By NBF News

Time for Jonathan to assert himself -Ogundimu
Sunday, March 07, 2010


Dr Segun Ogundimu, a medical consultant, was a former Commissioner for Health in Lagos State.

He believes that Acting President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, must be courageous in steering the ship of state to succeed.

His argument is that a spineless man cannot succeed in a very challenging environment like Nigeria and urged Jonathan to be ready to take the bull by the horn to etch his name in gold.

Specifically, he asks the acting president to dissolve the Federal Executive Council (FEC) despite threat from House of Representatives members from the North.

The country had a hectic time resolving whether Acting President Goodluck Jonathan can take over the Presidency, what is your reaction?

You see, it is most unfortunate that our legislators allowed the ship to drift that long and they actually put Nigeria into serious jeopardy. The crisis we saw was most unnecessary if the legislators had abided by the oath they swore to, that is, to defend the Constitution. The Constitution is very clear on Section 145 that when the president or the vice-president is going on vacation, a letter must be written to the Senate President informing about it.

It is a very simple procedure if you are a governor. You just need to tell your deputy to continue so that you don't create a vacuum. I agree that almost every governor in Nigeria don't carry their deputies along. The Yar'Adua incident is a big example for Nigeria. What the legislators were supposed to have done long ago, they now did recently. Though some people are saying it is unconstitutional, but it was a politically expedient thing to do. We have to thank them too because they finally woke up to salvage the situation. But the one that really annoyed me was that the Federal Executive Council now made a resolution, declaring the president fit, and to continue the good work that he has been doing.

That is another faulty provision in the Constitution. If you give FEC that power, will it not be partial towards their benefactor. That's why I support Ekweremadu (Deputy Senate President) who said that portion should be removed. You don't give power to protect a benefactor to his beneficiaries because they will protect his interest and that was what they actually did.

What challenges should the acting president be confronting now?

In fact, when I read the newspapers, although I don't know whether that is true, some northern House of Representatives members were said to have come together to threaten the president, that if he should dissolve the present cabinet, he will see hell. I want to let them know that Nigeria of today has gone beyond north/south dichotomy, gone past ethnicity. To take the words of the Senate President, the Federal Character has outlived its usefulness.

I support the Senate President totally that we should remove federal character from our day-to-day interaction. If it is true that the northern representatives said Jonathan will see hell, on behalf of Nigerians, I object strongly to that statement because you don't threaten a president, especially in Nigeria where the president has sweeping powers. It should not be at this time that we are having serious political crisis that someone should be threatening the president. It does not blow any good wind, it is very dangerous and very, very deadly. If you threaten him, are you saying that the part of the country where he comes from are not relevant in the scheme of things in Nigeria?

The cabinet we have now were only fortunate to be there, are they the only intelligent Nigerians? Are the House of Representatives members from Kaduna the only intelligent people from Kaduna? There are millions of intelligent Nigerians in Sokoto, very brilliant boys in Enugu, and other parts of the Federation. When Yar'Adua was fully in charge, Jonathan was in the background. Can you imagine, he gave an instruction that nobody should travel out of the country, that very night, our minister of petroleum traveled out in defiance of the vice-president's order, so this thing has been on for so long a time and if they should continue, Nigerians will not agree.

They should realise that we now have Nigerians who have sense in their head. For instance, there is this Kangiwa Umar (rtd Colonel), he is one of those I respect most in my life, a very detribilised Nigerian. Look at Marwa in South Africa. Look at the late Chief Gani Fawehimi, God bless his soul. He never talked on ethnic issues. Look at the way the Senate President spoke, I was so happy to be a Nigerian. If the threat of those lawmakers is true, it is in bad taste. My advice to the acting president is to be his man, he will never have this opportunity again.

Last week, FEC dispatched some ministers to see President Yar'Adua in Saudi Arabia, what's your position on this?

Whether we like it or not, the sending of ministers to Saudi Arabia is a wild goose chase. Hiding our president from us means that all is not well with the man. Some people are even suggesting that the man is dead, are they not right? It's very shameful. Look at representatives, they left Nigeria, it is like 150 million Nigerians going there to look for him, and they did not allow them to see the man. It's a slap on my face as a person. It's a slap on our faces.

Jonathan should always take a decision. However bad the decision is, he should ensure he acts. Look at Obasanjo, no matter what you have against him, he was a courageous leader. He even led the team to remove the attachments at the legislators' quarters in Abuja. That's my own man.

What's your reaction to the alarm raised by Jonathan that a cabal was going round to dent his name, especially in the media?

It is just a campaign of calumny to destroy the man. They are insulting Nigerians, they are insulting the sensibilities of the senators and House of Representatives' members that made him acting president. That's what they don't understand, and you see, this sort of thing is a common thing. Nobody can walk without the head moving, everybody has his own weakness, everybody has his own fault. Talking about when he was in Bayelsa now is in very bad taste. So, they should not come and tell us rubbish. The question is did he perform in Bayelsa? The answer is, yes he did and we are giving him another chance now because we want to move forward. If it is true, I condemn such action, I think they should just stop it. Nobody can rubbish Jonathan, nobody.

Are you then in support of a cabinet reshuffle?
Jonathan has to be his man. Majority of the ministers don't support him. Those that they were saying halleluyah at the last hour were just being cynical; they were not sincere. Those singing Jonathan's praises now are just trying to save their neck, and I hope he knows. These people don't love him and my father says that, where you are not loved, don't go there.

That was what my father used to tell me. The cabinet he has now, he can never, ever have a full grasp of them. They are going to stab him. Didn't they all say Umaru Yar'Adua has been found fit to continue his good job? Didn't they all say it? So, all these latter day Jonathan people are just being typical Nigerians. He knows those he can trust there, but majority of them don't like him, and that one is certain.

Are you in support of moves to rectify the aspect of the constitution that talks about the president being absent for sundry reasons?

It is a very good position because, not only the National Assembly, we are all aware that there is no love lost between governors and their deputies in particular. It is as if the deputy governors are spare tyres. They are not to be seen, they are not to talk. Only deputies who are smart survive. A typical example between the governor of Osun State and his deputy. Wonderful combination! It is a question of background and not being too ambitious. So, I support the move because it is a big problem in Nigeria. If it is constitutionally spelt out, we shall lay down a good legacy for our children.

Acting President Jonathan has equally promised electoral reform, how far do you think he can go?

I think it is because his predecessor, Yar'Adua, was really committed to electoral reforms; he did not like what happened in the past elections. Election results have never been counted, they have always been written. If Jonathan can commit himself to electoral reforms, he will change the face of elections in Nigeria, especially the issue of independent candidates. Independent candidature will give Nigerians the opportunity to vote for who they know because all parties are not practising true democracy.

One major challenge the acting president is now faced with is post-amnesty, do you see him succeeding?

Well, fortunately, he is from the Niger-Delta region. Yar'Adua succeeded in using diplomacy in tackling the Niger-Delta crisis and honestly, from the bottom of my heart, I doff my heart for Yar'Adua. Jonathan should not mind that people will say he is from that area, he has to go ahead and repair that region. If you travel from Port Harcourt to Yenagoa to go and take plane to Abuja, if you have conscience, you will weep. It is in a bad state. The top layer of their soil is full of oil, so they cannot do economic activities there.

Morally, it is not fair to tap our resources from that area and keep them in perpetual doldrums. If Jonathan is going to spend one trillion naira in that area, he should go ahead and spend it. He should do the same for other parts of Nigeria because the country is now his constituency. He also know that this is his time, and should come up with his own agenda if he cannot continue the seven-point agenda.