President Goodluck Jonathan may have made up his mind to impose the reclusive former Minister of Works, Chief Tony Anenih, on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT).
Anenih, who was on Monday summoned by the House of Representatives over the sum of N2.3 billion that was purportedly disbursed for an abandoned road project in Nassarawa State in 2006, was at the Presidential Villa on Thursday morning where he had a closed-door meeting with the President.
The meeting, it was gathered, involved discussions about how to make sure that Anenih, who was known as “Mr. Fix-It” before his political profile began to diminish, becomes the next chairman of the BoT, a position from which former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, resigned in April this year. In 2007, Obasanjo outmaneuvered Anenih to bag the influential job.
Apart from Anenih, others in the race are a former National Chairman of the party, Dr. Ahmadu Ali; a former Chairman of Board of Trustees of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, Chief Harry Akande; and a former President of the Senate, Senator Ken Nnamani.
A presidency source said President Jonathan settled for Anenih, who suffered a huge defeat in Edo, his home state, when Mr. Adams Oshiomhole defeated the candidate of the PDP, Gen. Charles Airhiavbere (retd.) last June to retain the governorship.
While some of the members of the board are said to favour either Ali, Mr. Jonathan is said to be insisting on Anenih, convinced that he needs someone with the clout to counter the growing characterization of his regime as non-performing.
Jonathan is said to be deeply unhappy about the recent comment of Obasanjo, his political benefactor who has criticised him on many occasions for poor performance.
“Anenih is seen as the right person that can speak for the President and probably look at the likes of Obasanjo in the face,” said the presidential source.
Apart from this, it is also the calculation in the presidential villa that whoever occupies the office of the BoT chairman will be important in determining Jonathan’s second term ambition.
Anenih played an important role in persuading the governors to support Jonathan to run for office in 2011. The governors had insisted that the party must stick to its zoning formula following the death President Umaru Yar’Adua.
At the PDP headquarters, the governors said it was wrong for Jonathan to run when the North was yet to finish its eight years in office.
After the intervention of many members of the party, the governors and the party decided to allow Jonathan to run, with the understanding that he would only complete Yar’Adua’s projected eight year tenure, which will expire in 2015.
The members of the BoT are meeting at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Friday night, where the election will take place.
One of the tricks used by Obasanjo to side-track Anenih from becoming BoT chairman in 2007 was to change the rules so that only persons who had been president were qualified to contest.
Under that rule, which has yet to be changed, none of those currently vying for the position is qualified to contest.