President Goodluck Jonathan missed his speaking slot at the ongoing African Union Summit in Addis Ababa because he was attending a smaller meeting on the sidelines of the event, the Special Adviser to the President on Media, Reuben Abati, has said.
“Mr. President was attending on the sidelines of the AU event, at the time Nigeria was called,” Mr. Abati said in a statement sourced from his website. “It was a meeting on Infrastructure in West Africa.”
The presidential spokesperson did however not explain why his boss preferred to attend a smaller event on the side even when the Nigerian delegation was fully aware of the speaking schedule for heads of state at the meeting.
Critics believe Mr. Jonathan’s action terribly embarrassed Nigeria before the comity of nations and showcased the country’s wobbling diplomacy under this president.
But Mr. Abati insists there was nothing wrong in the President’s sudden disappearance at a key moment that offered him an opportunity to sell Nigeria as one of Africa’s most important economic, political and military powerhouses.
“There is nothing amiss here; President Jonathan was perfectly in order. He did not abandon his duty post,” the spokesperson said.
“It is perfectly normal for Presidents to meet on the sidelines of any international meeting, and as the AU plenary went on yesterday, many Presidents stepped out to hold bilateral meetings, and return to the hall”.
He continued, “Where they are listed to make a statement in a plenary session and as happened in our case, the President had gone to attend a meeting on the sidelines, the Minister sitting in for the President can ask for a different slot to enable his Principal return to the hall to make the statement.
“Where he does not do this, he may opt to present the country’s statement. Yesterday, it was not only Amb. Gbenga Ashiru who presented the country statement on behalf of their principals.
“The President was in fact busy at work on behalf of Nigerians’. I see the mischief that has suddenly erupted around this matter as a classic case of much ado about nothing. President Jonathan is an accomplished diplomat; under his watch, Nigeria’s relationship with other countries has continued to grow strong. We are witnessing under this administration, a truly golden and glorious moment in Nigeria’s foreign policy process, an achievement which President Jonathan cherishes.