By Daniel Idonor
ABUJAâ€”ACTING President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, told the BBC he had neither seen nor had â€œsustained discussionâ€ with ailing President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua since November 26 last year.
Yarâ€™Adua went to Saudi Arabia for treatment on November 23, 2009 and despite returning home in February, has still not been seen in public.
The Acting President who gave no indication on the presidentâ€™s health said, however, that though he had not seen the presidentâ€™s doctor, he had spoken to his wife three times.
He told the BBCâ€™s Network Africa programme: â€œIâ€™ve not seen the doctor. I have had, on about three occasions, discussions with his wife. And Iâ€™ve had discussions with some of the other aides.
â€œIn terms of the last time we really had sustained discussions, that was November 26, I think so – yeah.â€
Yarâ€™Adua was flown to hospital in Saudi Arabia three days earlier, on November 23. Acting President Jonathan said Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s doctor had not tried to contact him, noting: â€œHe (the doctor) has not come to me. I donâ€™t want to compel him.â€
The Acting President also spoke on clashes in Jos, where tensions between Muslims and Christians have left many dead since the start of the year.
He promised to persecute those behind text messages inciting the violence, which he said was ethnic, rather than religious.
On Jos, Jonathan explained that most of the indigenous population are Christians, while â€œsome – not allâ€ of the settlers are Muslims.â€
He said: â€œSo if anything touches a settler who is a Muslim, it will be interpreted as if they are attacking the Muslims. And if the settlers that are Muslims now touched the indigenous population that are Christians, it will be interpreted as the Christians are being attacked.â€
Jonathan noted that the time for talking was over, stressing that those responsible for committing crimes in Jos should be prosecuted. He added that â€œanybody that is remotely or directly linked up with the crisis should be prosecuted.â€
Jonathan returns today
Meantime, after five days in the United States, on the invitation of President Barack Obama, where he attended the 50-nation World Nuclear Security Summit, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan is due back in the country today.
Before leaving the U.S., yesterday, the Acting President had a breakfast meeting with the officials of the Centre for Global Development in Washington DC. In attendance with him were the Governors of Imo, Edo, Rivers and Zamfara, and Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Petroleum and Finance.
Jonathan alsoÂ met with the Nigerian community in the US, while in the afternoon, he had a luncheon with Coordinator, Corporate Council on Africa and thereafter met with the President of ExxonMobil Oil Company.
Jonathan left, Saturday, for the United States on a four-day official working visit during which he participated in the international Nuclear Security Summit hosted by President Barack Obama.
The two-day summit was attended by leaders from 50 nations, who are meeting in Washington as part of international efforts to reduce nuclear stockpiles and to keep nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists or rogue states.
The meeting was the largest gathering of world leaders called by an American president since Franklin D. Roosevelt organized the 1945 meeting in San Francisco that created the United Nations.
On Tuesday, Jonathan joined other world leaders for the first plenary session of the Nuclear Security Summit chaired by President Obama before proceeding for a working lunch with the US president. He later participated in the second plenary, which marked the end of the nuclear summit.
Acting President Jonathan arrived the Andrews Airforce Base, Virginia, an airbase exclusively reserved for use by select foreign leaders and special dignitaries of the American Government, at 9.30am local time (3.30pm Nigerian time) and was received by US Ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Sanders, her Nigerian counterpart, Ade Adefuye, and other high ranking Nigerian and US officials.
Accompanied by the Foreign Affairs Minister, Odein Ajumogobia and former Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Alhaji Hassan Adamu, Jonathan proceeded to Westin Grand Hotel, Washington DC. At the hotel, he was received by Governors Ikedi Ohakim of Imo, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers and Aliyu Shinkafi of Zamfara States. Joy Ogwu, Nigeriaâ€™s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, UN, and other top diplomats at both the Washington DC mission and the UN office were also on hand to receive the Acting President.
On Sunday, Jonathan met with Obama at 5.30pm (11.30pm Nigerian time), while he had lunch with the US Vice President Joe Biden on Monday after which he proceeded to a meeting with the President of the World Bank, at the World Bank Building, in Washington DC. Later in the evening, he joined other visiting heads of government and delegations for a working dinner with President Barack Obama.
At the bilateral talks with the President Obama, on Sunday, at the Blair House, Washington DC; Jonathan pledged Nigeriaâ€™s commitment to the successful implementation of the bi-national agreement between Nigeria and the United States. He expressed optimism that the working group created by the Commission would contribute towards actualizing objectives of Nigeriaâ€™s Vision 20: 2020.
While stating Nigeriaâ€™s commitment to electoral reforms and the fight against corruption, Jonathan pledged support for a nuclear free world, emphasizing Nigeriaâ€™s opposition to nuclear proliferation.
The Acting President also thanked President Obama for Americaâ€™s solidarity and support for Nigeria during the period of uncertainty occasioned by the President Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s illness.
At their meeting, Obama and Jonathan repeated the importance of the U.S.-Nigeria relationship, respect for constitutional law and processes, human rights, promotion of economic development and resolving internal conflicts, according to the White House statement.
Welcoming President Jonathan to Blair House and thanking him for accepting the invitation to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, the American President commended Dr. Jonathan for his leadership and the manner in which he stabilized Nigeriaâ€™s political situation.
Obama said that America regarded Nigeria as a very strategic country in Africa and that his administration would like to see Nigeria conduct a free and fair election, tackle corruption and deal with internal religious violence.
He said:â€œAmerica would like to work with Nigeria to ensure a politically stable environment which would make Nigeria a good example to other African countries.â€ Obama urged Jonathan to use his tenure to make historic and tangible progress in strengthening the Nigerian governmentâ€™s commitment to countering corruption, stressing that the United States would support Jonathan in realizing his public promise for electoral reform.