Former President Goodluck Jonathan has maintained a low profile since he handed over Aso Rock Villa to President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29, 2015. But he is at present working hard on his memoir, which will be a tell-all book, a close confidant of the ex-president revealed to Daily Trust on Sunday last week.
“The former President, for those who know him closely, is not given to much talks,” the former aide told our reporter. “He’s kept himself from too much on publicity, but I can tell you that he’s busy writing a book, in which he will recount his experience over the years. He’s putting together the records of his administration, his personal files and notes in a research format, with details of how events took place and how decisions were taken. That’s why he’s been silent about diverse attacks since he left office. The book will tell his story, and I assure you, many Nigerians will be shocked by its content.”
The memoir, Daily Trust on Sunday learnt, will tell his grass-to-grace story, his political adventures, his experience as Vice-President and President, and the just-concluded election which he lost.
The former aide added that apart from writing a book on his experience, the former president is setting up a foundation, called Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, which will promote good governance, democracy, and engage in humanitarian activities.
The foundation “is not targeting the Niger Delta region alone. Nigerians from all parts of the country will benefit from it. Already he has acquired an office in Abuja, and he’s working closely with local and international consultants on the principles, vision, mission and strategies of the foundation.”
Commenting on the ongoing probe of the petroleum sector under the former president, the close aide argued that nothing would come out of the exercise. “The former president expected everything that is playing out now. There’s a lot of falsehood being peddled around, and he’s been under pressure to speak but his book will answer many of the questions. All the allegations about billions of dollar being stolen are the same old story, but I tell you, the ex-president doesn’t have a foreign bank account; he doesn’t own a house abroad. When he travelled abroad in June, he flew on a commercial flight, Air France from Port Harcourt. He doesn’t have a private jet. The money he spent during the elections was not his own. People donated to the project. The billions of dollar being talked about, where does one keep those sums? So far, no one has accused him directly, so there is no specific allegation for him to deny. Everything revolves around the old $20 billion. Nothing has been traced to anybody, unlike the Abacha loots which were traced to several foreign bank accounts.”
Though no specific mention has been made about stolen funds traced to the former president, Buhari, on a visit to the United States last month, claimed that some $150 billion had been stolen by some officials of former President Jonathan’s regime and that the trial of some suspects in this case would commence in no distant future.
RE-ENGINEERING THE PDP:
Apart from working on his tell-all book and setting up a foundation, Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that he’s involved in the process of re-engineering the PDP. Some of the party’s leaders have blamed the former president and his wife, Dame Patience, for the party’s loss of the presidency after ruling Nigeria for 16 years without a break. Therefore, he’s been involved in the efforts to revive the party. The first step he took was to hold series of meetings with leaders of the party in London shortly after he left office between June and July, 2015, our reporter learnt.
During that period, top officials of the party and some of his former aides converged on London, to discuss the loss of power to the APC and the future steps to be taken. Though his former Special Adviser on Political Affairs, Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali, described the London meeting as mere speculation, there were indications that the meeting held as even the former President’s spokesman, Dr Reuben Abati, confirmed it on the social media. Dr Abati had said, “I get tons of positive messages with common questions like “Where are you? What are you doing, Dr. Reuben Abati?” I’ve been participating in the Advanced Management and Leadership Programme of the Oxford University’s Said Business School since the 7th of June. I had a great time discussing Nigerian Politics with my boss and former President Jonathan in London over the weekend.”
Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that the former president planned “to retire from politics and devote his time to God and humanity,” but the leaders of the party insisted that if he quit politics, it would be near-impossible for the PDP to rise from its big fall.
“The party’s leaders told him that he’s the only unifying figure and factor in the party at the moment,” his aide told our reporter at the weekend. “Former President Obasanjo had dumped the party. He should have been the rallying point. Therefore, the party needs former President Jonathan to survive, and that’s the role he’s playing at the moment.”
Therefore, those the former president hangs out with at the moment are mainly the chieftains of the party, especially the Board of Trustees members, like Chief Tony Anenih, Dr Bello Halliru Mohammed, Ambassador Bello Gwandu, Senator Bala Mohammed, Barrister Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, Prince Uche Secondus. They hold regular meetings at his private residence in Maitama, Abuja.
A chieftain of the party, Dr Umar Ardo, told our reporter that the former president is working hard to ensure that the PDP retained the governorship of Kogi and Bayelsa States, in the first instance, and to re-engineer the party for 2019.
Dr Ardo said, “The former president is a member of the BoT, the National Executive Committee (NEC) and the National Caucus, which are central to the resolution of the crisis in the PDP. They were in Otueke to resolve the factional crisis there, ahead of the forthcoming December 5, 2015 governorship election. They have successfully resolved the crisis. At the party level the former president is overseeing the implementation of Senator Ike Ekweremadu’s committee report. The committee went to all the states of the federation and the geopolitical zones to gather data on the problems facing the party. All the recommendations have been put together and being implemented in order to rebuild the party. Along that line the NWC has started standardizing the party’s register in order to digitalise it so that from Abuja it’s possible to know who members of the party are in any ward across Nigeria. A lot is being done to revive the party, and the former president is leading the pack in the process, to ensure that the PDP rebounds in 2019. For instance, he returned to Otueke last week to finally solidify the deal in the party, because there were indications that the PDP’s Governor Seriake Dickson could lose the governorship to the APC candidate Timipreye Sylva.”
However, the former First Lady, Dame Patience, has been embroiled in the power struggle in Bayelsa State, as she is said to have opposed the re-election of Governor Dickson for another term. She was seen to be engaged in an enterprise that would see the victory of the APC in the state, which is considered as spite on the face of former President Jonathan. Several high-ranking PDP members were billed to defect to the APC yesterday. Top amongst the defectors are Chief Clever Ikisikpo, the immediate past senator representing Jonathan (Bayelsa East) between 2011 and 2015, former Chairman of NDDC, Dr. Tarila Tebepah, former Commissioner for Agriculture under Sylva, Chief Dikivie Ikiogha and former House of Reps member representing Yenagoa/Kolokuma/Opokuma Federal Constituency between 2007 and 2015, Hon Warman Ogoriba, a former acting governor of the state, Hon. Nestor Ibinabo, former Finance Commissioner under Sylva, Mr. Charles Opuala and a host of other aides, appointees and associates of Sylva. Indeed some of these characters were said to have first been recruited by the former First Lady to undermine Dickson ahead of the 2015 general elections and to prepare the ground for the supplanting of Dickson with her anointed godson, Hon Weripamowei Dudafa, who was Commissioner for Local Government under Sylva and Special Assistant on Domestic Matters to the immediate past president. Associates of Governor Dickson told our reporter that the defunct Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) under the leadership of a former acting governor of the state, Hon. Werinipre Seibarugu in the state became a veritable tool to cow the Dickson administration. However, at the weekend, our reporter learnt that the former president rebuked Dame Patience for working against him, and forced her to back down on the anti-Dickson project.
HIS MULTI-BILLION NAIRA FARM IN ABUJA ABANDONED:
While Jonathan held sway as President, the administration of his surreptitious farm- Ebele Integrated Farms – was as if it were an extension of Aso Rock Villa, especially in terms of security. The controversial farmland, measuring 95.88 hectares, and located at the Cadastral Zone, Aviation Village near the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja used to be a beehive.
Residents of six villages were said to have been forced by the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, to leave their homes and relocate to a sprawling Wukara community at the Aviation Village in order to pave way for the establishment of the farm by Jonathan and his mother, Madam Afeni Eunice.
An earlier visit to the farm by Daily Trust reporters in February this year was quite revealing. Apart from armed soldiers and plain-cloth security operatives who routinely kept guard at strategic locations within the vicinity of the farm, dozens of articulated vehicles belonging to SCC Construction Company were also a common sight with many staff of the company carrying out different activities.
Residents of Wukara village, workers at the SCC construction company working in the farm, government officials in the FCT ministry, AGIS, Development Control Department of the FCDA and AMAC were said to have all been warned not to talk about that farm. This, perhaps, explained why there was an army of security operatives within and around the farmland detailed to, among other assignments, prevent unauthorized access into the farm.
However, since May 29 when Jonathan vacated the seat of power at the Aso Rock Villa, the razzmatazz that was characteristic of the Ebele Integrated Farm has ceased. When Daily Trust on Sunday visited the farm last weekend it was a different ball game. Although access to the farmland is still restricted, the army of gun wielding security operatives that used to be stationed strategically was now limited to a few personnel manning the main entrance. It was also gathered from the villagers that the former president, who occasionally visited the farm while in power, had not been sighted there since he left office.
An attempt by our reporters to take the shortest route to the farm was hampered by hurdle in the form of a signpost which contained a notice that read: “There will be no access through this route as from Monday July 6, 2015. Please find an alternative route.”
Our reporters were, therefore, left with no option than to take the longer route which had been provided as an alternative for residents of the six villages that were asked to relocate in order to pave way for the farm. As our reporters drove along the rugged road that snaked from Airport Road to the relocated Wukara community, they sighted large boulders of rocky formations that overlooked the massive farmland.
As they approached Wukara community, they met a local who told them that the standing order given to them not to speak on the Ebele Integrated Farm was still subsisting. The local who wouldn’t want his name in print, however, said activities at the farm were no longer as massive as they used to be.
HIS KINSMEN IN OTUEKE FEEL HIS ABSENCE FROM POWER
Not much has changed in Otuoke, the country home of the former president which is in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa state more than two months after he left power. All the security apparatus that were in place when he was in power are still intact, and in the same locations they used to be. Men of Battalion 5 of the Joint Task Force, Operation Pulu Shield, are still mounting guard at the entrance into Otuoke and towards its exit point. Soldiers are also still keeping security in front of Dame Patience Jonathan’s hotel, Magels Resort Ltd.
However, there were no noticeable activities in the imposing edifice belonging to the former President which was completed towards the end of his tenure. Not even a gate keeper was available to attend to visitors. This may be because he does not reside in Otueke. Our reporter learnt that he shuttles between Yenagoa, Lagos and Abuja for business and political activities, such that it is only when he intends to tackle political issues that he goes to Otuoke to receive the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) officials. Therefore, the number of times he visited Otuoke and warmed his imposing edifice could be counted on one’s finger tips.
“You know he is a quiet person. We hardly know when he comes except when we hear sirens and see some movements around his residence,” Cornelius Obodo, the Vice Chairman Otuoke Community Development Committee, CDC, told Sunday Trust.
He lamented that many contractors handling some projects in the community had taken advantage of Jonathan’s exit from office to abandon projects such as the extension of the Otuoke Cottage Hospital, the Low Cost Housing and the ultra-modern market.
Obodo also said the community was having a running battle with the authorities of the Federal University, Otuoke who, he said, were not carrying the community along. Recently, women from the community staged a demonstration calling for the sack of the Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Mobolaji Aluko, accusing him of nepotism and denying the indigenes of juicy appointments. The demonstration was followed by that of the Ijaw Youth Council on the same problem of alleged marginalization of Bayelsans in the university.
The community’s leader said Otueke was paying the price for Jonathan’s loss of power. “Everybody appears to hate this community. The community is not as good as we expected it to be,” he lamented. The vice chairman threw his weight behind the probe of Jonathan’s administration by Buhari, stressing that it does not amount to witch-hunt. According to him, all those who soiled their hands in Jonathan’s administration should be penalized.
Prior to May 29 , 2015, the Bauchi Road, old Government Reservation Area (GRA) Port Harcourt, residence of the former president was a beehive of activities. The magnificent and expansive compound that houses about three separate buildings was a rallying point for politicians and those looking for one favour or another. At a point, the house which was said to have been single-handedly built by Dame Jonathan became a nuisance to residents who were caged and confined within their immediate premises any time Dame Jonathan visited. The house is adjacent to the Rivers State Government House. Dame Jonathan resides in the house any time he visits Port Harcourt. Any time she visited an unprecedented security cordon was placed around the residence and all the roads leading to there would be shut down for vehicular movement until she left the capital city.
But since the former president’s exit from power, the residence has maintained a graveyard silence, just as residents of the area have heaved a sigh of relief. Also traffic leading to the road has become freer. Soldiers still maintain their outpost security road block at the main entrance of the Bauchi Street . Residents and visitors are still subjected to thorough checks from the soldiers before they gain access to their houses. For instance, our correspondent’s efforts to get into the street was rebuffed by stern looking soldiers who questioned his mission into the area. A staff of one of the construction firms that are still working in some of the buildings in the compound who spoke with our correspondent under the condition of anonymity, said “this place used to be hot. When madam and her husband were in power, this place used to be a beehive of activities. Since the house was built, the former President visited only once, that was when he was in Port Harcourt to flag off the presidential election campaign. Since then he has not visited this place. It’s madam who normally stays here anytime she comes. Sometime last year when she visited she spent about seven days here and within that period this area was a no-go area. Parts of the buildings are still under construction. Staff of the construction firm that are working in the buildings are occupying some of the buildings. Some soldiers who are guarding the compound also live here,” he said.
When asked how many times the former first family visited the house, the source said “since this year the former first lady has visited the house about three times. The first time she came was during the presidential election. She spent a night before travelling to Otuoke in Bayelsa State. She also visited last month. Anytime she comes, she does not spend more than two nights. She comes in and goes away.”