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Sunday, 15 September 2013

What Does Obasanjo Really Want?

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Simon Kolawole Live!: By Simon Kolawole,

With former President Olusegun Obasanjo, you buy one and get one free. Problem is: you never know what you are getting. You could be getting a peacemaker and a troublemaker in one bundle. I am always conflicted trying to decode Obasanjo’s personality. One moment, I find myself describing him as the best president Nigeria has ever had. The next moment, I am cursing him as the worst thing that has ever happened to us. The best of humans live with their own contradictions and underbellies, but Obasanjo easily stands out, perhaps because of the prominent role he has played in our nationhood - and, more so, the way he keeps intruding into our lives.

Here is a sampler. Having been raising the hand of President Goodluck Jonathan during the 2011 presidential campaign, Obasanjo retired to his hotel room one night and sent for Malam Nasir el-Rufai, an ally of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. According to el-Rufai in his tell-all book, Accidental Public Servant, Obasanjo lamented that Jonathan was not going to make a good president. He asked el-Rufai to tell Buhari that he was ready to support him against Jonathan. Obasanjo reportedly suggested that Buhari should pick Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as his running mate, then go into an alliance with the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and offer Asiwaju Bola Tinubu the Senate Presidency. Obasanjo, el-Rufai said, promised to get some “wealthy people” to fund Buhari’s campaign.

What happened next? Unknown to onlookers, Obasanjo’s grouse with Jonathan was that his daughter, Iyabo, had been denied the PDP senatorial ticket for Ogun Central, and his sudden support for Buhari was an attempt to exact his pound of flesh - or blackmail the PDP into giving his daughter the ticket. It was obviously not an attempt to save Nigeria from Jonathan’s “weaknesses” as he claimed. El-Rufai noted that immediately a curious court judgement gave the PDP ticket to Iyabo, Obasanjo swiftly changed his tone and began to canvass that they should help Jonathan work on his “weaknesses”. That is the real Obasanjo. Those who know him will testify that he is eternally self-centred. He believes the world revolves around him.

It is believed that the crisis currently rocking the PDP has the signature of Obasanjo. Nobody knows where he is going yet. Even the people working with him cannot swear that they know his game plan. By the way, I love the PDP crisis. Having ruled Nigeria since 1999, the party has grown too big for its own good. There are many states in Nigeria where PDP is the only party. Other parties only exist on pieces of paper or in INEC’s computer. Sadly, the PDP goes into every general election virtually assured that it would win. Getting the PDP ticket is as good as winning the election. That is not good for our democracy. I believe politicians must fight and sweat for every vote. That way, they know the worth of victory. That can actually make our democracy work for everyone.

But this PDP crisis, unfortunately, is not about how to make this democracy work for everyone. Let us look at two of the characters at the centre of the drama: Obasanjo and General Ibrahim Babangida. Not so long ago, Obasanjo described Babangida as a “fool at 70” for criticising his (Obasanjo’s) management of the Nigeria’s oil wealth for eight years. Obasanjo said: “If Babangida had decided, on becoming a septuagenarian, that he will be a fool, I think one should probably [not] answer a fool because you may also become like him.” In kind, Babangida replied: “Calling me ‘a fool at 70’, especially by a man reportedly and allegedly accused by his own son of incest, is at best a compliment. Nigerians surely know who is truly a fool or the greatest fool of this century.” Both of them are now suddenly in bed together, fooling around, but I refuse to be fooled.

What about Obasanjo and his former vice-president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar? They were engaged in a very public and bitter feud but they are now dancing to the same tune again.  I don’t need to repeat the words they have exchanged publicly in the last seven years, but I’m sure Nigerians still vividly remember Obasanjo’s popular line, “I dey laugh o”, when informed that Atiku had been chosen as  the Northern consensus candidate for the PDP presidential primary in January 2011. Laughter unlimited! Remember Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi? In 2007, Obasanjo viciously dropped him as the PDP governorship candidate in Rivers State, saying publicly that his candidature had “K-leg”. It took judicial activism for Amaechi to be made governor. Obasanjo and Amaechi are now in the same PDP faction, but I refuse to be fooled.

Obasanjo, luckily, is coming across to Nigerians as a peacemaker and an icon of democracy. He is the statesman trying to resolve the PDP crisis! Obasanjo as a peacemaker and icon of democracy is nothing but comedy. During his time as president, between 1999 and 2007, he removed three PDP chairmen and saw to the ouster of three Senate presidents. He illegally removed two governors under the pretext of declaring state of emergency. He watched with pleasure as his boys set Anambra and Oyo states on fire and capped it all by withdrawing the security aides of Governor Chris Ngige. If Obasanjo is your hero of democracy, I am sorry for you.

Now that he is reportedly rallying a faction of the PDP against Jonathan, you have to ask yourself: what is motivating Obasanjo? What does he really want? Is he genuinely trying to atone for his Yar’Adua “error” by helping to return power to the North in 2015? Will he backtrack if Andy Uba is given the PDP governorship ticket in Anambra and the revocation of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway concession is reversed? Will he pull back at the last minute again and ask his followers to “manage Jonathan’s weaknesses” when he finally gets what he wants? With Obasanjo, you don’t know what you are going to get. Just be careful. You have been warned.

And Four Other Things...

The threat by Niger Delta militant leader, Mujahid Asari Dokubo, that there would be war if President Goodluck Jonathan is not returned to power in 2015 is, to put it mildly, reckless. The militants can claim that they are only reacting to the sentiments expressed by some Northern elders that the North must take back Aso Rock in 2015. They can even claim that Jonathan, like his predecessors, is entitled to two terms. But, ladies and gentlemen, what’s war got to do with it? Jonathan himself has told us several times that his ambition is not worth the blood of anyone. I am still expecting a strong-worded condemnation of Dokubo’s threat from the Presidency...
LAGOS 2015
I was appalled when I read a statement by the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) asking that the next governor of Lagos State should be a Christian. The chairman of Lagos PFN, Alex Bamgbala, said: “Christians have supported the two Muslim administrations in the state since 1999 and it is only fair that they give room for their Christian counterparts to be elected in 2015.” This proposition, which started as a joke some years again, is getting out of hand. Since when did we start voting on the basis of religion in Lagos State? Do they want to turn Lagos to another Kaduna State? Are we going backward or forward? Who is behind this idea?
Are you following the controversy over the Mokola Bridge, Ibadan, Oyo State, constructed by Governor Abiola Ajimobi? Boy, O Boy! I have never seen anything like this in my life. Ever since it was inaugurated months ago, it has been the only major topic of discussion in the state. The government and the opposition have continued to trade words over the length, the capacity, the cost and, now, the person who conceived the idea. The discussion happens on a daily, even hourly, basis. I have been forced to ask if Ibadan people have no interesting things to discuss apart from a bridge. You would think they are discussing a space station or mission to Mars. 
My suggestion last week that Stephen Keshi needs some “technical help” if the Super Eagles are going to make any impact at the 2014 World Cup generated more interest than I intended. No, I am not saying the NFF should employ a foreign boss for him. Keshi will remain the boss, but on his own, he can bring in someone to help him with game-reading. World-class coaches do that. I have seen the Super Eagles struggle in some matches that a little technical tinkering could see them win. They could have beaten Spain at the Confederations Cup after dominating long periods. But that one thing was missing. And, remember, they could only defeat Tahiti! 

TUKUR AT 78: The life of an embattled PDP National Chairman

on   /   in Politics 9:07 am   /   Comments
This is the story of how the National Chairman of People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, who operates from the Wadata Plaza, Wuse Zone 5, carry out his activities daily, with a cursory look at his actions after the August 31 Special National Convention of the party where the former Vice President  Atiku Abubakar, who hails from the state with him, stormed out alongside six governors and later formed a ‘New PDP’.
Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, who hails from Adamawa State, North-east, was born  on September, 15, 1935. He was governor of old Gongola State between October 1983 and December 1983.  He also served as Minister for Industries and Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA before his election as PDP National Chairman, March 24, 2012.
Tukur, Tafidan Adamawa, was  also the Executive President of the African Business Roundtable and Chairman of the NEPAD Business Group.
Before the March 24, 2012  PDP National  Convention where he emerged for the plum  office, zoned to the North-east, there were aspirants like Professor Rufai Alkali; the former Acting National Secretary, Dr. Musa Babayo; Gambo Lawan; Ibrahim Shehu Birma; former Bauchi State governor, Adamu Muazu; among others, who came out very strongly, but  were forced to step down.
Since he became the National Chairman,  however, it has  not been rosy for  Tukur, especially with the stiff opposition he faced from the governors, some stakeholders and leaders of the party to the National Working Committee (NWC), led by him.
PDP Chairman, Bamanga Tukur
PDP Chairman, Bamanga Tukur
Amid the opposition came the report of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which picked holes in the PDP 2012  Convention, alleging faults in the emergence of the NWC members but  cleared him, the National Financial Secretary, Elder Bolaji Anani, the then National Secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, and the then National Auditor, Bode Mustapha. The INEC report forced all the NWC members except Tukur and two other members, Anani and Mustapha, to resign. Oyinlola had earlier been kicked out following a court order which sacked him.
But the opposition against Tukur was not totally unexpected. As one of the founding fathers of the PDP, his mission has been to rescue the party, to return it to the people by allowing them to  be part and parcel of decision making of the party. When he became the National Chairman,Tukur had  vowed to turn around the ruling party through  a 12-point agenda of action which he submitted to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PDP.
He promised that the agenda for transforming the PDP and Nigeria would be operated religiously with stakeholders playing major roles, such that the effect of the agenda would be felt across Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world  within a 12-month calendar period.
The Tafidan Adamawa, who noted that  the era of party supremacy was back,  however, stressed that all elected members of the  PDP would be uphold the programmes and manifestoes of the party in national interest.
The agenda, according to the PDP  Chairman, would rest on Triple-R, Triple-E and Triple-D and this would offer a road map in solving the nation’s problems including terrorism, energy crisis, insecurity and  corruption, adding that the Triple-R agenda would start with a genuine reconciliation process for members to embrace the party and its programmes while aggrieved members would be made to have a sense of belonging. The reformation of the PDP and a process of total rebuilding based on equity and justice would also hold paramount in the overall agenda, even as  he said that the programme  on  Triple-D agenda would center on Defence, Diplomacy and Dialogue. He added that the ground work he had made on the agenda  had convinced him that the endemic challenges of insecurity and scanty foreign investments in Nigeria would soon become a thing of the past.
However, midway into the August 31  Special National Convention, Tukur got  a rude shock at the convention ground  as  the PDP split into two with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and six northern governors staging a walk out to later address a press conference on the formation of a ‘New PDP’  while  a former acting National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, was  named  the National Chairman, Dr Sam Sam Jaja,  the Deputy National Chairman, and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the National Secretary.
Atiku and the  governors were at the venue of the convention until 2.45 pm that  Saturday when the names of candidates to be voted for were read and  it was discovered that the name of the immediate past Deputy National Chairman, Jaja, had been  removed,  leaving only the former National Organising Secretary, Prince Uche Secondus, as the sole candidate for the office of Deputy National Chairman.
The governors in the ‘New PDP’  are Sule Lamido of Jigawa; Abdulfatah  Ahmed of Kwara; Aliyu Babangida of Niger; Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko of Sokoto; Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano; and Murtala Nyako of Adamawa. Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, under suspension from the PDP, immediately joined the ‘New PDP’.
Others in the ‘New PDP’ are deputy governors of Sokoto, Murktar Shagari; Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano; Ahmed Musa Ibeto of Niger state; former governor of Kwara State, Senator Shaaba Lafiagi;  former governor of Nasarawa state, Senator Abdullahi Adamu;  Senator Magnus Abe; chairman, House Committee on finance, Honourable Abdumumini Jibrin; Honourable Farouk Lawan, and many other members of the National Assembly, among others.
Since the split in the ‘PDP family’,  there have been moves by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Military President Ibrahim Babangida, ex PDP National Chairmen Ahmadu Ali and Senator Barnabas Gemade, as well as other elders of the party  to reconcile the warring factions.
Meanwhile, Tukur, 78, seems to be weathering  the storm. He still  resumes at Wadata Plaza between 10 and 11am everyday except  when  he is out of town like on Wednesday  when he had to travel to Calabar, Cross River State. But there are also some days that he drives to Wadata plaza around 9am especially when high profile visitors come around. On such days, people know as his convoy races  in from Sky Memorial Shopping complex with heavily armed policemen accompanying him and, once he drops from the car, he goes  to  his office on the third floor. The moment  Tukur enters his office, he will  ask his police men to leave while his Principal Secretary, George Korgba, briefs  him.
Other aides will take their turns to brief him.
Thereafter, he attends to visitors. Members of  the PDP NWC have assess to Tukur’s  office any time. Then, there are some powerful Nigerians that he must call  and they include President Goodluck Jonathan, Vice President Namadi Sambo and a  close friend, Professor Emeka Enejere.
He does not eat in the office.
Tukur is said to be settling down to work with his new deputy, Secondus; the National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh; National Woman Leader, Mrs Kema Chikwe; National Youth Leader, Abdullahi Maibasira; Deputy National Secretary, Onwe Solomon Onwe, among others.
To keep the Wadata Plaza busy, there have been  solidarity visits. Conference of  PDP State Chairmen from the thirty-six states and the Federal Capital Territory, on Monday,  were on hand to  endorse President Goodluck Jonathan  for the 2015 presidential election during one of such solidarity visits, citing his transformation agenda as reason for that, just as they also passed a vote of confidence on Tukur.
According to the Chairmen, members of the party must remain steadfast as there was no reason to panic against the backdrop that “ the transformation programme of the PDP-led administration will surely take us to 2015 and beyond.”
Responding, Tukur, who noted that the challenges  confronting the PDP were not beyond solution, said that nobody wants to invest without profit, adding, “Whatever disagreement that may show up in the party  is not beyond resolution. If we bring a proposal and the majority believes that proposal should be shelved, amended or discarded, so be it”.
Thanking the state PDP Chairmen for ensuring that the principle of internal democracy was upheld in the state chapters, he urged them to always ensure consensus in their states, even as the National Chairman said that it was critical to guarantee the delivery of true democracy dividends to the people and the relevance of the party at all times.
Tukur, who maintained that the PDP was the only party that could guarantee the unity of the country, said that the party believes in freedom of expression irrespective of whatever situation it may find itself, adding, “It does not really matter, democracy to me, means that the majority will have their way but the minority will have their say.
“We believe that every member of the party has the right to express himself. Majority will have their way while the minority will have their say. We have the hope to lead our people in the comity of nations. Nigerians accept our party as their own party. Our difficulties are not beyond solutions. Whatever the disagreements, they are not beyond resolutions.
“We are the managers of the party and you are our field commanders…People like us are at our departure lounge and we must pay back to our nation. My prayer is that all of you should do better than me, your father. Only PDP can guarantee the unity of Nigeria today, integration of Africa. I agree that I’m an analogue man and you are digital, but you must be an analogue man first before you move to digital. Nobody wants to invest without profit. You must all do better than me.”
But the mood of some visitors to the National Chairman ‘s office is sometimes aggressive.  A good example is that of the delegation from Kano which stormed the Wadata Plaza on Tuesday, demanding action against Governor Kwankwaso and the sack of the State Working Commttee, SWC.
The Tukur leadership is said to be disposed to granting their request as it is believed  to have concluded arrangements to put in place a Caretaker Committee for  the Kano PDP.
At the Wadata Plaza, the staff are, in the meantime,  believed to be concerned about the crisis rocking the party, especially  how it will end, as well as issues of welfare and monetization.
Tukur is embattled as he celebrates his 78th birthday, today.
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