THE Presidency yesterday described as false, sensational and fiction some newspaper reports (not The Guardian) that President Goodluck Jonathan was “defeated” by President Yayi Boni of Benin Republic in the “contest” to elect a new African Union chairman at the 18th AU summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Special Adviser to the President (Media and Publicity), Dr. Reuben Abati said the reports were “the latest in a series of sensational and fictional reporting in a bid to cast the administration of President Jonathan in bad light.”
In a statement from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Abati said that though President Jonathan “was indeed approached by leaders within and outside the West African sub-region to take up the challenge of leading the AU for the next one year”, he declined, saying he wanted to concentrate on domestic issues and leading the ECOWAS Heads of State and Governments.
According to the presidency, “it is not true that President Yayi Boni ‘defeated’ President Goodluck Jonathan in an election; there was no contest in the first place and President Jonathan was not a candidate for the AU chairmanship position. It is also not true that President John Atta Mills opposed President Jonathan at any time. Ghana and Nigeria enjoy excellent relations.”
According to Abati, leaders within and outside the West African sub-region approached Jonathan to take up the challenge of leading the AU for the next one year, but “while appreciating this kind gesture, President Jonathan resolved that he needed time to focus on domestic affairs in Nigeria, and that it would be practically difficult for him to combine the three positions of President of Nigeria, Chairman of ECOWAS and Chairman of African Union. He, therefore, rejected the offer.
“In order to make his position clear, President Jonathan, in his capacity as ECOWAS Chairman, summoned a mini-Summit of ECOWAS at the AU Commission Headquarters on Saturday, January 28, 2012, to ensure that there was a meeting of minds on the position of AU chairman. His preference, he noted, would be for ECOWAS to adopt the leader of another country, in order to promote a sense of belonging among member-states. Nigeria, having occupied the position of AU Chairman four times in the past, would readily support any such country.”
The statement added that “as it turned out, the President of the Republic of Benin had indicated interest in the position, which paved the way for his unanimous adoption by the ECOWAS Heads of State as the sub-region’s candidate for the AU Chair. Thus, it becomes obvious that President Jonathan rather than being ‘defeated’ by President Yayi Boni of Benin actually facilitated his emergence as AU Chairman.”
Meanwhile, a vote by African leaders for the head of their bloc’s influential executive ended in deadlock yesterday between Gabon’s Jean Ping, seeking a new term, and challenger Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa.
The AU Commission’s deputy chair, Erastus Mwencha, will take over from Ping until the next AU summit in about six months, when African leaders will vote again.