The Presidency on Thursday defended the prevention of Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State from exchanging pleasantries with President Goodluck Jonathan by a security operative during dinner at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Wednesday.
It said the incident was purely a security issue that should not be politicised,especially by opposition political parties.
The governor, who was sitting two tables away from the President, had risen to greet him but the security operative attached to the President stopped him halfway.
In order not to create a scene at the event that had nearly all his colleagues and two heads of government (Joyce Banda of Malawi and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia) in attendance, Amaechi quietly returned to his seat and waited for about five minutes before leaving the venue.
But as the Action Congress of Nigeria and Congress for Progressive Change berated Jonathan over the incident, the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Dr. Ahmed Gulak, said it was tantamount to a breach of protocol and security if Amaechi was allowed access to his boss who was already seated before the governor arrived.
Gulak said, “The President has a good relationship with all state governors and he meets with them regularly. The case in point is a pure security issue and it should be treated as a security issue that should not be politicised.
“The question the ACN and others who may want to politicise this issue need to ask is whether the President arrived at the venue of the dinner and was already seated before the governor arrived.
“Usual practice across the world is that once the President arrives a place, nobody whether a governor or not, is allowed entrance. That is the protocol. Even(Barack) Obama of the United States cannot be on his seat and a governor will be allowed to come in.
“If that was the situation in this case that the President was already on his seat, it would have been a breach of protocol and security for any security person to allow the governor access to the President. Such a security person would have been sanctioned if he had done that.”
Wondering why the ACN was interested in the matter, the presidential aide advised the opposition political parties to “concentrate on issues concerning them and stop politicising everything.”
The ACN had in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, condemned the action of the operative and called on Jonathan to order an immediate probe into it.
It said, “We are making this call because we do not believe that, in spite of the reported frosty relations between the two, President Jonathan – as the father of the nation – will lend the weight of his high office to such a demeaning action as exhibited by the presidential security personnel.
“To believe that anyone occupying the esteemed office of the President of one of Africa’s most important nations will be a party to a situation in which any security aide will wilfully fence a state chief executive from paying his respect to the President at such an open gathering will be to think the worst of the occupier of that office. That is why we have chosen not to believe that this indeed occurred, and why we are calling on Mr. President to tell Nigerians that ‘it ain’t so’ “We shudder to think of what efforts are being made – including the use of national institutions – to undermine Gov. Amaechi if the treatment reportedly meted out to him at the dinner has the approval of the powers that be. We are even more worried at what will happen to a governor from the opposition who falls out of favour with the President, if a governor from the same party as the President can be so publicly humiliated.”
ACN said it was particularly incumbent on the President to clarify the report because Amaechi, the authentic Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, extended an olive branch to him by attending the dinner, despite the fact that he (President) was publicly supporting the losing faction of the NGF, in what was being seen as a “democratic faux pas.”
The party said the President must learn to separate politics from governance by rising above petty partisanship as he steered the affairs of state.
On its part, the Congress for Progressive Change said it was clear to many discerning minds that “the government of President Jonathan is being run like a mafia organisation where you have the head at the Villa.”
“This is the kind of price we pay when we sacrifice competence on the altar of exigency,” the CPC said through its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin.
The party added, “We have always said it that the way President Jonathan is running this country; he will run it aground.
“No Nigerian can be proud of what is happening in a situation where nations of the world are improving their democratic credentials; we are going towards further isolation.
“A situation where a chief executive is being blocked by security apparatus of the President, you ask yourself what hope mortals like us have under the Jonathan government.”