In an interview with Vanguard Newspapers published online today, Chief E.k. Clark, probably the most influential statesman in the country today, explained how a relunctant president Jonathan had initially turned down his nomination as Vice president to late President Yar Adua and how he was convinced by the formwer President OBJ. The full interview x-rays the politics, betrayers and intrigues that characterized the whole process of power transfer from OBJ to Yar Adua.
You were recently quoted as saying that you made Dr. Jonathan Vice President in 2007. But one wonders if that is true given counter claims in some other quarters.
Well, I am not very happy going back into all these types of history but for record purposes and those who have to read history again, it may be necessary to say something about it. It will be recalled that on November 4, 2004, the leaders of South-South went to Calabar for a declaration that South-South should produce the next president in 2007. Most of the governors today attended the meeting and we came out and called it Calabar Declaration. So, those who were interested we called them to participate.
It will be recalled that Dr. Peter Odili, governor or Rivers state, Arc. Victor Attah, governor of Akwa Ibom state, Dr. Donald Duke, governor of Cross Rivers state, then we had Admiral Akigbe, now late, and others who were very superior people said they were contesting. So, it was not a matter of fancy but a matter of fact that our people wanted to be president of Nigeria. Later, Dr. Saraki wrote me a letter that he too had an organization known as Northern Union.
They too wanted a northerner to contest and we met for the first time in Warri at Wellington Hotel. His members and our members met. We told him that we wanted presidency. He said he wanted it also. We later held series of meetings in Kaduna, Abuja and other places to decide that. We hadn’t come to a conclusion when Obasanjo decided to impose Umaru Yar’Adua as the candidate. Then, Odili had to withdraw. We didn’t know that Nuhu Ribadu, the then EFCC chairman was specifically asked by Obasanjo to probe Odili. He submitted an interim report which said that Odili embezzled N100b of Rivers State money.
Nobody has proved that anyway. But this was between Obasanjo and Ribadu. Then Attah had his own problem with Mr. President and Donald Duke also had his problem through his wife. So, he used it to blackmail them and the three of them withdrew. But late Admiral Akigbe refused to withdraw. Let me say this, when people talk about zoning, it upsets me. That’s why I have decided to tell you the story.
There was no time at that time the northerners talked about zoning. In fact, they deceived us. Odili went on, spent money and time. Alhaji Shehu Shagari and many others bought his views. After a meeting in Uromi, we sent Ambassador Lawrence Ekpegbu and his team to the Northeast. They were received by the Shehu of Borno and so forth. There was no time the northerners said there was zoning and that, therefore it was their turn. No.
And it was now through the zoning that Obasanjo brought in Yar’Adua. He had his own reasons. One of the reasons was that he was a prudent fellow. He had N6bn in his purse. Another one was that he was a very intelligent fellow. He was a lecturer and was very humble. Those were the reasons he gave and we bought into it. Then, along the line, it was stated that Odili should be running mate to Yar’Adua.
This was agreed upon but we later learnt that some elements in PDP, I can name some of them; el-Rufai, Ribadu and many others met and changed the acceptance speech of Yar’Adua without his knowledge, without Odili knowing. In the acceptance speech, it had been written that Sir, Peter Odili will be my running mate. But they changed it to “I will name my running mate after I have consulted with the elders of the party.” So, the two men went to the podium and when Yar’Adua read his speech, there was nothing like Odili. Odili was very upset. So, they came out.
In the morning on Sunday, I was watching the television. I saw what happened. By 10 O’clock, I had some visitors including Mr. Ayokobe Whisky who is now Dr. Ayokobe Whisky. He used to be Commissioner for Housing in Bayelsa State.
They were with me in the room with one other person, I can’t remember. Then I had an emissary from the Sultan of Sokoto. They were introduced to me, that they came from Yar’Adua, the Governor of Katsina. And the emissary gave me a piece of paper which had about 20 names listed on it including Ibori, Donald Duke and others, saying I should pick a good running mate for him from the list. I looked through the list, there was nobody I thought there could work with Yar’Adua. I said well, let me suggest somebody who would do the job, who had the qualities which Obasanjo told me about Yar’Adua. And I said that Jonathan was a lecturer also.
He had Ph.D, academician, humble, transparent and loyal. I said both of them should be able to work together. So, I wrote Jonathan’s name on the list and they left. Then I didn’t know whether Jonathan would accept. One of them suggested that we call him and I said phone him. Within 20 minutes, Jonathan arrived at my Transcorp Hilton suite and I told him. He was reluctant. He said he doesn’t want to. He said I want to be the governor of Bayelsa State in the next four years.
I do not want to be deputy to anybody. Then I said that the people of South-South went to Calabar at a certain time and said they wanted a president and if we have not got that presidency because of what has been imposed on us, let us have an elected Vice President. He kept quiet for sometime and then said, well, if that’s your choice, so be it but I am not in favour of it. I said it is our choice. He left. Later the name was announced.
And I know very well that Jonathan at that time was a child loved by a father, that is Obasanjo. Jonathan had received a chieftaincy title from Owu, Obasanjo’s home town and Jonathan had taken over from Alamaesigha. So, Jonathan was a pet son of Obasanjo and I knew that if I recommend him, Obasanjo will not disagree. So, Obasanjo as the president of Nigeria must have contributed a long way to making Jonathan running mate to Yar’Adua. In fact, he told me a story when I led some south southerners to his house in Aso Rock that same evening to thank him for taking Jonathan.
He said that was a good choice, that when he sent for Jonathan, he was not ready for it. Then he told him, that I will give you one of the hats you people gave me when I visited Yeneagoa and they all laughed because they had to take photograph together. That shows the role played by Obasanjo in making Jonathan Vice President. Clark could recommend but Obasanjo can reject. But in this particular case we agreed and so that’s how it happened. So, when people talk about what happened here and there, I laugh. Jonathan was not ambitious. He never wanted to be vice to Umaru Yar’Adua.
– See more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2014/09/nominated-jonathan-yaraduas-running-mate-e-k-clark/#sthash.YsKzbRY1.dpuf