Dear Reuben Abati,
I read your cleverly written letter to me regarding our latest report on President Goodluck Jonathan’s junket to Ethiopia. In writing what purports to be a rejoinder, you deliberately left out details of our sms exchanges on the same issue. That omission, I suggest, was an attempt to evade the central issue raised in our report. Instead of confronting that issue – the list of delegates invited and sponsored by the Jonathan administration and his wife to Ethiopia – you chose to play a semantic game over what is a straight forward issue. I’ll respond to your rejoinder pointedly.
1. You sent me a text message on Friday claiming that our report on the Ethiopia trip was false and malicious because, according to you, there was a “mix up” somewhere. I quickly responded, telling you that a truthful report could never be malicious. Thereafter, you sent another text saying you didn’t mean to criticize the report, but wanted to put matters straight. You proceeded to explain that there was only “one delegation” led by the president to Addis Ababa and that the number of people on the list was far lower than we reported. I quickly requested for the list. You responded by claiming that it was in your bag at your hotel room. However, you curiously sent another text claiming you couldn’t reach some people involved in getting the list as it was “past midnight” in Addis Ababa. My last text to you was a reminder that I would be waiting for your response regarding the list and size of the delegation. That response never came; instead, you released this letter that pretends to be a refutation, but is rather an attempt at obfuscation.
2. You claimed that there was a single list of delegates to Ethiopia. That claim amounts to a puerile effort to conceal the fact that Mrs. Patience Jonathan was attending a program of African First Ladies which was different from the AU summit being attended by President Jonathan. This meant that the “First Lady” was traveling with a retinue of staff, associates and hangers-on to aid or support her “official” activities at a separate event from that of President Jonathan.
3. As the president’s chief spokesman, you ought to have the delegate list. I challenge you then to provide the public with a breakdown of Mr. Jonathan’s “one delegation entourage” to Addis Ababa, categorized in order of designation of officials, their date of travel, mode of travel, and explanation of whether they were part of the advance party or arrived in Addis Ababa in the same aircraft as the President – or in an extra aircraft that was deployed.
4. From your letter, it is clear that you concede that some “Nigerians” may have traveled with the delegation “unofficially.” Does this technical admission not defeat your initial insistence that there was only “one delegation”?
5. SaharaReporters has a history of documenting the culture of waste occasioned by the profligate junkets by the Presidency. We are glad that your principal appears to have realized that wasteful trips need to be eliminated and the size of delegations cut – especially after the president’s scandalous outing in Perth, Australia where an out-of-control delegation engaged in waste, corruption and even broke Australian laws. 6. We maintain that “First Lady” Patience Jonathan traveled with a retinue of aides, friends and associates to the tune of 32 people. Their travels and accommodation were arranged and paid for by the Nigerian government. What you owe the public is an obligation to be transparent. In this event, that entails releasing your official delegates’ list as well as names of associates, contractors, friends and “other Nigerians” the government gave a nod to visit along with the president and his wife on this trip to Addis Ababa. In other words, we await the release of that list that you claimed was in your bag in the hotel room in Addis Ababa. Thank you
Sincerely, Omoyele Sowore
Dear Omoyele Sowore,
RE: Sahara Reporters on “Culture of Waste and Insensitivity” and the 18th AU Summit
I observe that you have made no effort, following my earlier explanations, to amend your story titled “Culture of Waste And Insensitivity Continues As Mrs. Jonathan Arrives Addis Ababa With 32 Aides” (Sahara Reporters), and have allowed your readers to rely on deliberate misinformation. The story in question does not reflect the true state of affairs with regard to the President’s delegation to the 18th annual African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I therefore want to set the records straight by making the following observations:
1. There is only one Nigerian Delegation to this summit not two as your report suggests. Specifically, the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, has no delegation, official or unofficial, to this summit, and she did not arrive in Addis Ababa with “32 aides.”
2. You correctly reported that Mr. President travelled with a “25-person delegation to Addis Ababa for the 18th African Union Summit” but after salting your story with a dash of hype and peppering it with innuendo you have managed to cook up the impression that there are 57 Nigerian delegates in Addis Ababa. This is not fair.
3. The Nigerian Entourage list contains 35 names in total, however three of those whose names are listed did not join the delegation and the total number of delegates in Addis Ababa is not more than 32. This includes two Senators (the Chair of the Senate committee on NEPAD and another member), a member of the House of Representatives (NEPAD House of Reps), essential aides of the First couple, and Foreign Ministry Officials. Mr. President meant every word of it when he said that only persons who have work to do will be allowed to travel, officially.
4. As you well know, Nigeria is a free country; President Jonathan cannot prevent Nigerians from travelling to Ethiopia or anywhere else without good reason, legal sanction or authority. If there are other Nigerians in Addis Ababa, they are certainly not official delegates, and they have nothing to do with the First Lady.
5. It has become Sahara Reporters’ favourite sport to taint and bait President Jonathan with hooks and details that are inconvenient with the truth. You do your readers and Nigeria no favours by this shrill and deliberate misrepresentation of information.
6. President Jonathan remains committed to the Constitution he swore to protect and defend. You have a responsibility to report the truth.
Special Adviser to the President
(Media and Publicity)
January 29, 2012