Fresh facts have emerged on why the last minute intervention to stop the nationwide strike, which paralysed the country from holding, failed last Sunday. Saturday Sun gathered that President Goodluck Jonathan was almost bulging but for the advice of two ministers and some governors, who told him that the strike called by the organised labour cannot last more than a day. It was gathered that Jonathan was told that the protesters would buckle by Tuesday and normalcy will return to the country.
A Presidency source disclosed that Jonathan was earlier disturbed by the intelligence report, which advised him to do everything within his power to avert the strike. According to the source, at a security meeting called by the President penultimate Saturday, he was told that the strike may consume his government if it is not well managed.
He said: â€œMr. President was frightened by a security report, which claimed that his government may fall if the strike lasts more than 10 days. The President was prepared to make some concessions but he was advised by two minutes, who were with him, not to give in to the demands of labour in the interest of this country.
â€œWhat people do not know is that President Jonathan loves this country passionately and would not do anything that will hurt. He was prepared to strike a deal with labour to prevent the strike from holding. The governors are the ones who are resisting the masses, they are the ones telling the President not to accept the position of Labour because they want more money.
â€œPeople are accusing the minister of finance, minister of petroleum and CBN governor of being the brains behind the strike; no, the real shadows behind the strike are governors who want more money. They are insisting that government should not make any concession. That is the truth.â€
He said President Jonathan was disturbed seeing the multitude of people on the streets but was helpless because acceding to the demand of the labour was not a decision he could unilaterally make.
The source said: â€œMr. President, I can tell you, was not happy watching thousands of Nigerians marching on the streets but you know this thing is more than the way you and I see it; he cannot just stop the strike without discussing with other government officials.
â€œWe also know that there is political colouration to the protests. We knew when it was hijacked.â€
The Presidency source pointed fingers at the Congress of Progressive Change (CPC) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) as the parties oiling the protests.
Since Sunday when the House of Representatives, in an emergency session, passed a resolution asking the Federal Government to suspend the implementation of removal of fuel subsidy and Monday, when the national strike commenced, Abuja has been a theatre of intrigues and intriguing developments.
Yes, more people stepped into the streets to kick against the Federal Governmentâ€™s decision . Yes the crowd sent the desired signal to the presidency that people can no longer be taken for granted. But the truth is that Abuja was the focus. It was not far fetched why the situation was so. The high profile meetings that were taking place almost on hourly basis caused all eyes to turn to Abuja. The meetings were either between the leadership of Labour and the civil societies organisations; legislators and Labour and Federal Government and Labour. There was a drama on the eve of the strike. Some hoodlums had invaded in the Labour House shortly after the meeting of officials of different unions. The meeting was to strategise how the shape the strike would take. The hoodlums swooped on the some of the officials, who were still in the premises and beat them up.
The real drama was to come. Some minutes after, the hoodlums, just meters away from the Labour House, engaged one another on a free for all. They were fighting over money. Some of them had disagreed with sharing arrangement. They alleged to have been sponsored by government.
On Monday when the protest kicked off, the leaderships of Labour led thousands of members and notable Nigerians in a carnival like rallies. They moved from one area to another in Abuja. But another group, which was in support of governmentâ€™s action marched in some streets. Ironically, though had a smaller population it had more security personnel.
Similar scenario played out on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Interestingly, traders in Wuse and Utarko markets identified more with pro-government protesters. They hauled abuses on Labour. The protesters stationed at a fuel station beside Valencia Hotel attracted huge attention. They had their mats, mattresses and buckets on their side.
On Tuesday they claimed that they were assaulted by the police. These claims were refuted by policemen who described them as jokers.
Outside the streets, there were behind-the-scene moves and campaigns. The leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) busied itself trying to get the ears of senators and House of Representatives members to back the governmentâ€™s policy. They made spirited efforts to convince the lawmakers that the opposition to the subsidy removal was the handiwork of the opposition. National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Prof Ahmed Akali, captured the position of PDP this way: â€œAll of us know what is happening; we know where this is coming from and that is what we want our members in the National Assembly to know.â€
â€œCPC and ACN do not see anything good in our policies and they are deceiving innocent Nigerians. Have you not seen their leaders in the rallies? Did you not listen to them? Everything is nothing but politics. As a party, we have no problem with people protesting; they have the right to voice their opposition to what they do not like. But this one has been hijacked by CPC and ACN.â€
The leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly does not see the protest from the lenses of PDP and the Presidency. Several attempts by the Presidency and PDP to get Speaker Aminu Tambuwal and his deputy Emeka Ihedioha to back the fuel subsidy removal failed. That was why the houseâ€™s emergency session took place.
The source said: â€œThe Presidency is not happy that the leadership of the House of Representatives allowed the emergency session to hold. There was no need for that because Tambuwal is part of this government and should be matured enough to identify with government, which he is part of no matter the circumstances.â€
On the Senateâ€™s angle, Senate President David Markâ€™s series of interventions have helped to erase feelings that the upper legislative chamber was not keen on the issue. He has made huge impact in getting the Federal Government and labour to sit on the table to dialogue on the contentious issue.
Although both parties are yet to reach a compromise on the matter, what is clear is that that Abuja is not sleeping. Contending forces are keeping the seat of power bubbling.