Quiet, the President’s Men Are Talking

30 Jan 2013

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President Goodluck Jonathan’s aides and associates are exhibiting high degree of intolerance for criticisms of the administration, writes Olawale Olaleye

They are ardent “loyalists” of President Goodluck Jonathan with predictable official demeanour. Perhaps, their survival is contingent strictly on how visible and aggressive they can get in defence of the president and his policies. Logic is often relegated to the background while rash engagement of criticisms is pushed forward as their primary agenda.

They resent criticisms. For them, everyone should buy into their argument, whether or not they are convinced either. They desire a zombie arrangement just for “my people to go”. This seems more like a scare tactics since it has become somewhat innate for the administration to shout down at opposing views. But it has never been effective.

Yet, there are enough men to contain the excesses of the opposition- from journalists to medical doctors and politicians- the presidential newsroom is loaded. Their respective portfolios do not matter. Just go all out and get the job done seems to be the instruction. After all, the president had also given a clue of what the job entails when he once admitted that his administration was the most criticised. What if he was right, justifiably though?

Some days ago, the Minister for Niger Delta, Elder Godsday Orubebe, sought an undue media exposure when he took on the Rivers State Governor and Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Hon. Rotimi Amaechi.
Orubebe had during a tour of the East-west road project rebuked Amaechi for suggesting that the governments of the South-south states be allowed to take over and complete the construction of the road.

"I am particularly piqued by the disrespectful behaviour of Amaechi to the person and office of President Goodluck Jonathan which will no longer be tolerated. Amaechi should mind the business of governing Rivers State whose capital city, Port Harcourt, has degenerated since the governor took over," he was quoted as saying.

Unfortunately, for Orubebe, he was believed to have picked on the wrong person and for the wrong reason. Amongst the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors, Amaechi is generally acknowledged as one of the best if not the best in terms of performance. With innovation brought into governance in critical sectors of the state’s economy with direct impact on the people, the Rivers Governor is rather seen by many as a pride of the PDP.

Thus, the fight over the East-west road, many believed, was needless since Amaechi had only offered to build the road and be reimbursed later. For a Federal Government road that had been abandoned for many years and also become an embarrassment to the governors in the region, the idea of constructing the road on behalf of the Federal Government, many thought, should have been embraced without cynicism.

Besides, many share the beliefs that Amaechi’s decision to intervene was borne out of genuine intention since about N105 billion of his money is alleged to still be with government at the centre over similar initiative of taking over federal projects with the intention of a reimbursement that is yet to come. But with the scolding received across board by Orubebe, he is probably regretting his action.

Dust raised by the Amaechi/Orubebe diatribe had yet settled when leader of the Ijaw Nation, Chief Edwin Clark, raised the alarm over alleged plans by former president Olusegun Obasanjo and some of the PDP Governors to frustrate Jonathan’s comeback bid in 2015.
In a letter entitled “Enough Is Enough”, Clark accused Obasanjo of trying to instigate crisis in the PDP because “Jonathan has refused to allow him control his administration from his Ota farm.

“We witnessed the bastardization of the party by the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and the former national chairman of the party, Senator Ahmadu Ali, who for their interest, frustrated all the founding fathers of the party and party faithful by de-registering most of the founding members of the party.

“Chief Obasanjo installed himself as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the party as a former president of the country. With all of these actions, the party’s supremacy was punctured and destroyed. Members and all concerned reluctantly accommodated this unilateral attitude of the president in office at that time, while he got himself consolidated for the period he served.
“Concurrently, the Governors in the various states also assumed the same posture and in all circumstances, seized the soul, the heart and disciplinary features of the party.

“The motto of the party which is justice, unity and progress has been grossly undermined by the forum; it is rendered irrelevant. There is no more justice in the party due to the greed and corrupt attitude of the heavy weights of the party who made money using the party. Today, they are using the same money to destroy the party,” he said.
For many, Clark’s outburst, though not evidenced by any fact, was a premeditated move to merely lash out at perceived enemies of the President and those thought to be standing in his way for a re-election.

Given Clark’s relationship with Jonathan, coming out with as much aggression, observers thought, was understandable. And because of his age and position in the society, many would probably not accord as much relevance, especially with the context of debate.
Clark’s bitterness with the president’s enemies soon paved the way for a bout between the Minister for Information, Mr. Labaran Maku and a former Vice-President for Africa in the World Bank and two time minister in the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili.

Ezekwesili served the first salvo when she said the administrations of late President Umaru Yar’Adua and Jonathan frittered about $67 billion in five years. But Maku who disagreed with Ezekwesili, said the former minister had through her position, shown limited understanding of government finances, adding that Ezekwesili was factually incorrect.

“The statement by the former World Bank Vice-President that the governments of Presidents Musa Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan have squandered $67 billion in reserves (including $45 billion in external reserves and $22 billion in the Excess Crude Account) left by the Obasanjo Administration at the end of May 2007 is factually incorrect.”

Maku said in the first place, Nigeria did not have up to $67 billion in its accounts, based on the records of the Central Bank of Nigeria but noted that what was available in all the accounts Ezekwesili referred to was $43.13 billion. He explained further that the reserves had gone through periods of fluctuations and was at an all time low of $31.7 billion in September 2011.
Yet, Ezekwesili did not consider Maku’s response as much a compliment. She fired back, seeking a platform for debate where the issues can be thrashed out and records, set straight.

The former minister who reportedly responded through her facebook page wrote: “I challenge them to a public debate of facts regarding 2007 ECA & Foreign Reserve and last five and a half years oil revenue. Let Mr. Maku go further. As a citizen all I want to know is the Mathematics of the ECA and the Foreign Reserve.”

In as much as such exchanges are permitted in participatory governance, perhaps, for clarity, transparency and accountability, observers warn they must not be subsumed in sheer politics or taken for granted as appears the case now. While the exchanges must be evidenced by facts, observers feel that they also must embrace the logic of persuasion supported by matured criticisms which is defined by constructive engagement of the issues involved.

Until agents of government see the need to toe this path by redefining their obviously ineffective strategy, going all out for real or perceived enemies of the president or state as they are likely to see it will remain counter-productive. Sadly, it will further underscore the character of this administration. But if anything is certain, observers believe, it is the fact that they cannot shut out the people from participating in their own government through objective assessment of the Jonathan administration

Tags: Politics, Nigeria, Featured, Quiet

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