Dark Clouds Hang Over National Confab!

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As the plot to secure a six-year term for President Jonathan reechoes on the floor of the National Confab, our Correspondent, Ondugbe O’abah examines its authenticity, the mounting disquiet and ripples across the nation  

President Goodluck Jonathan is not famous for his political suave shuffles. Unlike General Ibrahim Babangida (whose “Politricks” inspired the ‘Evil Genius’ and ‘Maradona’ nicknames) and General Olusegun Obansanjo (renowned for his native intelligence and sundry ‘abracadabra’), Jonathan comes across as a political novice. One thing which even his harshest critics grudgingly concede to the president is his occasional flashes of political masterstroke. Witness, for instance, his belated identification with the historic June 12 poll as well as renaming a Lagos-based university after the undeclared winner of that election, Moshood Abiola, garnering some political mileage from the symbolic action.

Barely had the ovation which greeted that suave move petered out than His Excellency conjured an even more significant action: convening a national conference. Given that none other than President Jonathan himself had hitherto spoken out against such a confab, this move confounded his supporters and opponents alike. Little wonder, a whiff of suspicion encompassed the national conference, with not a few Nigerians strongly convinced that it’s all part of a smokescreen to execute his hidden agenda.

Inaugurating the confab at the National Judicial Institute on Monday March 17, 2014, Jonathan laboured to dispel such suspicion. He said: “Let me again repeat what I have been saying, that Goodluck Jonathan has no personal agenda in convening this national conference. Our sole motivation for convening this conference is the patriotic desire for a better and a greater nation.”

He added: “We are determined that things must be done in a way and manner that will positively advance that objective. We must not approach these issues with suspicion and antagonism. Rather, we should be open-minded and work to achieve what is best for Nigeria…..

“Indeed, I am quite worried when I hear people say that some participants in this national conversation are coming here to defend and promote ethnic or clannish agenda. It is very regrettable that there are persons who believe that we cannot undertake any collective task in our country without the hindrance of ethnic rivalry even after 100 years of nationhood…

“We have an obligation to reshape and redirect our country for the benefit of our children. There should be no room for divisive cleavages and ethnic jingoism. There should be no room for selfish considerations that defeat the purpose of national progress. There should be room only for the national interest…. I urge you, therefore, to focus strictly on the Nigerian agenda.”

Great, rousing talk! Focusing “strictly on the Nigerian agenda” would undoubtedly do a world of good for this blessed but serially raped country. But DESERT HERALD has learnt that suspicions that a “Jonathan Agenda” is allegedly being surreptitiously nurtured at the confab are heightening disquiet across the land.

Specially, it is alleged that even as the jaw-jaw goes on, some trusted lieutenants of the incumbent occupant of Aso Rock are girding their loins to ensure that to be embedded in the confab’s eventual recommendation would be a six- year single tenure for the president and state governors.

“The aim of this motley gang of so-called ‘Goodluck loyalists’ is obviously to ensure that the president would, at the expiration of his tenure next year, enjoy two extra years,” an insider squealed to our correspondent over the weekend. “The idea is to use one of the sub-committees of the confab to prosecute this agenda with ‘plan B’ as a decoy.”

Explaining the “decoy,” the source said “plan A” would hinge the desirability of the 6 year term on the premise that it would commence in 2019 (by which time Jonathan – if he wins the 2015 presidential poll – would have completed his tenure), implying that he would personally not benefit from the proposed extended tenure.

“To sweeten the whole deal, a rotational claves of sorts would be inserted into the single- six – year-term,” another source disclosed to this newspaper. “This is with a view to placate the northern region which has been loudly demanding to have its turn in Aso Rock come 2015.

In fact, following the death of the then President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2010 expectations were high that a fellow northerner would “inherit” the presidential baton in 2011. But this was not, as President Jonathan not only stepped into Yar-adua’s shoes but proceeded to contest and win the 2011 presidential race.

As if that was not painful enough for a region which had patiently waited for Olusegun Obansanjo (a Southerner) to complete his two-term tenure in order to take their turn, Jonathan now insisted that he would contest the forthcoming poll. The implication is obvious: a Goodluck Jonathan victory in 2015 would put paid North’s dream for four more years.

Ordinarily, with men of integrity like Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi (Chairman) and Professor Bolaji Akinyemi (Deputy Chairman) piloting the Confab, not a few would rest assured that the possibility of smuggling any anti-people clause in to the confab’s recommendation is virtually impossible. But, alas, it so happens that such is the preponderance of pro-establishment delegate in the Confab that, when coupled with the influence of executive war chest, the rest is left to the imagination.

Consider the likes of Chief Richard Akinjide (former Attorney – General of the federation), Ken Nnamani (Ex-senate president), Ibrahim Mantu (Ex-Deputy Senate President) and Edwin Clark (erstwhile Information Minister) who are among the Confab delegates. Not only are there hundreds of other delegates rabidly pro-establishment; their pro- Jonathan stance is an open secret.

The implication is obvious: the minority may have their say and even walk–out of the Confab in protest, but the majority – in this case, pro-Jonathan delegates – are bound to have their way. In other words, should the arrow heads of the six-year single tenure allegedly being nurtured by officialdom be hell bent on having their way, the coast might be all too clear for them.

Incidentally, no sooner had Jonathan been pronounced winner of the 2001 presidential poll than he sent the controversial 6-year single term bill to the National Assembly. Given the series of monumental challenges confronting the nation then and now (insecurity, unemployment, inflation, industrial unrest, corruption, kidnapping etc) millions of Nigerians were astonished that their “new” president opted for such a self-serving path. Against this back-drop, the poser of the moment is: will the N7 billion confab turn out to be another clever contraption meant to attain a Goodluck Jonathan Agenda? Only time shall tell.

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