S'West 'rascals': Stirring up a hornet's nest

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Olusola Fabiyi

Since the struggle by ordinary Nigerians that he be made Acting President during the prolonged ailment of his former boss, President Umaru Yar’Adua, President Goodluck Jonathan had endeared himself to majority of Nigerians. Even when he had not done anything spectacular, his “good luck” made Nigerians root for him. When the leadership of his political party, the Peoples Democratic Party, was foot-dragging on the issue, his supporters soldiered on. They met an opposition in the governors elected on the platform of the party, who deliberated on several occasions on the issue but did not see any reason why Jonathan, who should be their deputy Commander-In-Chief, should assume full presidential powers.

Meetings after meetings, the governors led by their chairman, who is also the Governor of Kwara State, Dr. Bukola Saraki, told the nation and the world, that the then ailing and dying president was well, and therefore there was no need for Jonathan to be inaugurated as acting president.

It was the members of the opposition parties, led by the Save Nigerian Group which has gutsy people like Prof. Wole Soyinka, Pastor Tunde Bakare and a legion of other pro-democracy activists that took on the members of the President’s party, which invariably controls the equally not committed National Assembly and the Nigeria Governors Forum on the need not to have a vacuum in the Presidency. Many Nigerians had thought that Jonathan would lose his cool and quiet demeanour in the face of the provocation by members of his party, including the governors, but he did not.

This could be the reason the number of his supporters rose, also among the opposition political parties. The situation is the same in the South-West, where the Court of Appeal, had removed three PDP governors, who were occupying government houses unlawfully. Here, some members of the opposition that later came to office were tactically queuing behind the President. In Ondo state, which is one of the states where the sacking of an illegal PDP governor, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, took place, the party that produced the incumbent governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, decided not to field any presidential candidate, probably in deference to the presidential ambition of Jonathan.

It was, therefore, a rude shock for the leaderships of the Labour Party and the Action Congress of Nigeria, whose victories at the Court of Appeal led to the sacking of four governors from Ondo, Edo, Osun and Ekiti states to listen to Jonathan in Ibadan, referring to the opposition governors as rascals.

Jonathan, who was in Ibadan for the commencement of his campaign in the South-West, had said that his party must take over all the states in the region. It is instructive to note that he did not say that his party would win the elections. According to him, “We (PDP) must take over all the states in the South-West. The zone is too important to be left in the hands of rascals.” He stressed the critical nature of the South-West to his administration, saying that the zone would not be left to “rascals” to rule. Specifically, the President noted that Lagos State, being the commercial and industrial hub of the country, must be governed by the PDP.

Three of the four states mentioned by the President are governed by governors elected on the platform of the ACN. They are Mr. Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Alhaji Rauf Aregbesola (Osun) and Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) while Labour Party’s Mimiko calls the shots in Ondo.

The Chairman of Labour Party, Chief Dan Nwanyanwu, wondered when Jonathan started talking in an uncouth language. He said he was sure that the President had been contaminated as a result of the people he associated himself with. Nwanyanwu, who spoke with our correspondent in a telephone interview, also described the comment made by the President as “unbecoming of a president.” He said, “I am told that rascality runs in a family and that it is infectious. Therefore, the President may have been influenced by two characters that surrounded him at the rally in Ibadan. These senior members of his party might have intoxicated Mr. President to say those things that ought not to have come out of the mouth of a president of any nation. But the President should tell Nigerians which state has more rascals in the South-West than Ogun and Oyo States where there is no decorum.”

The presidential candidate of the ACN, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, agreed with Nwanyanwu. He added that the President resorted to foul language because he had nothing to showcase as his achievements. He also described the President’s comment as “unbecoming of a President” and “one that smacks of desperation.” He stated further that the Jonathan had finally shown Nigerians how desperate he was to remain in power by resorting to name calling and character assassination instead of addressing issues that border on the welfare of Nigerians and the people of the South-West in particular. Ribadu said, “We recognise the President’s dilemma. Of course he knows that both he and his PDP governors in the South-West have no achievements to brandish. They have no alternative to proffer to the positive changes being witnessed by the people in Lagos, Ekiti and Osun. It is, however, unbecoming of the President that in his frustration at the failure of him and his party to provide good governance to the people of the region and all Nigerians, he would resort to name calling.”

Ribadu, therefore, advised the President to use the opportunity of his campaigns to apologise to Nigerians for the 12 years of misrule and mis-governance that he and his party, the PDP had subjected Nigerians to. He said one would have thought that the President would use the opportunity of his presence to apologise to the people of the zone in particular and Nigerians in general about the failure of the PDP governors and the Federal Government. “The President should have been man enough to apologise to the Yoruba that his party, the PDP, after mismanaging the opportunity they had from 2003 to 2007 to provide good governance in the five South-West states they controlled, went ahead to steal the peoples votes and manipulate the electoral process in 2007,” the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission added.

He questioned the moral right the President or any other PDP stalwart had to refer to the progressive leaders of the South -West as rascals. He said that it was unfortunate that the President did not see anything wrong when “supporters of a PDP governor and supporters of the PDP Senate Leader engaged in a gun duel in the same Ibadan killing three people, the President did not refer to them as rascals.

“When minority PDP state legislators in Ogun, in an historic feat, sacked the majority members of the parliament, the President did not call them rascals. Even in the President’s home state of Bayelsa, when supporters of the PDP governor attacked supporters of Mr. President’s former adviser, killing six people, the president did not refer to anybody as rascals. On what basis can he now refer to anyone as a rascal?”

The ACN itself has condemned Jonathan for his statement, saying it was unbefitting of a President. The party said it believed that Jonathan was “giddy with excitement on the soap box,” and reminded him that he remained the President of all Nigerians and not that of the PDP and its supporters. The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said that if its governors were ‘rascals’, then Nigeria needed more ‘rascals’ in government in order to enjoy the dividends of democracy being delivered in the states mentioned by Jonathan, including Edo State which is not in the South-West but being ruled by an ACN elected governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole.

The ACN said, “The ‘rascal’ in Lagos State (Fashola) had touched the lives of residents in the areas of security, good roads, education and healthcare in less than one third of the time the ‘PDP non-rascals’ had been in charge of Nigeria. The ‘rascal’ in Edo State had turned around the fortunes of the state in a way which the PDP governors who preceded him in office could only have dreamt of.” It added that the ‘rascals’ in Ekiti and Osun, who are new in the saddle, are already restoring hope to their people who were “literally battered and bruised by their usurper PDP governors.” The party stated that while it would not want to match Jonathan on the use of ‘foul language,’ it would prefer to concentrate on issues that affected the people. It added that it understood that the President was yet to overcome the “vicious battering” by his main opponent, (Alhaji Atiku Abubakar), in the race for the PDP presidential ticket.”

In his futile attempt to defend his boss, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Ima Niboro, who reacted to the misgivings, said the President did not name any of the governors of the concerned states when he made the comment. He said, “Please note that the President didn’t call any names when he said the South-West was too important to be left in the hands of rascals. “So anyone who wants to appropriate the name to himself is welcome to do so.”


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