PDP'S CONCENTRIC CIRCLES OF INTRIGUES
In the height of his glory as National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Barnabas Gemade visited the Nigerian Tribune sometime in 2001 or 2002. I was a visiting member of the newspaper's editorial board then, and I remember that a question came up on the power game within the party, as part of the build-up towards the 2003 elections. And Gemade responded unabashedly:
'In every other human endeavour, intrigue is a vice, it is something to abhor and condemn. But in politics, intrigue is a virtue. The more intrigues you can play, the better a politician you are. So, politics is all about the management of intrigues.' And truly, few months later, Gemade was ousted as PDP national chairman. He lost out in the game of intrigues. He was out-manoeuvred, out-intrigued by those more adept at the vice.
In the past eight months or so, since when Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was first pronounced Acting President by the National Assembly, to Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's death and Jonathan's eventual emergence as substantive president, we have seen intrigue in its coldest, crudest form in the PDP. We saw one in bold relief at the Eagle Square, Abuja, on Saturday. Machinations, chicanery, are now the true names of the party.
But aren't we naÃ¯ve to ever expect anything decent, honourable or noble from the PDP? Since Solomon Lar, the pioneer national chairman, how did the other chairmen emerge and leave office? Olusegun Obasanjo plotted against Lar and installed Gemade. He lasted a few years, and got supplanted with Audu Ogbeh. When the latter became too much of an Atiku Abubakar loyalist, he got removed at gunpoint, few hours after Obasanjo had visited his home to eat pounded yam and egusi soup. Obasanjo possibly even danced with Ogbeh's wife, as he did with Chuba Okadigbo's at the opening of the official residence of the senate president, only for the latter to be impeached with the connivance of the Executive few hours later.
And with Ahmadu Ali as national chairman, the stratagem continued. Tricks, knavery all over. He was Obasanjo's Man Friday. And then came Vincent Ogbulafor, also a product of artifice. Obasanjo wanted Dr. Sam Egwu. Some others wanted Chief Pius Anyim. The governors struck, and brought in Ogbulafor from the blues, when he was not even in contention at all. A party of underhand dealers, if ever there was one.
Of course, he that lives by the sword dies by the sword. Ogbulafor eventually left by the way he came. Through intrigue. He made the mistake of opening his mouth too wide, and too soon about the power rotation agreement. He said despite the pronouncement of Jonathan as Acting President through the doctrine of necessity, the North would still produce the president in 20011. And the long shadows of old sins suddenly emerged. He was slapped with corruption charges for crimes allegedly committed in 2001. He was removed from office, and by another concatenation of cunning and subterfuge, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo emerged. We are yet to see how he will go out, but the Yoruba talk of the whip used to belabour the senior wife's buttocks being on the rafters, waiting patiently for the day it will be deployed against the younger wife, who is the husband's toast for now. Nwodo will surely get his just desserts someday, unless the party reforms.
Now, to what happened at Eagle Square last Saturday. President Goodluck Jonathan declared to run for office in 2011, supported by 27 PDP governors, and a mammoth crowd. Fine. I did not expect any lesser outing from a sitting president who was making such a momentous outing. The crowd was fitting, the ambience perfect, the president was quite touching in the content and thrust of his speech. It may not have been delivered with the smoothness and fluidity of a Martin Luther King or a Barack Obama, but it was still an inspiring speech. My reservation? There was a lot of lying, guile, deceit and gamesmanship at the Eagle Square that Saturday.
It was funny to hear Gemade, the apostle of politics of intrigue, speak. He said under Jonathan, fuel queues are non-existent, and electricity has become steady. He said the volume of diesel he buys to power his generator has reduced by half. Cheap lies. Yes, there are no queues at filling stations. But is that an achievement for any self-respecting government in a nation that produces oil? Is the fuel we use being refined and supplied locally? Is it not simply because there's no hiccup in the importation schedule? Can a secondary school leaver not oversee such, as long as he's given all it takes in terms of resources and technical support? Come off it. It's too cheap to claim imported fuel as achievement.
And then electricity? Where does Gemade live? Is that where majority of Nigerians live? In my office, we still run on generators round the clock. In the house, public supply of electricity has not 'shown face,' not even by mistake, in the last two or three months. And this is at the height of the rains, when power supply often improves by a slight notch. Gemade and others who spoke about improved electricity simply lied through their teeth. And those governors, 27 in all. How many are truly pro-Jonathan at heart? You can see my hand, but you can't see my heart. Soon, the primaries will show. Concentric circles of intrigues.
And Jonathan's entry into the race, is it not also a product of intrigue? PDP had a zoning arrangement, which the president was privy to, and which he actually endorsed. In fact, more than anybody else, he has been the greatest beneficiary of zoning. Now, out of crass opportunism, he says zoning has out-lived its usefulness. May God give us men who swear to their own hurt, whose yes is always yes, no matter the condition or circumstance. 'Other people's resolutions may fluctuate on the wild and changeful billows of human opinion. Ours, now and forever, is anchored on the rock of ages.' (Sir Walter Scott).
What of Ibrahim Babangida's declaration? The PDP fixed a NEC meeting for precisely the same time as the man was declaring, so as to scuttle the event. I don't care for Babangida, I don't want him as my president, but the party should have treated him more decently. However, intrigue does not know decency, and Babangida himself is a master of the deceitful art. In the weeks and months ahead, mischief, rougishness and plenty shenanigans lay ahead. It promises to be monkey business all the way. But we beseech the power mongers to remember that this country is held by threads that are gossamer-thin. May the labours of our heroes past to keep the country together not be in vain. (I hope your Amen is resounding).
Sekibo & Co: Many rivers to cross – A rejoinder
I find it necessary to correct certain notions and error of facts in your last week's column. Apparently, you are not versed in the dynamics of Rivers State politics, hence it is necessary to put issues in proper perspective. Irrespective of whoever is in power as Governor, the reality of Rivers politics is the politics of 'we' and 'them'.
It is either you love the incumbent passionately or you hate him intently. There is no middle of the road. In a clime where political allegiances change 360 degrees overnight, depending on who is in power, it is necessary to make certain clarifications, because as the build-up to next year's election revs up, I won't be surprised if some people send reactions to the write-up and go to show the powers that be that they are still loyal.
That is why you can see a Prince Uche Secondus and Chief Godspower Ake, two of the state's party chieftains who were very close to Dr Peter Odili when he was Governor, now are part of those very close to the incumbent Governor and pillorying the former Governor. That is the nature of politics in that clime.
Having made that introduction, it is necessary to clarify certain issues you raised. There is no amount of time that can be enough for any elected public official to accomplish all that he or she has in mind because governance is a continuum. Within that context, therefore, it would be grossly unfair to state that there was nothing to show for the eight years of Dr. Odili. Rev. Father Kukah was quite elated when he visited Rivers State about four or five years ago as the moderator of the Ogoni peace initiatives, when he discovered that there was free health care for children under six years and for adults over the age of 60 years. Similarly, Caesarean operation was free in Rivers State hospitals under Odili. The Braithwaite Memorial Hospital which was upgraded to a Specialist Hospital was one of the two hospitals in the country at that time that had MRI installed, among other modern medical equipment. That is not to talk of the free education up to secondary schools. For giving the welfare of public servants a major priority, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) led by Adams Oshiomhole named Odili the most labour-friendly Governor.
Three years ago, PHCN officials stated that 60 per cent of the electricity being consumed in Port Harcourt was generated from the Omoku power plant, which was a major independent power plant initiated by the state government in 2006, which involved the building of 132kv 270 kilometer double circuit transmission line through a most difficult terrain from Omoku to Port Harcourt. Perhaps, the most ambitious road project to be embarked upon in the whole of Niger Delta is the Unity Road. This is a 42 kilometers road project on water linking three local governments, which had hitherto only been connected by water. All these and other projects are contained in a 220 page book titled 'Landmarks of Leadership' which was a compendium of all the projects and achievements of Dr. Odili, compiled by the then Commissioner for Information, Magnus Abe, who is currently the Secretary to the State Government.
During his first year anniversary, Governor Rotimi Amaechi, in addressing a town hall meeting, stated that his government received the sum of N700 billion as revenue in the first year. This amount represents what Dr Odili received in eight years, N708.3 billion precisely. And apart from a substantial amount left in the state coffers for his successor, he left an investment portfolio of N80 billion for the state. These are verifiable facts. Regarding the state of insecurity during his tenure, you will agree with me that this was not peculiar to Rivers State alone. You would recall the internecine war of attrition within the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) and the OPC against the Ijaws in Lagos during the tenure of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, with President Olusegun Obasanjo threatening to declare a state of emergency in Lagos State.
In respect of Rivers State, ethnic/communal crises, which led to the armed militias, predated Odili's assumption of office. There were the Okrika/Eleme crises, Ogoni/Andoni crises, Ogoni internal crises, Okrika internal crises, Tombia internal crises and Emohua internal crises. These crises led to splinter cult groups,which the government confronted headlong. Although you painted a very scary security situation then, it is on record that even at that period, Rivers State hosted some matches of the Super Eagles on the synthetic turf of the renovated Liberation Stadium. This could not have happened if the place was a no-go area and investors had started coming back to Port Harcourt before the resurgence in 2004.
The TELL edition of September 20, 2004 in a story titled 'Odili's decisive battle', anchored by Anayochukwu Agbo, went thus: 'Governor Peter Odili confronts the menace of militias that have made Rivers State a hotbed of violence for some time now. Governor Peter Odili on Monday, September 6, as a last resort, called a crucial meeting attended by stakeholders and elders of the state at Brick House where he drew the battle line.
'Sounding very tough, an embattled Odili said that the die is cast, and that the 'lethal embarrassment' caused the Garden city by the feuding warlords has come to the point where there were only two options left-war or peace. 'Having reached the cross-roads, it is time to confront the agents of darkness. We have to say in clear terms that this is the last warning. They either surrender in 24 hours or face the wrath of law and government', he warned.
The Governor revealed that based on 'reliable' security information available to him, the recent siege on Port Harcourt and its environs was 'funded from outside'.
It is therefore obvious that many of the assertions contained in the write-up were based on a wrong premise. I don't want to dabble into the politics of Rivers State as it involves Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who you mistakenly said spent eight years as the SSG to Odili. Dr Sekibo was SSG during the first term. The SSG for the last four years was Mrs Aleruchi Cookey Gam, who is now in charge of the Greater Port Harcourt project of the Amaechi administration. If the woman and Magnus Abe were part of Odili administration and also found worthy to be part of Amaechi administration, then what stops Sekibo from aspiring to the office of the Governor? It is a legitimate aspiration. You are looking at issues from pure journalistic perspective, obviously oblivious of the nuances and the dynamics of Rivers State politics,which are not as simplistic as you put it.
Richard Akinnola writes from Lagos
From my mail box
Sekibo's cold complicity
Sekibo and his cohorts, rather than take the people out of the woods, took refuge in passivity, mute indifference and cold complicity. Gov. Amaechi, though a born-again member of the Odili cabal, came on board as a soothing balm. Using the people as the fortress of his administration, he has provided purposeful leadership. The future will always judge the likes of Sekibo accordingly.
•Ihebinike Godwin, Owerri
Your rare grasp and insight on the realities of Rivers State politics are amazingly thrilling. Amaechi has so wonderfully transformed the state, and the populace is earnestly yearning for more. Odili and his cohort of praise-singers and sloganeering sycophants raped and abandoned Rivers in stinking decrepitude. And yet you recall their embarrassing and colour blind refrain of 'golden governor' in depicting unmitigated failure. Farida Waziri, Odili is the man to chase, not our God-sent Amaechi
•Dr. Idigo Tyger
Your write-up on Sekibo is quite revealing. To me, the worst of Amaechi can't be compared to the best of Sekibo. God won't allow him get to power in Rivers State.
•Olari F.J. Delga
Indeed, many rivers to cross
Indeed, Sekibo and others have many rivers to cross. May God continue to keep you as you do this very highly sensitive work of unearthing facts and giving them flesh. How I wish Sekibo and his likes would know that power is from God, and essentially transient. Let them ask the former First Lady and the recently deposed Service Chiefs.
•Pastor Livy Onyenegecha, Minna
Sekibo, you again!
Sekibo, you again! Well, we are in a country where anything goes. My advice to you is to go back to your trade, and leave Rivers State alone.
•Elder Philips O. Ogbonna
Sekibo reaps what he sows
Sekibo is reaping what he sowed, so he's sure of what to harvest. I pray that Odili will go to Rivers and see what Amaechi has done in three years.
Do you blame them?
Do you blame Sekibo and Co? The reason they can think of grabbing power again is our weak judicial system.
May God help this nation.
•Chief J.J. Ibeka, Lagos
If Amaechi continues…
If Amaechi continues his free education programme and the building of infrastructure with the present momentum, private schools will soon close business in Rivers.
•Segun Alfred, Port Harcourt
God won't allow him
Sekibo is a politician without vision and mission. God won't allow him near the seat of power again, as he won't do the people of Rivers any good.
•Ayo Moses, Ibadan
Sekibo is a minor
If Amaechi prevailed against a sitting governor, Sekibo is a minor. All the Sekibos of this country must go down.
The people can't be fooled
Sekibo should know that the people are wise enough not to be fooled by his charade. They won't vote for anyone he sponsors.
•Ike Umeh, Onitsha