By Emmanuel Aziken, Ben Agande, Dapo Akinrefon, Charles Kumolu and Gbenga Oke
FORMER President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan insisted, yesterday, that he is not on self-exile in Côte d’Ivoire as alleged, even as friends and family asserted that he had no cause to permanently relocate from the country.
A close political associate, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, who spoke to Vanguard after speaking with Dr. Jonathan quoted the former president thus: “I am not in exile; it is quite unfortunate that anybody is insinuating that I am in exile. I am now a private citizen. Since I left office, this is my second visit to Côte d’Ivoire; I have gone to so many countries in recent times as part of my efforts to promote peace. What I am doing is a global tour since leaving office, and this is my second visit to Côte d’Ivoire. It is unfortunate that anybody should insinuate that I am in exile. I am not in exile. When I finish what I am doing here, I will continue my visit all over the world.”
Engr Mike Ogiasa, a relative of the former president, also reacting to the report said: “it is not true that the former President is on the run. We, his kinsmen trust him. When it is appropriate for him to speak he will speak. Jonathan has not gone into exile. Everybody knows a man of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s calibre will not do that.”
It also emerged that Dr. Jonathan’s long absence from the country also had a political hue as close associates opined, yesterday, that his absence from the country in the period leading to the recent congresses and convention of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was deliberate to remove him from the crisis.
Several political associates of President Jonathan, who weighed in on the report by a national daily (not Vanguard), informed that they had been in communication with him, with all of them asserting that he did not give any indication of relocating away from the country.
Vanguard learnt that Jonathan is visiting Cote d’Ivoire, from where he would go to another African country, promoting his soon-to-be-launched foundation. He is expected to go to the United States before going to London deliver a lecture at the London School of Economics on June 3.
Engr Mike Ogiasa, added: “It is reasonable for anybody to realize that the former president will take some time out to write about Nigeria in a book form. If he is not seen for sometime, it means he wants a quiet life. I should expect the former president to take some time out in a very quiet environment without any distraction to put his experience about Nigeria into writing in a book form.”
No Iota of truth in it — Opara
In his reaction, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Austin Opara, said: “I wonder where some sections of the media are getting such rumours from. I can tell you confidently that our people in the South-South are solidly behind him. Why should he go into exile when his people are not against him. I can also say confidently that he was in contact with his political associates ahead of the last weekend’s convention in Port-Harcourt. So there is no iota of truth in the news making rounds that he has gone into exile.”
He has no reason to do that—Babatope
A former Minister of Transport and member of the party’s Board of Trustees, BoT, Chief Ebenezer Babatope said: “We are hearing that as a rumour but it is not confirmed. Former President Jonathan has no reason to go into exile. I want to assure you that if Jonathan goes on exile, then Buhari is in trouble.” Similarly, a source who is close to the ex-President and also of the same Ijaw ethnic group with the former leader told Vanguard that the former President has not gone to exile but only stayed away from the PDP convention for obvious reasons.
In an exclusive interview with Vanguard, another close associate, Senator Nimi Barigha-Amange said: “I spoke with the former President on Friday. He told me that he was going to London to spend some times with his children. He did not indicate that he was under any stress and did not tell me that he was going on exile.
“What he said was that he would have loved to be at the Peoples Democratic Party convention in Port Harcourt, but he couldn’t make it because he needed to be with his children. He told me that he was in touch with the leaders of the party across board and assured me that the crisis in the party would be resolved. It is not true that he is in exile” he said.
Senator Amange said the former President had no reason to go on exile because he served his country creditably and should be commended and not condemned.
“The president has no reason to go into exile. He has not committed any offense. Please ignore the report about his exile. He will certainly come back to the country when he is through with spending time with his children” he said.