Monthly Archives: June 2012

Al-Qaida’s North Africa Branch Blames Germany for Nigeria Hostage Death


By Associated Press, Updated: Tuesday, June 12, 5:15 AM

LAGOS, Nigeria — Al-Qaida’s North Africa branch has blamed Germany for the death of a German engineer killed during a military raid in Nigeria, though authorities in Europe apparently complied with at least one of the terrorist group’s demands by releasing a prisoner it wanted freed.

German Edgar Fritz Raupach, kidnapped in January by gunmen in the north Nigeria city of Kano, died May 31 as soldiers launched a raid against the house where his abductors held him. Nigeria’s military later said it had no idea gunmen held Raupach inside the home and that kidnappers stabbed him to death as the raid began.

 Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, the terrorist group that claimed it held Raupach, issued a statement on an Internet forum this week saying the hostage’s death came only after the German government refused to negotiate with it.
“Your government gave the green light for the operation,” the message posted late Monday night reads.

However, the group, known by the acronym AQIM, had demanded that German officials release Filiz Gelowicz, a German woman convicted last year of supporting a foreign terrorist network. Gelowicz’s husband was among a group convicted of plotting unsuccessfully to attack U.S. soldiers and citizens in Germany.

German officials released Gelowicz from prison in late April on probation after she served two-thirds of her sentence. In May, an unsigned advertisement appeared in The Daily Trust, the newspaper of record in Nigeria’s north, showing a photograph of Raupach and messages in Arabic and English calling for him to be released. It remains unclear what went wrong in the negotiation or if there had been a demand for a ransom payment, which happens regularly in AQIM kidnappings.

In the message, first reported by the SITE Intelligence Group, AQIM also warned European governments to avoid “dealing in foolishness” during hostage negotiations, as that would endanger lives.

In Berlin, a government source said Tuesday that Nigerian authorities raided the house only in an effort to arrest terrorists, not as part of a rescue operation for Raupach.

“German authorities were not informed beforehand,” the official said. “Nigerian authorities have already (said) … they had no knowledge of the whereabouts of the German.” The source spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Gunmen kidnapped Raupach from a construction site in Kano, Nigeria’s second-largest city, where he worked for Dantata & Sawoe Construction Co. Ltd. Raupach’s kidnapping came days after a coordinated attack in the city by the radical Islamist sect in Nigeria known as Boko Haram killed at least 185 people.

AQIM released a statement in March claiming they had Raupach, as well as a video showing him disheveled and asking in German and English for his country to help win his freedom.

AQIM had not carried out operations previously in Nigeria, a multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people split largely between a Muslim north and a Christian south. However, security officials and diplomats say AQIM has loose links with Boko Haram, a locally focused sect that wants to implement strict Shariah law across Nigeria.

Boko Haram began its terror campaign with gun attacks from the backs of motorcycles. Last year, it started escalating its assaults with a string of suicide bombings targeting churches, government buildings, and even the United Nations headquarters in the capital Abuja. The sect has killed more than 560 people this year alone, according to an Associated Press count, while Nigeria’s military and security forces appear unable to stop them from striking at will.

___

Associated Press writers David Rising in Berlin and Mammoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.

Advertisements

2 Attacks in Nigeria Target Christians



By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published: June 11, 2012

 JOS, Nigeria (AP) — A car bomber detonated his explosives on Sunday outside a church in this central Nigerian city, and gunmen attacked another church in the nation’s northeast, killing at least four people and wounding dozens in the latest attacks against Christian worshipers, officials and witnesses said.

While no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks in Jos and Biu, a city in the northeastern state of Borno, they bore the hallmarks of assaults by a radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram, which continue unabated despite a heavy military presence in the region.

In Jos, a city on the uneasy dividing line between Nigeria’s largely Muslim north and its Christian south, the bomber drove toward the compound of the Evangelical Church Winning All chapel and detonated his explosives nearby, said Abu Emmanuel, a spokesman for Plateau State police. The shock wave from the blast collapsed a portion of the building, causing injuries inside, Mr. Emmanuel said.

Angry youths later surrounded the area, striking back against Muslims in retaliatory violence, witnesses said. Four people and the bomber were killed, while more than 40 were wounded, Mr. Emmanuel said.

In Biu, gunmen opened fire on Sunday during a service at a church, witnesses said. An usher and another worshiper were killed and others were wounded, said a military spokesman, Col. Victor Ebhaleme.

The Borno State police commissioner, Bala Hassan, confirmed the attack and said officers were investigating.

Churches across the country now receive additional military and police protection.

In Jos, a city in the fertile central belt, religious rioting and violence has killed thousands in the past decade. But the attacks are often rooted in political and economic disputes among the ethnic groups living in the region.

Kenyan Government Official Killed in Air Crash


Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

Kenyan policemen and Red Cross workers carried the body of George Saitoti from the scene where a police helicopter crashed in the forest west of Nairobi on Sunday.

By 

LIBREVILLE, Gabon — A top Kenyan official, who grew up chasing cows in the Great Rift Valley and went on to become one of the most powerful men in the country, was killed Sunday morning when the police helicopter he was riding in plunged into a forest west of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.

George Saitoti

Kenya Helicopter Crash

AP Photo – A Kenyan woman cries after looking at the wreckage of a police helicopter, thatcrashed in Ngong forest, on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya Sunday June 10, 2012. Kenyan police said cabinet minister George Saitoti, who once served as Kenya’s vice president, was one of seven people killed in the helicopter crash on the outskirts of Nairobi.
Kenya Helicopter Crash
AP Photo – Kenyan police personnal carry a body from the wreckage of the police helicopter that crashed in Ngong forest, on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya Sunday June 10, 2012. Kenyan police said cabinet minister George Saitoti, who once served as Kenya’s vice president, was one of seven people killed in the helicopter crash on the outskirts of Nairobi.
Kenya Helicopter Crash
AP Photo – Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga, center in orange, visits the area of the helicopter wreckage after it crashed in Ngong forest, on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, Sunday, June 10, 2012. Kenyan police say Sunday June 10, 2012, cabinet minister George Saitoti, who once served as Kenya’s vice president, was one of seven people killed in a helicopter crash on the outskirts of Nairobi.
Kenya Helicopter Crash
AP Photo – Kenyan officials inspect the area of the helicopter wreckage after it crashed in Ngong forest, on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, Sunday, June 10, 2012. Kenyan police say Sunday June 10, 2012, cabinet minister George Saitoti, who once served as Kenya’s vice president, was one of seven people killed in a helicopter crash on the outskirts of Nairobi.
Kenya Helicopter Crash
AP Photo – Kenyan officials inspect the area of the helicopter wreckage after it crashed in Ngong forest, on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, Sunday, June 10, 2012. Kenyan police say Sunday June 10, 2012, cabinet minister George Saitoti, who once served as Kenya’s vice president, was one of seven people killed in a helicopter crash on the outskirts of Nairobi.
The official, George Saitoti, a towering, bespectacled fixture in Kenyan politics for the past three decades who had been serving as the internal security minister, died in the crash with five others, including the pilots and Joshua Orwa Ojode, the assistant internal security minister.

Kenyan officials said they did not know the cause of the crash, though there was no evidence that it was the result of a terrorist attack or foul play. Witnesses reported seeing the helicopter engulfed in smoke and swaying violently before it dived from the sky.

“The chopper crashed and exploded on impact, scattering money and books,” Leonard Njoroge, a witness, told The Sunday Nation, a Kenyan newspaper.

Mr. Saitoti, 66, was born in a Masai village and rose from cowherd to math professor before jumping into politics in the early 1980s. Commonly known as Professor Saitoti, he had held a number of powerful posts in the Kenyan government — finance minister, education minister, acting foreign minister, even vice president.

In the early 1990s, he was implicated in a huge financial scandal involving fictitious gold exports that cost the Kenyan government hundreds of millions of dollars, but he was eventually cleared and his political fortunes bounced back. Mr. Saitoti had recently announced that he was running for president next year. Many Kenyans considered him a leading contender.

As minister for provincial administration and internal security, Mr. Saitoti took a tough line against the Shabab militant group in Somalia, whom he blamed for kidnapping foreigners in Kenya, though most analysts said that this was not true and that the foreigners had been kidnapped by opportunistic bandits.

“We are now going to pursue the enemy, who are the Al Shabab, to wherever they will be, even in their country,” Mr. Saitoti said in October, right before thousands of Kenyan troops crossed into Somalia, where they remain.

His death came four years to the day after two other senior Kenyan officials were killed in a plane crash in 2008.

Video of Assad in Battered City Is Broadcast on Syrian State Television


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

By ROBERT MACKEY

Updated | 7:32 p.m. As my colleagues Anne Barnard and Alan Cowell report, Syrian state television broadcast footage of President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday in the city of Homs, touring the ruined neighborhood of Baba Amr, which was recently brought back under government control after a weeks-long military assault.

The state broadcaster posted a video report on its YouTube channel that showed Mr. Assad surrounded by residents, apparently discussing the need to repair the damage without reference to what caused it.

The report shows that after Mr. Assad was told that 90 percent of the infrastructure in the neighborhood had been repaired, he asked the team to press ahead with its work and keep the public informed, “so that they know when life can go back to normal.”

Voices in the crowd of supporters around the president shouted, “We are with you till death!” and “God, Syria, Bashar, and that’s all!” Mr. Assad later told them: “The government wasn’t late, but it was giving everybody a chance.” He then promised: “We will all work together to rebuild Baba Amr, and it will be better than it used to be.”

Close observers of the video posted online by activists last month, during the bombardment of Baba Amr, noted that the first building shown in the report appears to be a mosque in the neighborhood which was filmed at the height of the shelling.

Near the end of the report, the video showed a government building at the entrance of Baba Amr, where there were tanks and a checkpoint during the government’s struggle to regain control of the neighborhood.

While the president’s tour of the district appeared to be part of an effort to present an image of a government in control, Shakeeb Al-Jabri, a Syrian activist based in Beirut, noted that the state channel did not broadcast Mr. Assad’s tour live from a city where military action has apparently continued into this week.

Although the fight for Baba Amr is over, the Syrian opposition activist Mulham Al-Jundi drew attention on Tuesday to dramatic video of intense shelling, recorded, he said, on Monday in al-Hamidiyeh, another Homs neighborhood.

Last week, an opposition group in Washington called Syrian Christians for Democracy issued a statement denying that rebel fighters had expelled Christians from al-Hamidiyeh. The group wrote:

In regards to the story published in Agenzia Fides on 3/21/2012 about the Christians of Homs who were forced to flee their homes, firsthand accounts have clarified that the perpetrators were members of the Syrian army who overtook the Christian neighborhood near al-Hamidiye street and commandeered a number of Christian-resident buildings for strategic control over the city. The Christians were indeed forced to flee their homes, but rumors of the violence against them by terrorist groups or otherwise members of the opposition are both unverified and noxious.

The group added:

The source of this misinformation campaign can be traced back almost exclusively to the controversial figure of Mother Agnes Mary of the Cross, head of the Catholic Media Center in Damascus. Mother Agnes maintains close ties to the Assad and Makhlouf families who use the Catholic Media Center to organize press events and trips to Syria for a handpicked group of European journalists from the “Reseau Voltaire” media group.

This week, a video report from Human Rights Watch appeared to document abuses by forces loyal to Mr. Assad as they took control of other parts of Syria. In a report illustrated with witness testimony and video, the rights group claimed that “Syrian government forces have endangered civilians by using them as human shields during recent arrest operations, troop movements, and attacks on towns and villages in northern Syria.”

Video From Syrian City Under Bombardment


By J. DAVID GOODMAN

12:25 p.m. | Updated Flames leaped from rooftops and sent thick clouds of black smoke curling into the sky. Powerful blasts punctuated the rattle of gunshots, blowing out the audio momentarily on a video streamed live for several hours from the embattled Syrian city of Homs on Monday.

A screen grab of one angle taken in an hours-long live feed said to show shelling on Monday in the opposition stronghold of Homs, Syria.
A screen grab of one angle taken in an hours-long live feed of shelling on Monday said to be in the opposition stronghold of Homs, Syria.

The images opened a brief and intensely immediate window into heavy fighting in the restive city, a stronghold of opposition forces and the site of previous military crackdowns by the Syrian government.

Birds could be heard chirping as the battle raged, the images showed. Occasionally a man’s voice — possibly the cameraman — raised up against Kofi Annan, the joint United Nations and Arab League envoy who negotiated a cease-fire in April that has not stopped the bloodshed.

As the heavy blasts continued, a spokesman for Mr. Annan was quoted as expressing concern over the shelling in Homs. “There are indications that a large number of civilians are trapped in these towns,” the spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, said in a statement issued in Geneva, Reuters reported.

The images were the latest broadcast by an account called homslive to the video streaming site Bambuser, where such streams have appeared since the early months of the uprising in Syria last year. The streaming video resembled many of those posted to the account in its vantage — an expansive shot of rooftops, often with wafting smoke.

The BBC’s Paul Danahar observed the bombardment from a building used by the United Nations in Homs and posted frequent updates to his Twitter account. Several included images.

An image posted to Twitter by the BBC's Paul Danahar showed smoke over Homs on Monday.
Paul Danahar, via yFrogAn image posted to Twitter by the BBC’s Paul Danahar showed smoke over Homs on Monday.

Mr. Danahar said the United Nations observers had been struggling to gain access to the old city, where much of the fighting was taking place, for two days. He also said that one of the U.N. monitors said the whirring sound they both heard overhead was a surveillance drone helping to direct the shelling.

Over the weekend, the monitors toured areas of Damascus, the capital, and were shown evidence of an attack on a government building — a single mortar round lodged deep in the cut grass. Several news crews traveled with the monitors.

As disputes have continued between antigovernment activists and the Syrian authorities over the nature of events on the ground, the U.N. monitors have been posting videos of their tours with increasing frequency, acting as de facto correspondents for an international press that has been unable to freely report on the 16-month conflict there.

The video of their tour on Sunday — which appeared on the monitor’s YouTube channel — captured images of smoke rising from the Mazzeh neighborhood of the city.

Judgement Day


To Nigerian Government past and present who oppresses the people, steals from the people, kills the people, and rigs elections and the Judiciary who commits so much injustice against the people: This is what happened to Samuel K Doe of Liberia for what he did to his country, and recently happened to Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, and also what happened in Ghana when Jerry Rollings made all the past presidents who held Ghanians in captivity pay for what they have done. The next will be Nigeria. The people will make you pay for what you have done against them unless you repent before it is too late or on that judgement day we will not have mercy on all of you, the oppressors of Nigerians.

Published on May 17, 2012 by 

“African leaders will never learn from the past; they tend to think and believe history and chain of events across the continent is only for a while- and that peoples agitation for good governance will weaken over time. No! Better life is a constant demand from the people and society. Injustice, war against the will of the people and anti-people programmes and policies by government breeds chaos.Poverty and corruption have no rules but good governance, political and socio-economic emancipation does – which is, the right to demand for them – and it is forever. The acceptable rule of good leadership is the institutionalisation of peoples oriented programmes – provision of good health system, education, energy, transport, water, education, housing, food and the rule of law. All of these basic necessities of life Nigerians are denied. Nigerians have been (still) impoverished by bad leaders laced with virus of corrupt practices for over 50years. The countries natural, human and investment resources have been plundered so much that the system is weakened, crippled and blind.”

The Reality Behind Obama and Bush’s ‘Spending Binge’


President Barack Obama

Former President George W. Bush

Posted by  at 12:50 PM ET, 05/25/2012

 
(Ezra Klein/Todd Lindeman)There’s a confused and confusing debate going on over whether President Obama has presided over a “spending binge,” as Republicans claim, or whether, under Obama, “federal spending is rising at the slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower brought the Korean War to an end in the 1950s.”The key is fiscal year 2009 — and who you blame for it. By any measure, spending popped that year. If you’re looking at raw dollars, it rose by $535 billion. And “the 2009 fiscal year,” writes Market Watch’s Rex Nutting, “which Republicans count as part of Obama’s legacy, began four months before Obama moved into the White House.”That’s true: The federal fiscal year stretches, somewhat weirdly, from October to September. So fiscal year 2009 began in October 2008.

And that’s the point of Nutting’s analysis: if you attribute most of fiscal year 2009 to George W. Bush then, after adjusting for inflation, federal spending under Obama has actually dropped by 0.1 percent. Politifact checked the numbers and agreed: “Using raw dollars, Obama did oversee the lowest annual increases in spending of any president in 60 years,” they write. “Using inflation-adjusted dollars, Obama had the second-lowest increase — in fact, he actually presided over a decrease.” Here’s Nutting’s graph:


(Rex Nutting/Market Watch)Republicans point out that Bush was negotiating with a Democratic Congress. His 2009 budget request asked for considerably less money than we actually spent. And Obama actually signed the last part of the budget in March 2009. All of which is true. (Here’s an infographic summing up some other problems Republicans have with Nutting’s analysis.) Nutting points out that in 2010 and 2011, Obama was negotiating with a Republican Congress, which is part of what restrained his spending. That’s also true.

But I’d point out that this entire conversation is nonsense. So far, we haven’t mentioned the only fact that really matters, which is that the economy began to collapse in late-2008, and continued to crater through much of 2009. Or, as Donald Marron, director of the Tax Policy Center, puts it, “the real issue is that 2009 is an anomaly driven by crisis.”

That there’s an implicit taunt in this debate just goes to show how blinkered our fiscal conversation has really become. It was proper that spending jumped in 2009. If the Ghost of Ronald Reagan had occupied the Oval Office, spending would have jumped in 2009. That’s just what happens when you hit a once-in-a-generation recession.

It is proper that, since 2009, spending has remained high in order to support a badly wounded economy and help unemployed workers and struggling families. The question isn’t which president to blame for elevated spending in 2009 — the blame there goes to the financial crisis, though Republicans conveniently forget that in order to score points. The question is where should spending be now?

”Obama chose not to reverse that elevated level of spending,” writes Jim Pethokoukis, a blogger for the conservative American Enterprise Institute, “thus he, along with congressional Democrats, are responsible for it. Only by establishing 2009 as the new baseline, something Republican budget hawks like Paul Ryan feared would happen, does Obama come off looking like a tightwad. Obama has turned a one-off surge in spending due to the Great Recession into his permanent New Normal through 2016 and beyond.”

That last line, by the way, isn’t true. Obama’s budget plans to bring spending down to 22.5 percent of GDP in 2016 — which is about where it was in the Reagan years, and our demographics are worse now than they were then. But Pethokoukis’s broader point is correct: The real debate here is what spending should have been in 2010 and 2011.

The Obama administration wanted it to be higher. After all, unemployment rose through 2010, and remains high today. It has proposed a raft of additional stimulus bills since 2009. Republicans in Congress, however, refused to pass most of their plans. Properly understood, the fact that inflation-adjusted spending has fallen since fiscal year 2009 is the result of Republican obstruction in Congress. That Democrats are now crowing about these numbers — the DNC is e-mailing them around — and that Republicans are now viciously disputing them is an embarrassment to both sides. You could as easily imagine Democrats lamenting these numbers as evidence of our failed policies and Republicans celebrating them as evidence of their congressional successes.

But Republicans don’t want to admit that they bear substantial responsibility for the economic policy of the last few years. If they did, then it would be hard to argue that the economy’s performance in 2010 and 2011 is all Obama’s fault. And the Obama administration doesn’t want to clearly say that we should have been spending more in recent years, even if that’s what they believe, and what they proposed, because it polls poorly. And so here we are.

Jonathan Sends Bill for UNILAG Name Change to N’Assembly


JUNE 7, 2012 BY JOHN AMEH, OLUWOLE JOSIAH AND MOTUNRAYO ABODERIN

President Goodluck Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday sent a bill to the National Assembly seeking to amend the University of Lagos Act.

The amendment is to give legal teeth to his decision to change the name of the 50-year-old UNILAG to Moshood Abiola University.

Jonathan had during his Democracy Day speech on May 29 explained that name change was to honour the late Chief MKO Abiola.

President of the Senate, Mr. David Mark, read a letter from Jonathan to members requesting the passage of the bill to give legal backing to the name change.

House of Representatives Speaker, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, who received the same letter from the President, also read it to the House.

The bill will have to go through three readings in both the House and the Senate and if passed, would put to rest, the legal question surrounding Jonathan’s action.

However, lawmakers murmured in the chamber as Tambuwal read the letter.

The bill will not be debated until it is raised for second reading by the House.

The President also sent two other bills seeking legal backing for the change of names of the Federal University of Technology, Yola and the University of Agriculture, Umudike.

FUTY is now to be known as Modibbo Adamawa University, while the University of Agriculture in Umudike, Abia State is to be known as Michael Okpara University of Science and Technology.

The Minority Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, was one of those who opposed Jonathan’s pronouncement when he renamed UNILAG.

His opposition was on the grounds that he (Jonathan) lacked the powers to do so.

He had argued that UNILAG was a “creation of an Act of Parliament, and unless the same parliament (National Assembly) amends the Act, the President’s action is illegal”.

The House also passed nine bills to give legislative backing to the nine new universities established by the Federal Government in 2011.

Meanwhile, UNILAG Press Club, has expressed fears that the renaming of the university may affect its funding by its alumni association.

President of the club, Tosin Adesile, said during a press conference in Lagos on Wednesday, “UNILAG is a federal university, but the alumni association plays a greater role in terms of funding. In the past, we made several appeals to the Federal Government requesting for a renovation of our hostels, more class rooms to be built, better laboratories. But all have been in vain.”

Alumni, Students Urge N’Assembly to Disregard UNILAG Bill


JUNE 8, 2012 BY SEGUN OLUGBILE, JAMES AZANIA AND TEMITAYO FAMUTIMI

President Goodluck Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan

National President, University of Lagos Alumni Association, Prof. Olaide Abbas, says President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to send a bill to the National Assembly seeking legal backing for renaming UNILAG after his pronouncement is “an admittance of error.”

In his May 29 nationwide breadcast, Jonathan said the government had decided to change UNILAG to Moshood Abiola University in honour of the late MKO Abiola for his contribution to democracy in the country.

Abbas called on the members of the National Assembly to throw out the bill, saying the President’s action was tantamount to putting the cart before the horse.

The don,in an interview with our correspondent on Thursday, said the National Assembly should not be a rubber-stamp of the Presidency.

He said, “The late MKO Abiola had a history. UNILAG has its own history but the President should not use one history to destroy another. So, it is not a question of sending the bill to the National Assembly, it is a question of owning up to your error

The National Assembly should not be a rubber-stamp. What he has done can be likened to issuing a decree like a military dictator and later come back to seek the approval of the members of the Supreme Military Council.”

Also, a Lagos lawyer, Mr. Wahab Shittu, called on members of the National Assembly to throw out bill.

He said, “The President as a democratic President ought to have allowed his action to be guided by the fundamentals of democracy, that is due process, rule of law, constitutionalism, transparency and accountability. For him to have changed the name of the UNILAG unilaterally and thereby throwing the nation into protest showed that he is anti-democracy.”

But the Pro-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Chief Wole Olanipekun, has urged the opposition parties in the country not to crucify Jonathan over the renaming UNILAG.

Describing President Jonathan’s manoeuvre as being reminiscent of Nigeria’s military era, the lawmaker said no retroactive law must be allowed to come into being under the current dispensation.

He said, “Now, it shows that the executive arm has not outlived the military practice whereby they make a pronouncement and back it up with a decree. We are now in a democracy. What is more is that we have just celebrated 14 years of democracy and it is happening when people are going to court and more are gearing up to do so.

 

Jonathan targets Edo gov poll, UNILAG


JUNE 9, 2012 BY OLUSOLA FABIYI, ABUJA; TUNDE ODESOLA, OSOGBO; AND FEMI MAKINDE, ADO-EKITI

President Goodluck Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan has initiated moves to pacify the people of the South-West as he begins preparations to contest 2015 presidential election.

It was learnt that the President intended to use the renaming of the University of Lagos and the Edo State governorship election as the springboard to endear himself to the South-West people.

Investigations by our correspondents indicated that the President and members of his kitchen cabinet are worried about the level of his popularity, which they believe has plummeted nationwide and especially in the South-West in the last one year.

The President was initially said to have been emboldened with the support he got during the 2011 presidential election, when the South-West abandoned the presidential candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and voted en-masse for him.

Apart from Osun State, Jonathan crushed Ribadu in all the other five states in the zone despite the fact that the ACN controls a majority of the states in the zone.

However, the President was said to have been saddened with the mobilisation that was carried out in the zone during the protests for the removal of the oil subsidy last January.

The protests, which drew a large number of Nigerians, were carried out at Ojota, Lagos and were peaceful to the amazement of the opposition.

The Protesters were later forced to suspend the action when armed soldiers took over the Gani Fawehinmi Park, venue of the protests.

A presidency source told one of our correspondents on the condition of anonymity on Friday that the President and his advisers knew from then that he must do something to regain the confidence of the people of the zone, which he said, was paramount in their 2015 calculation.

“The President knows he has to do something; his advisers also know he must move fast to regain the confidence of the people of the zone,” the source stated.

He said this was why the President was advised to immortalise the late Pillar of Sports in Africa, Chief MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, who was denied his mandate by the military.

Former military dictator, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, was the president at that time.

The source said, “We had a lot of discussions on how to immortalise Abiola, who we believed, was highly loved and respected across the country, especially in the South-West.

“We thought about honouring him in Abuja, but those who said it was better done in his zone where he would be better appreciated, carried the day. That was how we zeroed in on the University of Lagos.”

The source, however, said the President was astonished with the protests that greeted the renaming of the institution.

He said though the President was saddened by the development, he believed that he had to stick to his gun by ignoring the protests and sending a bill to the National Assembly for the ratification of the change of name.

“In two years’ time, those protests would have died down and the renaming of the institution would be one of his selling points in the zone,” the source added.

But the Coalition of Northern Leaders, Academics, Professionals and Businessmen said the move had failed.

Its spokesperson, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, told one of our correspondents in Abuja that the aim of renaming the university was to kick-start the President’s 2015 campaign.

He said, “The aim has backfired. You can see the protests that followed the renaming of the school. Jonathan would not do anything without any sinister motive. He has kick-started his 2015 campaign with the renaming of the University of Lagos. That has failed with the opposition to it.”

Also, the Congress for Progressive Change described the renaming of UNILAG as a cheap populist agenda.

The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, told one of our correspondents that even Abiola would not be happy with the President concerning the move.

He said, “I am sure MKO Abiola would turn in his grave that the administration is using his name for vain political succour after pauperising the citizenry! Abiola stood on the side of the people all his life.

“A president that is freely condoning corruption and is unable to assent to a prayer against corruption is languidly laying hold on a straw of hope in a bid to attract better public image.

“This is another bungled project! Where do you put Moshood Abiola Polytechnic in Abeokuta? Whoever wrote the memo to the President to take this awful decision has done incalculable damage to his public worth.”

A former Special Assistant to the late Abiola, Chief Olu Akerele, described the naming of the University of Lagos after the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election as “mere tokenism and not far-reaching enough.”

Akerele said that the activities of the late Abiola transcended the South-West geopolitical zone, where he came from, noting that naming UNILAG after Abiola had limited his recognition to the Yoruba speaking areas of Nigeria.

He advised that the President should have named the Eagle Square, Abuja or the University of Abuja after Abiola, who sacrificed his life for democracy.

He said being the Pillar of Sports in Africa during his lifetime, it would also have been appropriate to name the National Stadium, Abuja after the late doyen of sports.

The National Chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Chief Bisi Akande, also flayed Jonathan for renaming UNILAG after Abiola, describing the renaming as “one right thing done in a wrong way and at a wrong time.”

Akande warned the Federal Government not to destroy the superstructure of democracy, which he said included the courts and conduct of credible elections.

However, the Vice-Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in the South-West, Mr. Segun Oni, described the ACN as not being sincere.

Oni, commenting through his spokesperson, Mr. Lere Olayinka, said the question that the ACN people needed to answer was, “If they love Abiola that much as they claim, why did they deny one of his sons the party’s House of Representatives’ ticket in Ogun State last year?

“Or was there anything that qualified Chief Segun Osoba’s son for the ACN House of Reps ticket ahead of MKO Abiola’s son?

“Isn’t it very sad that these same people, who dined and wined with the late MKO and had used his name for political gain have suddenly become anonymous and cannot show appreciation to the FG for immortalising him?

“Shouldn’t the ACN people, who benefited from MKO Abiola’s martyrdom have eschewed parochial politics and be supportive of whatever honour done him by the People Democratic Party-led FG?

“Instead, they suddenly lost their voice in their usual hypocrisy and also went to the extent of igniting protests in Lagos.”

He said since the leadership of the ACN lost their usage of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s name because of their glaring aversion for what the late sage stood for, “they must be afraid of the consequences of losing their access to the name of MKO Abiola.”

While the renaming of the university has polarised the people of the zone, the appointment of Deaconess Olatoyosi Ayo as the chairman of the Federal Civil Service.

Commission by the President was also said to be another move by Jonathan to pacify the people of the zone.

The President has also nominated Mr. Ezekiel Adeniyi as the chairman of the Board of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency. His appointment was confirmed on Wednesday by the Senate.

Our correspondents gathered that anytime the President decides to reshuffle his cabinet, he would pay attention to the clamouring of the political leaders from the zone, who have complained that juicy ministries were not given to their representatives.

Before now, the zone had complained about the refusal of the President to give any tangible appointment to people from their zone.

They listed the absence of anyone from the zone into any of the first six positions in the country. These offices include that of the President, Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Chief Justice of Nigeria.

The northern zone of the PDP is already using this argument to woo the people of the zone to wrest power from the President in 2015.

One of the PDP governors from the zone told one of our correspondents that the zone was already reaching out to people from other parts of the country on the need to stop Jonathan in 2015.

He said he knew that the zone was not happy with the number of cabinet ministers assigned to it by the Presidency and besides, he added that Northerners were aware that Jonathan had refused to appoint people from the South-West to strategic positions in his government.

Our correspondents gathered that the ACN was aware of the PDP/Jonathan moves in the South-West and Edo State.

It was learnt that the PDP considered the South-West and Edo State strategic to its electoral success in 2015.

The  National Vice-Chairman, South-South Zone of the party, Dr. Stephen Oru, had at the inauguration of Bayelsa State Executive of the party in Yenogoa in May, said the victory of the party in the Edo governorship poll would pave the way for Jonathan’s second term presidential ambition in 2015.

He had said, “The PDP must triumph in the July 14 governorship election in Edo State to provide a unified regional base for Jonathan to actualise his second term presidential ambition in 2015.

“Being the sons and daughters of the South-South zone and since the President is from our zone, it is only fair that we take back Edo State so that he (Jonathan) will have 100 per cent PDP states behind him in 2015 when he will be contesting a second tenure.”

An ACN chief, who pleaded anonymity, said the party knew that some of the actions of the President were meant to shore up support for him in 2015.

He stated, “We know that it is not that the President loves the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential poll by renaming the University of Lagos after him. His action is a form of campaign for the 2015 presidential poll.”

When contacted, the ACN national chairman said the party was aware of the PDP plan for South-West and Edo.

He, however, stated that the ruling party would fail.

Akande explained that the PDP governments at the centre and state level had done nothing to merit the re-election of the President or any of the PDP governors.

On the forthcoming governorship election in Edo, Akande said, “If performance is the parameter by which public office holders are rated, then Edo State is a no-go area for the PDP.

“If the PDP thinks it is going to win the Edo governorship election, it is building its castle in the air. Adams Oshiomhole has written his name in the hearts of the people of Edo.

“No amount of regional sentiments will make the people vote for any other person than Oshiomhole.”

But the PDP National Vice-Chairman Oni, said that the party would not be distracted by the ACN and the CPC.

%d bloggers like this: