BY JOHN ALECHENU AND CHUKWUDI AKASIKE
Mixed reactions have continued to trail the visits of some Northern states’ governors to three former Nigerian leaders – Generals Olusegun Obasanjo, Abdusalami Abubakar and Ibrahim Babangida.
Four of the governors – Murtala Nyako (Adamawa); Sule Lamido(Jigawa); Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto); and Rabiu Kwakwanso (Kano) – had last Saturday visited Obasanjo in Abeokuta where they discussed issues that have to do with the polity, especially the 2015 general elections.
On Monday, Wamakko, Lamido, Kwakwanso and Niger State Governor Babangida Aliyu headed for Minna, where they reportedly discussed similar issues, including the political crisis in Rivers State with Abubakar and Babangida.
At the meeting which was to have also been attended by Nyako, the governors appealed to Abubakar and Babangida to ask President Goodluck Jonathan to urgently bring the Rivers State crisis to an end.
While the main opposition political parties – the Action Congress of Nigeria and the Congress for Progressive Change – described the visits as a welcome development, the Coalition of Northern Politicians, Academics, Professionals and Businessmen and the Rivers State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, disagreed.
In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, the National Publicity Secretary of the ACN, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said, “I think the four or five governors made their case. They are worried and concerned about the growing climate of political intolerance and impunity and that these have consequences not only for democracy but for the 2015 elections.
“They are concerned that the current attitude and frame of mind of the President regarding some governors even those considered as dissidents is worrisome to them.
“They are saying that at the rate things are going there might be no election in 2015.
“This is aligning with our own position about four months ago that we are concerned about certain actions of the government. Then we cried out about the despotic nature of the President but we were taken on by the President’s spokesperson that it was not despotism.
“This is what these governors are seeing now and what they are saying by their visit; in calling on all of these former Heads of State and elder statesmen is to appeal to the President to allow for democracy and a peaceful election in 2015.”
Mohammed’s counterpart in the CPC, Rotimi Fashakin, argued that some of the issues raised by the governors were capable of derailing the nation’s democracy if not urgently addressed.
He said, “There is nothing wrong with people going round to troubleshoot and bring about resolution of crises.
“You will find out that in situations like this, you must be able to explore all avenues.
“The First Lady has confessed that as far back as four years ago, she bore a grudge against the Rivers State governor and it was because of this that we are witnessing what we are seeing now.
“Some of these issues are capable of derailing this democracy; it is understandable why they will continue to explore avenues for peace.
“They are going round to see people they feel can have some influence on the President and his wife to speak up now so that we can have a stable polity.”
Their arguements were supported by the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Mr. Otelemaba Amachree, who said the visits were capable of restoring peace to the PDP and ending the crisis in the state.
Amachree, who spoke through his Media Assistant, Mr. Jim Okpiki, argued that Obasanjo, Abubakar and Babangida were still relevant to the Nigerian political clime.
He said, “The truth is that we cannot remove Babangida and Obasanjo in today’s politics. Apart from that, Babangida and Abubakar are very influential people that can make things happen.”
However, the convener of the CNPAPB, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, believes that the visits were not to salvage the country but the PDP.
Mohammed said that if the governors’ actions were to save the country, they should have also visited a former President, Shehu Shagari, and another ex-Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon.
He said, “As far as I can remember, Shagari was a President of this country and he is alive and well. General Gowon, like the others, is a former Head of State, who did this country proud.
“These men were not visited and this goes to prove that these visits have nothing to do with salvaging the country. Indeed, the goal is to salvage the PDP as a party and they have more to do with public relations.
“None of these men that they visited is in a position to salvage the nation. If the nation is to be salvaged, it will not be Babangida or any of these people; it will be salvaged by forces beyond these individuals. As a public relations exercise, I don’t mind the governors going to visit former Heads of State but I mind the way it was done because Obasanjo, Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubakar and Gen. (Theophilus) Danjuma, who is also being considered for a similar visit , have only one thing in common: They are stinkingly rich.”
To the Rivers State chapter of the PDP, the governors are desperadoes looking for exit plans as their tenure is drawing to an end.
The party, in a statement by the Special Adviser on Media to its Chairman, Mr. Jerry Needam, argued that the visits were not borne out of genuine interest to resolve the lingering political crisis in Rivers State, but to fuel it.
It wondered why the governors who are now “patriots” of democracy could not remove the logs in their eyes before removing the speck in other people’s eyes.
“How can any serious minded governor not be worried that the average Northerner today lives in grave fear of insecurity and poverty and yet these busybody governors are wasting tax- payers’ money, flying on chartered executive jets to stoke trouble in Rivers State,” the party said.