The president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, left the shores of the country, to attend the Special Assembly of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He, as the leader of one of Africa’s most important economies and one which has contributed in no small measure to what the AU has become today, was scheduled to address the assembly. The president knew when he was going to be called up, his aides knew it and everything was set for the speech to be made… everything except Jonathan.
When the president of Nigeria was called upon to address the assembly at the time slot given to him, he was nowhere to be found, much to the consternation of the delegates and the embarrassment of the Nigerian officials there. His name was called repeatedly, but he was not there.
The address at the assembly was the most important duty for which the president was in Ethiopia, and he missed it, and for a long time no one was sure why.
Initially there were reports that he had gone to the toilet when he was called. Evidently, that excuse did not fly because in such an instance, a member of the protocol team would simply have informed the organisers who would have delayed things a bit.
Then there was the other simply unbelievable report that Jonathan stayed up late feasting with his associates and consulting with some of his loyal governors in Nigeria over the crisis in the Governors’ Forum, where despite his consistent denials, various Nigerians are refusing to believe that he is not personally interfering in the leadership crisis of the forum. In the election, which held on Friday, the Rivers governor, Rotimi Amaechi, emerged winner by defeating the president’s preferred candidate, Jonah Jang.
The president later showed up to join at the AU meeting to take part in the photo session, and then he disappeared immediately after. No explanation was given by him for his no-show.
The president’s spokesman, Reuben Abati defended his absence by saying that the president was “busy at work on behalf of Nigerians.”
Abati’s explanation was that the president – for some reason – fixed a meeting with other leaders at the same time when he was supposed to be addressing the meeting. The world leaders, according to Abati, were discussing “issues of bilateral relations.”
“Mr. President was attending on the sidelines of the AU event, at the time Nigeria was called. It was a meeting on Infrastructure in West Africa. It is perfectly normal for Presidents to meet on the sidelines of any international meeting. And as the AU plenary went on yesterday, many Presidents stepped out to hold bilateral meetings, and return to the hall.
“So, as you can see, there is nothing amiss here. President Jonathan was perfectly in order. He did not abandon his duty post. He was in fact busy at work on behalf of Nigerians. I see the mischief that has suddenly erupted around this matter as a classic case of much ado about nothing.”
Abati did not release pictures of the meeting or disclose the names of the world leaders with whom the president was meeting or if indeed those world leaders missed their own speaking slots. He did not also disclose why the president failed to inform the organisers that he had decided to shun the offer to speak in favour of discussions on bilateral relations.