Gov. Amaechi blocked from seeing Jonathan, Presidency blames breach of protocol
It was another act in the unfolding drama of the Nigeria Governors Forum. This time the scenes revolve around the President Goodluck Jonathan, Governor Rotimi Amaechi and a security operative.
Setting: Wednesday's 'mid-term dinner for transformation team' at the Presidential Villa. Action: Amaechi, who was sitting two tables away from the President, had risen to greet him but the security operative attached to the President stopped him halfway.
He almost got to the President when a group of security aides blocked his way, fencing him off.
The factional leader of Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) Chairman was unruffled. He went to take his seat. The event had two heads of government, Joyce Banda of Malawi and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, in attendance,
While members of the opposition clan are trumping up the matter as part of their now mounting evidence of perceived Jonathan's maladministration, the Presidency has risen to a spirited defence of the action, saying it was purely a protocol matter.
The Presidency said the incident (prevention of Amaechi from exchanging pleasantries with President) was purely a security issue that should not be politicised,especially by opposition political parties.
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) on Thursday urged President Jonathan to probe the report.
The Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Dr. Ahmed Gulak, said it was tantamount to a breach of protocol and security if Amaechi was allowed access to his boss who was already seated before the governor arrived.
Gulak said, 'The President has a good relationship with all state governors and he meets with them regularly. The case in point is a pure security issue and it should be treated as a security issue that should not be politicised.
'The question the ACN and others who may want to politicise this issue need to ask is whether the President arrived at the venue of the dinner and was already seated before the governor arrived.
'Usual practice across the world is that once the President arrives a place, nobody whether a governor or not, is allowed entrance. That is the protocol. Even(Barack) Obama of the United States cannot be on his seat and a governor will be allowed to come in.
'If that was the situation in this case that the President was already on his seat, it would have been a breach of protocol and security for any security person to allow the governor access to the President. Such a security person would have been sanctioned if he had done that.'
Wondering why the ACN was interested in the matter, the presidential aide advised the opposition political parties to 'concentrate on issues concerning them and stop politicising everything.'
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the President should ensure that whoever is behind such a condescending treatment of a governor is properly sanctioned to serve as a deterrent.
''We are making this call because we do not believe that, in spite of the reported frosty relations between the two, President Jonathan - as the
father of the nation - will lend the weight of his high office to such a demeaning action as exhibited by the presidential security personnel.
''To believe that anyone occupying the esteemed office of the President of one of Africa's most important nations will be a party to a situation in which any security aide will willfully fence a state chief executive from paying his respect to the President at such an open gathering will be to think the worst of the occupier of that office. That is why we have chosen not to believe that this indeed occurred, and why we are calling on Mr. President to tell Nigerians that 'it ain't so'
''We shudder to think of what efforts are being made - including the use of national institutions - to undermine Governor Amaechi if the treatment reportedly meted out to him at the dinner has the approval of the powers that be. We are even more worried at what will happen to a governor from the opposition who falls out of favour with the President, if a governor from the same party as the President can be so publicly humiliated,'' it said.
The ACN said it was particularly incumbent on the President to clarify the report because Amaechi, the authentic Chair of the Nigerian Governors' Forum (NGF), extended an Olive Branch to President Jonathan by attending the dinner along with the other governors who voted him into the NGF chairmanship, despite the fact that the President is publicly supporting the losing faction of the NGF, in what is being seen as a democratic faux pas.
The party said the President must learn to separate politics from governance by rising above petty partisanship as he steers the affairs of state.
''At this point, we have no choice than to call attention to the recent speech by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon, Aminu Tambuwal, to welcome back the honourable members from their short break.
ACN quoted the Speaker thus: 'I am strongly persuaded to state once again that from the little that we know, there is a dichotomy between politics and governance. Thus there is a difference between a candidate in electoral contest on the platform of a political party and in an elected official who has assumed a non-partisan responsibility and taken oath to protect and preserve the constitution, to serve the people and the nation.
'Needless to say that generally, whenever partisan interests conflict with national interest, it is partisan interests that must be sacrificed in the preservation of the national interest. The oath we took is that of constitutionalism and national service and not of suffocating partisanship.'
The party urged all political office holders, irrespective of their party affiliation, to eschew the kind of pervasive and petty partisanship that led to the reported disrespect shown to an elected State Governor by a security agent being paid with taxpayers' money.
The ACN had in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, condemned the action of the operative and called on Jonathan to order an immediate probe into it.