Femi Otedola, billionaire businessman, has narrated how Ibrahim Babangida, former head of state, encouraged ex-President Goodluck Jonathan to sit in the vacant chair of his predecessor, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, during a federal executive council (FEC) meeting.
In 2009, when the late Yar’Adua travelled abroad for medical treatment, he failed to hand over power to Jonathan, his vice-president at the time.
His long absence had sparked a constitutional crisis and created a power vacuum which resulted in a campaign for Jonathan to take charge of the country.
Amid the agitation which shook the country between late 2009 and early 2010, Otedola said Babangida — who marks his 80th birthday on August 17, 2021 — sent a message through him to Jonathan.
The businessman made the disclosure in his forthcoming book on business lessons which will be released before the end of 2021.
“Worried by the tension and uncertainty, I decided to do something on my own,” Otedola wrote.
“In the first week of February 2010, I went to Minna, Niger state, along with Hajia Bola Shagaya, to commiserate with General Ibrahim Babangida over the death of his wife, Maryam.
“At his Hilltop residence, we spoke on a wide range of issues, but I told him I needed to discuss an urgent and vital issue. He took me to his study, where two of us were alone. I told him that the state of the nation had been agitating my mind.”
Otedola said during the conversation, he put a question to Babangida on the political crisis in the country: “Your Excellency, how can we get out of this logjam? The political heat is too much.”
He quoted the former head of state as saying: “Femi, advise your friend that when he gets to the Council Chambers next week for the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, he should go and sit on Yar’Adua’s chair.”
Otedola added: “I found that fascinating and assured him I would pass the message across. I travelled back to Abuja by road in the evening and went straight to have dinner with Dr Jonathan. I did not waste time in delivering General Babangida’s message to him.
“He nodded and asked me, ‘What do you think?’
“I laughed and said, ‘Be a man, Your Excellency. Go and sit on that chair!’
“He looked at me for some time and responded that he would think about it.
“A week later, on Tuesday, February 9, the National Assembly adopted the famous ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ to make Dr Jonathan the Acting President pending the return of President Yar’Adua from his medical leave. Behind-the-scene moves by prominent Nigerians preceded this decision. The legislative resolution was unprecedented, but the nation had been tensed up, and the fault-lines so stoked that an unusual solution was needed to address the unique situation.
“With Jonathan now legally empowered to act as President, there remained the critical optics: would he stand-in for the President confidently and authoritatively? Or would he try to maintain a subdued outlook? The following day was the FEC meeting. As Dr Jonathan entered the Council Chamber, he made to sit on the chair of the Vice President—his usual seat.
“As the protocol officer pulled out the VP’s chair, Dr Jonathan marched towards the seat reserved for the President. And he sat on it! That was the moment Dr Goodluck Jonathan took control of power. By that act, he sent a strong signal to all Nigerians that he was now in charge. The same day, Jonathan even reshuffled the cabinet.”
Yar’Adua died on May 5, 2010, after his protracted sickness, and Jonathan was sworn in as his successor. Jonathan contested the 2011 presidential election and won, but he lost his reelection bid in 2015 after President Muhammadu Buhari defeated him.
Commenting on the role of entrepreneurs in nation-building, Otedola said they must collaborate with the political establishment to ensure that there is peace in the country.
He wrote: “While many may see political engagement for entrepreneurs as one-sided—in the sense that only the entrepreneur benefits—the reality is that it could work both ways. I tapped into my political connections to contribute my little quota to resolving a power crisis that almost set the country on fire.
“This example is one of the several instances in which I used my access to the seat of power and political heavyweights to contribute to nation-building and national development.”
Otedola added that entrepreneurs need to understand that their businesses can only thrive when there is stability and peace in the country.
FG declares public holiday to mark Eid-ul-Mawlud
The Federal Government has declared October 19 as a public holiday in commemoration of the birth of the Holy Prophet Muhammad.
This was contained in a statement issued by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Shuaib Belgore, on Friday.
The statement stated that the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, made the declaration on behalf of the Federal Government.
Aregbesola congratulated all Nigerian Muslim faithful, both at home and in the diaspora, on the occasion of Eid-ul-Mawlud.
He admonished Nigerians to imbibe the spirit of love, patience and perseverance which were the virtues of the Holy Prophet, as doing so would guarantee peace and security in the country.
The minister enjoined Nigerians, particularly Muslims, to refrain from violence, lawlessness and other acts of criminality.
“As the indisputable leader of our race, we (Nigerians) must show responsible leadership in Africa,” he said.
Aregbesola called on Nigerians to refrain from all divisive tendencies capable of causing crisis in the country.
He also urged Nigerians and the youth in particular, to embrace the virtues of hard work and peaceful disposition to fellow humans.
“Irrespective of faith, ideology, social class and ethnicity I urge you to cooperate with President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in its effort to build a progressive and enviable nation that all citizens would be proud of,” he said.
FG establishing oxygen plants in 36 states – NEC
The National Economic Council (NEC) says the Ministry of Health is establishing oxygen plants across the 36 states of the federation.
Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi made this known to State House correspondents after a virtual NEC meeting on Friday presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Umahi said that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, who chaired the NEC Ad hoc committee interfacing with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to ease the lockdown of the economy, presented a report to the council.
“The Federal Ministry of Health is establishing oxygen plants across the 36 states in the country, but currently six states have been provided with oxygen cylinders so far.
“The Federal Government has paid for 40 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines coming in batches and therefore a considerable amount of the vaccines will come into the country between now and January 2022. Nigeria is now classified among the 50 countries in the green zones.”
Umahi said that NEC also received states’ performance report on COVID-19 from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
He said that the council was also updated on the global situation of COVID-19.
He said, “Over 237 million confirmed cases and over 4.8 million deaths due to COVID-19. There are now over 6.3 billion vaccine doses administered. Nigeria is still in the first wave of vaccination and vaccination tools will improve as the country receives additional vaccines. COVID-19 cases have declined by 7.5 per cent over the last week.”
Umahi said that states were urged to continue to push testing activities in order to detect new cases before the situation worsened.
According to him, an update on travel restrictions on certain countries expected to be announced soon by the Federal Government.
The governor said that the council also received an update on the situation regarding Cholera outbreak.
“Current Cholera situation in the country; suspected number of cases is 88,704. Number of states is 31 and the FCT. Number of deaths is 3,208.
“Multi-sectoral emergency operation centres activated at level 2 continues to coordinate the national response,” he said.
He listed the challenges to include difficulty in accessing some communities due to insecurity, open defecation and lack of potable drinking water.
Umahi said other challenges were lack of basic health primary healthcare infrastructure, inadequate health facility and cholera commodities for case management.
Umahi said that NEC commended the insightful presentations and congratulated the outgoing Director-General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, on his new appointment at the WHO and also welcomed the incoming Director-General, Dr Ifedayo Morayo Adetifa.
Bakare meets with Buhari, opposes clamour for power rotation
Founder of Citadel Global Community Church, Tunde Bakare, says the region to produce the president of Nigeria should not be an issue.
He stated this in Abuja on Friday during an interaction with reporters at the presidential villa after meeting President Muhammadu Buhari, noting that Nigerians are only bothered about a leader that would ensure the prosperity of the country.
The pastor said the “immaturity” of the citizens is responsible for “making us say power must either be in the North or be in the South, instead of looking for the best.
“Listen to me, if where the President comes from will make the place he has come from to be better, the northern part of Nigeria should be richest and the most progressive and the most developed because out of 61 years, the North has produced either the President or heads of state for 40 to 41 years and yet, see the retrogression in the North.
“If it’s from the South, why should a person like President Obasanjo freeze and seize the account of Lagos State in his own tenure? If it’s from South-South or South-East, why couldn’t President Jonathan use all his powers to develop South-South/South-East?
“If there are agreements between politicians on rotation, a bargain is a bargain. That is between them. But as far as this country is concerned, what we need at this stage is a man who can drive us to the Eldorado.”
The pastor commended the national assembly for empowering the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to determine the mode of transmitting election results.
“Perhaps one of the best things the present national assembly has done, especially the senate, because, with that, Nigerians can vote and then results can be transmitted so easily,” he said.
“Not only that, part of the state of the nation address that I did on October 10, I emphasised how Nigeria youth, especially undergraduates, are disenfranchised in our country.”
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