Sunday, January 17, 2010

VP denies taking directive from Turai

Hajiya Turai Yar‘Adua

The Vice -President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, has denied media reports that he took directive from the wife of the president, Hajia Turai Yar‘Adua, saying the report was false.

The Vice-President who spoke through his media spokesman, Mr Ima Niboro, on Saturday said the last time he spoke with the President‘s wife was on January 5, 2010.

Part of the statement reads, ”This morning, a national newspaper published a report claiming that the Vice-President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, has so far refused to act upon the Justice Dan Abutu ruling of Wednesday, 13th January, 2010, to the effect that he can assume the duties of Mr. President in his absence in line with section 5(1) of the 1999 constitution, because he is awaiting a directive from the First Lady, Hajiya Turai Yar‘ Adua.

”This report is entirely false. The VP wants to state clearly that the last time he spoke with the First Lady was on Tuesday, January 5th, after he spoke with the president.

Indeed, it was the First Lady that called back shortly after to exchange warm pleasantries with the Vice-President.

”There is no doubt that those who packaged the report are only attempting to paint non-existent pictures to the Nigerian public in the effort to create mischievous scenarios of indecisivesness on the part of the VP.”

But in a statement on Saturday, the management of Punch Nigeria Limited says it stands by its story. Part of the statement reads,

SATURDAY PUNCH is standing by its story, which it sourced from two sources close to the Vice-President: a minister of the Federal Republic and a senior special assistant in the Presidency, who cannot be named because of the sensitive nature of the report and the confidentiality that governs such journalistic endeavours.

Before going to press on Friday, SATURDAY PUNCH correspondents in Abuja and in the South-South made repeated efforts to speak to Mr. Niboro, but to no avail. One of our reporters called Mr. Niboro‘s lines on Thursday between 3pm and 4pm. Another repeated the calls on Friday, and got no responses.

This, however, did not surprise our correspondents as Mr Niboro has been in the habit of not taking our correspondents‘ calls for a while.

The claim by the VP‘s spokesperson that our newspaper only attempted to “paint non-existent pictures to the Nigerian public in the effort to create mischievous scenarios of indecisiveness on the part of the VP” is false.

Saturday Punch has consistently stood on the side of truth publishing balanced and fair stories since the departure of the President on a medical trip to Saudi Arabia.

None of its stories, especially, those involving the delicate issues surrounding the President‘s absence and calls from several quarters that the Vice-President should be empowered to act in his stead has shown bias.

The newspaper‘s consistency has been acknowledged by Nigerians including at least one of the Vice-President‘s closest associates who called our editor on the telephone on Wednesday to acknowledge our professionalism and to express his admiration of our editors‘ conduct in words. He also said that he had heard that we do not leverage any of our stories or privileged information for gratification from anyone.

During our investigations, we learnt that an adviser to the VP on Legal Matters acting under the instructions of the VP, worked with lawyers outside government during the Vice-Presidency‘s efforts to properly interpret the implications of the Abuja High Court judgement and decide on a way forward.

Impeccable sources also informed us that the Vice-President spoke to the President‘s ADC during his attempts to speak with the President, but he was routed to Turai, who said the President wasn‘t available, and that she would get back to him.

We acknowledge that the Vice-President as noted by the statement that ”the VP led the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Federation and the service chiefs, to take the salute at the Armed Forces Remembrance Day” a purely presidential function.

However, we see this as a corroboration of our story. Reliable sources told our editors on Saturday that the VP only performed this function after receiving clearance from Saudi Arabia, to exercise presidential powers.

It is no secret that the Vice-President, personally, has chosen to play safe since the crisis occasioned by the President‘s departure started, even while his closest aides and associates work behind the scene to ensure that their principal is thus empowered. He has also done little to confront the President‘s powerful kitchen cabinet that has consistently striven to subvert the constitution.

Those who claim to understand this approach have defined it as a form of loyalty. We do not have a problem with the Vice-President‘s understanding of loyalty, even though we acknowledge that many Nigerians have variously interpreted this as vacillation. Our duty is only to publish news devoid of sentiments and based on facts, which is what we have done.

Could the refutal be because, as one of the Vice-President‘s aides who contacted our editors said, ”the report portrayed the Vice-President as a weakling?”

SATURDAY PUNCH has only published what is widely known in official circles in Abuja and it is standing by its story.

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