POWER VACUUM RESOLUTION-How coup scare forced govs, lawmakers to 'crown' Jonathan

2010-02-16
THE SUN Newspaper- Nosike Ogbuenyi


Unknown to many, the two immediate catalysts that swayed the National Assembly members and the state governors to take the decisive steps that broke the debilitating political deadlock in the country last week were the twin factors of the fear of an imminent military coup d’etat and the lure of excess crude oil earnings.

An informed source told Daily Sun Summit that security reports of possible mutiny by soldiers, which became too scary last week, jolted the lawmakers particularly the more hesitant House of Representatives into going extra mile to halt the political slide and the pervading air of anxiety. Two separate unprecedented resolutions by the Senate and the House of Representatives legalized the assumption of full authority as acting President and Commander-in-Chief by Vice President Goodluck Jonathan exactly one week ago on Tuesday.

Apart from damning security reports from military high commands warning of imminent coup, some concerned elderstatesmen, particularly key players in the Second Republic like former President Shehu Shagari and former Vice President Alex Ekwueme together with former Head of State, Dr. Yakubu Gowon had impressed on the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly, the dangers of their dilly dallying on the dicey matter while the legitimacy of the democratic order was being eroded by the day. They relayed to them their own traumatic experiences in the past especially during the Second Republic when avoidable bickering among the political class were capitalized upon by ambitious elements in the military to truncate previous democratic dispensation and other regimes.

It was revealed that the uncharacteristic deft political moves by the lawmakers and the governors in resolving the approximately 80-day old power vacuum in the country was a direct fall out of palpable concerns in high quarters about underground maneuvers by some men in uniform and their civilian collaborators to snuff life out of the 11-year old Fourth Republic. Indeed, the military high command confirmed that some unscrupulous politicians were actually inciting the military to strike and sack the civil democratic administration.

Some politicians’ effrontery on the matter even manifested openly with their advocacy of the Flt. Lt. John Jerry Rawlings recipe. Rawlings had in the early eighties purged the Ghanaian polity with the blood of three former Presidents/Heads of State of that country. Also executed together with the allegedly corrupt leaders were tens of their civil and military collaborators. Rawlings’ argument was that unless those leaders were wiped out from the face of earth, they would continue to directly or indirectly manipulate and stunt the destiny of Ghana to suit their own selfish ends. And the gambit seemed to have worked for Ghana because since that revolution, the former Gold Coast has been on the path of steady growth and transformation up to the present stage where it is rated as a democratic model on the West coast.

Logically, therefore, the fear of some revolutionary minded elements in the Nigerian Army hearkening to the call for a Rawlings type of revolution in Nigeria greatly helped to push the Senate and the House of Representatives into action by passing their controversial but highly efficacious resolutions empowering Vice President Jonathan to step in as Acting President and Commander-in-Chief with full powers and authority.

The coup scare first became public knowledge four weeks back in the thick of the sectarian crisis that enveloped Jos, the Plateau State capital. A fortnight ago, tighter security measures were thrown around the country, particularly the seat of power, Abuja, Lagos and some states regarded as flashpoints. The moves followed receipt of more sinister reports of underground attempts by some politicians to lure the military to overthrow the civilian government.

The worrisome development prompted both the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Marshall Paul Dike and the Chief of Army Staff (CAS), Lt. General Abdulrahman Bello Dambazzau to make separate declarations that the Nigerian Armed Forces would crush any attempt to lure the military into politics. in fact, Dike called on the military to “defend democracy at all costs.”
“We must always remind ourselves that politics is better played by politicians. Also, I must not fail to stress that regardless of the imperfections of our political experiments, democracy remains the only acceptable form of governance. And as members of the Nigerian Armed Forces, we must defend it at all costs,” the CDS stated unequivocally.

His assertion came on the heels of the revelation by the CAS, General Dambazzau, revealed that there were “attempts by some people to drag the army which has remained neutral but absolutely committed to the survival of our nascent democracy, into the political affairs of this country.”
Although, the military authorities did not pin-point those behind the heinous move, it was learnt that intelligence reports at their disposal indicated a continuous push by politicians to apply military solution to the power vacuum logjam created by President Yar’Adua’s absence from office and the country since November 23, 2009.?The politicians, who were desperate to unseat the present administration, which they viewed as inept and corrupt, were said to have infiltrated some military commands and were scouting for officers to sponsor on the illegal adventure. Their escapades necessitated Dambazzau’s warning to politicians to steer off the barracks and desist from luring soldiers into illegal acts.

A source said the infiltration of the barracks by ‘evil-minded’ politicians and their agents led to the decision by the Army authorities to drastically restrict operations of Mammy markets in all barracks in the country three weeks ago. Indeed, it was gathered that some of the appointments and meetings between the desperate politicians and their targeted officers took place at the Mammy markets over drinks and presumed revelries.
The situation was said to have got to a stage when it was made compulsory for soldiers and officers to obtain a pass before going out of their bases. The restrictions included inter-barrack movement. The popular mammy markets, which usually ran till the wee hours of the night, had restricted operational hours under which they closed 6pm everyday with everybody expected to vacate the market at that time. Furthermore, it was made compulsory for Army officers and soldiers travelling 30 kilometres from their base to obtain a valid pass.

It was further gathered that if the National Assembly did not take the action it took last week, something would have most likely happened in a matter of time through the disgruntled politicians succeeding in recruiting some adventurous officers to carry out their plot.
A prominent opposition politician and chieftain of the National Democratic Movement (NDM), Dr. Sule Hamma however disagreed that it was the fear of coup that led to the dramatic resolution of the political impasse. Sule who is also the Director-General of The Buhari Organisation (TBO) is of the view that the emergence of Jonathan as an Acting President was the product of a spontaneous national struggle. He therefore wants the administration view itself as a transitional government that would vigorously pursue developmental goals and reforms that would usher credible election among others

Hamma maintained that what happened was the culmination of pressure by such organisations as the National Democratic Movement, G-53, the Save Nigeria Group, the Labour movement and members of the National Assembly. He said the various organizations, officials and individuals concerned responded to the call of patriotic Nigerians desirous of saving the country from monumental constitutional and political crisis that could threaten its existence.

He stated: “In my view, the situation we are in today has brought into being a government headed by Goodluck Jonathan that I see as a transitional administration. I do not see this government as a continuation of Yar’Adua’s administration. I see this clearly as an administration born out of a genuine desire by Nigerians to have a government that is responsive to them and address the issues of maladministration, irresponsible management of public resources, inability to conduct free and fair election and reconstruction of public infrastructure. It will be in the interest of Jonathan and those around him to understand that this struggle is not about taking over power and continue with business as usual.”

Apart from the coup scare, another veritable factor that precipitated the stunning resolution of the power logjam was the allure of excess crude revenue. The state governors who had lately woken to the reality that they needed the approval of the President for the release of the over two billion dollar excess crude proceeds to be shared among the tiers of government. The surplus revenue which is usually paid in dollars is highly valued by the state chief executives.
Therefore, when they discovered that the windfall had been caught in the web of the presidential power vacuum, the governors were nudged by their selfish instincts to mobilize the senators and members of House of Representatives from their respective states to support the motion for the empowerment of Jonathan to step in as acting President to fill the power vacuum.
It was easier for the governors to mobilize the 109 senators than the 360 members of the lower chamber whose numbers are evidently unwieldly.

 

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