Former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, Monday took on President Goodluck Jonathan over his comment that the invasion of Odi, in Bayelsa State, by former President Olusegun Obasanjo did not solve the problem or stop the killing of soldiers, policemen and innocent civilians in the Niger Delta area by terrorists and militants.
Fani-Kayode, who was also a presidential aide under the Obasanjo administration, said in a statement that Jonathan’s remark was factually incorrect.
Jonathan during the presidential media chat on Sunday had said that the invasion of Odi was a futile effort as it did not stop criminality in the Niger Delta.
“He has either forgotten the relevant facts or he has been misinformed. Whichever way, he is mistaken and it is important for those of us that proudly served the Obasanjo administration to respond to him in order to clarify the issues, clear the air and set the record straight for the sake of history and posterity.
“I had the privilege of being briefed about all the facts by President Olusegun Obasanjo himself and Col. Kayode Are, the former DG of the SSS, immediately after the presidential media chat and I believe that it is appropriate to share some of those facts with members of the Nigerian public given the grave assertion and serious charge that President Jonathan has made,” he said.
He said the invasion was caused by the failure of the then Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, to heed Obasanjo’s directive to apprehend the militants that killed five policemen and four soldiers when they tried to enter Odi town to arrest the militants.
“The governor said that he was unable to do so and President Obasanjo, as Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, took the position that security personnel could not be killed with impunity under his watch without a strong and appropriate response from the Federal Government.
“Consequently, he sent the military in to uproot and kill the terrorists and to destroy their operational base, which was the town of Odi. The operation was carried out with military precision and efficiency and its objectives were fully achieved.
“The truth is that the killing of security agents and soldiers with impunity by the Niger Delta militants virtually stopped after the operation in Odi and remained at a bare minimum right up until the time that President Obasanjo left power eight years later in 2007.
“To stop and deter those attacks and killings was the objective of President Obasanjo and that objective was achieved. President Goodluck Jonathan was therefore in error when he said that Odi did not solve the problem of killings in the Niger Delta area by the Niger Delta militants,” he added.
The president also came under fire from the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) over his remarks during the media chat.
CPC spokesman, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, said the president succeeded in dodging the real issues by not telling Nigerians the truth about the goings on in government.
“Last night (Sunday night), the president simply came to look good before Nigerians. Unfortunately, he did not cover up his tracks very well. Nigerians know that what the president said are opposite of what his aides have said on a number of issues,” he said.
On its part, ANPP viewed last Sunday’s presidential media chat with concern, describing it as an attempt at “obfuscating the minds of Nigerians”.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Emma Eneukwu, said the president declined to take any position on the issues raised on the review of the constitution.
He described as self-serving the president’s explanation that it would be in the best interest of Nigerians for him (Jonathan) not to suggest areas in the constitution to be amended.
Eneukwu said what may be more worrisome to most Nigerians was the attempt by the president to disown his campaign promise to reduce poverty by saying that he only pledged to help create wealth for Nigerians.
“This is a clear political equivocation, which is patently illiterate at best, and self-indicting at worst. Nigerians are now left to wonder who Mr. President had set out to empower all along. This is because, for sure, creating wealth might actually be a metaphor for putting more money into the hands of his already rich party members and cronies, while leaving the poor of the nation in the hands of chance,” he said.