During a fiery meeting with Jonathan two nights ago, the governors queried his decision to appoint a Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) without consulting them. They accused him of selecting men and women who are ‘paperweight’ in their various states. Above all, they said Jonathan overreached himself by appointing such a powerful committee with a Northern Christian and Southern Christian as Chairman and Deputy Chair respectfully.
They also asked Jonathan to shelve the plan to invoke section 144 of the constitution at yesterday’s Federal Executive Council meeting, insisting that Yar’adua should continue as President while Jonathan should remain “Acting President.”
Two sources told Saharareporters that Jonathan looked dazed and helpless. “He was especially stunned when the governor of his home state, Timipre Sylva, became very vocal and confrontational at the meeting,” said one of the sources.
The governors also bitterly complained about recent press interviews by Minister of Information, Dora Akunyili, accusing her of causing “disaffection and overheating the polity” by her utterances. They asked Jonathan to censure her immediately.
When the meeting was over, the governors took over the airwaves to announce a rash of decisions and orders given to Jonathan. As soon as they left, the PDP leadership also came up with its assault on Jonathan. The party leaders told Jonathan to forget the idea of running for presidency after his tenure as Acting President.
“After what happened two nights ago, the governors have effectively stripped Jonathan of most of his power to take presidential decisions,” said a source close to one of the governors. He added: “They have also restored the Presidency to an unseen and unwell Yar’adua.”
“It’s a victory for Turai Yar’adua who will wield those powers on behalf of her sick husband,” a diplomatic source told Saharareporters. “It’s a sad reversal for Nigerians and one hopes that it’s only a temporary setback.”
The governors’ move to checkmate Jonathan has been described as an “expedient volte-face driven by greed and avarice.”
A few weeks ago, the same state governors – some of Nigeria’s most rabid looters – boosted Jonathan’s path to presidential power when they met and decided that Yar’adua’s prolonged absence from Nigeria was overheating the system. The leader of the group, Bukola Saraki, was particularly miffed that he was rebuffed when he visited Saudi Arabia a few days after Yar’adua was evacuated from Nigeria on medical emergency. On his return to Nigeria, Governor Saraki used his father to push a series of campaign against Yar’adua through his “Northern Union” pressure group.
Seeing an opportunity for his own political advancement, Bukola Saraki also reached out to Jonathan to ask for the position of Vice President. He promised that, once Jonathan offered him the VP position, he would activate his contacts in the National Assembly to impeach Yar’adua after declaring him incapacitated.
Our sources said that Jonathan declined to designate Bukola Saraki as the VP. Though disappointed, the Kwara governor then turned his attention to another issue that was important to him and other members of his Governors Forum.
The forum members set their eyes on Nigeria’s strategic reserve, a sum of revenues from crude oil sales. Domiciled abroad, the reserve is named the “Excess Crude Accounts,” so named because the fund is from sale prices above the budgeted cost of selling Nigerian sweet crude per barrel. The governors badly wanted to lay their hands on the fund, but disbursements from it require the Nigerian President’s agreement and signature. For weeks, Jonathan had declined to sign, stating that he lacked the requisite constitutional authority to release the funds.
The governors realized the serious political risk of lying that Yar’adua signed the document from his hospital bed in Jeddah – the way that his handlers had forged his signature on the supplementary budget after dispatching his principal secretary on a crooked trip to Saudi Arabia. To avoid certain uproar that would have followed another ruse that a bed-ridden Yar’adua signed, the governors issued a statement insisting that Jonathan be made “Acting President.” The governors reached out to members of the National Assembly and some of them sat in the legislative chambers to ensure that the plan was approved.
Once he was declared “acting President,” Jonathan released over $2.5 billion from the excess crude accounts to be shared among the governors.
“Once the funds were released, the governors went into a looting frenzy, leaving Jonathan to his own devices and to sort out how to exercise the ambiguous powers bestowed on him,” said a source knowledgeable about the deals.
Meanwhile, Jonathan mustered some “courage” and began to reach out to people across all political spectrums with the aim of achieving full presidential powers. “But the groups he consulted had conflicting interests that shaped their response to him,” said one of our sources, an informal advisor to Jonathan. He said Jonathan’s “limited experience, his lack of clear ideas about what to do with power, left him indecisive.” Another source, who worked with Jonathan during his days as governor in Bayelsa, also described him as “a scared man who marooned himself in Abuja, afraid that Yar’adua loyalists might kill him.”
Jonathan’s advisors sought to secure Yar’adua’s medical records and exact health condition, since Turai Yar’adua and the cabal in Jeddah was highly secretive. Jonathan’s people used Israeli intelligence contractors to get the information on Yar’adua, but the Israelis ripped them off, providing only artistic composites of what they thought Yar’adua looked like on his hospital bed in Jeddah.
To complicate matters, members of Yar’adua’s kitchen cabinet refused to give up. From beside her husband’s sick bed in Saudi Arabia, Turai Yar’adua and her key loyalists – including economic adviser Tanimu Kurfi, former Governor James Ibori, former Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa, and Agriculture Minister Abba Ruma – manipulated the country, hired media hands, handed massive bribes to members of the national legislature and worked the lines with politicians, sowing the deception that Yar’adua was improving and regaining strength. They also engaged elements in the security forces to control everything that moves. The National Security Adviser (NSA), Sarki Mukhtar, was used to bombard Jonathan with daily security reports “showing that Jonathan’s life was in great danger,” said a source in the NSA’s office. Yar’adua’s agents routinely harassed federal ministers whom they suspected of flagging loyalty or disloyalty.
The brinkmanship came to a head two weeks ago when it became clear that Yar’adua was likely to be removed at the Federal Executive Council meeting. Turai and her cronies made a desperate decision to pack Yar’adua onto an air-ambulance and have him to flown into Abuja in the dead of the night. Offloaded from the air ambulance into a vehicular one, Yar’adua was driven to the residential area of the presidential villa and moved into a medically fortified facility in the Villa.
Facing mounting pressure eight days after Yar’adua was holed up in the villa, unseen, his wife and her cronies feared that the mounting opposition could jeopardize their hold on power. Their dramatic arrival and the illicit use of military muscle had failed to do the trick.
To device new strategies, elements of the Yar’adua group gathered last week in Edo State, in a meeting summoned by former Governor Ibori of Delta State. Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo provided logistical support for the meeting. The Edo meeting, chaired by Ibori, agreed to explore several options to emasculate Jonathan before he fully consolidates his hold on power. Ibori, who still nurses an ambition to become the PDP’s vice presidential candidate in next year’s presidential election, is “very concerned that a powerful Jonathan could take over the party machinery and give it back to the Obasanjo faction of the party,” said a source who talks with Ibori. While Ibori eyes the VP spot, Oshiomhole is reported to be interested in running for the presidency in 2015.
“Oshiomhole has emerged as one of the strongest attackers of Jonathan,” revealed one source. He said the Edo governor was one of the most vocal voices during the governors’ meeting with Jonathan. “The only governor more rabid in his attacks was Timipre Sylva whose hyperactivity during the tense meeting made some governors in attendance to whisper that he was on drugs,” added the source.
The Edo meeting decided that the Yar’adua team should offer all eligible state governors, whether PDP or not, the promise of “automatic second terms if they would pledge loyalty to Turai and her group,” a source briefed about the meeting revealed to us. The group also commissioned members of the Yar’adua team to step up the campaign to portray Jonathan as anti-North.
To enlist the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, the Yar’adua-Ibori team assured him of their support for his ambition to capture the governorship seat in Ogun State. They also told him that they had credible intelligence that Jonathan wanted to dig up the Rural Electrification Agency scandal which involves Bankole’s father and two siblings but which Yar’adua had ordered the EFCC to bury.
In addition, Ibori contacted Chief of Army Staff, Abdulrahman Dambazau, and asked him to indicate his reluctance to take orders from Jonathan as the commander-in-chief. Saharareporters had earlier revealed that Dambazau is involved in defense contracts with Ibori. Without clearing with Jonathan, the COAS had illegally ordered the movement of soldiers in different parts of Abuja the night Yar’adua returned.
At the end of their meeting, the Ibori team retired to an elaborate birthday bash for Justice Constance Momoh, the retiring chairperson of the Code of Conduct Bureau. The party was sponsored and funded by Ibori and Governor Oshiomhole. Our investigators recently uncovered the fact that the retiring judge’s son, Omamofe Boyo, is a longtime front for Ibori in business deals. Boyo has served for long as a director of Oando. UK court documents available to Saharareporters show that when Ibori applied for a bank account on behalf of Stanhope, one of the companies he used to launder funds stolen from Delta, he stated that he might invest £100m in the bank and also disclosed that he held a 30% ownership stake in Oando, the largest private oil company in Nigeria.
“The relationship between Ibori and Justice Momoh’s son explains why the judge tried to get former EFCC chairman Nuhu Ribadu at all cost in a convoluted trial over Ribadu’s purported failure to file appropriate forms at the Code of Conduct Bureau,” disclosed our source. Justice Momoh had issued a declaration that Ribadu was wanted.
Several sources have told Saharareporters that members of Yar’adua’s kitchen cabinet boast that they hold the ultimate joker in the fight against Jonathan. That joker is the use of the courts to neutralize Jonathan. “They have recruited judges who are willing to give a simple court ruling to the effect that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s status as acting president was illegal,” said one source. “That would effectively put Yar’adua back in power even if he remains unfit,” he added, stating that his wife and her allies plan to keep running Nigeria using his physical presence as a cover. There are currently several court cases pending at the Federal High Courts.
A source told us that Jonathan’s demeanor and body language at yesterday’s the Federal Executive Council meeting showed that “he has lost his swagger if he had any to begin with.”
Not only did he retreat from a plan to shuffle the cabinet – and to remove as many as ten ministers – he made a tepid appeal to the ministers not to allow the cabinet to become divided along the lines of North and South. He asked Akunyili not to grant any further press interviews without his clearance. He then made a weak threat to dissolve the cabinet if ministers engaged in acts of insubordination.
Our sources said Team Yar’adua has been in a celebratory mood since the governor’s emasculation of Jonathan. “They believe they have got a reprieve of another week to plan how to be fully back in power,” said a source.
Even so, a source told us that Jonathan is regrouping for his own offensive to assume power after several Nigerians and groups decried his lack of decisiveness and displays of weakness. “He may be moving more aggressively in the next day or two to fire some misfits from the cabinet and to announce some initiatives,” said one of his advisors, revealing that some prominent Nigerians had charged the “acting president” to “take charge.”
Earlier today, Jonathan inaugurated three committees, including the advisory committee whose leadership provoked fierce criticism from the Governors Forum.