Over the years, different narratives of how ex-President Goodluck Jonathan became running mate to late President Musa Yar’Adua in the 2007 elections, have surfaced.
Ahmadu Ali, national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the time, has given his own version of the story in an authotised biography.
According to excerpts published in THISDAY, Jonathan initially turned down the offer of vice-president because he was more comfortable being governor of Bayelsa state.
Yar’Adua would later die three years into his first term — and Jonathan automatically became president, going on to rule the country for five years in total.
There had been a planned 24-hour delay in naming Yar’Adau’s running mate after the nomination convention.
The name Peter Odili, then-governor of Rivers state, had been tabled before Yar’Adua but the then-Katsina governor was not well disposed to it.
The vacuum led to intense intrigues among PDP governors, Ali revealed, forcing then-President Olusegun Obasanjo to summon Yar’Adau for an emergency meeting.
As soon as Yar’Adua arrived, Obasanjo told him without any preamble: “Now, name your running mate, now, now. We don’t have twenty four hours.”
“Goodluck Jonathan,” he said without hesitation. He had obviously thought about it or tutored to mention the name.
Immediately, they sent for Jonathan.
When Jonathan arrived a little later, the president said, “We have summoned you here to offer to you the position of Vice President. What do you think?’
Jonathan was stunned. He was obviously not expecting this and had not remotely considered the possibility. He opened his mouth as if to say something but nothing came out.
The president seeing his discomfiture added helpfully, “This decision was taken after a long process. We just want to know what your opinion is.”
Finally, Jonathan found voice, although he was disconcerted by this development — as if proposing to his sweetheart.
“Well,” Jonathan began tentatively, “If I had a choice, I would prefer to remain as governor. I know the job. I know where I stopped. But this VP…I don’t know what it entails.” After a look of disapproval from the chairman and the president, he added quickly, “but if you want me to serve in that position, I accept.”
Yar’Adua turned to Jonathan and asked him, “Would you like to be my running mate?”
Obasanjo turned to the chairman and said, “Amadu, take him to my parlour. The television crew are on their way for a press conference. You and Chief Anenih should stand on either side of him and let him announce the name of his running mate.”
WHY WAS THE DECISION RUSHED?
According to Ali’s biography, Obasanjo got wind of plan by the party’s governors to “hijack” the VP position and quickly moved to stop the plot.
Ali said in the book that he, Obasanjo and Tony Anenih, a former PDP board of trustees’ chairman, had considered Jonathan to replace Peter Odili, former governor of Rivers, to contest the election alongside Yar’Adua, after the party’s governors rejected Odili.
Yar’Adua, who was not comfortable with the choice of Odili as his running mate, was reported to have said in reaction: “Thank you sir, but I would request…”
But Ali cut him short, saying “You request what? The party produced you and the party will also produce the VP!” thundered the chairman.”
Obasanjo, who was present at the unfolding of the drama, asked Ali to give Yar’Adua time to digest the news.
But Ali said there was no time, and directed Yar’Adua to write his acceptance speech and include Odili’s name in it.
The book said Obasanjo later got wind of the governors’ plan to influence the choice of the candidate for vice-president, and quickly arranged a meeting for Yar’Adua to announce his candidate on national television.
“Amadu, come quick! Come, please and don’t argue. Quick, quick!,” Obasanjo was quoted to have said.
“We must act quickly or the governors will hijack this thing. Anenih is on his way and I have already summoned Yar’Adua. If he hasn’t thought of a running mate, then we must impose one on him.”
The biography, titled ‘The many colours of a rainbow: A biography of Senator Amadu Adah Ali’ by Gideon Tseja, a professor, will be launched in Abuja on Thursday to mark Ali’s 82nd birthday.