Hardly had President Goodluck Jonathan recovered from the verbal misfiring by his National Security Adviser recently, indicting the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of fuelling the Boko Haram menace, when suspected mastermind of the 2010 Independence day bombings in Abuja alleged that he held discussions with the president in respect of the appointment of petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Maduke and the bombing incident.
George Agba reports that with the two issues following themselves swiftly in succession, they could be the prophetic words of late Afro Juju music maestro Fela Anikulapo-Kuti that it is “double wahala for dead body” for the government of the day.
Azazi on the cross
Last week, President Goodluck Jonathan’s National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen. Andrew Owoye Azazi shot himself on the foot.
He made a pronouncement which members of the ruling class considered to be unbecoming of a top security chief like him.
Azazi categorically blamed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the rise of the Boko Haram insurgency in the country.
But the speed at which the president disowned his national security adviser can only be likened to that of a lightening. Reasons for Jonathan’s stink action on the retired general’s pronouncement cannot be far fetched.
Presidency sources say although the NSA had committed some pardonable verbal offences in the past, last week’s declaration was too much for the president to swallow. The thinking, perhaps, is that if the PDP was really the root cause of attacks by the Islamic extremist group, then the party has no justification to be in power, while innocent Nigerians are being killed on per second billing in the incessant gruesome attacks.
Azazi’s travails were compounded by reactions from the opposition camp.
Taking advantage of the show, members of the opposition quickly fuelled the fire on the mountain by showering praise on the ‘democratic and outspoken’ NSA for telling what they considered as blunt truth against his own party.
Commending him, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, (CNPP), the umbrella organisation of all the opposition parties in the country described Azazi as courageous.
Its spokesman, Osita Okechukwu said the NSA’s pronouncement was a confirmation of the position of the opposition political parties in the past 13 years since PDP assumed the reins of power that the party was not a democratic party “because the party lacks the three pivots of democracy, which are representation, transparency and justice, adding that “in PDP, their understanding of representation is the representation of the ‘she-goat’ syndrome”.
Mr. Yinka Odumaki of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) further made a mince meat of Azazi’s statement when he asked Nigerians to cross check properly whether in the kingdom of the devil, there was no confusion. He said what transpired shows “the sheer disconnect between President Jonathan and the NSA to disagree publicly.”
What appears to be bordering the presidency now is the confrontational manner in which the NSA is said to be high jacking the roles meant to be played by their rightful occupants of the office they are meant for.
Keen observers at the presidency are of the opinion that if a professional like Dr. Reuben Abati who is the presidential Spokesman can read between the lines and decide to keep mum on very sensitive security issues that requires tact in addressing, the NSA should be more cautious, knowing full well that in the security parlance, what he said is termed classified.
Dependable sources at ThisDay Newspaper and the SUN Newspaper offices in Lagos told LEADERSHIP respectively that on the very day Azazi indicted PDP over the Boko Haram menace, Abati was at their offices respectively to pay condolences to his colleagues. But he chose not to comment on last Thursday bomb attacks on the Abuja and Kaduna offices of the two media houses.
To this effect, many persons believe that the number one security officer in the country may have learnt a lesson the hard way on how not to comment on sensitive national issues the way he did last Friday. PDP, in a statement said, “However, it is important for us to advise appointees of government to navigate only on the terrain where their authority will not be humbled by superior knowledge, so as to avoid attracting undeserving and unnecessary ill-feelings for their principal. The PDP will not cease supporting and assisting the NSA inasmuch as he remains focused on his job of securing the lives and property of Nigerians.”
Sources at the presidency said the president was shocked when he saw media report in which Azazi was said to have goofed.
As soon as he arrived from Lagos on Friday, he proceeded straight to ThisDay Newspaper office in Abuja on a condolence visit.
Confronted with the question on his opinion about the NSA’s comment, Jonathan availed himself of the opportunity to put things straight- a kind of damage control measure you may say. He noted that although he read the news in which some journalists quoted the National Security Adviser, he must read the script by himself “and listen to him (NSA)” before deciding whether Azazi said so or not.
He said, “I don’t believe that it is undemocratic practices in the PDP that could give rise to Boko Haram or any other groups. So probably, people need to ask NSA to explain what he really means. I have read it from the papers. I don’t believe it is undemocratic practices of the PDP that gave rise to this or any other militant groups”.
In an attempt to also make a case for his NSA, Jonathan said, “One thing I do know, like philosophers will say that human beings disagree because people use different words to mean the same thing and use one word to mean different things. That is the primary reason for disagreement. That is why public officers like us are extremely careful because words are extremely elastic.
So, sometimes, you have something in your mind you want to communicate but the way you communicate it , different people will give different interpretations. That is why some human beings who don’t think are quarrelsome. When they hear something, they only understand it in one way. They don’t give the opportunity to look the other way.
“So until I read it, I don’t believe that the NSA mean that the practices in the PDP are anti-democractic. I cannot comment much on what happened in the first republic, but the second republic that I marginally participated, aborted republic, I marginally participated and this third republic that I am a key actor, presently as a member of the first eleven, I still see that the PDP is one of the most democratic parties”.
Azazi, had at the second South-South summit in Asaba, Delta State capital, where insecurity was discussed hinted that “the extent of violence did not increase in Nigeria until when there was a declaration by the current president that he was going to contest”
At the moment, pressure is said to be on Jonathan to sack his NSA. Sources say the president’s men wants Azazi removed because, while they had been running from pillar to post in an attempt to manage the situation, the NSA was busy grandstanding on his position instead of showing remorse.
For the NSA to have reportedly dismiss the rumour that a big row might be brewing between him and the President over his comments, for them, was indicative that he really meant what he said at the South-South Summit.
An NSA source was reportedly quoted to have said the President believes that the NSA was merely expressing his opinion, adding that “but we all know that what the NSA said was the truth.
“However, being a military man, he summoned the courage to say what many of us know to be the truth but no one has been courageous enough to say so. I know that some big people in the PDP will not be happy, but there is nothing they can do about it. It may sound very unpalatable, but that is how it is”, he added.
And then came Okah with his bombshell
Claims by suspected mastermind of October 1, 2010 bombings in Abuja, Mr. Henry Okah before a South African court that he spoke to President Goodluck Jonathan in April 2010 in order to aide Diezani Allison-Madueke to become Petroleum Minister was another development that rattled the presidency to its marrow within the week. Although the president had spurned them, the claims, no doubt is yet another acid test for Jonathan.
Apart from the claim contained in a fresh affidavit he filed before the court that in just the first few days of April 2010, after Jonathan became Acting President of Nigeria, one Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke called him over 20 times for help to become Petroleum Minister, Okah also alleged that on the day of the bombing, he received a call from Mr. Moses Jituboh, the Head of Personal Security to President Jonathan, urging him (Okah) to continue to cooperate with the President.
Okah added that Jituboh also asked him to shift the blame of the October 1, 2010 bombing to radical elements in the North, just as President Jonathan had sent Douglas to meet him in South Africa where Douglas informed him that the Northern region of Nigeria was doing everything to prevent Jonathan from being the president.
Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, however, described Okah’s claims as not only false, but lacking factual foundation.
Since the president himself has said that as far as the case of Okah’s involvement in the plotting and execution of terrorist attacks in the country was already before a court of competent jurisdiction in South Africa, he does not want to say much on the matter, let’s see how the trial goes.
He has also promised to make a full representation on the matter to the court when the trial opens, in accordance with to due process and international law. He further advised the media to respect the sanctity of the legal and judicial processes in the matter by avoiding becoming available tools in the hands of Mr. Okah and his cohorts.
But as Jonathan has alleged, if this is an “entirely diversionary trial by the media aimed only at falsely impugning the character and integrity” of Mr. President and his administration, whoever may have hatched that plan and sell it to Okah to rope the president in must be an evil genius. Knowing full well that the president was too much charged with problems of governance already, the intention might just be to destabilise him completely.
But the question yawning for answers on the lips of key actors at the presidency is who was Okah at the time that Allison Maduekwe should deem it necessary that it was him who must convince the president about her choice for the ministerial position?
Where were the likes of Chief Edwin Clark and Chief Tony Aninih in the political landscape of the country, if the minister felt he must use power brokers from her region that Deziani chose to prefer Okah of all people? Well, in order not to be subjudice, I rest my case on this matter.