Friday, September 9, 2011
Wikileaks: “Goodluck Jonathan Was Part Of The System Of Corruption That Had Impoverished The Niger Delta For Decades,” Says Jonathan’s Senior Special Assistant, Oronto Douglas
On December 18 , 2006, just after the then Bayelsa State Governor, Goodluck Jonathan, had been named PDP presidential running mate to Umaru Yar'Adua, human rights activist and Jonathan confidante Oronto Douglas described in glowing terms.
Among them, Jonathan was well respected among Ijaw leaders, had built a successful development program in Bayelsa, and had been a good Governor.
A new WikiLeaks cable shows, however, that only the day before, Mr. Douglas’ true feelings about Jonathan had been different. In a conversation with an American official, Douglas described Jonathan as “part of the system of corruption that had impoverished the Niger Delta for decades.”
And that “successful development programme in Bayelsa”? "Even his development initiative is viewed with skepticism by the populace," Douglas said.
He said that the outstanding corruption charges against Jonathan and his wife were troubling, and that while Jonathan enjoyed the support of the "Ijaw leaders," the "restive youth" had little respect for the "so-called leaders."
Douglas, who is now a Special Presidential Adviser to Jonathan, disclosed how close the corrupt governor of Rivers State, Mr. Peter Odili, came close to being named ahead of Jonathan as Yar'Adua's running mate.
“It wasn't until Yar'Adua was at the podium and publicly announced Goodluck Jonathan to be his running mate that [Odili] realized he was not the PDP's vice presidential candidate,” the writer learned from Douglas.
According to the story, a friend of Douglas’ who had had access to Yar'Adua's speech told him that Odili's name was mentioned as the running mate, but just before the convention, it was excised.
Douglas was of the view that Odili had fallen victim of an EFCC which claimed “significant malfeasance” on his part, including an instance where Naira 60 billion was earmarked for a gas plant project that actually cost only naira 20 billion.”
Mr. Douglas also commented on the PDP gubernatorial candidate for Bayelsa State, whom he thought would be Timi Alaibe, who was then the Executive Director of Finance for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Alaibe, Douglas asserted, would be “the worst possible choice."
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 000003
STATE FOR AF/W
STATE FOR INR/AA
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/19/2016
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM NI
SUBJECT: BAYELSA GOVERNOR WINS VICE PRESIDENTIAL BID
LAGOS 00000003 001.2 OF 002
Classified By: Consul General Brian L. Browne for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D)
¶1. (C) Summary: Oronto Douglas, a confidant of Bayelsa State Governor Goodluck Jonathan, told Poloff early December 18 that Jonathan was chosen to be PDP presidential aspirant Umaru Yar'Adua's running mate because he is well respected among Ijaw leaders such as Chief Edwin Clark, because he has built a successful development program in Bayelsa, and because he has been a good Governor. His comments to PolCouns the day before were very different, however. Rivers State Governor Peter Odili, who thought he was going to be Yar'Adua's running mate, was not given the appointment because the EFCC has something on him, Douglas learned from an insider.
Jonathan has Ijaw Favor & Strong Development Background
2. (C) The appointment was made after "long, long meetings" and "was like a coup against other aspirants" Oronto Douglas, a well-connected human rights activist from Bayelsa and confidant of Governor Goodluck, divulged to Poloff December 18. One reason Governor Jonathan was given the vice presidential appointment, Douglas explained, was because he is supported by Ijaw leaders like Chief Edwin Clark and Ijaw communities throughout the south-south (Bayelsa State is over 95 percent Ijaw, and there are significant Ijaw population in neighboring south-south states). Ijaws are believed to be Nigeria's fourth largest ethnic group.
3. (C) It was felt that Ijaw militants in the Delta would give a new administration some breathing room if one of their kith and kin became the country's second citizen, Douglas said. Also making Jonathan an attractive vice presidential running mate to Yar'Adua is the fact that Jonathan has a strong development program, the Bayelsa Partnership Initiative (BPI), which focuses on community-driven development. The BPI empowers communities by giving them five to six percent of Bayelsa's 13 percent derivation to spend as the community deems necessary. Douglas said if elected, Jonathan will expand this development scheme to the Federal Government and then spread it throughout the south-south states.
4. (C) However, in a conversation with PolCouns the night before, Douglas disparaged Governor Jonathan. He said that the outstanding corruption charges against him and his wife were troubling. Douglas then claimed that while Jonathan enjoyed the support of the "Ijaw leaders," the "restive youth" had little respect for the "so-called leaders." Douglas thought that, like the "leaders," Jonathan was part of the system of corruption that had impoverished the Niger Delta for decades. "Even his development initiative is viewed with skepticism by the populace," he said.
Vast inconsistencies in what Douglas said in these two conversations is hard to square. Perhaps it says something about the tight-rope act Douglas is trying to maintain as a potential figure in Jonathan's camp but also as a community activist who has a cordial relationship with several militant groups. End comment)
5. (C) In his conversation with Poloff, Douglas said a new PDP gubernatorial candidate for Bayelsa State to take Goodluck Jonathan's place would be chosen soon. He commented that Executive Director of Finance for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Timi Alaibe might emerge as the replacement for Jonathan on the PDP gubernatorial ticket.
Alaibe, known for misallocating NDDC funds and backing several militant groups, "is the worst possible choice," Douglas averred.
Odili Written Off
-6. (C) It wasn't until Yar'Adua was at the podium and publicly announced Goodluck Jonathan to be his running mate that Governor Odili of Rivers State realized he was not the PDP's vice presidential candidate, Douglas chuckled to Poloff. The look on Odili's face and the way he prematurely approached the podium revealed his surprise and disappointment. A friend of Douglas had access to Yar'Adua's speech and confided to him that Odili's name was mentioned as the running mate. However, just before the convention, his name was excised, the friend reported.
7. (C) Apparently, Odili fell victim to an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) report claiming significant malfeasance including an instance where naira 60 billion was earmarked for a gas plant project that actually cost only naira 20 billion, Douglas said. Concerns that Odili could not be trusted also plagued his bid for the vice presidency. Douglas recalled that as Rivers State Deputy Governor, Odili connived to chase then Governor Rufus Ada George from office. This left Yar'Adua and others with a fear that Odili would turn on them as well, Douglas asserted.
However, now that Odili has been written off the PDP presidential/vice presidential ticket, he will need to practice self-preservation, Douglas said. Odili should heed the EFCC warnings and learn from others who have been jailed, lost access to accounts and financial resources, and have been taken to court, Douglas warned.
8. (C) Jonathan on the PDP ticket will provide the clamoring south-south with the Aso Rock representation it has demanded, according to Douglas. While Jonathan's development efforts in Baylesa have been appreciated by some communities, they have not been able to quell the militant activities in the state. Given the fractious nature of Ijaw politics, Jonathan's nomination will produce both applause and invectives among the Ijaw. Overall, most Ijaw will welcome it as a sign that they are finally being taken seriously.
Others will see it as an attempt to pay of the Ijaw group with one office. Still other Ijaws just don't like Jonathan and will not want his star to ascend trouble-free. Thus, while most Ijaws will give him a chance to prove himself as Vice President, his selection will not automatically silence Ijaw militants. In fact, it probably helped spark some of the most recent eruptions as militants scrambled to assert that they would not be bought off. End Comment. BROWNE