Jonathan under attack for visiting Chad with Sheriff
President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday came under fire over the presence of a former Borno State Governor, Ali Modu-Sheriff, at a meeting he held with Chadian President Idris Deby in Ndjamena on Monday.
The President’s spokesman, Dr. Rueben Abati, had in a statement on Sunday said that Jonathan was travelling to Chad to discuss how to combat insurgency in Nigeria with Deby.
A picture on Abati’s twitter handle early on Tuesday showed that Modu-Sheriff was present at the Ndjamena meeting.
Among those that berated the President were the opposition All Progressives Congress, lawyers and civil society groups.
Their anger was predicated on the fact that the former governor was recently accused by an Australian hostage negotiator, Steven Davis, of allegedly sponsoring Boko Haram.
Shortly after the allegation, there were calls by the All Progressives Congress and some civil society groups for the arrest and prosecution of Sheriff.
Last Thursday, the Department of State Security invited the former governor to defend the allegations.
But when the picture of the Ndjamena meeting surfaced, the APC slammed Jonathan for hobnobbing with the ex- governor.
The APC , in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, demanded an explanation from the Presidency.
It accused the President of exhibiting a shocking act of indiscretion by hobnobbing with Sheriff who is not known to have been investigated and cleared of the allegation against him.
The party wondered what message Jonathan was sending to his compatriots and indeed the international community by taking Sheriff to Chad for a meeting against terrorism.
The statement partly read, “This action by President Jonathan confirms what the APC has always believed: That he either knows more than he is willing to admit on the issue of those who are behind the Boko Haram insurgency or he is willing to sacrifice the battle against terrorism on the altar of political expediency.
“Either way, this action by the President is the height of indiscretion at best, or a palpable exhibition of callowness at worst.
“It also confirms our fears that Sheriff was planted as a mole in the APC by his friends in high places, who are jittery about the birth of the party and would do anything to destabilise it.”
The APC said the President could not pretend not to be aware of a report sent home by Nigeria’s Defence Adviser in Ndjamena in 2011, detailing the suspicious activities of Sheriff and asking the Federal Government to investigate him.
The party said if this was a joke, it is one too far, especially at a time that Nigeria had been losing some of its territories to Boko Haram.
The APC said it was apparent that Jonathan smuggled Sheriff into his entourage, as the official statement announcing the trip, never mentioned he would accompany the President .
Mohammed said nobody in Nigeria would have known of this unholy alliance carried too far if not that the picture of the President, his host and the former governor surfaced via Twitter.
It said the President should explain what he knows about the allegations that Sheriff and a former Chief of Army Staff, Azubuike Ihejirika, were Boko Haram sponsors.
The APC wondered why the Jonathan administration had not handed both men to the International Criminal Court for investigation and possible prosecution.
Also, lawyers like Femi Falana, Fred Agbaje, Jiti Ogunye, Festus Keyamo and Monday Ubani said the presence of the former governor at the Ndjamena meeting was inexplicable.
A former Borno State Commissioner for Information , Mr. Inuwa Bwala, however, dismissed the allegations against Sheriff.
Bwala described the APC statement as a celebrating of falsehood.
He told one of our correspondents in a telephone interview that the party had yet to get over Sheriff’s loss to the ruling PDP.
The former Commissioner said it was mischievous for the APC to claim that Sheriff was part of the President’s entourage when indeed he (Sheriff) was among several Nigerians who received the President at the airport in Chad.
Bawala said, “The APC is celebrating falsehood. This is the height of their desperation and mischief all targeted at diverting public attention from the truth.
“Answers to the Boko Haram puzzle are within the ranks of the APC and very soon Nigerians will know them because their activities will soon be exposed.
“Senator Sheriff is a Nigerian who is doing business in Chad – he is prospecting for oil.
“Long before the President’s visit, he had been doing business there. As a loyal party member, there is nothing wrong if he joins people to receive the President in a country he is doing business in.”
But lawyers like Femi Falana, Fred Agbaje, Jiti Ogunye, Festus Keyamo and Monday Ubani said the presence of the former governor at the Ndjamena meeting was inexplicable.
Falana, a human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria told one of our correspondents that the inclusion of Sheriff on the President’s entourage was the height of insensitivity.
The SAN had earlier appealed to the International Criminal Court to investigate and possibly prosecute anyone indicted by Davies.
He said, “By this act, President Jonathan has demonstrated once again that he doesn’t give a damn about public opinion.”
Agbaje said, “There is so much dishonesty in governance. It means the government doesn’t appreciate the severity or gravity of what Boko Haram has done to innocent Nigerians.
“That action has also confirmed the President’s earlier position three years ago that the Boko Haram has infiltrated the government . He actually knows them and he is just covering them up because of 2015.”
Ogunye described the action of the President as disheartening and an indication of petty politicking.
He said, “It is disheartening and inexplicable that it is that same person that Mr. President will include in a delegation to go to Chad.
“We have said that in dealing with this menace, statesmanship should override political consideration and petty politicking.
“The state appears to be sleep walking; and you know when you are sleep-walking, you don’t take rational and reasonable decision.
“Statecraft and statesmanship are taking flight and petty politicking is taking over.”
Keyamo said, “It also shows a lack of moral power to fight the Boko Haram scourge. It shows lack of moral and legal power to confront the sponsors of Boko Haram. The President by this action is telling all of us that there is more to it that meets the eye; that is what they are telling us.”
Also, Ubani said it was improper for Jonathan to have travelled with Sheriff .
Pointing that the former governor remains a suspect based on the allegation made against him, he added that it “was not proper for the president to have taken him along especially when the issue of the security of the nation is being discussed.
But the Nigerian Bar Association disagreed with Falana, Agbaje Keyamo, Ubani and Ogunye.
Its President, Mr. Augustine Alegeh (SAN), said that Nigerians should respect the judgment of the President in including Sherriff in the entourage.
Alegeh added that Jonathan must have acted on the basis of information that was exclusive to him.
He said, “The President is the Chief Security Officer of the country , consequently he may have a lot of information at his disposal which you and I do not have.
“For him to have taken such a decision, he must have done that based on the information at his disposal which we do not have. And we must learn to respect our President and trust his judgment on matters of this nature.”
The groups that also commented on the development were the Afenifere and the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders.
Its Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, said the President needed to explain to Nigerians what role Sheriff was playing in his government’s fight against terrorism.
Odumakin said, “We don’t know in which capacity he (President Jonathan) took Sheriff along in the trip. But it was stated that the essence of the meeting was to discuss terrorism and maybe Sherrif is a consultant since he has been severally alleged to know a few things about the operations of the Islamic sect.
“The Presidency will have to let us know in which capacity he (Sheriff) was made part of the entourage – whether he has information that could be helpful in terms of sacking the crisis. So we need to know the details.
“I don’t want to accept that he was just taken in just to take a seat with the President on the presidential jet to Chad. So we need to no more details.”
CACOL said it was not surprised that Sheriff was in Chad because “the Presidency had admitted long ago that Boko Haram had infiltrated it.”
“It means that the Federal Government doesn’t want the issue of Boko Haram solved just like Davies said. The president should have insisted that before he could associate with such a person, he would ensure that he goes through some kind of investigations. But this is a shameless government that has lost the battle,” its Executive Chairman, Debo Adeniran said.