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HOW BANKOLE ALMOST SCUTTLED JONATHAN'S PRESIDENCY

By ISMAIL OMIPIDAN, Kaduna
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http://www.nigerianbestforum.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/bankole1.jpg Kaduna is strategic, especially for northern politicians and other power brokers in the country. The State plays host to series of strategic meetings, most of the times before the decisions are carried to Abuja for implementation.

And as the nation was confronted with President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's failing health vis-à-vis the way forward, one of such meetings was held in Kaduna on Wednesday, January 27, 2010. But it was one shrouded in utmost secrecy.

This day was unusually busy in Kaduna. It was a day two prominent groups, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) Board of Trustees (BOT) and the Northern Traditional Rulers Council met, albeit separately.

While that of ACF held at its Sokoto Road Secretariat, the traditional rulers met at the famous Lugard's Hall, where the old Northern region Parliamentarians operated from. The hall incidentally now serves as the State's House of Assembly.

Although, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Dimeji Bankole, was not bid to formally attend any of the proceedings, Sunday Sun authoritatively gathered that he met behind closed door with the traditional rulers. At least, he was sighted at the venue of the meeting by this reporter, before the formal commencement of the proceedings.

Details of the meeting which lasted for about an hour was sketchy as at press time. And several days after the meeting, neither the office of the Speaker nor that of the traditional rulers has issued any statement in respect of the closed door meeting. Not even the communiqué of the traditional rulers which was issued on Thursday, January 28, 2010, a day after the meeting captured the minutes of the meeting between them and Speaker Bankole.

But Sunday Sun however gathered that the meeting was not unconnected with the then moves by the pro-Yar'Adua group in the country to ensure that the camp in the National Assembly sympathetic to its cause is not depleted by the growing anxiety of other lawmakers who are bent on ensuring that the then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan 'takes charge fully.'

The traditional rulers, Sunday Sun further learnt are desirous of the need to protect the President's seat, while the waiting game lasts.

Palace sources further disclosed that the meeting was a continuation of a previous one held in Abuja, between Bankole and some leaders of thought in the region, where the Speaker was said to have assured the northern power brokers that he would not allow anyone to 'stampede' him into taking any decision that would hurt the feelings of the region.

Palace sources told Sunday Sun in Kaduna that the meeting was more like a reinforcement of the earlier commitment made to the region by the Speaker. Bankole was said to have assured the northern monarchs that he would ensure that the nation's constitution was followed to the later in all matters dealing with Yar'Adua's ill health.

It was further learnt that the resort to going 'strictly' by the provisions of the constitution was premised on the fact that President Yar'Adua would not send any letter to the lawmakers. 'And without the letter, our lawmakers cannot act,' the source further added.

And as if to confirm Bankole's stance, the House only few days after the Kaduna meeting, threw out a motion seeking to transfer power to Goodluck Jonathan.

The motion was sponsored by an opposition lawmaker, Mohammed Sani Abdul of the All Nigerian People's Party, (ANPP) from Bauchi State.

The Speaker who was accompanied on the Kaduna trip by just one lawmaker from the House, left for Abuja almost immediately after the meeting.

Prominent among those who attended the Kaduna meeting are the Sultan of Sokoto, the emirs of Kano, Ilorin and the Shehu of Borno. But that of Jos, Tor-Tiv and the Atta of Igala did not attend.

At the end of the meeting in Kaduna, the only thing in the communiqué that suggests that the President's failing health was discussed behind closed doors, was its call on all political leaders in the country to unite in the best interest of the country and warning that Yar'Adua's absence should not be used to cause political logjam in the nation.

Besides, the traditional rulers also asked Nigerians to pray for the good health of the President just as they urged the nation's politicians to have the fear of God in their mind as a sure way to resolving the political impasse in the country.

In the communiqué issued at the end of meeting, the northern monarchs regretted the alarming political situation in the land, urging politicians at all level to ensure that normalcy and stability prevailed in their domains.

As if reiterating the position of the Speaker, in the Communiqué which was signed by the Chairman, Northern Traditional Council and Sultan of Sokoto, Sa'ad Abubakar and made available to news men in Kaduna, the group insisted that in an attempt to resolve the continued absence of the President from the country as a result of his ill-health, Nigeria should be guided by the constitution.

'The Council notes with grave concern the alarming political situation as it relates to the leadership of the country. While praying for the good health of the president, the Council appealed to all political leaders at all levels to unite in the best interest of the country, with the fear of God Almighty, to ensure normalcy and stability in the polity, in accordance with the letter and spirit of the constitution.'

But if the Northern monarchs thought they had a dependable ally in Speaker Bankole, they certainly may not have bargained for what the chairman, Northern Governors Forum, (NGF) and Niger State governor, Aliyu Muazu Babangida told them.

The Niger State Chief Servant told the Northern traditional rulers to stop sectionalizing the issue of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's ill health, saying that he (Yar'Adua) was not a northern property, but that of Nigeria.

He told the monarchs to be courageous enough to tell the truth about the state of the nation as enshrined in the constitution, adding that there was no crisis in the country since the position of the Vice President was clear in the constitution.

Sunday Sun learnt that Bankole is not likely to support some of the 'radical' decisions that would be taken by the acting President in the days ahead.

According to sources, the reasons are premised on the belief that those sympathetic to Jonathan's cause are by extension, former President Olusegun Obasanjo's men, who may turn around to destabilize the House by unseating Bankole.

'As we speak, a meeting is being planned for today (Thursday), and it is a follow up to another one held last Tuesday. The essence of the meeting, which is being co-coordinated by one of our very senior colleagues from the North-East axis is principally aimed at checkmating Jonathan's influence and to ensure that nothing happens to our Speaker's seat.

'I want to tell you that if today, Jonathan takes any decision that seems to hurt our feelings in the north, we would certainly resist it and the Speaker will certainly flow with us,' one of the sources told Sunday Sun.