Jonathan:Stepping out from the cold?

VANGUARD Newspaper-Jide Ajani

Some four weeks ago, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, met with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former President who helped install Jonathan as running mate to President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2007. The meeting lasted about four hours.

This was just a few days into Jonathan’s acting Presidency and there was need for him to touch base with his political father, Obasanjo. The meeting dwelt extensively on how Jonathan should engage his new responsibilities as Acting President.

Obasanjo, Sunday Vanguard gathered, wanted Jonathan to move swiftly. Now, whether the type of movement Obasanjo wanted was to be spiced with his own typical, vindictive movement, or one that would begin a process of healing in the polity after the massive poisoning Yar’Adua’s illness had created, could not be immediately ascertained.

However, sources confirmed the insistence by Obasanjo that Jonathan “should be his own man” – sans eyeballing Obasanjo.

Jonathan, it was gathered, did not as much as remonstrate. He was for all that Obasanjo said.

Although not thoroughly a one-way traffic, Jonathan was said to have allowed Obasanjo into his own world, first as Vice President since November 23 when Yar’Adua was flown out of the country, and the few days of acting presidency, a world which Obasanjo did not find palatable.

Although sources could not say whether it was at that meeting that Jonathan informed Obasanjo of his intention to institute a Presidential Advisory Council, PAC, to be chaired by General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, it was established that the idea which Obasanjo mooted during his first coming as a military head of state was discussed and agreed upon.

Therefore, when Jonathan instituted his PAC, first without allowing the state governors make an input and most importantly, making T Y Danjuma the chairman, many wondered whether Jonathan was not heading for a showdown with Obasanjo.

Sunday Vanguard was told that rather than eyeball Obasanjo on the Danjuma chairmanship, Jonathan also played smart politics by ensuring that some other individuals of note prevailed on Obasanjo to allow Danjuma, just so the latter would help deflect any insinuation that a Jonathan Presidency was an Obasanjo presidency.

And before Jonathan appointed General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau (rtd) as the new National Security Adviser, NSA, to replace Sarki Muhktar, tongues were already wagging on the steeliness of Jonathan as Acting President.
And whereas Gusau is a ‘protector of the state’, whose appointment is meant to serve more than one purpose, the question of Jonathan asserting himself subsists.

First, his response to the rump of Yar’Adua’s men in government and their shenanigans has come under heavy scrutiny.

The issue of allowing some ministers in the cabinet – either of Yar’Adua leaning or the new band of cabinet members who attempt to demonstrate loyalty to Jonathan – to polarize the Executive Council of the Federation, EXCOF, is seen by some as another example of how not to lead.

In fact, it was so bad penultimate week that a group of ministers, led by Uffot Ekaette, Shettima Mustapha and Rilwanu Lukman, among others, went to Jonathan on the eve of the EXCOF meeting to counsel him against the temptation of dissolving the EXCOF as currently constituted, just as they, in a manner of speaking, pledged loyalty.

At the EXCOF meeting, those who had primed themselves for a show down had cold water poured on them when Acting President Jonathan was said to have told them “to just go about doing their work and leave out politics which, according to him, would be a distraction. Jonathan admonished the ministers to ensure that peace and the delivery of democracy dividends were upper most in the minds and hearts of the ministers.

He said a policy of no victor no vanquished would be helpful at a time like this. The issue of Yar’Adua only came up in terms of prayerful wishes for a quick recovery. But even in that same EXCOF and outside, the perception is that Jonathan is not really acting as a President.

However, if his removal of Muhktar as NSA jolted many a Yar’Adua boys, the appointment of Gusau jolted many more. (See box: GUSAU – Protector of The State)

Since February 9, 2010, when the National Assembly made its resolution empowering Jonathan to commence serving as Acting President, only three things have been clearly achieved: First the institution of PAC and the appointment of Gusau as NSA – this is without prejudice to the committee that will appraise government contracts and project around the country.

In an earlier interview with Chief Richard Akinjide, SAN, Second Republic Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, “Jonathan has all the powers of the President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria. There are no half measures in this thing. When you’re the President or even the Acting President, you have all the powers of a substantive President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The President, whether substantive or acting, has all the powers of the holder of office.”
Another senior advocate, Olisa Agbakoba, and former President of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, added his voice to the imperatives surrounding the powers at the disposal of the holder of the office, even as Acting President.

According to him, “there can be no two presidents of Nigeria at any given time; there can be no two national anthem for Nigeria at any time, one for the President and the other for the Acting President. No
“As it is, the transmission of letter from the President is a transmission of the presidential powers to Jonathan, simple and straight forward. Once somebody is expected to discharge those powers, every other thing goes with it. He should act.”

Although Jonathan’s appointment as Acting President is seen in some quarters as being against the interest of the North, his actions too, can be misconstrued as such.

His PAC, for instance, is chaired by Danjuma, a Northern Christian; his deputy, Ben Nwabueze, a professor, is also a Christian from the South.

The two most important things Nigerians are expecting from Jonathan are the issues of Electoral Reforms and Power.

The Acting President is not expected to do too much within the time that he has at his disposal; but he, too, should be aware of the fact that he can not do too much and, therefore, should focus his attention on the two major issues of electoral reforms and power supply.

Then there is the other issue of Jonathan seen as running a hijacked presidency. Although he has tried not to be seen as a South South Governor, some of the utterances of his people of the South South sometimes create the impression that he may become beholding to them.

He does not need that; at least not now.

What he needs to do his shore up his own appearances and esteem in such a manner that he would create a new image of himself. That way, his actions would be seen as his and his alone, at least, in his capacity as Acting President.


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