The Henchmen of the Jonathan Administration
The quality of leadership in any democratic system is often determined by the intellectual capacity, political experience and dexterity of the people around the president. When democracy is flawed and people question the legitimacy of the democratic system, it is important to discover what went wrong. Most people that have been president in Nigeria usually choose people who are either from their ethnic groups or the region where they come from because, in this context, loyalty must be absolute; only on rare occasions does someone from a different tribe or section become relevant.
Thus, President Goodluck Jonathan’s henchmen are mostly from the South-South. This is expected since it is the first time in the 52 years of Nigeria’s post-independence history that someone from that area has occupied the highest office in the land. Some of the people around him are playing a critical role in governance while some are deadwoods who are a burden to the president. These men will undoubtedly play pivotal roles in the 2015 elections.
ANTHONY AKHAKON ANENIH
Chief Anthony Akhakon Anenih is a powerful stalwart of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and also one of Jonathan’s staunch supporters. Anenih plays the role of a political strategist in the house. He could be seen as a reliable pillar behind the scenes. In fact, no matter how challenging a task may be, the president does not have to worry as long as the reliable Chief Anenih is around him.
Anenih’s “henchman-ship” and closeness to the federal government did not just start with Jonathan. Nigerians cannot easily forget his role in the 2003 elections when he said that there was no vacancy in Aso Rock. The third term bid by Olusegun Obasanjo only failed because the people’s collective will overpowered the crafty manipulation of an individual like Tony Anenih. The fact that Anenih is now the chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the PDP attests to his resilience and capability. He played a crucial role to bring Jonathan to power and the president has taken him close to his heart. As the 2015 election is less than two years away, already there are tectonic shifts in the political terrain, indicating that this election will redefine democracy in Nigeria; whether Tony will endure it remains to be seen.
Anenih’s influence in Nigerian politics is pervasive. For this, he is widely referred to as “Mr Fix-it”, a name that explains the extent of his influence and ability to achieve by all means whatever political interest he sets out for.
EDWIN KIAGBODO CLARK
He is undoubtedly one of the most influential people in Jonathan’s administration and the oldest of the president’s henchmen. He is the political father of all Ijaw people and, by extension, Jonathan. Clark had an outstanding career in the civil service before turning into politics. He served as a senator of the Federal Republic and a minister of information.
When Jonathan became president, he became his right-hand man. He will surely play a prominent role in the 2015 election, which the Ijaw see as critical to the future of the federation.
The former minister of information was born on May 25, 1932, at Kiagbodo in the old Bendel State (now Edo and Delta states). He attended Holborn College of Law in the United Kingdom from 1961 to 1964.
At one time or the other, the politically-inclined Ijaw firebrand has served in various capacities from the post of headmaster of Local Authority School, Ofoni, Western Ijaw, and Bomadi in 1954 to the rank of director with Bendel Brewery (1972-74). Clark came to limelight on the political terrain when he joined the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and served as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from 1979 to 1983.
Still a prominent player in Nigerian regional politics and an ally of President Jonathan, Clark is chairman of Delta State Elders’ Forum. This really confirms that he is the father of the Ijaw nation. There is no doubt about his role in championing the cause of the Ijaw people. He once campaigned for Ijaw rights in the ethnically volatile Niger Delta in a reaction to the overbearing influence of the Itsekiri people on the region. In 2007, he openly opposed the election of Emmanuel Uduaghan as governor of Delta State on ethnic grounds.
DAVID JONAH JANG
David Jonah Jang was born on March 13, 1944, at Du in Plateau State. He attended Plateau Provincial Secondary School, Kuru, now Government Science School, Kuru, until 1964. After his secondary education, he joined the Nigerian Air Force as officer cadet in 1965. When he was 40 years old, he became the military governor of old Benue State. He also served as military governor of former Gongola State (now Adamawa and Taraba States). He retired from military service at the rank of Air Commodore in August 1990.
Jang was a relatively unknown influence in the scheme of things until he surprisingly emerged as a top contender for the chairmanship of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). The president recognised him as the NGF boss, but most Nigerians were behind Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State who defeated Jang in an election. This game is still being played. Since Jang became the governor of Plateau State, he has battled one crisis after the other. The state has been enmeshed in the many horrific ethno-religious crises reminiscent of what occurred in Rwanda and Burundi. But in spite of several calls by well-meaning Nigerians to declare a state of emergency in Plateau State, the president has refused to yield.
Partly as a result, the governor’s loyalty to the president increased. The two became closer and, in spite of Jang’s poor administrative records, his influence in the present administration has kept on increasing. Whether Jonathan will win the 2015 election or not will be based on the ability of Jang to divide the North in favour of Jonathan.
CHIEF MICHAEL AYEGBENI OGHIADOMHE
Little is known about this 55-year-old man from Etsako Central of Edo State. He is well educated and was one-time deputy governor of Edo State. He has been Jonathan’s helmsman since 2007 when he was appointed deputy chief of staff to the vice president and later changed to principal secretary to the president when Jonathan became the president in 2010. Oghiadomhe was elevated to the post of chief of staff to the president. He has remained in the shadows of the president as though unseen but a force to reckon with. He is influential in all federal appointments and other critical issues. He will most likely remain in that office until 2015 when the wind of change will blow.
ELDER PETER GODSDAY ORUBEBE
Elder Peter Godsday Orubebe (CON) is the minister of Niger Delta affairs. He came into the ministry as a pioneer minister of state after the ministry was created in 2008 by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. He has also served as minister of national planning; deputy chairman, National Planning Council and minister of special duties. This man from Delta State, who is well educated, is playing a critical role in Jonathan’s administration. He is one of the most trusted hands of the president and will, undoubtedly, play a strong role in the re-election of Jonathan come 2015.
In his present capacity as minister of Niger Delta affairs, he oversees a ministry that is saddled with pacifying the Niger Delta region through infrastructure and implementation of human development programmes meant to correct the errors of environmental neglect and degradation which the people of the region have been agitating against. This is the same region President Jonathan comes from. Therefore, the man at the helm of affairs in this ministry should, expectedly, have a lot of influence on the president.
Born on October 5, 1958, at Duguri town, Alkaleri local government area of Bauchi State, he is a veteran journalist, a civil servant, a pragmatic and vibrant politician.
His loyalty to Jonathan is absolute. He stoutly stood behind the president when he was vice president, especially at the most trying period when it became evident that President Yar’Adua could not discharge his executive duties. He was a staunch proponent of the Doctrine of Necessity which brought Jonathan to power and he was rewarded with the juicy position of minister of the FCT.
Though not on the official list of President Jonathan’s cabinet members, one man that has been enjoying some political romance with the administration is Government Ekpenmupolo, popularly known as Tompolo. The Niger Delta-born, who is now said to have become a billionaire, was one of the frontline militants who operated in the Niger Delta before the amnesty granted them by the late president Musa Yar’Adua in 2009.
The ex-militant, who was having it tough with the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) in the region three years ago, is now a strong ally of the Jonathan-led federal government. Despite Tompolo’s violent past and little education, there is no doubt that he is one of the most influential Nigerians today. It is very clear that he is eating on the same table with President Jonathan. The contract awarded to Global West Vessels Specialist Limited, believed to be owned by Tompolo, early last year, amidst controversies and criticisms, shows the former militant is a right-hand man of the president.
As principal secretary to the president, Tukur is no doubt a strong man. He is not only powerful, he is influential. He was allegedly instrumental in Nuhu Ribadu’s return to the country from self-exile. He worked tirelessly to ensure that Ribadu was pardoned and successfully returned to the country. He is also expected to be in the centre of the battle to retain Jonathan as president in 2015.
Mr Oronto Douglas, a human rights attorney and author, is the senior special assistant (ssa) to the president on research and documentation. He is also a formidable environmental rights activist. He was in the team of lawyers who defended the late Ken Saro-Wiwa during his trial under Sani Abacha’s military rule. He had been imprisoned many times by various dictators.
Today, much of Oronto is seen around the corridors of power. He has become endeared to the Jonathan-led government in spite of all odds in the past. Hence, there is no doubt that he is an influence around the president who happens to be his kinsman.
IBRAHIM SHEHU SHEMA
Dr Ibrahim Shehu Shema is the tireless governor of Katsina State; he has a lot to offer for the 2015 presidential election. Having established himself in leadership positions in the business and legal world, he turned his attention to public service. In 1999, he was appointed attorney-general and commissioner for justice of Katsina State. Soon after, he was appointed to a position as member of the PDP special committee on the Anambra crisis. He also participated in the Katsina State National Political Reform Conference.
He rose within the PDP, becoming national vice chairman (North) of the party and chairman of the party’s national disciplinary committee. He also served as the chairman of the Governing Council of the People’s Democratic Institute, chairman of the National Reconciliation Committee for the South-South, and chairman of the Governing Board of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency.
His Excellency Shema was installed the Sarkin Yakin Kasar Hausa by the Daura emirate council in July 2010.
MALLAM ISA YUGUDA
The executive governor of Bauchi State, though not a noise maker, has a hold on the politics of the country. Described as a silent achiever, Governor Yuguda, an accomplished banker, was minister of state for transport, 2000-03; and ministry of aviation, 2003-05.
Yuguda is central to the president’s aspiration in 2015 as he has a wide range of followership across the nation.
A reliable and dependable governor, Gabriel Torwa Suswam of Benue State has a lot to contribute in realising the president’s 2015 ambition. Because Suswam is from the Middle Belt, Jonathan is sure to have less problem in that region because Suswam has a firm grip of the centre.
Suswam was born on November 15, 1964, in Anyiin, Logo local government area of Benue State. In 1986 he was admitted into the Law faculty of the University of Lagos where he obtained an LL.B degree in 1989, and the BL Certificate from the Nigerian Law School, Lagos, in 1990. He was called to the Bar that year. He worked for other law firms from 1990–1994, while continuing his studies. In 1994 he launched his own law firm.
Doyin Okupe whose appointment took effect from July last year is the senior special assistant (SSA) on public affairs to the president. He was formerly a member, Board of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria. Doyin’s appointment as the SSA to the president came amidst strong criticisms from various quarters on the grounds that his portfolio and responsibilities would overlap with the functions of Dr Reuben Abati, the special adviser to the president on media and publicity.
While clearing the air on his appointment, the SSA said he was “not hired as an attack dog” as being speculated in the media, but that he was appointed to engage and enlighten the public, especially the opposition, on the activities of the administration.
Mr Labaran Maku is the current minister of information. Born on January 1, 1962, he hails from Nasarawa Eggon in Nasarawa State. He is certainly the image maker of Jonathan’s administration. Maku attended Zawang Teachers’ College, Bukuru, Jos, and the University of Jos, Plateau State, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in History/Education. A former teacher, journalist and now a politician, he was the deputy governor of Nasarawa State from 1999 to 2007.
Mr Maku is an inspirational speaker and an orator, a skill that has prepared him for his present portfolio. He is perhaps the most prominent and most articulate among all the ministers in Jonathan’s cabinet. This is usual as ministers of information are known to be the government’s image makers or mouthpiece.
As a veteran journalist who has been in a profession that values telling the truth, his major challenge is to objectively stand on the side of truth, despite how his political gains or fortunes may be affected.
HENRY SERIAKE DICKSON
The present governor of Bayelsa State, Henry Seriake Dickson, is a force in the Jonathan administration, not because he is the governor of the president’s state but because he is readily available to carry out Jonathan’s orders.
Until 2012, Dickson was a member of the House of Representatives. Jonathan ensured that he was emerged governor of the state on February 14, 2012.
Godswill Akpabio was sworn in as the governor of Akwa Ibom State on May 29, 2007. The PDP candidate was born on December 9, 1962, at Ukana Ikot Ntuen, Essien-Udim local government area of Akwa Ibom State. He is the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum and the arrow-head of Jonathan’s push to get all the governors under his wing before the 2015 election.
With his giant strides in Akwa Ibom State transformation, Akpabio is sure to have a quota to contribute in ensuring that the president has a good outing come 2015. There is no gainsaying that he is a centrifugal point. He will, indeed, play a critical role in the president’s re-election bid.
KUKU KEMEMBRADIGHA KINGSLEY
Kingsley Kuku is the special adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Niger Delta affairs. Born on February 14, 1970, in Ese-Odo local government area of Ondo State, the traditional headquarters of the Ijaw people in the state, he was elected into the Ondo State House of Assembly in 2003 and served as the chairman of the House Committee on Information till 2007. He was given double official duties as the special assistant/head of conflict management unit at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, and the secretary of the president’s Committee on Peace and Conflict Resolution in the Niger Delta until 2009 when he was appointed a member of the Presidential Committee on Amnesty.
In January 2011, he was re-appointed special adviser to President Jonathan on the Niger Delta, a position he held in Yar’Adua’s administration.
Hon. Kuku is a staunch supporter of President Jonathan’s administration who has ruffled the feathers of some Nigerian officials in his controversial statement regarding the success of the Niger Delta amnesty during his diplomatic visit to the United States to honour the bi-lateral pact between Nigeria and the US
Asari Dokubo, former leader of the rehabilitated Niger Delta militants, recently said that if Jonathan is not elected in 2015, then, Nigerian will break up. This statement was made after revelations that he is benefiting immensely from the president. There is no doubt that this Niger Delta militant who was trained in Libya has been rehabilitated by Jonathan, but it may be difficult to remove him from the gutters. He is an excess baggage to the president. If at all he will affect the 2015 elections, it will be on the negative side.
AHMED ALI GULAK
The special adviser to the president on political matters, Barr. Ahmed Ali Gulak, a native of Gulak, Adamawa State, is, to say the least, a force in President Jonathan’s political train. As former speaker, Adamawa State House of Assembly, he was on duty and gave the state the benefit of his ideas. And, as the president’s adviser on political matters, he is doing a great job to ensure that his boss is relevant in the political permutation of the nation. Though he has a big fight ahead for the political soul of his home state, he has a formidable hold on his people.
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