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Again, Jonathan Keeps Mum On Presidential Ambition


San Francisco, June 20, (THEWILL) – President Goodluck Jonathan seems to have borrowed a leaf from Nigeria’s former military head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida in handling tricky questions especially when it comes to his perceived presidential ambition come 2011.

While fielding questions from a five-man panel of journalists on the premier of the Live Presidential Media Chat aired on Sunday night on state sponsored media, The Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, Jonathan once again refused to rule himself out of the presidential race adding that if he makes his decision public today it would affect governance countrywide. The president said he would announce his decision very close to the period of the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential primaries.

"I'm not in a position to tell Nigerians whether I will contest now or not because we have a political environment that gets too heated up when people are now preparing for elections.

"If you travel across the country at the state level, things are a bit calm; the governments are working, but immediately I declare now that I'm contesting, then it is a signal and all the incumbent governors will want to declare.

"I've been in the system since 1999; so, I know what I'm talking about. Even at Federal Executive Council (FEC), it will disrupt activities of ministers; people will be going to their communities to deliver their wards, local government and states to the President.  Functions of government will suffer.

"If I also say I am not contesting now, the story will be different.  Some people will begin to behave funny and it will also affect the output of government.

"So we feel that the best thing to do is to keep our mouths sealed until the appropriate time when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will release the timetable for elections based on realities after Professor Attahiru Jega’s confirmation by Senate.

On Professor Jega’s competence to deliver credible elections with the electoral commission and Jonathan’s readiness to allow free and fair polls, he said, "It is one appointment every Nigerian accepts and believes he will do what is right.  INEC has budgetary provisions for its operations and because our elections have been controversial and most societies feel Nigeria is a leading country in Africa and we must conduct clean elections to give our leaders credibility and acceptability globally.

"The governments of the United States of America and the European Union promised to assist.  I am committed to clean elections and I mean it because whenever you travel out of the country, sometimes, envoys that come to discuss with you on behalf of their countries, sometimes officers that are quite low, will raise issue of elections.

On whether his decisions are influenced by godfathers, he said, "I don’t believe in godfatherism.  I know that in nature, nobody just wakes up and does what he or she likes.  Along the line people help you one way or the other; it could be younger people; it could be older people; I also have helped people.

"Even the people I helped politically as a deputy governor, I was instrumental to some people becoming local government chairmen. But after installing you, I leave you alone to do your work.

"I interact with elders.  If you look at it, for example, there is no former head of state that I don’t discuss with.  I discuss with all of them. Most of the leaders that are willing, I discuss with traditional rulers and religious leaders.

On a question that Olusegun Obasanjo and Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma were his godfathers, the President said, "If they say Obasanjo is a godfather; T.Y. Danjuma is a godfather, that is okay."

On the controversies that engulfed the illness and demise of former president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Jonathan said the security agencies failed Nigerians in that aspect. He said the security bosses should look at the parts played by security personnel attached to the President, obviously making reference to the late president’s CSO and ADC. The president said Yar’Adua’s wife, Turai could not have been that powerful since the constitution did not give her such leverage. In his opinion, Turai alone could not have blocked access to the late president, the security agencies were the ones with powers and blocked access to Yar’Adua while he was in a hospital in Saudi Arabia.

"If the President were to be healthy enough, then one can make deductions and make certain statements.  You see, the president had health challenges and he was not in this country; he was in Saudi Arabia, which you know.

"He was there with senior government functionaries but they were not political office holders.  They were security personnel and personal physician.  So, it was not the First Lady alone that prevented Nigerians from seeing the president.

"It was the security and because somebody is sick and you would not want to force yourself on the person and the person was not even here in the country; so, the issue is not as if it is the First Lady.

"The First Lady was not even there at the hospital twenty four hours to prevent people.  It was the security people that worked for the president.  So I expected the security agencies to look into the conduct of those security officers that were with the president.

"It was not only the First Lady per se; probably the family did not want people to. We know as a practice in other countries today, if anything happens to me, I am public property even if I have fever, Nigerians will want to know if it is malaria but once somebody is seriously sick and the family position tries to take the leading position and that is why even as Vice-President then I could not force my way to see him.

"What if I did and something happened; I will be part of the problem.  The security agencies should find out if their actions were normal to prevent it in future.

On the ridiculous pay package for federal legislators, Jonathan said, he would take up the matter with them but added that it is the statutory responsibility of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to regulate funds for the National Assembly.

In his closing, the president assured Nigerians on the credibility of the 2011 election and reassured that votes would count in that election.

"On occasions such as this, what I can promise Nigerians is that we feel your pulse because we read the newspapers and whatever comments we get, we analyze them.

"Though, in Nigeria today, it is difficult to tell the difference between comments that are politically motivated and the very comments that come from the people, if we look across and we see that something is very central and of interest, we have to react.

"It was just like we came up with the list of people that would be in INEC and people raised some issues that some of them had played key roles in political parties. It is difficult to say that this man is not in a political party, but if he plays some key roles in the political, then, of course, there is no way he would not be biased.

"We said look, we are going to withdraw those people and we have written letters to withdraw them.  So, we feel the pulse of Nigerian and we promise Nigerians that we will do our best to make sure that their votes count.

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OGA | 6/22/2010 5:02:00 AM