Lull as Jonathan Embarks on His 13th Foreign Trip By Olalekan Adetayo

President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday left the shores of the country on a state visit to China. He is expected back in the country on Saturday (today).

One of the things that many may not know is that the journey was Jonathan’s 13th foreign trip in 2013, having visited Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Switzerland, United Kingdom, France, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, South Africa and Cameroon during the year.

Another fact that may still be hidden to the people is that this latest trip paralysed government activities at the top echelon of some ministries judging by the number of ministers that are in the President’s entourage. No fewer than 15 of them travelled with him.

Those who travelled to China with the President included Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Finance, Petroleum, Works, Agriculture, Aviation, Solid Minerals, Transport, National Planning, Trade and Investment, Niger Delta, Justice, Culture and Tourism as well as the Minister of State for Defence.

Apart from activities in the affected ministries, there was also a lull in government activities in the seat of power, the Presidential Villa, Abuja. The Villa was devoid of the usual hustling and bustling that characterise the various meetings and visits that always hold there.

Although, Vice-President Namadi Sambo was in charge (fully?) throughout the period the President was out of the country, his activities were largely on small scale despite the fact that the Muslim fast did not start until Wednesday.

Even the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by Sambo confirmed the low-key level at which government activities were conducted during the period. Apart from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief of Staff to the President and the Head of Service of the Federation, only 20 ministers attended the Wednesday’s meeting with the vice-president.

Aside that, the meeting lasted a record time of one hour! It started a few minutes after 10 am and ended a few minutes after 11 am. The last meeting held before that particular one started at 10 am and ended about 4 pm.

In fact, by the time stewards arrived with the refreshment that council members would have taken during their break time, the meeting was already over.

Again, the meeting of the National Council on Privatisation was the major thing done at the VP’s Wing on Thursday. One only hopes and prays that the President returns quickly so that normalcy can return to government activities.

Is this Nigeria truly fascinating?

The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation under Chief Edem Duke launched the nation’s official tourism identity “Fascinating Nigeria” at the Presidential Villa, Abuja penultimate Thursday.

The decoration of the venue was truly fascinating. The cultural exhibition at the entrance was nonetheless fascinating. The event was aired live on some national television stations, fascinating indeed. But that was where it ended. The organisers might have devoted too much attention to decorations that they did not remember that an event of such magnitude should have a programme of events.

Apart from that, almost all dignitaries expected at the event were represented. Jonathan was represented. The President’s wife, Patience; President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives were all represented, among others.Another minus about the event was that by the time Sambo got up to deliver the President’s speech, more than half of those who attended the event had left the venue. Most of those who attended the dinner were women, decked in white and green. They were conveyed to the venue in buses as early as 3 pm for a programme that did not start until about 9 pm. So, immediately after eating, the women left the hall in droves.

Wike’s overwhelming burden

It is not in doubt that the Minister of State, Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, is one of the key players in the political struggle in his home state, Rivers. The other time, media reports had it that President Jonathan snubbed him and members of his faction of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state at the airport, whereas he greeted Governor Rotimi Amaechi and his group warmly. Almost all newspapers published a photograph of the President exchanging pleasantries with the governor.

Wike has since denied the report that the President shunned him. He had also led his faction to a session behind closed doors with Jonathan shortly after the airport incident.

After that meeting, the minister, in an interview with State House correspondents, claimed that the photographs in circulation were sent out from the Rivers State Government House after they had been doctored. He claimed that he was cropped off from the photographs in order to score premeditated political goals. He further claimed that the stories published by all newspapers were written from the same Government House.

What Wike probably did not know as at the time he was making these grievous allegations was that those photographs he attributed to Amaechi and his men were actually taken by the President’s official photographer.

If he had taken time to find out, the minister would also have known that most of the media houses that published the photographs, if not all of them, got them directly from the media office at the Presidential Villa.

But the reality has since dawned on the embattled minister or so it seems. On Wednesday, the minister again directed his anger on the ‘negative report’ at the same photographs.

Whenever the President attends events, either within or outside the country, apart from sending photographs taken from such events to media houses, his photographers also post copies on some notice boards inside the Villa. Such photographs are changed periodically as soon as the President attends another function and new ones are available.

As you are reading this piece, photographs on those notice boards include those Jonathan took with Amaechi at the airport. The same ones Wike attributed their source to Rivers State. As the minister arrived at the Villa on Wednesday for the weekly FEC meeting, he stopped by one of the notice boards erected on the wall in front of the Briefing Room of the Council Chambers.

The particular photograph that caught his attention was the one showing the President in a handshake with Amaechi. The minister looked at the photograph as if he should remove and tear it into pieces. He looked at a journalist standing close to him, knocked on the notice board glass and said, “The media are just reporting falsehood about this incident.” He quickly left the place before the journalist could reply him.

Wike entered the Council Chambers venue of the FEC meeting only to be confronted with the video of the show of shame that played out in the Rivers House of Assembly the previous day being shown on a large screen in the chambers as well as smaller screens on the tables of ministers.

He laboured frantically to convince his colleagues that he was not the mastermind of the fracas. His defence was that he was in Abuja when the event unfolded in Port Harcourt. Some of his co-ministers were heard telling him that he could mastermind the crisis without showing up physically in the Garden City.

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