Christian Nestell Bovee, a famous New York writer, once asserted that “False friends are like our shadow, keeping close to us while we walk in the sunshine, but leaving us the instant we cross into the shade.”
Exactly a week ago, President Goodluck Jonathan told the world that his friends had deserted him. He made it known that he was not fazed by their action, adding that he expected more friends and associates to abandon him because he lost the March 28 presidential election to the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. The President spoke at a special thanksgiving organised in his honour at the Cathedral Church of Advent, Life Camp in Abuja. He must not have been oblivious of the popular saying that ‘failure is an orphan.’ Indeed, even in politics, success comes with making more friends.
President Jonathan is seen as someone who has so much confidence in his aides, friends and associates. As a perceived gentleman, building trust in someone does not take a long time for him. But this quality, unfortunately as analysed in several quarters, contributed to his losing the just held election. As more and more revelations continue to pour in on why the Peoples Democratic Party performed poorly in the elections, both at the national and state levels, the picture is also becoming clearer that a lot of intrigues, mud-slinging, betrayals and lack of unity worked against the party and Jonathan as a candidate. In the build-up to the elections, one thing which is difficult to explain is whether the President saw all these antics from his close associates coming.
Some of them even allegedly worked for the opposition, according to observers. Today, they have begun to keep some distance when he has yet to leave office. Unfortunately, they did not know that the election had been lost and won long ago, since the successful merger between the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party and a section of the All progressives Grand Alliance.
There has never been a time in the history of the country’s democracy, especially from 1999, that the nation has witnessed such a unison of political interests at the national level. Had the PDP and its leaders, including Jonathan himself, seen the danger and threat in the merger, they might have frustrated the process in the first place.
Today, Jonathan, who presents himself as a true democrat and conceded defeat early enough to the candidate of the APC, now president-elect, appears the main loser with power eluding him untimely. Just as he has lost power, he is fast losing friends and in fact, believes that after May 29, when he must have transmitted the instrument of power to Buhari, he could be a solo man with little or no political influence. Hear him out during the thanksgiving service, “But I used to say worse statements will come.
If you take certain decisions, you should know that those close to you will even abandon you at some point. And I tell them that more of my so-called friends will disappear.” The President compared his growing unpopularity based on his ‘decisions’ to that of the last apartheid ruler of South Africa, F.W de Klerk. Jonathan told the congregation that “When F.W. De clerk took the decision to abolish minority rule in South Africa, even his wife divorced him. I hope my wife will not divorce me.
But that is the only decision that has made South Africa to still remain a global player by this time. If we still had that minority rule there, by this time, nobody will be talking about South Africa.” Most noticeable presently in Aso Rock is the shrinking number of influential personalities who often frolic with both the Commanderin- Chief and his immediate family at the residence and at the church.
They would even join in the morning prayers at the Villa Chapel only to rub shoulders with power brokers for personal gains. These friends and associates who ordinarily hitherto made Aso Rock a beehive of activities are gradually cutting off. First on the list of these allies is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Forte Oil, Mr. Femi Otedola. The oil magnate, apart from being a personal friend of Jonathan, is also alleged to be the ‘President’s business friend.’
He doubles as a member of the President’s Economic Management Team (EMT). The businessman, no doubt, was a frequent visitor to the Presidential Villa, aside attending official functions. He stood by Jonathan and was one of his major financiers during the 2011 presidential election. Until the March 28 presidential election, Otedola was always seen at both the Oval Office and the official residence. Early this year, Jonathan and his wife, Dame Patience, were special guests at the burial of Otedola’s father, Late Pa Michael Otedola, a former Lagos State governor in Épe. Otedola has not been sighted in the Presidential Villa since his bosom friend lost the election. Shortly after the announcement of Buhari as winner of the 2015 presidential election, Otedola was among close allies of the President who visited the President-elect to align with the regime change.
Mind politicians and businessmen? It is always about interest which they say is the only permanent thing. Among the outgoing President’s friends is Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, a banker, entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist.
He is also a member of the EMT. Aig- Imoukhuede’s closeness to the President earned him an appointment in 2012 when he served as chairman of the Presidential Committee on the Verification of Fuel Subsidy.
There are reports that his committee saved the country billions of dollars in fraudulent fuel subsidy payments. Although this seasoned banker was not as frequent at the seat of power as Otedola, he remains a close ally of the President and mingled with those that matter in the Jonathan administration. Aig-Imoukhuede has often times donated to several government support projects like the presidential flood intervention initiative and electioneering agenda of his friend, Jonathan. He has not been visible in the villa since the election.
Tony Elumelu is another member of the EMT and a friend of the President. He is an astute banker, businessman and an economist by training. Elumelu’s rosy relationship with the President is clear to all. He had on different occasions expressed supported for him publicly without apologies. Not only has he attended most functions where the President was present, his sympathy for the Peoples Democratic Party sits deeply. Elumelu has been one of the financial pillars and strong supporters of Jonathan since the 2011 presidential election.
His quick move to pitch tent with Buhari shortly after the March 28 presidential election is viewed by some observers as a step to court the incoming president. He has not been as visible as before in the Presidential Villa since the elections. Arthur Eze is another friend of the President. Interestingly, he is among the few associates of President Jonathan who have continued to visit despite his defeat at the polls. Eze, a businessman with interest in oil and gas, is a close ally of the President. He is one of the major financiers of the PDP and by extension, the President. The oil magnate has also made several donations in support of the President’s interests.
This includes the N1.8 billion donation in 2013 for a church building and a youth centre in Otuoke, Bayelsa State, the President’s hometown. The President had cause to even visit Arthur’s country home in Anambra State.
Hear Eze when he paid a visit to Buhari after the elections: “Things will change in this country. It is God that gives power, and God has given it to Buhari. “He is coming to change our economy, especially the oil sector, as you can see, most of the oil companies which left Nigeria are now coming back,” Eze said. The businessman also expressed total confidence in Buhari, based on his experience to take the right decisions, especially as it concerns the oil Industry. All these actions possible explains the President’s fear and concern that he may be abandoned by his friends.
There are several other personalities in this group who Nigerians and the President would have to also watch out for. They include the Chairman of Zenith Bank and a member of the EMT, Mr. Jim Ovia; Africa’s wealthiest man and EMT member, Aliko Dangote; and Chief Bola Shagaya, who is more of the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan’s friend. Though he has constantly expressed deep support for Jonathan, former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, was sighted at the wedding of Edo State Governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, in Benin on Friday.
He even took a photograph with Oshiomhole; his wife, Lara Forte; Buhari; Vice President- elect, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo; Senator Bukola Saraki, sparking speculations that he may have switched sides. Before the election, such was an anathema.
Also on the list of Jonathan’s former friends are his godfather, Chief Edwin Clark; and top former Niger Delta militants such as Government Ekpemukpolo and Ebikabowei Victor-Ben aka Boyloaf; as well as Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba. Shortly after the election, Clark dismissed reports that he was depressed about the result of the election.
Speaking with journalists on April 24 in Abuja, on his way to London, he debunked rumours that he collapsed when he heard about the outcome of the presidential election. “I am here today to tell you that I am not dead. Or am I dead? In every election, there would be winners and losers. The same thing happened during the last presidential election. I am alive.
Today, I won’t talk about what happened before, during and after the election. That will come another day. “I am talking to you now because I am travelling tomorrow and some people will go into the streets and say I was carried into air ambulance. President Jonathan that contested election had congratulated the winner and the whole world acclaimed him for conceding defeat. Jonathan was the one who contested election, I didn’t. So, why should I die?” Boyloaf, who benefitted immensely from the amnesty programme, was highly critical of the President in a recent interview with Premium Times. He said, “To me, as a matter of fact Jonathan disappointed us.
That is my own opinion. He disappointed us. To me, he disappointed us. He might be good to some people. There is nothing to tell if you get to my own state. We didn’t benefit. People like us did not benefit from his government. His government focused on one side.
The Bayelsans did not benefit. It is only the Arugbos – that is Ondo State and Delta State – that benefited from his government. So, someone like me will not welcome him. I will not welcome him at all.
The struggle continues.” Also, some governors that were constant visitors to the villa both for official and social purposes have reduced their visits. Gabriel Suswam (Benue); Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo); Isa Yuguda (Bauchi) and Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State, observers noted, are becoming scarce at the villa. PDP National Chairman, Adamu Mu’azu, has stayed clear of the villa, following attempts by some party leaders to oust him.