Leadership (Abuja)

25 April 2014

Nigeria: 2015 - Rumbles in Jonathan's Camp As Akpabio Drags Gulak Before President

Ahead of his expected declaration for the 2015 presidential race, supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan appear to have been pitted against one another.

The development has threatened the cohesion of the president's camp as preparations for the general elections gather momentum, LEADERSHIP learnt.

Although signs of suppressed rumbles have been noticeable in the president's political family since late last year, the real threat became glaring recently as pseudo-mobilisation bodies heightened their struggle for space in the expected campaign structure that may emerge in a few months.

The latest sign of cold war materialised in Akwa Ibom State one week after a similar case in the president's home state, Bayelsa, in the form of a supremacy battle.

Already, Governor Godswill Akpabio is said to have complained to Jonathan about the activities of the presidential adviser on political matters, Ahmed Ali Gulak.

Akpabio, who is also the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors' Forum has reportedly asked Jonathan to call Gulak to order by asking the presidential aide to steer clear of his state as the 2015 election approaches.

The governor is said to be unhappy over the 'back-door' approach the presidential aide is alleged to be adopting to make incursions into Akwa Ibom on the pretence of garnering support for Jonathan's re-election in 2015.

He specifically accused Gulak of fraternising and associating with his political enemies in the state.

Findings by LEADERSHIP Friday showed that Akpabio was not comfortable that Gulak was giving tacit encouragement to some of his estranged political associates who are pursuing agenda different from his own in the countdown towards 2015.

The governor was particularly angered by Gulak's well-publicised political fraternity with his (Akpabio's) former deputy, Obong Nsima Ekere, and ex-secretary to the state government (SSG), Umana Okon Umana, under the guise of membership of Goodluck Suppport Group (GSG), one of the numerous groups rooting for the re-election of Jonathan in 2015.

Incidentally, the GSG is headed by the presidential adviser.

LEADERSHIP Friday's investigation revealed that Gulak incurred the wrath of the governor when he stormed Uyo, the Akwa-Ibom State capital, on Tuesday, April 14, and inaugurated the South-South zonal office of the GSG.

Besides that, Gulak did not intimate the government about the visit and his activities in the state. The ceremony was attended by Umana, Ekere and other notable political opponents of the governor.

The governor was said to have considered Gulag's action as "disrespectful and an affront" to his exalted office.

Akpabio, it was learnt, was infuriated that Gulak created the impression that he acted on behalf of the Presidency.

The governor's position may have influenced the last meeting of the Akwa Ibom chapter of the PDP, which lampooned the presidential aide over his recent political foray into the state.

In the communique signed by the Akwa Ibom State PDP chairman, Mr Paul Ekpo, the party accused Gulak of breaching existing and relevant protocols during his visit to the state.

"Gulak came to Akwa Ibom State and inaugurated a sectional and an unknown support group in favour of President Goodluck Jonathan without calling on the state's party leadership.

"Let Gulak sort out PDP problems in Adamawa State, deliver Adamawa State to the president before rushing to safe territories like South-South Nigeria where Jonathan requires no campaign," the statement said in part.

Also, one of our sources said: "The Akwa Ibom State governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, is very unhappy with the Gulak because of his recent visit to his state. You know the governor is a known ally of Mr President and he has reported the presidential aide to his boss for appropriate action.

"How can Gulak come to the state and gather some dissidents and well known political enemies of the governor for a nocturnal meeting under the guise of inaugurating an office of a support group for the president? He did not even bother to inform and relate with the government and the party in the state during the visit.

"The governor considers his action as disrespectful and an affront and he has asked Mr President to call Gulak to order and prevail on him to stop further interference in the political affairs of the state."

LEADERSHIP Friday recalls that a similar incident happened in Bayelsa State last week as the police, allegedly acting on instructions from the state governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson, forcefully stopped a pro-Jonathan rally bankrolled by another presidential aide, Waripamowei Dudafa, who is eyeing the governorship of the state in 2016.

The group, New Dawn Initiative for Development, led by its national chairman Olalekan Bello and national secretary Michael Agbo Baro, had in the announcement and invitation letters circulated to political leaders in the state, including the state governor, Hon. Dickson, stated that the rally would kick-start series of programmes and activities targeted at the grassroots so that the message will gain traction well before the 2015 election.

In the letter of invitation dated March 28, 2014, and sent to the governor requesting him to attend as special guest at the rally, the group noted that "the rally will provide a message loud enough to reverberate in Aso Villa to the hearing of the president that his people earnestly yearn for him to continue the good work he has started through vehicle of his transformation agenda."

LEADERSHIP Friday gathered that the New Dawn was, however, suspected by loyalists of the state government to be a new political machinery set up and bankrolled by Dudafa.

While many members of the New Dawn claimed the pro-Jonathan rally was aborted by the police under instructions from the state governor due to the rumour that it was to be used as a platform to endorse the candidature of Dudafa as Bayelsa governor in 2016, close aides of the governor dismissed the claim.

It was gathered that the leadership of the group had secured the permission of the state police commissioner Hillary Okpara to hold the rally at the Opolo Primary and Secondary School, in Opolo area of the state capital, before the sudden action of the police.

The presidential aide, Dudafa, is touted to be eyeing the governorship ticket of the ruling PDP, with reports linking his ambition to the desire of the president's wife Dame Patience Jonathan to stop Governor Dickson from seeking a second term in office, a claim she denies.

However, she is said to be backing Dudafa as the next governor of Bayesla State.

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