Following the growing opposition to the re-election bid of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 by his kinsmen in the Niger Delta, indications emerged yesterday that the Presidency had sent emissaries to get the critics to soft-pedal.
Our correspondent also learnt that the Presidency had promised the aggrieved ethnic leaders and ex-Ijaw militant commanders that the oil pipeline surveillance contracts, stopped in February 2012, are renewed.
Tension had gripped the Presidency due to the rising discontent with President Jonathan in the oil-rich Niger Delta ahead of his second term bid.
National Mirror learnt yesterday that the truce deal was being spearheaded by a notable Ijaw leader (name withheld).
It was gathered that the Presidency mandated the team to persuade the exmilitant leaders and other opponents of President Jonathan to stop their attacks on the President.
National Mirror learnt that the Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Mike Oghiadomhe, met with the President of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Front, Alhaji Murjaheed Asari- Dokubo, in Abuja in a move designed to persuade the exmilitant leaders to sheathe his swords and reconcile with President Jonathan. Findings showed that only Asari-Dokubo attended the meeting.
It was gathered that the Presidency, which was uncomfortable with the recent attacks on Jonathan by Asari-Dokubo, especially as it affected the chances of the Nigerian leader to seek re-election in 2015, directed Oghiadomhe to prevail on the ex-fighter to end his vitrolic attacks.
Reliable sources in the Presidency told National Mirror last night that yesterday’s meeting served as a prelude to the general meeting between the Presidency and an enlarged forum of the ex-militant commanders in order to forge a truce and repair the damaged relationship between Jonathan and the former warlords.
Although the agenda of yesterday’s meeting was not made public, National Mirror gathered that Oghiadomhe discussed the festering issue of renewal of the multi-million dollar oil pipeline surveillance contracts, which was the source of anger of the ex-militants, with Asari- Dokubo and assured him that Jonathan was ready to renew the controversial contracts, which were due since February 2012, without further delay.
The presidential aide also persuaded Asari-Dokubo to prevail on his colleagues to desist from further attacks on the President, assuring that Jonathan would soon meet with them to enable them formally present their grievances to him.
Asari-Dokubo confirmed that he had an audience with Oghiadomhe in Abuja in a telephone interview with National Mirror last night. He said the meeting was “private and personal”, adding that it had no bearing with the Presidency. “Yes, I had a meeting with the Chief of Staff to the President today (yesterday) but it was private and personal.
The Chief of Staff is a long standing friend of mine. People are free to insinuate anything but we only discussed issues of personal and mutual benefits,” he added.
It will be recalled that leaders of notable ethnic nationalities and ex-Ijaw warlords in the region had lately scored Jonathan low on performance and delivery of democratic dividends to his kinsmen in the region. Asari-Dokubo had said that the re-election of President Jonathan in 2015 was doubtful due to his lacklustre performance, especially in the region.
Also, other notable exfighters, particularly Chief Ateke Tom and Mr. Ebikabowei Victor Ben, a.k.a Boyloaf, in a recent publication, lamented that President Jonathan had squandered the goodwill that heralded his ascendancy to the Presidency in 2011.
The ex-militant leaders had threatened to withdraw their support for the re-election of Jonathan in 2015. The Ijaw National Congress, INC, the umbrella body of the ethnic nationality, had also asked the President to forget his re-election in 2015.
A source in the Presidency, who did not want his name mentioned, told National Mirror that “the Commander- in-Chief (Jonathan) is worried about his downward trend in his popularity rating in the Niger Delta.
“The Presidency is disturbed that virtually all the ex-militant commanders who had once threatened to make the country ungovernable if he is not re-elected are today singing a new tune that he is not qualified for re-election due to his alleged unenviable performance.
“It is more worrisome that some ethnic leaders, including the Ijaw National Congress, INC, have joined the fray, insisting that the President should not be reelected and threatened not to support him in his bid to seek a second term mandate.
“This trend is worrisome to the Presidency and Mr. President is greatly unhappy that his own kinsmen are the one championing the campaign that he is not fit for a second term ticket.
“Hence the Presidency has raised a team headed by a prominent South/ South leader to placate all aggrieved parties in the region to ceasefire and remain steadfast with Mr. President in the high wire politicking ahead of the 2015 election.
“We are aware that the team has met with some exmilitant leaders in Abuja to persuade them to halt further attacks on Mr. President.
“The Presidency has also enticed the ex-militant leaders with the carrots of renewal of their oil protection pipelines contract, which the President has refused to renew since it expired in February 2012.
“The presidential team is also expected to reach out to the aggrieved ethnic leaders to reduce the attacks on Mr. President by his kinsmen in the Niger Delta.”
Meanwhile, a former Governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, has lamented that the Peoples Democratic Party-led Presidency has failed the country.
Odigie-Oyegun, who is also the National Chairman of the South-South Peoples Assembly, a multi-faceted socio-cultural group with political undertones in the region, said the performance of the Presidency was abysmal.
The ex-governor, who spoke in a telephone interview with National Mirror yesterday, asked the President to give priority attention to key projects in the South-South.
He said: “This opportunity may not come again soon for the South-South to produce the president of the country and people will challenge him (Jonathan) as soon as he comes out of office about what he was able to do for them. “Jonathan should change the psychology and get a bit more parochial towards the South-South in providing infrastructure for the area.
He should attend to the projects in the South-South to convince the people of the area that they do indeed have a South-South presidency. “But generally, I am not satisfied with the state of the entire country under the PDP leadership. They have totally lost it if they had it at all. I am very sad at what PDP has done to the nation.
I am greatly unhappy with the leadership of PDP because it is not responsive to the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians and I am also bothered about the level of impunity.
“The security is zero or how do you justify the attack on the venerable and respected Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero? What could have possessed them to the extent of attacking such an old man? Why? “We have challenges that the PDP leadership is toying with. For instance, electricity supply has nosedived again in the past few months.
“The PDP leadership should take up these challenges rather than stealing money. They are stealing pensioners’ funds here and there. The PDP is not viable for re-election. They can only be re-elected if we in the opposition fail our people by refusing to listen to them.
“Nigerian people are saying team together and save us. That is the message. If we ignore the people, we too will be part of the conspiracy. I think they have no more clues, they are totally lost and we don’t want them to destroy the country.”