The Vulture Targets Senate President


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The Vulture Targets Senate President



Duro Onabule




culled from THE SUN, October 27, 2006



The vulture is a patient bird and normally feeds on the efforts of others or at least allows the predators to perform the most difficult part of the task and even satisfy themselves on the booty. Assured of the lifelessness of the carcass, the vulture then descends to finish the job.
That had been the lot of successive Senate presidents since the return to civilian rule in 1999. The only stubborn survivor was big boy Anyim Pius Anyim who proved somehow distasteful and impossible to be devoured by the ever willing political carnivores among fellow senators, especially from the South-east to prepare easy munch for the vulture.

Otherwise, other past Senate presidents – Evans Enwerem, Chuba Okadigbo and Adolphus Wabara - were first disabled by fellow senators to make Aso Rock’s plot for impeachment a mere formality.

This familiar pattern is clearly in the offing against current Senate President Ken Nnamani. The first luck for the man (Nnamani) is the foundation of the plot which is built on ethnic jingoism which from past experiences proved valuable in the short form but disastrous in the long run.
The civilian coup in the West in 1952 for ever eventually inhibited and dented national aspirations. In 2003, AD governors rallied round Obasanjo for no other reason of group ethnic interests. Unfortunately, the reward for AD governors was political annihilation. Accordingly, the prospects of ethnic solidarity against Ken Nnamani are minimal if existing at all.

Second, unlike his predecessors, Ken Nnamani seems to enjoy security of overwhelming support of his colleagues even though that should be taken with guarded optimism in view of overnight change of sides among assemblymen in Bayelsa, Oyo, Ekiti and Plateau states.

Third, even the notorious ones among the senators cannot today easily play their role of Judas against Ken Nnamani whose sole crime is that like Chuba Okadigbo, he refuses to be somebody’s man in a determined bid to preserve the independence of the national assembly against the control by the presidency.
Ken Nnamani’s mistake so far is that he played into Obasanjo’s hands by allowing EFCC man Nuhu Ribadu to grandstand on the floor of the Senate by threatening to impeach particular state governors. That incident suited Nnamani because of his own problems with Governor Chimaroke Nnamani back home in Enugu State. Otherwise, can Senate President Nnamani quote any section of the Constitution or even the EFCC Act which empowers the agency to impeach any state governor or even get any state governor impeached no matter how gross is the misconduct? That power belongs to the state house of assembly concerned without any external prompting.

Meanwhile, what are Ken Nnamani’s crimes to warrant ethnic inspired blackmail to discredit him? The Senate President somehow professionally handled the debate of the attempted third term treason, much to everybody’s admiration. The whole nation witnessed the Senate President’s courage in rebuffing the attempt of the presidency and leadership of the PDP mid-way through the debates to influence the proceedings. Ken Nnamani instead, returned to the Senate to re-assure his colleagues their freedom to vote strictly in national interest and according to their conscience since in his words, they were "…making history."
What was the political crime in that? General Obasanjo in 1979 signed the constitution into law limiting the tenure of any President or governor to two terms, which the current national assembly under the leadership of Ken Nnamani merely re-affirmed.

Why was Nnamani expected to secure the amendment for a third term (in Obasanjo’s case, indefinite term) in the constitution? If the same Obasanjo considered it proper that no Nigerian merited more than two terms as president or governor under the 1979 constitution, what has transmuted the same Obasanjo into a super human being to merit special treatment?

In any case, Ken Nnamani performed his duty as a Senate President just like a judge would summarise and direct a jury leaving them to give the verdict which the senators did by killing the bill on the first reading. Only then were Nigerians told that Obasanjo never intended a third term.
So, why the plot today for Ken Nnamani’s head as Senate President? See the fraud. His accusers now blame Nnamani for denying South-East an extra state in not supporting Obasanjo’s third term. May God rid Nigeria of these political crooks. Can more states be created in Nigeria especially in the South-East only by lumping it with Obasanjo’s third term treason inherent in the constitution amendment bill?

To show their sincerity, Ken Nnamani’s accusers should today submit a bill to the national assembly solely for creation of a state or more states in South-East and they will be shocked at the speed with which such a bill will be passed.

Therefore, in rejecting Obsanjo’s third term fraud, South-easterners made a major sacrifice and joined other Nigerians (minus South Southerners) to show that they could not be deceived. If that meant South easterners would not get their extra state(s) under Obasanjo, so it was. It was a national decision which could and should not be hung on Ken Nnamani’s neck.

The second issue being employed to blackmail the senate president is the present mutual political homicide between President Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar. These desperados are now alleging that Ken Nnamani’s handling of the row is being cleverly geared towards getting both Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar impeached so that Ken Nnamani would constitutionally assume office as acting president to fill the vacuum.
What could be more politically mischievous? And this convenient blackmail was carried beyond whisperings and advertised in national newspapers. Who started it all?

As we say in Yoruba, Senate President Ken Nnamani was in his office minding his own business when he received a report from President Obasanjo detailing alleged financial misconduct against Vice-President Atiku Abubakar. Shocked by the contents, Ken Nnamani discharged his official obligation to fellow senators who were no less shocked but sharply divided on what necessary action to take.

Unanimously agreeing that Obasanjo’s allegation on Atiku be referred to Senate judiciary committee for necessary advice, Atiku Abubakar picked the gauntlet by defending himself in a letter to the senate while his (Atiku Abubakar’s) campaign organisation exposed the Obasanjo camp as having engaged and is still engaging in financial misconduct and gross abuse of office.

As Atiku Abubakar has headed for court to get the accusations against him nullified, the senate judiciary committee advised the senate that as the matter was then in court, they could not deliberate on or even investigate the matter. In the interim, the Senate then decided to probe the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) agency under Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

So far, as the Ajegunle man in Lagos would put it, which one consign (sic) Nnamani?" If Obasanjo in his letter to the Senate portrayed a picture of theft and misuse of public funds in PTDF, wasn’t the senate and Ken Nnamani in particular just being fair to Obasanjo?
Announcing guidelines for the senate probe committee, Ken Nnamani gave the members the freedom to invite any Nigerian (including the senate president) for interrogation if necessary, not excluding Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar to prove each other’s allegations. That was the SIN of the Senate President and for which he is currently being blackmailed.

The truth is that the Obasanjo camp while roasting Atiku Abubakar, never bargained that the Vice-President had any dossier on Obasanjo and it is only fair to and for Obsanjo to be invited to testify on his own behalf. If last time, Obasanjo revelled in self-glorification for testifying three times at the Oputa probe, why should the same Obasanjo be rattled at the prospects of being invited to similarly testify before a Senate panel?

What is Ken Nnamani’s offence in empowering the Senate panel to invite Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar if necessary? Did Obasanjo not tell Nigerians only recently that the immunity they both enjoy is limited to prosecution and does not extend to interrogation? If it was proper to interrogate Atiku Abubakar, what is wrong in making Obasanjo equally liable to be interrogated if necessary?

In reporting Atiku Abubakar to the senate and also gazetting the allegations against him, Obasanjo’s undisguised intention was to get the vice president impeached. The same Obasanjo is now destabilised by the deluge of counter allegations against him. What then is Obasanjo’s problem if given the right of fair-hearing as contained in section 36(1) of our Constitution.

The probe panel hearings will be in public and if Obasanjo clears himself, Ken Nnamani has only one vote (a deciding vote for that matter). He and in fact along with the remaining 108 senators cannot turn upside down evidence witnessed by millions of Nigerians on television and radio.
The present theory against Ken Nnamani as senate president plotting to rise to Acting President of Nigeria after getting Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar impeached is plausible. Fine. There is this other theory flying all over Nigeria for a long time. Nobody in Aso Rock has seriously denied it except fraudulent decoys released occasionally.

The theory is that Obasanjo is still hell-bent on his third term misadventure through the back door. Furthermore, it is widely speculated and commented that lack of preparedness by the electoral commission for the 2007 elections partly arising from starving the agency of necessary funds, official discrediting of potential successors of Obasanjo, deployment of EFCC for the impeachment of one state governor after another and state-sponsored destabilisation of opposition parties, are all aimed at creating tension in the country to enable indefinite extension of Obasanjo’s presidency.

This can’t be true but just as we were told that the Abuja political jamboree was not aimed at amending the constitution for Obasanjo’s third term. Jerry Gana, who now wants to be president in 2007 was the hatchet man. But the report of the so-called political conference eventually formed the thrust of the constitution amendment bill incorporating Obasanjo’s third term which was rejected by the national assembly.

The present blackmail on Ken Nnamani is therefore aimed at arm-twisting the senate and senate panel not to report their findings or to discredit such findings in advance. Ken Nnamani in particular must not allow himself to be blackmailed. If the probe into Petroleum Technology Development Fund should lead to the dismissal of the occupants of Aso Rock, so let it be. If on the other hand, charges against them cannot be proved, the senate should be bold enough to so report.
After all, are state governors not being sent packing from their official mansions? Each of all state governors, Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar has one head and as Nigerians are presumed equal before the law.

President Obasanjo believed he had a job to do on Atiku Abubakar. Nigeria too, through the national assembly has a job to do on Vice President Abubakar and his boss. And if Atiku Abubakar is not complaining, why should Obasanjo’s out riders be jittery? Where were they when their boss started it all?
The present blackmail on Ken Nnamani is targeted at removing another senate president unless of course there are proven official breaches of office. Otherwise, for once, Nigerians and the senators in particular must resist this ritual.

Obasanjo is not Nigeria’s first executive president. Once upon a time, there was a President Shehu Shagari who ruled Nigeria for four years and three months and could have served his two terms of eight years. But most remarkably, Shehu Shagari worked in harmony with only one senate president.
So far, Obasanjo has sent four senate presidents packing – Evans Enwerem, Chuba Okadigbo, Anyim Pius Anyim and Adolphus Wabara, all South easterners. Now, the heat is on to discredit or even remove the fifth senate president under Obasanjo. Something should be wrong somewhere. That Obasanjo should be removing state governors and national assembly officers as and when he pleases?

Senators should bring it home to Obasanjo that he is living in the past when he easily prayed on the carcass of successive past senate presidents largely because senators (including those from South east) as agents of Obasanjo already pre-dated the senate leaders concerned.
It must of course be conceded that principled senators – Uche Chukwumerije, Joy Emordi, Ben Obi – and one or two others have since emerged from the same South East. They and their colleagues must stand firm against this political liability. The task now is not to play into Obasanjo’s hands by creating tension in the country with the removal of another senate president which may threaten the 2007 elections. Senators must spearhead the determination of Nigerians to make the 2007 elections possible whatever the sacrifice.

While Obasanjo has no qualms in removing Senate presidents, state governors and disgracing ministers out of office, the same Obasanjo when faced with impeachment moves, always shrinks into humiliating but remorseless desperation to be saved from political fire.



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