Though President Goodluck Jonathan has been credited for some relief in the polity, especially on the media, his recent clampdown on media houses, many opposition politicians and even some PDP members, has been seen as reactionary and part of his bid to contest and win the 2015 election at all cost.
For the second time in a year, the federal government on Thursday grounded the helicopter chartered to fly Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, from Benin airport to Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, to attend the final mega-rally of Governor Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) for today’s election. Ex-governor Ayo Fayose of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele of Labour Party (LP) are the other top contenders in the election.
Seventeen other candidates are flying their parties’ flags in the contest.
Oshiomole whose helicopter was first grounded on June 7 last year after it was recalled mid-air, was not alone in this ‘flight denial’ as Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, was also stopped from attending the rally as he was also reportedly denied leaving the Akure airport when he went back to board his plane back to Port Harcourt, after his convoy was stopped by security operatives from entering Ekiti State.
A statement by Oshiomole’s chief press secretary, Peter Okhiria, said Air Commodore Awomodu, who delivered the message on the grounding of the helicopter, explained that it was an order “from above.”
“The governor, who was billed to attend a mass rally organised to conclude the re-election campaigns of Governor Fayemi was left stranded at the Benin Airport for two hours before Air Commodore Awomodu delivered the message ‘from above,’” Okhiria said.
He recalled that the same helicopter was grounded on June 7 last year by agents of the federal government, adding that “a source at the 81 Air Maritime Group, who declined to mention his name, said it ( action) was purely ‘a military affair.”’
The spokesman said Oshiomhole expressed shock at the development “as other APC governors and party leaders were not allowed to fly to Ekiti.”
He said: “The Airport Manager, Mr. Sunday Ayodele, and the Airspace Manager, Mr. Ibekwe, said they had no hands in the governor’s ordeal as they had no directive to that effect.
“It will be recalled that on June 7, 2013, an OAS helicopter ferrying the Edo State governor to Awka, Anambra State, was recalled mid-air and grounded by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency. The Filipino pilot of the OAS chopper, Captain James Manahash, had said at the time “we were already airborne when we got the call to return to the airport and was even threatened that failure to do so would lead to complete grounding of the aircraft. The governor prevailed on me to return and listen to them.”
Rivers State commissioner for information and communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, told journalists in Port Harcourt that Amaechi was ambushed and held hostage by soldiers and other security agents.
She said the operatives acting on an ‘order from above’ prevented the governor from leaving Akure, the Ondo State capital.
She said while Amaechi’s chartered aircraft was grounded at the Akure airport, the ministers of State for Defence and Police Affairs landed at the same airport.
“The Rivers State Government is concerned about the safety of Governor Amaechi who is right now being held hostage in commando-like style by soldiers and other Federal Government security agents in Odudu, Ondo State. Governor Amaechi, as the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, and as an APC governor had left Port Harcourt this (Thursday) morning for Ekiti State, where he was to join his brother governor in his last mega rally before the election.
“He was ambushed and refused entry into Ekiti by military personnel acting on orders from above. He made to turn back and return to Akure where his chartered aircraft was parked but was chased by armed soldiers and security personnel in Odudu, Ondo State.”
She recalled that the incident in Ondo State was coming on the heels of a similar one in Kano last week and also the call to put Amaechi under surveillance on the same day that PDP started efforts to unseat the governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako.
Amaechi’s convoy later returned to the airport and left for Port Harcourt at about 3 pm.
Many believe that actions directed by the presidency in a desperate attempt to muscle out the opposition ahead of next year’s crucial elections. Some even suggest that Jonathan has indeed declared to war on his real and perceived adversaries. But Presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati and PDP national publicity secretary, Olisa Metuh, denied that the president was persecuting the opposition.
Abati, in a statement yesterday, said it was wrong to accuse President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration of repression.
“If anything, this administration has been most tolerant of opposition and most respectful of everybody’s right of association. This accusation cannot stand at all…Rather than cry wolf where there is none, it is the APC and its leaders that should embark on soul searching”, he said.
Reacting to inquiry, Chief Olisa Metuh, told Weekly Trust by telephone that what happened in Ekiti between security operatives and some governors was not new and that the president was neither involved nor even persecuting opposition members or politicians.
“What happened was that the INEC and security agencies were working to ensure the success of the Ekiti election. They were taking familiar measures that were taken in Edo where APC won, in Ondo where Labour Party won and in Anambra where APGA (All Progressive Grand Alliance) won. Why is it now that PDP is gaining popularity and poised to win that the opposition are crying foul where there is none?”Metuh said.
But the national chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, said yesterday in Lagos that there is nowhere in the world that airports are shut at the whims and caprices of the ruling party just to punish the opposition and that it is unfortunate that in recent times, the airports in Kano and Gombe, among others, have been shut just to prevent PDP’s rivals from using them.
“If an army captain and his troops can enforce unlawful orders, as was done when Gov. Amaechi and other key leaders of our party were denied their constitutionally-guaranteed rights of free movement, free assembly and free speech, just to mention a few, can’t the same troops be given orders to hijack ballot boxes or tamper with the electoral process in Ekiti on Saturday? Doesn’t this give a cause for concern in view of the over-militarization of Ekiti State ostensibly to provide security for the election but now obviously to stifle the process and rig the election?” Oyegun wondered.
“Is President Jonathan aware of the treatment being meted out to elected governors under his watch? If so, what is he doing to stop this madness before it gets out of hand? These are some of the questions agitating our minds and, indeed, the minds of all Nigerians,” he said.
Reacting to the development, a chieftain of the APC and former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, warned the federal government against turning the country into a police state.
His media office said in a statement that the action of the PDP-led federal government in stopping the governors of Kano, Rivers and Edo from attending the APC governorship campaign rally in Ado-Ekiti in a Gestapo-like manner was capable of turning Nigeria into a banana republic where fundamental rights of citizens are trampled upon with impunity.
Atiku said he was particularly miffed at the way the federal government has been dragging the military and police into politics warning “the government must stop instigating state security agents paid from tax payers money against helpless, hapless and law abiding Nigerians.”
The APC chieftain promised at the party’s national convention last week that he would lead the vanguard to unseat the Jonathan administration, which he described as inept and incompetent.
He urged the military to remain focused on securing and protecting the territorial integrity of our great nation, especially in this time of terror attacks and insurgency across the country and also reminded Nigerians that a government that deprives its citizens of jobs and education as manifested by the on-going closure of some tertiary institutions, like polytechnics, shut now for a year, has alienated itself from the masses and will definitely suffer the repercussion at the polls, even if it uses force or not.
Also, the APC national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said it is condemnable that while Amaechi’s convoy was being detained in order to force them to turn back, the convoys of the minister of police affairs and minister of state for defence were allowed to pass.
“Several months ago, we warned that Nigeria under the watch of President Goodluck Jonathan was sliding into fascism and we were pilloried in certain quarters for daring to make such a statement. Today (Thursday), we have sadly been vindicated. Not even in the worst days of the abhorrent military dictatorship were things done this brazenly, with citizens being denied their fundamental rights of free movement, free assembly and free expression, all because of the desperation by the ruling party to win elections at all costs,” Mohammed said.
Former Benue State governor and Senate Minority Leader, George Akume, said judgment meted out to the two governors was unfair as Jonathan led all PDP governors and other stakeholders to the same Ekiti State for a similar rally for the ruling party’s candidate.
“It is shocking and embarrassing that soldiers (not even the police) will invade the state to not only frustrate a reciprocal rally by the APC but to also assault some of the
APC governors in the process. The questions to pose are could the soldiers have acted without the knowledge of their Commander-in-Chief? Where did they take their orders from? Is their action in tandem with their avowed loyalty to defend democracy in the country or an attempt to introduce a new system of government? To sum it all, is their action in conformity with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which the Armed Forces have sworn to uphold? Or is it a wake-up call of what to expect in 2015?” Akume asked.
He urged the president to respond to this situation promptly, appropriately and decisively before it gets out of control.
The Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) through its acting national publicity secretary, Mr Austin Ibok, told Weekly Trust yesterday that Jonathan’s action against opposition politicians and other Nigerians, including the media, was an act of desperation.
“A desperate person does not think rationally and would be extremely prone to mistakes, which he would still try to justify no matter how disappointing they may be,” Ibok said.
He said part of the mistakes of the government was the withdrawal of the case against Mohammed Abacha, son of the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, over stolen billions of Nigeria’s money, stressing that it was part of the president’s 2015 agenda.
“It is with outrage that CNPP received the news from Minister of Finance and Coordinating Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala that President Goodluck Jonathan is flushing down the drain N100 billion, in fact N413.68 billion for the 2015 presidential election,” he said.
He said the statement of Okonjo-Iweala that Nigeria will on June 25, receive the sum of 167 million euros from Liechtenstein, part of the looted funds recovered from the Abacha family and that the federal government withdraw the N100 billion charges against Mohammed Abacha, to ease the return of the N36.32 billion, was irrational.
“If Mohammed Abacha is still in the opposition will President Jonathan wave N100 billion or to be exact N413.68 billion? Does it add arithmetically to flush away N100 billion to ease the return of N36.32 billion. Is it not the same government that pronounced publicly that they are recovering N446 billion from Mohammed Abacha?” he said.
He said it was painful that not only has the president blatantly refused to officially and diligently request for the recovery of the looted funds by other Nigerians, but has because of the votes he hopes the Abachas will garner for him in Kano, flushed away N413.68 billion.
On another front, the love lost scenario between Jonathan and Nyako, whose state is among the three under the emergency rule, that led to the governor accusing the president of sponsoring and festering Boko Haram insurgency and also planning to assassinate him, took a turn for the worse leading to plot by the state assembly to impeach the governor and his deputy, Mr. Bala Ngilari.
The governor also cried out that forces behind the impeachment plot have frozen the state government’s accounts. Nyako’s director of press and public affairs, Ahmad Sajoh, who made the disclosure, also said the governor is yet to receive a copy of the impeachment notice served on him on Wednesday.
“They have frozen all our accounts today; no reason has been given for the action. We were not served any notice and nobody has told us why our accounts were frozen. We only heard from unofficial sources that our accounts were frozen based on instructions from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. We have not been told for what offence. This is a deliberate ploy to pit the people of the state against the government because they know that by freezing our accounts, we cannot pay June salaries. You can only imagine the kind of suffering our people will go through during this Ramadan which is barely two weeks away,” Sajoh said.
Reacting to the development, president of the Nigeria Voters Assembly (VOTAS), Comrade Mashood Erubami, said President Jonathan must act to stop the ongoing attempt to impeach Governor Nyako and his deputy, as it may lead to chaos which could have a spill-over effect in other states with daring consequences the end of which nobody can predict.
He said in a statement that the manipulated reactions of legislators in states previously under the PDP since the defection of some states governors to the APC has left much to be desired and could become an albatross if care is not taken and timely too.
Before the Adamawa saga, the president had also had rough encounters with Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, who also fell out alongside Nyako after their defection from the PDP to APC. Both Kwankwaso and the president openly accused each other of corruption.
The Emir of Kano, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was suspended as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria few months to the end of his tenure over the alarm he raised that $20 billion unremitted oil money by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was missing.
His emergence as the emir of Kano, a powerful and influential position, did not deter security agents under the directive of federal government to barricade the emir’s palace until the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sáad Abubakar and other eminent personalities at home and outside the country intervened.
There was also the arrest of Jigawa State Governor Sule Lamido’s two sons, Aminu and Mustapha, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in November 2013, over money laundering allegations, which is seen by many as political persecution targeting the governor, who is a Jonathan critic, and is believed to be interested in contesting for president next year on the PDP platform.
Lamido is a member of the G-7 governors group that has been calling on President Jonathan not to run in 2015 as well as for reforms in the PDP.
Pundits believe that the subsequent release of the governor’s children on bail by the EFCC was as a result of Lamido’s sudden change of stance on Jonathan. He refused to defect to the opposition along with five other members of the G-7
There was also the public altercation between the president and Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno over the raving Boko Haram insurgency and the controversy surrounding the kidnap of over 250 Chibok schoolgirls.
Among the recent actions of the president that drew sharp and widespread criticism was the clampdown on newspaper houses including the Media Trust, Leadership, Nation, This Day and Punch, with soldiers barricading their offices and seizing their publications for a week.
Military authorities defended their action, saying it was meant to bust the usage of the delivery vans used by the media outfits to ferry arms for the insurgency.
The presidency denied ordering the soldier’s actions, prompting further criticism from the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) among others, who wondered if the president was still in charge and if soldiers would act outside his orders.
PDP spokesman Metuh said that the military’s action should not be seen as a clampdown as the authorities were only responding to Nigerians clamour on security agencies to do more to tackle insurgency and that the security agencies were acting on intelligence reports.
As the 2015 general elections approach, Nigerians seem to be apprehensive of the shape of things to come and are wary of the actions and inactions and leadership style of President Jonathan on the state of the nation.
2015: Jonathan Declares War on Opposition
We will see where it ends after the next 4 years.