They should allow him (President Jonathan) to devote his time to work for the country to achieve results. Even if he wants to contest, I think it should be based on performance. Let your credentials be established. Let people see what you have done and that will qualify you to re-contest.–Umaru Dikko
In the past one week, the leadership of Nigeria’s Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) made two very interesting appointments. The first is assemble a Reconciliation Committee under the leadership of Mr. Henry Seriake Dickson, the Executive Governor of Bayelsa State. The second is the Disciplinary Committee chaired by Second Republic politician, Dr. Umaru Dikko. Curiously, the Vice- Chairman of the Dikko Committee is someone many of you will know and if you do not then let me tell you. He is no other person but King A.J Turner, Obigbo Mimimiki 1, Obanema of Opume in Ogbia Kingdom of Bayelsa State and a prominent member of President Jonathan’s kitchen cabinet. For many observers of Nigerian politics and the crisis in the PDP, these appointments clearly indicate the level of tactlessness, political arrogance or even mediocrity that has engulfed Nigeria’s ruling party. I will come back to this later.
I have nothing personal against any member of any of these committees. I am not even a member of their party and so who cares? However, many pundits are trying to come to terms with the signals that the constitution of these committees might have sent to the Nigerian public. Granted, the choice of the Bayelsa Governor may be to inject a young blood into the committee. That is very commendable. However many people consider him too inexperienced for the task ahead of him. Related to this is the fact that Dickson is seen as very close to Jonathan. Such level of closenesscloseness, many opine, may turn out to becloud his sense of judgement in such a sensitive assignment. Furthermore, most of the disagreements within the PDP have been associated with internal democracy and high handedness of the leaders of the party especially but not exclusively linked to President Jonathan. How then could someone who wants to reconcile those who have disagreed choose Governor Dickson, an alleged Presidential appendage to lead such reconciliation? Can someone be a reliable judge in his own case? It is either someone somewhere is either naïve or they do not want true reconciliation. In a matter as complicated as an intra- party crisis, a mediator must be someone who is not only experienced and courageous but also transparently impartial, to be able to make a headway. Even in the Niger Delta, one will expect that there are other governors who are also loyal to the President but who are more experienced, who can lead a reconciliation process of such magnitude in the PDP at the national level. Such a person should be someone that is respected (at least potentially) by all parties in the conflict and who will say the truth regardless of who will be hurt. Such a move will be the foundation for the healing that will lead to genuine resolution of the pending issues. Regardless of his youthfulness, which is a strategic asset to the committee, the Governor of Bayelsa State is clearly a party in the conflict and so cannot be seen to make any head-way in terms of true and sustainable reconciliation. During the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) election for instance, the Bayelsa State Governor openly supported the faction led by Mr. Jonah Jang and allegedly provided accommodation for the factional secretariat. With all these hanging on his neck, can the Bayelsa Governor muster the requisite neutrality to elicit the confidence of the members of PDP in any reconciliation process? By referring to some members of the party as centrifugal forces, Mr. Dickson has already taken off on a wrong footing and might have unwittingly confirmed speculations that he is someone in pursuit of a predetermined agenda.
Again with an average age of 70 years, what are Nigerians expecting from those in the so- called Disciplinary Committee. Someone like Umaru Dikko, who chairs the committee, is already 77years old. Chief Iwuanyanwu is 71 years old and Senator Agboti may be within the same age bracket. We know that age sometimes comes with wisdom and experience but why have we developed this penchant to persistently peddle people who are ageing to the point of senility? Please pardon my language but are these not spent forces? Is this a democracy of gerontocracy? For those who do not know, Dr. Dikko is the former Minister of Transport during the Shagari regime (1979-1983) thatwho allegedly escaped to London through Lagos-Seme border when Major General Buhari toppled President Shehu Shagari on the 31st of December 1983. The former transport Minister united with other politicians like Chief Adisa Akinloye, then chairman of National Party of Nigeria, and Chief Richard Akinjide, former Attorney General and Justice Minister in the United Kingdom. But on the 5th of July 1984, fate had a different chapter for Dikko. Agents of the Buhari led Nigerian military government allegedly working with Israeli Intelligence Agency attempted unsuccessfully to forcefully bring Mr. Dikko back to Nigeria to face justice. He was handcuffed and anesthetized into unconsciousness and was on his way to London Stansted Airport sandwiched in between crates in a diplomatic baggage before the operation failed. The rest they say is now history.
Now apart from serving as campaign manager for President Shagari and later Minister for Transportation and Chairman of the Presidential Task-force on Rice Importation, almost thirty- four years ago, one wonders the sort of value someone like Umaru Dikko will bring to the table. Many Nigerians alleged (and still allege) that Mr. Dikko was(is) very corrupt and might have enriched himself up to the tune of 7.5 billion dollars by embezzling public funds leveraged through his closeness to former President Shagari. The former Minister has consistently denied such wrong doings though that perception still looms around him like a concentric circle. Observers say that Mr. Dikko is known to be very critical of former President Obasanjo. So what? Could this be the credential that qualified him? Is he in PDP to instill discipline or pursue vendetta? Is Dr. Dikko an asset or liability? How can all these antiquated and irrelevant credentials translate to any mileage for a party that is almost at the verge of disintegration? Except the word discipline will be redefined, no one will expect expended political forces like Dikko and Iwuanyanwu to be harbingers of such a virtue as discipline in the PDP of today.
Now let me finalize with a few questions and some observations. Who are those supporting President Jonathan with political permutations and strategies? Do they really love him and are they interested in his political progress? Must they continue to crown him King of ethnic politics in a country as ethnically diverse as Nigeria? Why are they bent on making him an Ijaw (or “provincial”, to use Gov. Dickson’s word) President? Who are these Judases who are hell- bent on misleading a man who trusts them?. Does it mean that the President has no other allies among other tribes in the Niger Delta or even the South- East, except his immediate kit and kin? Are there no other proxies who can be assigned the task of getting every arm of the party to do the President’s bidding? That is if doing his bidding uncompromisingly is the fastest route to guarantee his political progress. GEJ may be getting unpopular by the day but his strategists are trying to sell the President below cost price and, in so doing, they are eroding his political capital daily! This is unacceptable for a President that is still in power. My candid suggestion to all his handlers is to urgently recalibrate. There is an immediate need to reflect the diversity and complexity of our country in the President’s style of politics. Their current tactics will surely yield surprising and unexpected results. Supporting the President to perform will yield him far more political mileage than all these parochial, untested and infantile political maneuvers and sadly, many Nigerians can see through them. For, just like justice, sustainable peace must not only be achieved but must be transparently seen to have been achieved. Any other peace achieved outside of this way is called graveyard peace which will backfire.