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FOR PEACE TO REIGN, JONATHAN MUST RUN IN 2011

By NBF NEWS
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In a very robust tackle, the president of Ijaw Media Forum berated the north for Nigeria's woes because of bad leadership. 'We are where we are today because of the rudderless leaders we have had from the North,' he said, adding that the North has recycled their leaders to the extent that nobody else exists hence their consideration of former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida for 2011.

He condemned the political imbalance between the North and the South and the opposition to a Goodluck Jonathan presidency. Describing Acting President Jonathan, as the beautiful bride for 2011 as far as the presidency is concerned, Beks said if the PDP insists on not fielding him then Jonathan has the power and the right to fly the flag of another party.

However, he said he was being cautious in his current position because surprises may spring up any moment.

Excerpts:
How do you see the process that produced Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President of Nigeria?

Well, the process is flawed because it didn't follow laid down constitutional process but given the situation that we had at that time, it was just the only alternative to save the soldiers from moving in and so what is now left is for us to fine tune that process to convert him from an Acting President to a full-fledged president.

When you say 'fine tune', what exactly do you mean?

We are expecting that the new Federal Executive Council or Excoff (Executive council of the federation) will start the process of invoking the relevant sections of the constitution and since it is very obvious that Mr. President is incapacitated, in fact, since they smuggled him into the country, even the Acting President has not seen him. That shows clearly that the man is incapacitated. That is enough so that we can move forward because the way it looks now, the Acting President still doesn't seem to have all the powers that he needs to work. The man is still working, looking at his back afraid that perhaps, one day the President will just spring up.

So what happens if the new Council fails to invoke the relevant section of the constitution? What is likely to happen?

I don't expect that kind of a scenario because, one, as they take their oath of allegiance, their oath of allegiance naturally will be to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not to Jonathan or to Yar'Adua and so they take over, the first thing that should come for them to handle is the issue of invoking that section of the constitution so that all of them will have a free hand to run so that the cabinet will be one. We won't have pro-Yar'Adua and pro-Jonathan anymore. All the cabinet members will be pro-Nigeria because we need a new lease of life in the country. For almost six months or thereabout now, the country has been in a limbo because of our missing president.

Some observers have described the new federal cabinet as cabinet of old ministers. What is your assessment of the cabinet?

Yeah, we still have a lot of dead woods, non-performing ministers that found their way back. If I were Mr. Acting President, the only criteria that would have made any minister to come back is, I look at his past performance; whether he is my brother or my friend is immaterial because if you look at Nigeria today, we have had in the past two decades or thereabout, between 20 to 25 percent budget implementation, so if you are going to come back as a minister, perhaps, I would have looked at your record to say, okay, this minister is an exception. In the past one year or two years, when he was a minister, he was able to move budget implementation in his ministry to about 40 or 50 or 60 percent. So those were the only considerations that were but now,

We saw a situation where most of the appointments were still based on political consideration and not on performance. That is where I express some serious doubt as to how effective the new cabinet will be. I've gone through the list and I don't see more than four or five ministers that you can say, yes, these men will deliver. For instance, there was no point picking ministers and sending their names to the Senate without attaching portfolios. You go round this country, even outside the country; you look at Nigerians who you know can drive the power sector to where Nigerians are expecting then you pick somebody like that and as you are sending his name, you tell the Senate, this man is going to drive the power sector to a conclusion. Then you go to the issue of Niger Delta. Go round and look at somebody who you think is capable to drive the Niger Delta project to a logical conclusion. So also for other sectors.

When you say that the Acting President is till watching his back, hence can't do certain things, is it supposed to be so?

The situation is where we have found ourselves today. In the almost 50 years of Nigeria's existence, no president has found himself in a situation where a president will be missing for about six months and where also the National Assembly refuses to do what is proper by impeaching the president that is on AWOL. As far as I'm concerned, President Yar'Adua is on AWOL so we have never found ourselves in this situation but the Acting President is also very cautious, conscious of the fact that maybe, one day, the man may just spring up like we heard two weeks ago that some imams from the North went to see him and I don 't know what that was meant to achieve. As far as I'm concerned, it was also irresponsible for any newspaper to report that kind of story because we are tired of all these speculations about President Yar'Adua so any newspaper that is coming up with stories about him should be showing us specifics – you are reporting that and you are also showing photographs of where they went. As far as I'm concerned, that story was meant on hearsay because it is not a factual report and professional ethics demand that the reporter who wrote that story ought to have confirmed.

We have heard that Yuguda also went. Yuguda is a governor. He belongs to a Governors' Forum. Of all the 36 governors in Nigeria, it is only Yuguda that is permitted to see Mr. President meanwhile even the Acting President has not seen him. So why has the Governors' Forum failed to call him? How come you are the only one seeing Yar'Adua? Other governors cannot see him. Senate president cannot see him. The Chief Judge of the Federation cannot see him. The Acting President will not see him. The Speaker of the House of Representatives will not see him. Only you Yuguda. Is it a family affair? It is wrong and it is unprofessional for any newspaper to report that kind of story the way we are now. It is unprofessional.

What powers do you think are actually available to the position of Acting President that Jonathan finds himself in?

We are told that the Acting Powers have conferred all the powers that a substantive president should have and so that is why we saw that he was able to dissolve the Federal Executive Council. That was why he was able to sack the National Security Adviser so I don't think that there are still things left. It is just that because it is in an acting capacity, the man is still being cautious, afraid that one day, like I said earlier on, his boss may just show up to say, my friend, can you give me back my seat? I'm now hail and hearty to continue as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria but if the new Federal Executive Council immediately addresses that issue, but time is also short. How much time does he have to do all these because as far as Nigerians are concerned, he has all the powers to do whatever he wants to do.

Are you aware that some people faulted his dissolution of the FEC, describing it as illegal?

Yes! I also read especially from Alhaji Yakassai who has been in the forefront of the condemnation of the actions of the Acting President but as Acting President, he is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, so he has the right to sack anybody that he wants to sack because what he is doing is acting not on behalf of himself but he is acting on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So I don't see the case of anybody saying that his actions are illegal or that he has no constitutional powers. What other constitutional powers does he need as commander- in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? He acted according to the constitution. He is the Acting President. He is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He has the power to hire and fire.

But looking at his new cabinet, some people say that he has already made a blunder by bringing in 'deadwoods'?

You don't understand that the man is also a politician and as an Acting President, there are certain things that he sees that you and will not see because he is also trying to see how he can consolidate on power and so there are certain appointments that he will make and they will say, ah, no, if you do this, you're going to step on so, so, so number of toes so this is the way to go. He is the Acting President but he still doe s not have the absolute powers to do everything that he would have loved to do because of course, you must understand that the elections are around the corner and nobody knows, perhaps, if he does very well, they may consider him for some higher responsibilities in 2011 to continue as president. So he is also strategizing. The ma is a politician, you must understand this.

But his party, the People Democratic Party has also told him to forget 2011 because the party's constitution zoned the presidency to the North for eight years. How do you see that development?

I remember when Chief Ogbulafor said that but if you look at recent comments, I think that that issue has not been foreclosed because I'm not aware that there was a NEC meeting or National Working Committee meeting in which that decision was made. But I think it would be stupid of the PDP to come to that conclusion because, for God's sake, we are saying that we want Nigerians to move to the next level. So if Goodluck Jonathan was the Vice President and of course, something happens and then he now steps in as Acting President, naturally, the whole world will expect PDP to adopt him for the 2011 elections and I have seen in some places, especially among the Northern elders have insisted that they have four years and that the North West under Yar'Adua was supposed to have eight years and they have done only four years and they have eight more years. So one begins to ask, is it the birthright of the North to continue to produce the president of this country?

When Babangida stepped aside, Shonekan was put. For only a couple of months. Abacha came and pushed him aside and took over. So the only time we have had perhaps, a fair deal was just during the two occasions when Obasanjo took over from Murtala after his assassination. That was in 1976 and of course, in 1999 when the PDP picked Obasanjo as president. So in the almost 50 years history of Nigeria, the North has had control of power for close to 40 years. But now, look at Nigeria, what is there to show for the consistent control of power by the North? That we are where we are today is because of the rudderless leaders we've had from the North. What's also the guarantee that the man you are going to ask to take over from Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 will stay there for only four years? Don't forget that this same zone they are talking about produced Shagari. This same zone produced Gowon.

This same zone produced the likes of Buhari, Babangida, Abdulsalam, Sani Abacha and of course, Yar'Adua. So it means that all of us in this country have been working for one particular zone. So when is it going to be the turn of the South South? Don't forget that the South South produce the oil which sustains this great country. So when is it going to be the turn of the South South where Goodluck came from? I think all these amount to greed and that is why I would want to use this opportunity to recall what Asari said the other day, that the North is made up of very greedy leaders and they are responsible for where we are put in this country. If you look at most of the key parastatals in this country, they want to go to where there are juicy appointments, heads of juicy parastatals. They want to be Director-General of NIMASA. They want to be MD of NPA. They want to be head of Nigeria Customs. They want to be head of Shippers Council. They want to be head of PTDF. They want to be MD of NNPC. Or what is good for the goose is not good for the gander?

The purported stance of the PDP raises questions in some circles. Does it mean that the party constitution supercedes the federal constitution or it is the case of a one-party state established?

These are the questions that people have been asking and of course, I have said it and I will continue to say it. If the PDP insists that hey are going to field another candidate from the North, as an incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan has the powers and the right to fly the flag of any party. Of course, don't forget that right now, he is the beautiful bride as far as the presidential race is concerned. The North has been there for almost 40 years if not more and they have not taken us anywhere so we now need the likes of Goodluck Jonathan to take this country to another level. We are tired of their corrupt, directionless rule in this country.