Shagari: Why we visited Jonathan

THIS DAY Newspaper-Segun Awofadeji

Eminent personalities who visited Acting President Goodluck Jonathan last week were there to offer their candid opinion on how Nigeria could move forward in spite of its numerous challenges, former President Shehu Shagari has said.
The leaders went to Aso Rock, according to the former President, on the invitation of the Acting President to hold discussion on what might be the focus of the administration.

Shagari spoke yesterday during an interview on BBC Hausa Service programme monitored in Bauchi.
Those in the Eminent Elders Group who visited the Acting President last Friday included former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon; former Head of Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan; and Second Republic Vice-President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme.

Shagari said the leaders have a stake in the country and owe Nigeria a duty to intervene at a time such as this.
He said: “We visited him (Jonathan) and we gave our useful advice on the way out and we are happy that we have done that.
“The Acting President invited us to Aso Rock and we went there on his invitation. We then offered our various candid advice and opinion on what should be the focus of the administration.”

The former President said they did not ask Jonathan to reduce the Federal Govern-ment’s seven-point agenda.
He was apparently reacting to some media reports, which indicated that the group asked Jonathan to reduce the Federal Government’s seven-point agenda.
The eminent leaders had, during the visit, reportedly advised Jonathan to concentrate on a few areas of the agenda in order to achieve optimal results within a short time.

Some of the areas mentioned in the reports included power, infrastructure and the need to ensure a free and fair election next year.
Shagari cleared the air in the BBC interview.
“There was no time such advice was given to the Acting President by us. When we met the Acting President, no journalist was there. I therefore do not know where they got the information that we advised him to trim down the seven-point agenda to two and three,” he said.

“We never did anything like that. How can we ask him to reduce the seven-point agenda when we were not the people who made them up for the government? He did the agenda and he has his reasons for doing so. We only hope that they will make the country great and better,” he added.
The rest of his statement on BBC reads: “You may wish to know that I don’t read newspapers. But we decided to lend our voices to the political happenings in the country because we as citizens that have a stake and we owe it a duty to intervene in order to get the country and the people out of the political quagmire we found ourselves in at that time.

“These were discussed between him and us and where the press got the bit of what we discussed and then concluded that we asked him to trim down the agenda, I don’t know.”
Asked if he does not fear that ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’adua would feel bad if he hears what happened behind him, Shagari answered in the negative.

The elder statesman said that all that took place was done in the interest of the country, adding that prayers were being offered for the recovery of the President and for him to return to leadership.
“After all, we did not hear from him again since his interview with the BBC Hausa service about a month ago. We wish him well wherever he is now,” he stated.

Shagari called for support and cooperation by all Nigerians to enable Jonathan succeed in his duties.
Prof. Jerry Gana, a member of the group, was quoted last week by some national newspapers to have said they emphasized the need for good governance to Jonathan. In addition to that, he was also quoted thus: “They emphasized that of the very good Seven-Point Agenda, they should identify a few that can be done effectively to show presence because people really want to see action and result on the ground and they emphasised about two or three of this.”

The Eminent Elders Group was among many other Nigerians that called on President Yar’Adua to transmit a letter to the National Assembly informing the legislature of his medical vacation in Saudi Arabia.
They expressed fear there was no acting president while Yar’Adua was away for more than three months receiving treatment.
Apart from former heads of state, the group comprises former chief justice of the federation and senior citizens.


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