The Presidency on Thursday accused the five northern governors currently on consultation visits to elder statesmen across the country of harbouring a secret agenda.
It said the agenda of the governors – Aliyu Babangida (Niger); Rabiu Kwakwanso (Kano); Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto); Sule Lamido (Jigawa); and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa) – was beyond the professed desire to resolve the crisis in the Rivers State chapter of the People Democratic Party.
“These governors have their own agenda. They have already set the agenda long before now. They are just using the Rivers State scenario as an excuse. Whatever the agenda is, they know and God knows, but this continued move and perambulation show that there are things they are not telling us,” Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, told journalists in Abuja.
Okupe said it would be wrong for Nigerians to assume that Aliyu and his brother governors from the north were concerned with the happenings in Rivers State.
He said the governors would have ended their consultations after they met with President Goodluck Jonathan last week if indeed the issue of the crisis in Rivers and the desire to restore peace to the PDP were the governors’ aim.
The President’s aide said the governors were merely interested in the 2015 elections though he said the odds still favoured Jonathan.
The governors had had a series of meetings with ex-dictators Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar; and ex-Presidents Shehu Shagari and Olusegun Obasanjo.
They also met with Jonathan and reportedly demanded from the President the removal of the National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, as a precondition for peace in the party.
They were said to be planning to meet other leaders like Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Chief Ernest Shonekan and Lt.-Gen. T.Y. Danjuma (retd.)
Tukur had on Wednesday disowned a statement by his media aide, Oliver Okpala, in which the PDP chairman castigated Aliyu and the other governors for asking for his removal.
In the denied statement, Tukur had reportedly described the governors’ demand as unguarded and asked them to desist from acts which he said were capable of truncating the nation’s democracy.
Though The PUNCH learnt that the PDP boss had ratified the Okpala’s statement before jetting out of the country on Tuesday, a denial by another of his aide, Ahmed Gara Gombe, said Tukur did not approve the statement.
Gombe’s statement read in part, “As a matter of fact, the National Chairman is happy that the governors are indeed helping his reconciliation efforts, particularly their meeting with the President (Jonathan) which (Rivers State Governor Rotimi) Amaechi’s face-off with the President was the main issue and substantial progress was made by the governors and the President in fence- mending.”
But Okupe insisted that the governors were not truthful in their words, adding that what they had in mind was not what they were “telling the Nigerian public.”
He said, “There is no unrest in Rivers State; nobody is burning any house in Rivers State. Commuters, traders and businessmen are going about their business in Rivers State. the governor is junketing abroad or rather having a good time. All this talk is just in the imagination of those who want to stoke the fire that does not exist. There is no problem in Rivers State.
“It does not really matter; it is a free country, you can move around, you can consult around, you can do whatever you want, provided you stay within the law. What you are seeing is politics. Like the President said, ‘this is 2015 live.’”
He said none of the governors had the courage to leave the PDP though he said there were enough reasons for many of them to leave the party.
Okupe said, “It is becoming obvious to dissidents within the PDP that there is nowhere else to go, that is why you hear everybody saying we are not leaving the PDP.
“There is nowhere else to go. So, it is better to fight and fight inside; it is better to present your case and let it be sorted inside. What you are seeing is clear-cut announcements by those who are ….I don’t want to call them dissidents, but those who are not very happy with the way situations in the party are.
“They are telling the world; they are telling the people who care to listen that ‘yes our party may have its problems, may have its faults, may have its inadequacies, but there is no alternative than to be inside’.
“There are more than enough reasons for people to leave, but you know, you don’t leave a winning platform politically; it is politically suicidal to do so. None of these governors, as you can see for yourself, is prepared to move.
“What they are trying to do is to move around and ensure that they are heard and at least maybe some of their demands are met, but nobody is going anywhere, because the PDP is still the real party to beat.”
The governors’ anger notwithstanding, Okupe said the President would still win the 2015 presidential election if he decided to run.
He said, “President Jonathan has not decided and has not told anybody that he is running, that is the truth. If he decides to run, nobody can beat him, it’s not possible.
“The calculations are in his favour, the odds are in his favour, the national supports are in his favour, the performance index is in his favour.”
On the registration of the All Progressives Congress by the Independent National Electoral Commission, Okupe said it was a good omen and commended the President for being a statesman.