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Monday, 26 February 2018

Ahmadu Ali: Jonathan would not like to be Yar'Adua's running mate


Previous National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Ahmadu Ali, has given an insider's subtle elements of how previous president Goodluck Jonathan turned into the presidential running mate to the late Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, at the gathering's tradition on December 16, 2006. 

In a yet to be discharged life account titled, ' ‘The many Colours of a Rainbow: A life story of Senator Ahmadu Adah Ali' and composed by Gideon S. Tseja, Ali, a resigned Army Colonel and a representative, who was PDP administrator from 2005 to 2007, said himself, President Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Tony Anenih settled on Jonathan to checkmate the PDP governors, who were conspiring to designate someone else for Yar'Adua, after they had rejected the decision of the then Rivers State Governor, Dr Peter Odili. Ali said Yar'Adua was the special case who they could show among the governors to keep running for preseident as he was the just a single with no affirmations of debasement.

“Amongst all the PDP governors who wanted to contest for president, he (Yar’Adua) was the only one on whom the EFCC could not find any evidence of corruption or misappropriation of funds. He left over N6 billion for his successor in the state coffers while other governors left virtually nothing. He was reluctant to contest for president.

Indeed, even before the last aftereffects of the primaries were counted, it was obvious to the gathering pioneers that Yar'Adua would win no doubt. They – President Obasanjo, Chairman, BOT, Chief Anenih and the National Chairman, Dr Ahmadu Ali – chose to move their regard for the assignment of a running mate on the PDP ticket, the man who might be VP if Yar'Adua won the administration.

“Congratulations”, the chairman began unceremoniously. “It is a well-deserved victory, and the party will give you all the support you need to win the presidential election.” He (Ali) paused for a moment as the president and the others also gave Yar’Adua their congratulations. “Peter Odili will be your running mate. He came third in our search for a presidential candidate. Governor Ahmed Makarfi came second in our score. For equity, the running mate had to come from the south.”

There was silence as everybody waited for Yar’Adua to react. Finally, looking away and avoiding the eyes of the chairman, he mumbled with his characteristic shy demeanour, “Thank you sir, but I would request…”

“You request what? The party produced you and the party will also produce the VP!” thundered the chairman.

“Let us try to give him time”, Obasanjo tried to intervene.

“We don’t have time sir. We need to move fast. You can never tell what mischief is being planned right now. Did you see any of the governors towards the end of the election at the Square?” It was true that the governors had mysteriously disappeared when Yar’Adua’s victory became a certainty. He (Ali) turned to Yar’Adua and continued his instructions to him. “Go and write your acceptance speech. Say something like this: ‘I would like to inform you that after due consideration and consultation with the party, I have selected Peter Odili, the executive governor of Rivers State, to run with me on the same ticket’. I want a copy of the speech and make sure Peter Odili’s name is on it!”

Yar’Adua went away and came back with the speech as directed indicating that Peter Odili would be his running mate, but it was clear that he was not happy. Pressure was brought to bear on the president to intervene and allow Yar’Adua to choose a VP he felt he could work with.

“Ahmadu”, said Chief Obasanjo, “don’t be too harsh on the young man. Let’s give him twenty four hours…”

“Twenty four hours! But…” the chairman was going to argue.

“I know what you mean”, Obasanjo cut him off, “but let us give him twenty four hours.”

“It had been a long day. Tired and hungry the chairman went home dreaming of eating something, taking a long drink and flipping into bed to catch some rest. This was about 1.00PM on the day of the convention. Meanwhile, unknown to the president, PDP governors were holding a secret meeting of their own to influence the choice of VP candidate. Clearly, they were not in favour of Peter Odili which the party leadership was contemplating. Even before Ali could digest this information (provided by his wife), he got a frantic call from Obasanjo. He, too, had got some information about the governors’ plot.

“Ahmadu, come quick!”

“But you know we have just…”

“Come, please and don’t argue. Quick, quick!”

“The dream about taking some rest evaporated as Ali doubled back to meet the president at the Aso Rock Villa. He (Obasanjo) told the Senator about the governors’ meeting. We must act quickly or the governors will hijack this thing. Anenih is on his way and I have already summoned Yar’Adua. If he hasn’t thought of a running mate, then we must impose one on him. This had been the senator’s position exactly, all along.

“As soon as Yar’Adua arrived, the president told him without any preamble, “Now, name your running mate, now, now. We don’t have twenty four hours.”

“Goodluck Jonathan,” he said without hesitation. He had obviously thought about it or tutored to mention the name. Immediately, Jonathan was sent for.

“When Jonathan arrived a little later, the president said, “We have summoned you here to offer to you the position of Vice President. What do you think?’

“Jonathan was stunned. He was obviously not expecting this and had not remotely considered the possibility. He opened his mouth as if to say something but nothing came out.

“The president seeing his discomfiture added helpfully, “This decision was taken after a long process. We just want to know what your opinion is.”

“Finally, Jonathan found voice, although he was disconcerted by this development.

“Well”, he began tentatively, “If I had a choice, I would prefer to remain as governor. I know the job. I know where I stopped. But this VP…I don’t know what it entails.” After a look of disapproval from the chairman and the president, he added quickly, “but if you want me to serve in that position, I accept.”

“YarAdua turned to Jonathan and asked him, “Would you like to be my running mate?”

“Yes sir.”

“President Obasanjo turned to the Chairman and said, “Ahmadu, take him to my parlour. The television crew are on their way for a press conference. You and Chief Anenih should stand on either side of him and let him announce the name of his running mate. The governors were still at their meeting scheming how to influence the choice of vice president when Yar’Adua announced his running mate to the public in the foyer of the presidential villa. The announcement was carried Live on NTA and other networks. This put paid to the PDP governors’ plot to nominate a vice presidential candidate.”

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