- Jonathan Didn’t Sign Agreement – Yakassai
The mystery over President Goodluck Jonathan’s alleged agreement with northern governors of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in 2011 not to contest the 2015 presidential election deepened, yesterday.
Former Senate Whip, Senator Kanti Bello, has accused the Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliyu, of telling a lie over his claim that President Goodluck Jonathan agreed to a single term in 2011.
Bello said, as a principal officer of the Senate in 2011, he attended a meeting of governors and lawmakers where the issue of Jonathan’s single term was raised.
The former Senate Whip told our one of correspondents in a telephone interview on Sunday that he personally raised the matter during the said meeting and that Jonathan did not make any promise of serving just one term.
Aliyu had in an interview aired on Liberty Radio, Kaduna, claimed that President Jonathan had agreed to serve for only one term of four years beginning from 2011.
But Bello, a former member of the Peoples Democratic Party, who defected to the Congress for Progressive Change, dismissed Aliyu’s claims.
Bello said, “He (Aliyu) is being economical with the truth. You see, I will explain clearly what happened.
“When we were having a meeting, then I was in PDP, we were there at the National Headquarters of the Party, we the principal officers of the Senate, governors and some members of the National Working Committee of the Party.
“A discussion arose and President Jonathan complained about the sequence of elections and lack of support as an executive President and member of our party.
“Then, finally I raised the issue that it is not a question of election, you want to run but since you want to run, some of us feel what you want to do is unconstitutional but since a decision has been taken and a primary has taken place, the majority of the people say run so democratically, there is nothing anybody can do since there has been a convention and nobody objected at the convention about your running.
“ I asked him, what are we going to take in return to our people, what do we tell them? Even if we want to convince our people, we have to take something to them, can you please confirm to us here and now that you are only going to run for one term?
“To be fair to Jonathan, he did not utter a word. You get it clear? He didn’t say a word, he kept quiet and that is where we stopped.
“But later, Governor (Shehu) Shema of Katsina State, and his friends, out of mischief, went and wrote a communiqué that Jonathan was running for only one term. He didn’t say it, but they wrote a communique, I challenge anybody to say that was not what happened.
“You cannot say based on that you have an agreement with Jonathan, you cannot say it. Writing a communiqué on behalf of somebody who didn’t utter a word, I cannot see it as an agreement. That was exactly what happened.
“The governor under Shema, particularly Shema being the one who is a lawyer, thinks he is smart. He was the one who wrote the communiqué and gave it to the press, that this is the communiqué of our meeting but to be fair to Jonathan, he didn’t utter a word and it was me who asked that question with Governor Danjuma Goje there at that time.
“He was the one who was even saying Mr. President, we are with you but I was the one who bluntly asked him if he was going to run so that we can go and tell our people.”
When contacted, Shema said comments made by Bello about events preceding the 2011 presidential elections should be taken “with a pinch of salt.”
The Katsina State governor spoke to one of our correspondents through his Chief Press Secretary, Malam Lawal Matazu, via a telephone interview on Sunday.
He said, “The issues leading to the 2011 elections are normal democratic procedures that always involve constructive engagement, dialogue, consensus and internal democracy of political parties.
“Kanti Bello was a loser in that election, therefore anything he said today, after having left the PDP (the party that defeated him) and joined the CPC, should be taken with a pinch of salt given his widely known antecedents of misleading the public on critical national political issues.”
The governor was, however, non-committal when asked whether the said agreement existed and if there was a document to back such a claim.
Calls to the mobile telephone number of Senator Danjuma Goje who attended the meeting as governor in 2011, were not answered. He also did not reply a text message sent to him on the subject.
But a former Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin, said that the issue of second term bid by Jonathan was not raised in meetings held before the 2011 general election that produced him as the president.
Folarin, who represented Oyo Central senatorial district on the platform of the PDP, told our correspondent in a telephone interview on Sunday that the major issue discussed at the caucus meeting that produced Jonathan as the party’s candidate was mainly on 2011 and not second term bid.
He said, “I was at the meeting held on President Jonathan’s ambition to run in 2011 election. That was the focus. Honestly, I cannot recollect any discussion or issue raised about whether he would recontest or not.
“The issue of second term was not our preoccupation at the time. I don’t remember us raising the issue or asking President Jonathan whether he would seek re-election or not. 2015 was not an issue of interest to party stakeholders before his (Jonathan’s) emergence in 2011 I must confess to you.”
A Presidency source also challenged those making such claims to produce the said document if indeed it exists.
Meanwhile, Alhaji Tanko Yakassi, one of the leading members of the Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF, told Vanguard, yesterday, that an attempt by the forum to get the president to concede the 2015 presidential ticket to the north failed after two meetings.
Yakassi’s assertion, nonetheless, other northern opinion leaders, yesterday, pointed to President Olusegun Obasanjo’s claim on the final day of PDP campaigns where he was quoted as saying that President Jonathan would serve one term.
President’s supporters disparage claims
Supporters of the president last night disparaged the claims. Mr. Joe Ambakaderemo, national coordinator of South-South Elements Progressive Union, SSEPU, described the existence of the agreement as inconceivable, outlandish and myopic, saying Aliyu should wait till 2019 to realise his ambition.
Governor Aliyu had, in a radio interview on Saturday, claimed that the president reached an agreement not to contest the 2015 presidential election.
He said: “I recall that at the time he was going to declare for the 2011 election, all PDP governors were brought together to ensure that we were all in the same frame of mind.
“And I recall that some of us said that, given the circumstances of the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua and given the PDP zoning arrangement, it was expected that the North was to produce the president for a given number of years.
“I recall that at that discussion, it was agreed that Jonathan would serve only one term of four years and we all signed the agreement. Even when Jonathan went to Kampala, in Uganda, he also said he was going to serve a single term.”
Yesterday, attempts to get Governor Aliyu to elaborate on the nature of the agreement were not successful as it emerged that the governor had decided to shut himself away from further comments on the issue. It was learnt that he had strictly instructed aides and associates not to further discuss the issue.
Matter of honour
Meanwhile, Alhaji Yakassi, who was Special Adviser to President Shehu Shagari on National Assembly matters and was also a leading member of the NPLF, the northern group that championed a northern presidential candidate told Vanguard yesterday that following the PDP primaries efforts to get the president to agree to serve a single term did not break through.
Claiming ignorance of the alleged agreement with northern governors, Yakassi said it would be a matter of honour for the president, if he ever entered into such an agreement, for him to honour it.