeria, Mr. Gadzama Tafida, in a current affairs discussion anchored by BEN TV in London, lampooned Jonathan for his lack of bite to fight corruption and the leaders and sponsors of the dreaded Boko Haram that has infilterated his cabinet and other government apparatus. Similarly, the Bishop of Bomadi Catholic Vicariate, Archbishop Hyacinth Ogbebor, during the funeral service of Late Andrew Azazi, exercised his apostolic liberty and expressed disappointment over poor governance and deplorable condition of infrastructure in Bayelsa State in particular and Nigeria in general. Ogbebor specifically took a swipe at GEJ and the minister of Niger Delta for their inability to fix the dilapidated East-West Road. He remarked that Azazi’s death could have been avoid if the road is in good shape. The Bishop did not spare the public officers whom he noted are deliberately impoverishing Nigerians through acts of corruption and lip-service to issues of development and campaign against corrupt practices in the country. Most analysts reasoned that GEJ needed a military leader in the mould of Obasanjo to navigate the difficult security terrain mounted by a greedy and corrupt cabal bent in disgracing him out of office.
While the 2015 elections draw nearer, GEJ needs to assert himself and convince Nigerians that he is capable. It took GEJ several weeks to select members of his current cabinet and yet the quality of this team, according to Asari Dokubo, appears to have been Nigeria’s last eleven. If GEJ is desirous of wining any vote in 2015, he should use the long awaited cabinet reshuffle to reposition himself, weed out non-performing ministers and infuse tested and courageous blood like Prof. Dora Akunyili and the like of Oby Ezekwesili to drive his transformation agenda. Presidential spokesman Dr. Reuben Abati differs with Asari Dokubo’s recent submission on GEJ’s popularity which is at the lowest ebb. I would urge Dr. Abati to take a two-week sabbatical leave back to Guardian Newspapers. It is only when that is done that he would appreciate the enormity of Asari Dokubo and Archbishop Hyacinth Ogbebor’s outburst and be able to call a spade a spade.
E.C. Martins is a research associate based in London.