President Goodluck Jonathan’s series of peace meeting at the weekend could help restore order in the polity, writes Olawale Olaleye
Concentrated power, a former United States President, Ronald Regan, said has always been the enemy of liberty. His summation, of course, is in the league of a popular axiom that “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Therefore, it requires no science or preternatural findings to determine that the situation in the country, especially as it concerns the Rivers State crisis had reached a frightening crescendo that could undermine the democratic gains of the last 14 years or thereabout of democracy.
Perhaps, it was in realisation of this that President Goodluck Jonathan took an encouraging initiative towards embracing peace when he met with different players at the weekend to review and resolve the political logjam that has been the lot of the country in recent weeks. This initiative, whether or not genuinely conceived, many would agree was both statesmanly and presidential, albeit in form.
Although, just a phase in the series of many of such steps that would follow soon in the bid to contain the pervasive discontent, both in the country and within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, that the initial step had been taken presupposes that if followed through without reservation or ulterior motives, normalcy may begin to return to the horizon and the already building tension towards the 2015 elections may equally start to evaporate into insignificance. The import of this, however, is significant if eventually manifests.
President Jonathan on Friday, met with the Rivers State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, to resolve their differences and allow the polity have some reprieve from the excesses on both sides. Coming at a time the senate committee that was mandated to look into the Rivers crisis gave a damning report against the president much as it did not exonerate the governor, the Jonathan move was deemed strategic, calculated and speaks to persuasive logic, given the prevailing situation.
Apart from the meeting with Amaechi which lasted three hours, Jonathan, reports said also engaged in a series of other meetings with as many people to douse tension in the polity, although the president’s aides have repeatedly denied that he had a hand in the festering political crisis in Rivers State. Jonathan and Amaechi met behind closed doors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the nation’s capital, and discussed the need to pave the way for the resolution of the crisis in the state.
A THISDAY report had hinted that the meeting between the president and Amaechi was brokered by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), who sat in on the discussion between the two leaders. It was learnt that Dasuki initiated the process of fence mending between the duo to douse the political crisis in Rivers State that has been threatening the security and stability of the country.
Dasuki, in his capacity as the NSA, was said to have taken the initiative to invite Amaechi to a meeting with the president, certain that the Rivers State crisis amongst other security challenges, could do a lot of harm to the nation’s fragile democracy. Presidency sources, according to the THISDAY report, said the NSA had been toying with the idea since eight opposition governors met with Amaechi in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, about two weeks ago to plead with him to meet with Jonathan and formally brief him on the situation in his state.
The governors from the opposition parties had visited Rivers State a day after four PDP governors had visited in the break of the brawl between the pro and anti-Amaechi lawmakers, which put the state House of Assembly in negative light.
The Friday meeting, according to sources, provided Jonathan and Amaechi, a first time opportunity to discuss their grouses and mooted suggestions on the way forward. Whilst a follow-up meeting has been reportedly slated for a yet-to-be fixed date, THISDAY sources said the president told Amaechi where he felt he had wronged him, adding that he was not comfortable with his anti-government stance. Particularly, he was said to have cited the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) leadership crisis and what he perceived as the regular confrontation with the governor, as some of the reasons for the frosty relationship between the two actors.
Moving forward, a source quoted the president as telling the governor that the matter was beyond him now as everybody on the presidency side who seem to have issues with Amaechi would have to be involved so that their grievances could be finally addressed.
On his part, Amaechi, sources said made it clear that the crisis was also not essentially about him as his first condition was that the president should meet with his group, that is the northern governors in his camp, who at their meeting with Jonathan, listed the terms for peace. It was learnt that the fact that Amaechi avoided listing conditions at the meeting was deliberate because he thought of the need to go along with the team that has stood by him as well as leaving the peace terms at their discretion.
This, sources said, was the reason the president met with the five northern governors who gave the terms for peace, citing the Rivers crisis as a major item on the agenda.
Amaechi, sources said, intentionally avoided discussing the NGF issue as well as the alleged partisanship of the state Police Commissioner, Mr. Joseph Mbu, but the meeting with the five governors raised them. In addition, sources explained that Amaechi did not raise the issue of the first lady’s alleged meddlesomeness in Rivers politics, even though she has been fingered even by the senate committee as one of the people fanning the embers of discord in the state.
The governor was also said to have shoved aside as an issue of no importance, the destablisation activities of the Minister of State for Education, Nyesome Wike, and the PDP factional chairman in Rivers State, Mr. Felix Obuah, who are edging on the anti-Amaechi opponents. He was concerned more, according to sources, about the plight of his group, a thinking that reflected the fact that he had no personal or ulterior intentions, contrary to insinuations.
Afterwards, the president met with five northern state governors- Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Alhaji Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Alhaji Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu (Niger) and Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto)- all of whom have been shuttling around Nigeria, consulting eminent personalities on how to resolve the multi-faceted crises in the country.
Thus, at the meeting with Kwankwaso and others, the governors were said to have told the president that the main problems in the polity were the Rivers crisis and the hijacking of the party in some states by some PDP national officers, apparently alluding to the actions of the National Chairman of PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, in some of the states, particularly Adamawa where he is at loggerheads with Governor Nyako.
It was no wonder, therefore, that the governors gave their conditions to include a cabinet reshuffle, the sack of Tukur and the Ministers of Petroleum and Aviation, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke and Stella Oduah; disbandment of the Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau NGF, opening up of access to the State House in order to liberalise the appropriation of the president by some people and through the reorganising of the office of the Chief of Staff.
THISDAY checks further revealed that the president also met with former Kwara State governor, Dr. Bukola Saraki, now a senator. Jonathan, during his meeting with Saraki, who was Amaechi’s predecessor as NGF chairman, was said to have solicited for his cooperation in resolving the crises in the country.
The Jonathan/Saraki meeting may have also gone a step further to redressing some of the skirmishes in Saraki’s Kwara State, where he is presently at war with the Chairman of the Federal Character Commission (FCC), Professor Abdulraheem Oba, who is believed to have mustered the courage to confront Saraki, having drawn strength and support from Abuja.
Further to the peace moves, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is the immediate past chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) and who is believed to be unhappy with Jonathan but is also being prevailed on to let go of his grievances, has reportedly scheduled a meeting with PDP governors for August 12, shortly after his return from Zimbabwe where he is presently leading the African Union (AU) Election Observer Mission for the Zimbabwe general election, billed to hold this week.
Suffice it to say that the former president is one of the personages consulted by the northern governors who met with him at his Abeokuta home on July 20, the same day Jonathan was said to have met Obasanjo him when he paid a condolence visit to the town to commiserate with his spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, who lost his mother.
In making the peace efforts all-inclusive, the president, sources hinted, plans to meet former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, and a former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, both of whom the northern governors had earlier consulted in a bid to reduce tension in the polity.
And to cap it all, Jonathan is expected to summon a peace meeting to be attended by critical stakeholders in the PDP in order to forge a consensus on how to resolve the crises.
Indeed, these are laudable steps either taken or billed to be taken in the quest for lasting peace. While many doubt the feasibility of a genuine and total peace, especially that the fight had become one of ego and entrenched interests with supporters of either camps locating their “very personal concern and relevance”, Jonathan and Amaechi, analysts say must be ready to prove critics wrong and make this work.
Analysts argued that it is not in the interest of either of the parties should the crisis fester further and in the end, not only will the people be the biggest loser, the nation’s fledgling democracy may be harmed in the process. Of course, the basis for the crisis is as irrational as it is baseless and so, peace is the most sensible thing and the only option open to all as 2015 inches slowly but surely.
Without doubt, the president has displayed encouraging statesmanship. His decision to level up with everyone irrespective of his position and office is in no way defeatist but conciliatory. It’s a mature step to the extent that it would make him appear fatherly if truly driven to a logical end. It should be without nursing on the side, any more animosity or the intention to seek revenge when the dust must have finally settled down. That is what will distinguish him, both as the leader and father of the nation. The same, of course, applies to the other parties who by no choice must follow suit.
Like a former Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi, once said, Jonathan should be the change he wishes to see in the world around him.