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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Before The President Responds – By Dr Raymond Agubata



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Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo released to the press, a copy of a letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, dated 2nd December, 2013, titled – Before It Is Too Late. He accused Jonathan of all manner of infractions, from corruption to charges of training snipers and reneging on a commitment to spend only one term in office. He released advance copies to General’s Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalam Abubakar, two former Heads of State who Obasanjo claimed, share the same views on the issues he raised in the letter and to General Theophilus Danjuma and Dr Alex Ekwueme who he said had strong views on Nigeria, whatever that means.


The only issue the President needs to respond to is the Atlantic oil issue. It is alleged that NPDC, a subsidiary of NNPC ceded practically its crude oil lifting rights of about 300,000 barrels of crude a day to Atlantic Oil Company without corresponding remittances to the federation account. Every other issue raised and insinuations made by Obasanjo, represent nothing but politics and its posturing. The coordinated attempt to dress President Jonathan with a dark robe of corruption may not stick in a Country clearly overwhelmed and still unable to tackle the monster of corruption. Whatever may be happening in the government of the day, under Jonathan, happened under Babangida’s government, same for the government of Abdulsalami Abubakar, Sani Abacha and Olusegun Obasanjo. Where then is the moral authority of Obasanjo to pontificate on matters of corruption?


One major campaign launched against Jonathan’s government aside of the issue of taking the turn of the north, is the ‘marginalization of the Yoruba nation’. This campaign has been sustained by the same people who resisted having a PDP member from the south west occupy the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives which was zoned to the south west by the PDP. Yet, the biggest beneficiary of the Jonathan government, from Obasanjo’s letter, is the boss of Atlantic Oil, Jide Omokare, a Yoruba. This government guaranteed, 600 billion Naira loan for the Lagos State government which is more than the annual budget of the entire states in the south east and has guaranteed and invested in the over one billion dollar Lekki deep sea port project. If the problem was government appointments, that too is beginning to roll in. National Intelligence Agency, National Health Insurance Scheme, Nigeria Export Promotional Council all have new heads from the south west.


Obasanjo’s anger is traceable to the President’s roll out strategy in the south west zone which is forcing two disparate and mutually antagonistic groups, the Tinubu and Obasanjo groups into a forced marriage. No matter what Retired Justice Salami, former President of the Court of Appeal says, those who should know are very much aware that he was the ‘instrument’ that gave Bola Tinubu control of the south west. By moving against Justice Salami, President Jonathan committed a mortal sin that Tinubu and his forces will not forgive. Meanwhile, Obasanjo’s forces in the south west, Segun Oni, Oyinlola and co who launched the campaign against Salami and who expected to now use the instrumentality of the Jonathan Presidency to get back control of the south west, saw themselves loose control of the zonal machinery of the PDP to a rival group in the south west PDP led by Buruji Kashamu.

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It is against this back ground that Obasanjo’s letter and even Tinubu’s decision to align with strong forces in the North to form the APC should be situated. Jonathan’s multi pronged approach to break into the south west has direct impact on these two contending forces in very different ways but with the same consequence. The Mimiko option, that the President is propping up, drives both Obasanjo and Tinubu up the wall. The complete decapitation of Obasanjo’s group in Ogun State and south west zonal executives of the PDP and the exit of Onyilola as national secretary of the PDP were too much for him to swallow. The inability of Andy Uba to get the nomination of PDP for the Anambra governorship election held on November 16, 2013, was the last straw that……


It is quite obvious that the President is convinced that he would not make much of an inroad into the south west with Obasanjo as the arrow head. The point has been made by forces loyal to him in the south west that Obasanjo is unpopular in the zone. Obasanjo on his own part believes that all he needs to recapture the south west is the Presidents backing which the President has studiously withheld. Obasanjo had tried all the tricks he knew to get the President to play his own script in the south west to no avail. It was time for him to take on the President publicly.


The forces massing against the President Jonathan’s re-election are quite formidable and they have shown tremendous capacity through propaganda to cause disaffection within the PDP and they may have succeeded in creating cracks within the south east zone which hitherto, was a safe territory for the President. It is not the advance of Governor Rochas Okorocha and Senator Chris Ngige in the zone that is creating the crack. It is the Presidents submission to an insidious campaign that Igbo’s are too many and have strong influence in his government, so much so that appointment of Igbo’s in the administration have been embargoed.


The President announced to the whole world that he had asked that certain positions be advertised so that the best hands can be picked for key government institutions. The Federal Inland Revenue Service[FIRS], the National Health Insurance scheme[NHIS] and several other institutions where interviews were conducted by independent consultants, had the results upturned and the best were denied the appointments because of their state of origin. A good number of these people are from the south east and it is causing a great deal of disquiet in the zone.


What are those positions that Igbo’s occupy in Jonathan’s government that should lead to such an embargo and what is the special thing that Jonathan has done for the Igbo? We got Enugu-International Airport. What else? The second Niger-bridge is still on the drawing board. They claim that the Igbo’s control the governments financial sector – Finance Minister, Securities and exchange commission, sovereign wealth fund and the stock exchange. What projects do these institutions embark on? Is the one billion dollar mandate of the SWF invested in the bank of Biafra? The Nigeria stock exchange is a private organization with Aliko Dangote as the President of its council. It was the council that recruited Oscar Onyema as its Director General.

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But you have a zone, the north-west that has the Vice President, The Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Governor of the Central Bank, Comptroller General of the Customs and wait for this, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC at the same time. If I add the Chief Justice of the federation then you begin to wonder who exactly is in charge. Can someone please take all the positions presently in the south east and make an Igbo, head the NNPC for once in the history of this country Nigeria.


The mention of history brings me to one of the issues raised by General Obasanjo in his letter to the President. He made ominous comments on the alleged use or misuse of the military for personal and political purposes with a warning – ‘let history not repeat itself’. The appointment of Lt General Onyeabor Ihejirika as the Chief of Army Staff on the 8th of September, 2010 was one move President Jonathan made that endeared him to the Igbo people. Ihejirika is the first Igbo to occupy the position since Aguiyi Ironsi. But as you would expect, it turned a good number of the civil war ‘heroes’ and professional Igbo haters against the President. Even this position is important only for its psychological impact.


The decision of President Jonathan to place an embargo on appointment of Igbo’s into high office under his administration has very serious consequences as several Igbo groups have started a comprehensive review of the federal budgetary allocations under this government and the preliminary reports are shocking. The south east is behind all the zones in the country except the north east. This is right under the nose of the ‘almighty finance minister’. The Igbo control none of the branches of government. The north controls the Judiciary and the legislature. The south-south controls the executive. There is no basis for the Igbo-phobia that has suddenly taken root in this administration.


The Presidents opponents have stampeded him into creating a major crack in his backyard. The real tragedy is that Nigeria’s first graduate President and one with a doctorate degree is undermining a merit based society. The President has the right to appoint who he likes into any office in order to create balance or to achieve whatever objective. But once you introduce a process of selecting the best person to run any organization, you are bound to pick the best, the winner. That is justice.


Dr Raymond Agubata.

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