by Olalekan Adetayo
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali, must be a lucky man. Better still, he must be a sacred cow that President Goodluck Jonathan is afraid (or put mildly, does not want) to touch.
Under this minister, Nigeria has recorded two diplomatic rows with two different countries within a short period. The first was the row between Nigeria and Morocco over whether the President spoke with King Mohammed VI on the telephone.
Ahead of the just-concluded general elections, there were media reports that King Mohammed turned down a request to speak with Jonathan on the telephone. The reports suggested that the monarch turned down the offer because the time was close to the presidential elections which the President contested with Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and he did not want to be seen as endorsing Jonathan.
Shortly after the publication, however, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying Jonathan indeed spoke with the Moroccan King on the telephone. Moroccan authorities denied that claim. The country withdrew its envoy in Nigeria to protest that misinformation.
It was at that point that the Presidency made it clear that although Jonathan expressed his desire to speak with the monarch over the candidature of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, for the presidency of the African Development Bank, the conversation did not take place.
Jonathan therefore ordered Wali to investigate the mix-up and identify the culprits in his ministry for proper punishment. Many people were at that time of the opinion that the minister should have taken responsibility for the flop and be punished instead of being saddled with the responsibility of finding the culprits.
Up until the time of writing this piece, nothing had been heard on the outcome of Wali’s investigation. When he was accosted by State House correspondents recently, the minister was taken off guard. He simply murmured, “We are still investigating” without looking straight into the cameras or the eyes of those interviewing him.
Now, his ministry has caused the country and the Jonathan administration another embarrassment. His ministry was said to have recalled (or invited) the country’s envoys in South Africa over the xenophobic attacks in that country. South African authorities frowned at that development, describing it as unnecessary. Another diplomatic row ensued.
As it later turned out, the President was not aware of the ministry’s action until it became an item in the media. That was clearly another breach. Jonathan has directed that the ministry’s permanent secretary, Ambassador Danjuma Sheni, be queried and suspended pending further investigation into the matter. The President himself was said to have recalled that that was the second unnecessary diplomatic row caused by the ministry in a short space of time.
Again, people wonder why will Jonathan wield the big stick against the permanent secretary and leave the minister untouched? Could the permanent secretary have recalled or invited the country’s Charge D’Affairs without the knowledge of the minister?
These questions were posed to the Minister of Information, Patricia Akwashiki, during the post-Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday and this was her response, “The minister was not even in the country, he was out of the country on international programme when it happened. The minister is the minister, the permanent secretary is the accounting officer in the ministry, so the stick had to fall on him.”
That to me does not sound convincing. If the permanent secretary is the accounting officer and he is not accountable to the minister, why then should government be using tax payers’ money to sustain a minister there? Does that mean the permanent secretary can take that kind of decision without the knowledge or approval of the minister or any of the two ministers of state? I hope this investigation will not go the way of the Morocco saga which now seems to be endless. Nigerians must be told the outcome of the two investigations if this government (whether outgoing or not) must be taken seriously henceforth.
What a revealing prayer!
Members of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation on Thursday presented their report to the President. The man who was asked to say the opening prayer started by saying that it was not Jonathan that was defeated during the election but the rot in the system.
He did not stop at that. He prayed that God should reward those who worked heartily for the party during the polls.
The prayer that attracted the loudest amen was when he prayed that supposed party members who worked against the party from within should also reap the fruit of their labour.
The general consensus at that event was that Jonathan lost that election because of betrayal.
Amaechi, Sylva laugh last
The tide has turned in the Villa and this is glaring. Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State and former Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State who have stopped entering the seat of power because of the disagreements they had with Jonathan and his wife, Patience, have started returning triumphantly since the President lost the March 28 presidential election.
Amaechi and Sylva were formerly part of the Peoples Democratic Party family. The President and his wife were said to have been the brains behind Sylva’s inability to get a second term ticket to govern his state. They were said to have brought in the current governor, Seriake Dickson. PDP governors intervened in Sylva’s case at that time. I covered many meetings where the issue was part of the agenda. After the governors would have started meeting with the President, Sylva would join them later. He did not get the party’s ticket for second term and the rest is history. He stopped coming to the Villa.
But today, the former governor is a co-chairman of the inauguration committee that will usher in Gen. Muhammadu Buhari as the next President. The committee meets inside the same Villa from where he was literarily chased away a few months back. A case of he who laughs last, laughs best.
Amaechi’s case is similar to that of Sylva. Apart from the fact that he is one of the PDP governors that dumped the party for APC, he has been having a running battle with the President’s wife. At a point, Mrs. Jonathan made it clear that the governor of his home state stepped on her big toes because he was bent on demolishing her kinsmen’s houses in Okrika. They parted ways and Amaechi bade the Villa goodbye.
He played a major role in Buhari’s emergence as he was the Director-General of the President-elect’s campaign organisation. He also returned to the Villa triumphantly on Tuesday when he accompanied the chairman of Buhari’s transition committee, Mallam Ahmed Joda, to meet the chairman of Jonathan’s transition committee, Vice President Namadi Sambo.
As it is now, the two South South men are currently supervising the exit of their brother from the Villa. They must be having the last laugh.
– this Best Outside Opinion was written by Olalekan Adetayo/Punch