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2011 not on my agenda for now – Jonathan

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VISIT—From left: Nigeria Country Director, World Bank, Mr. Onno Ruhl; President of the World Bank, Mr. Robert Zoellick; and Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, during the Acting President visit to the World Bank Headquaters, in Washington DC on Tuesday.

By Chris Ochayi
Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan yesterday said the issue of whether he will run for presidency come 2011, is not on his agenda for now. Although he tried to trivialize the issue, he did not categorically deny pressures from several quarters, that he continued since he is perceived as the most credible of all those angling to be President for now.

He said “For now, I dont want to think about it, because the circumstances of the day is quite worrisome. Nobody should ask me whether I will contest or not. I must first of all see whether the state is moving.”

Jonathan who was in the United States for the security summit also said the family, and close allies of sick president, Umaru Yar’Adua are  responsible for the isolation of his boss.

Jonathan who regretted that the continued isolation is causing anxiety amongst Nigerians, however, maintained that he would not force his way into the sick room of Yar’Adua.

The Nigeria Acting President who spoke with Cable Network News, CNN, Christine Amanpour, said he could not categorically say whether Yar’Adua would be able to return as President, and that no one has even briefed him about the present state of Yar’Adua.

Amanpour: Thank you very much, indeed, for joining us on this programme.

Jonathan: Thank you for finding time to discuss with me.

Amanpour: Can I ask you first what an extraordinary name. How did “Goodluck” come to be your name?
Jonathan: I don’t know. I have to ask my father.

Amanpour: Have you had good luck? And do you think you’ll need more than good luck to face the incredible array of challenges that’s on your plate?

Jonathan: Well, the issue of good luck, I don’t really believe that the good luck is an issue. But at the present, I’ve been facing a lot of challenges. What some people will attribute to good luck could have been disastrous under some circumstances.

Amanpour: Well, let me ask you this. You are now acting president, because the president, Mr. Yar’Adua, is unwell.
Jonathan: Yes.

Amanpour: Have you seen him since he has come back from his medical absence in Saudi Arabia?
Jonathan: No, I have not seen him.

Amanpour: Why not?

Jonathan: The thinking of the family is that they should isolate him from most of the key actors in government. I have not seen him. The Senate president has not seen him …and at every single government function, I have not seen him.

Amanpour: Doesn’t that cause anxiety amongst the people?

Jonathan: Yes, it does. It does. Obviously, it does, but we cannot influence his family’s thinking.
Amanpour: Would you prefer that the family allowed you to visit him?

Jonathan: Yes, of course. But I will not want to force it.

Amanpour: What is his actual state of health? This also is a mystery.

Jonathan: I can’t say exactly. Only the medical doctors can.

Amanpour: Have they told you?

Jonathan: No, they haven’t.

Amanpour: Have they made any public statements?

Jonathan: Not quite. Not now. At the beginning, yes, but (Someone’s name – unclear) left for Saudi Arabia, I think in the second week or so, within the first week, we were told that acute pericarditis. After that, no other statement has been issued.

Amanpour: So if he can receive religious leaders, why can he not receive at least the acting president who’s acting in his name?

Jonathan: Well, religious leaders are there for (inaudible) blessings. Probably that is why they asked the religious leaders to go and pray for him. We are a very, very religious society.

Amanpour: Do you believe that those around him are trying to undermine you or your new cabinet?

Jonathan: I wouldn’t say they are trying to undermine me, because the laws of the land are very clear. And, of course, that is why in the first place constitution is designed for two people to be in charge of government at every time, one superior and one inferior.

Amanpour: Do you think he will ever come back to government?

Jonathan: I can’t say that. It’s difficult for any of us as mortals to say so.

Amanpour: So you are now acting president, and you have essentially a year, because elections will be held this time 2011.

Jonathan: Yes.

Amanpour: What is your most pressing issue?

Jonathan: The most pressing issue for Nigerian now, in terms of basic infrastructure, is power.

Amanpour: You mean electricity?

Jonathan: Electricity. Outside that, what is central to the minds of Nigerians now is an election that their votes will count, free and fair elections because we’ve been accused of as a country that our elections somehow are questioned.

And I promise Nigerians that they will surely get that and I’ve done some experiments. The next thing that Nigerians worry about is issues of corruption. You know we’ve been accused of as people who are in a privileged position in government amassing wealth at the expense of society. So they expect us to take these two issues seriously.

Amanpour: So what can you do to take those issues seriously? Obviously, the issue of good governance, of free elections, free of corruption is central, and you heard the United States has also said just now that you must remove the head of the election commission, Maurice Iwu. Will you do that?

Jonathan: You see, the issue of the electoral body – in fact, I even told the audience I addressed this morning, the issue is whether the present electoral body can conduct free and fair election or not. And I told them that, yes, they can, because I have done it with the same people.

On issue of the people at INEC, I told them that, look, between now and ending of June, most of the officials at the national level – they’re called commissioners – their tenure will end, and we’re going to review them on individual merit.

Within this period that I have been acting president, I have conducted three elections. They are conducted by INEC and it was free and fair. Only on Saturday, we conducted local council elections in the federal capital territory and all the information is that, apart from one or two that had some few discrepancies, they have been very peaceful, very credible… So that is the issue. So the issue is beyond one person.

Amanpour: But let me just ask you…

Jonathan: I’m not defending the chairman.

Amanpour: Do you think he will stay or will he be removed?

Jonathan: All of them we’ll review. And any one of them that we feel is not competent definitely…

Amanpour: Do you feel that Mr. Iwu is competent?

Jonathan: (Laughs) No, no, no, no. I know that this question continues to come up. What I’ve said is… the issue is beyond Mr. Iwu.

Amanpour: I know. But I’m specifically talking about him, because it’s come up in your meetings with U.S. officials.

Jonathan: Yes, I agree that within the period that is (inaudible) there are quite a number of controversies. I agree. There are quite a number of concerns. There are quite a number of controversies. So I know what I’m telling you; that this very Iwu, I’m not trying to argue for him. The Iwu we are talking about has conducted free elections these past three elections that I’ve made reference to that are credible.

So the issue is beyond Iwu because we must set up an electoral system and our regulations and laws that will make sure that anybody who is appointed to that office should be able to conduct acceptable elections. And that is my focus.

Amanpour: OK. Will you run in 2011? Will you present yourself as a presidential candidate?

Jonathan: For now, I don’t want to think about it, because the circumstances that – the circumstances of the day are quite worrisome.

I came in as the vice president to run with President Yar’Adua, of course, getting close to period of election, he took ill. And I have to take over under somewhat controversial circumstances. Only last week, I reconsidered the cabinet. So let us see how Nigeria will move forward first. I had a similar experience when I was governor of my state.

I said, nobody should ask me whether I will contest election or not. I must first of all see whether the state is moving. If the country is not moving, what what will I tell Nigerians I want to contest?
Courtsey: CNN

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