The men who keep Goodluck Jonathan in powerBy EMMANUEL MAYAH in Lagos | Friday, June 1 2012 at 09:51
Three days to May 29, the day President Goodluck Jonathan celebrated one year in office, one Asari Dokubo, a member of the Ijaw politburo, exploded in a public statement: “I know that armed resistance will occur again in the Niger Delta. Maybe it will occur sooner than we expect; the signs are everywhere because there are two options open to these people – it is either to kill Jonathan or make him capitulate. The two options will be unacceptable to our people. We will not allow it happen to Jonathan”.
Asari Dokubo, leader of former militia group, the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF), is one of the behind-the-scenes men sleeping with one eye open so as to keep the Nigerian president in power. Save for the military government of General Yakubu Gowon that fought a civil war between 1967 and 1970, no other government in Nigeria has had as many battles to fight on as many fronts at the same time as that of President Jonathan, a man with a humble mien who made history as the first president from a minority tribe to rule a polity so precarious and mercilessly violent it has suffered eleven coup d’états since independence in 1960.
In a country whose leadership was pretty much predetermined by the Muslim Hausa-Fulani oligarchy, Goodluck Jonathan, an Ijaw from the minority oil-rich Niger Delta, also made history as the first civilian president to clinch power without being a former military officer or a protégé of the military hierarchy. He also did not benefit from the anointing of either the fabled Kaduna mafia or the blessing of the Sokoto Caliphate, the supreme Muslim authority in Nigeria.
Given the nature of Jonathan’s ascendancy to the power, first as the deputy to a terminally ill Muslim president and then the daily challenge to his authority ever since, Nigerians of different hues see it as a miracle that the minority president has managed to totter one full year in office. Those familiar with the Nigerian power matrix understand that Jonathan’s survival thus far has a lot more behind it than the constitutionally mandated support from the Police, the State Security Service (SSS), the military and the various security and political apparatus.
Before the spectre of violence occasioned by the Islamist Boko Haram sect gathered force, one of the first challenges faced by the president’s handlers was a poison scare inside the Aso Rock presidential villa in Abuja. At that time Dokubo, who grabbed international headline years earlier by leading the first armed group to defend minority rights in the Niger Delta, had severally promised that should any harm come the way of President Jonathan, it would mark the end of the corporate existence of Nigeria and indeed fast-track the actualisation of the Niger Delta Republic.
Given that the militancy in the Niger Delta slumped when Jonathan was made acting President following the death of his predecessor, it is believed that beyond public outbursts, Dokubo still has the capability to fuel flames and that his support for Jonathan is helping immensely to keep mischief makers at bay, especially in the military.
In January 2012, when a popular protest against a hike in fuel prices was hijacked by opposition political elements in an attempt to unseat Jonathan, Dokubo’s appearance on the scene helped to make all the difference. The former militant leader had led a counter rally threatening to mobilise former militants to shut down oil production, the nation’s economic lifeline. Joined by other Niger Delta activists like Ankios Briggs, a communiqué was issued that said, "If Jonathan, a Niger Delta son, is not good enough to govern Nigeria, the oil in his Niger Delta is not good enough for Nigeria. If the Niger Delta people are not good enough to be part of good governance in Nigeria, then the oil and gas of the Niger Delta peoples is not good enough for Nigeria."
In the estimation of the former militant, the protest had gone beyond the fuel price hike and become conspiracy against a minority president by people who had earlier vowed to make the country ungovernable should Jonathan win the 2011 elections. Dokubo who has been extending fellowship to the Igbos of the former Biafra Republic led by the late Chukwuemeka Odumuegwu Ojukwu had added: “We call on all our Niger Delta people, for the sake of our future to look to our nearest neighbours, the Igbos, for immediate and strong alliance, to enable the Niger Delta nations and the Igbo nation to face the obvious change that will come to Nigeria, in strength, justice, brotherhood and truth”.
Another figure helping to keep President Jonathan in power is 79-year-old Tony Anenih, a man known in political circles as Mr Fix-It. A former police officer, Anenih is grudgingly admired even by his enemies as a master in the cloak-and-dagger game. A man reputed to have acquired secondary education while working at home, Anenih would later become a product of the Bramshil Police College in England and serve as a police orderly to the first Governor General of Nigeria, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe.
Anenih has never held any elective position but almost every government has had to do business with him. He is known to have helped make Samuel Ogbemudia governor of Bendel State between 1981 and 1983 and assisted in the landmark presidential election race of Moshood Abiola in 1993, though the result was annulled by the military, the presumed President-elect incarcerated and later left to die in custody.
In 1999, even though President Olusegun Obasanjo had first ruled Nigeria in the late 1970s as military Head of State, he still needed the help of Tony Anenih, first as the deputy national coordinator of the Olusegun Obasanjo campaign organisation. After Obasanjo became president, Anenih lent to him his political machinery to give him a smooth sail in office.
With an army of political protégées serving as state governors, senators and members of House of Representatives, Anenih quenched not a few political fires, including two impeachment moves, for Obasanjo and remained a formidable force behind the throne for eight years.
In 2010 when President Umaru YarÁdua became incapacitated in a Saudi hospital and powerful northern elements could not entertain the constitutional rights of Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan to be made acting President, it took the Anenih clique to neutralise Jonathan’s opponents. Mr. Fix-It was instrumental in the watershed deal that saw all the 36 governors exiting the YarÁdua camp to proclaim their unalloyed support for the political neophyte Jonathan.
He also helped ensure that all the governors in Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) endorsed him as the party’s flag bearer against formidable northern candidates like former military President Ibrahim Babangida and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar. With a remarkable ability to bulldoze his way through the National Assembly, Anenih has helped ensure that Jonathan has all that he needs to stay afloat in the face of mounting challenges.
But Anenih comes with a price. In October 2009, a Senate committee released a report on an investigation into the use of more than $2 billion in the transport sector where Anenih was Minister of Works. The committee recommended prosecution of thirteen former Ministers, including Anenih, saying he had awarded contracts without budgetary provision. A month later, the Senate indefinitely shelved consideration of the report.
The same year, the Central Bank released a list of customers with major debts owed to five recently audited banks. It reported that, through Mettle Energy and Gas limited, Chief Tony Anenih and a business partner Osahon Asemota owed $14,000. The politician insisted he had nothing to do with Mettle Energy and Gas Limited, adding that he had sent a letter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) inviting them to investigate the matter.
His wife, a lawyer, was the first National Women’s leader of the ruling PDP from 1999-2005. She was appointed minister of Women Affairs in April 2010, when Acting President Jonathan announced his cabinet.
The Delta Chief
Widely regarded as the political godfather of the president, Chief Edwin Clark is one of the pillars of the Jonathan government. A former headmaster, one-time University Pro-Chancellor and one-time Minister of Information, Clark has been a prominent player in Nigerian regional and Federal politics since independence.
However, he more recently came out of hibernation to raise the alarm over the profligacy of the James Ibori government in his native Delta State between 1999 and 2003. In 2007 when Jonathan was still a rookie and a newly elected vice-president, Clark helped give him political relevance in their native Niger Delta by taking him to the wild and dangerous creeks of the Niger Delta, where the new vice-president met some of the militia leaders fighting against political injustices meted out against their oil-rich region.
He was also one of the front men leading Jonathan across treacherous ground during the battle to turn the vice-president into the Acting President. However, it was during the 2011 general elections that Clark metamorphosed into a surrogate father for Jonathan. He negotiated for him, spoke for him and rallied support for him. Today, Clark is widely acknowledged as the chief protector of the Jonathan presidency. For a President so meek he seems incapable of anger, Chief Edwin Clark comes in handy wading off with his polemics and bullying anyone out to hound or rattle the president.
When Lawal Kaita, former governor of the old Kaduna State, threatened that Nigeria risked a break-up if the North did not get back the Presidency in 2015, Edwin Clark took him on saying: “There is no second-class citizen in this country. Nigeria belongs to all of us. The North should equally know that they are not born to rule over others in this country. Jonathan has the right to run for a second term in 2015 and the North cannot stop him."
A measure of Clark’s political weight was recently made when he insisted that the National Security Adviser, General Owoeye Azazi, must keep his job. Azazi had come under fire after he literally threw his hands up in despair proclaiming that the Boko Haram terrorist sect was a product of disaffected political figures within the ruling PDP. Politicians from the north called for the sacking of Azazi; Chief Clark thought otherwise.
The Christian general
Another old guard working behind the scenes to protect the Jonathan presidency is retired General Theophilus Danjuma, a billionaire businessman and a Christian northerner. Given his exploits in the Nigerian army where he was Chief of Army Staff from 1975 to 1979, Danjuma is well respected by northern military officers and credited with preserving the interests of “one North” at various times in Nigeria’s troubled history. So respected is Danjuma that in 1999 when Nigeria returned to civil rule, President Olusegun Obasanjo had to call Danjuma out of retirement to be his Defence Minister, principally to discourage adventurous northern military officers from attempting a coup.
In 2010 while Jonathan was still finding his feet as Acting President, he was clever enough to bring in Danjuma by creating a parallel albeit senior cabinet called Presidential Advisory Council with Danjuma as chairman. Though a northerner by definition, Danjuma is actually from the Middle Belt region whose people are predominantly Christians and are targets of bomb attacks by the Boko Haram Islamists. In recent years, the chasm between the core North and the Middle Belt has continued to widen with the latter drifting towards the South for crucial political alliances.
Until recently, former President Obasanjo was a staunch supporter of the Jonathan government. In fact, Obasanjo was the architect of the Jonathan presidency having in 2007 chosen him against all expectations to be YarÁdua’s running mate. Conspiracy theorists accuse Obasanjo of insincerity, saying he never really wanted power to return to the north given the manner he selected a terminally ill Umaru YarÁdua as presidential candidate.
Obasanjo was visibly behind Jonathan from the beginning but after the 2011 elections, Jonathan began to detach himself from the Obasanjo apron strings. Frustrated by his waning political influence, the former president recently resigned his position as chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees to assume a new role as acerbic critic of the Jonathan presidency. Niger Delta politicians like Clark have said they are keeping an eye on him.
The ex-rebel leader
Equally helping to keep an eye on known and perceived enemies of the Jonathan presidency is “Mr Tompolo,” a former militant commander whose real name is Government Ekpumopolo. In addition to the likes of Ateke Tom and Farah Dagogo, Tompolo was one of the prominent militant commanders that led their fighters in giving up their weapons and to halt attacks on Nigeria’s oil and gas infrastructure following an amnesty deal with the government. A commander of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Tompolo is considered one of the most influential former rebel leaders that have thrown their weight behind Jonathan. Today, Tompolo has risen to near cult status as top power broker and some say the president's secret bodyguard.
In addition, Tompolo is the owner of a security outfit, Global West Fleet Specialists Limited, which was granted a maritime security concession to guard oil pipelines, a task meant for the Nigerian navy.
Last year, Mr Yusuf Suleiman was just three days old in office as Transport Minister when he came face to face with the tremendous influence of Tompolo. The Minister had reportedly picked on Patrick Ziakede, the Director-General of the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), a parastatal under the transport ministry. But Ziakede was a protégée of Tompolo and before Suleiman knew what has hit him, his job was on the line. He reportedly ran to Tony Anenih for help but the later advised him that the man to beg was Tompolo. He did but it was almost too late; Suleiman was given a soft landing and redeployed to the National Sports Commission.
In response to criticism of the Tompolo concession, Chief Edwin Clark once said: “If Tompolo, who lives on water, cannot be allowed to secure where he lives, is it in the North that he can be given such a concession? We are tired of these intrigues where whatever is due to our people faces unnecessary blackmail.”
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