FACTCHECK: Picture counters Jonathan’s denial of hobnobbing with ex-Gov. Sheriff in Chad

Ex-Governor Ali Modu Sheriff and President Jonathan at a meeting with the President of Chad, Idris Deby

The Presidency on Thursday issued a press statement denying that President Goodluck Jonathan hobnobbed with former Governor Ali Modu Sheriff while on a state visit to Chad on Monday.

The statement, signed by Presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, said the former governor was not on Mr. Jonathan’s delegation to Njadmena and that his presence in that country at the time the president visited was merely coincidental.

“Those who associate with Senator Sheriff know that he has longstanding interests in Chad and often spends a lot of his time there,” Mr. Abati said. “He happened to be in Ndjamena at the time of President Jonathan’s visit and joined other Nigerian residents of the Chadian capital in coming to the airport to welcome their President.

“That was the full extent of his participation in the visit and it was also at Ndjamena Airport that the pictures which formed the basis of the bogus allegation of President Jonathan hobnobbing with an “accused sponsor of terrorism” were taken.

“The former Governor’s presence in Chad was certainly not at President Jonathan’s instance and he did not participate in any of the President’s discussions with President Idriss Deby or his other engagements in Ndjamena.”

But a picture earlier released by Mr. Abati himself is at variance with the claim he made in the statement he released on Thursday.

Ex-Governor Ali Modu Sheriff and President Jonathan at a meeting with the President of Chad
Ex-Governor Ali Modu Sheriff and President Jonathan at a meeting with the President of Chad

The picture showed President Jonathan, his host, President Idris Deby, and Mr. Sheriff seated in a room. The three men appeared to be engaged in a closed-door meeting.

Assuming Mr. Sheriff, who recently defected to the PDP, was in Ndjamena on his own private visit and was indeed at the airport to receive President Jonathan and his delegation on arrival, how did the ex-Governor, who the President confirmed is under investigation, find his way into official meetings of state in the Chadian capital?

The picture shows clearly President Jonathan, President Idris Deby of Chad and Mr. Sheriff in a meeting. Was the picture that of Mr. Sheriff conducting his own private meeting with Presidents Jonathan and Deby in attendance? Or was the meeting that of Nigerian and Chadian Presidents with the former Borno Governor in attendance?

Why did the presidency claim that Mr. Sheriff did not participate in any meeting with Presidents Jonathan and Deby when a State House picture communicated the contrary?

Read the presidency’s full statement claiming Mr. Sheriff did not participate in any of the President Jonathan’s discussions with President Deby

STATE HOUSE PRESS RELEASE
PRESIDENT JONATHAN DID NOT TAKE ALI MODU SHERIFF TO CHAD, WILL NOT INTERFERE WITH ONGOING INVESTIGATION OF ACCUSATION AGAINST FORMER GOVERNOR

We have noted with surprise, the unnecessary hue and cry raised by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and other bigoted critics of the Jonathan Administration over the claim that the President is “hobnobbing” with the former governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff who was recently accused by the Australian, Stephen Davis of being one of the chief sponsors of the terrorist group, Boko Haram.

The totally erroneous basis for that charge was the spurious claim that Senator Sheriff accompanied President Jonathan on his recent trip to Ndjamena as a member of his entourage.

Although Senator Sheriff himself has already given the lie to that claim through his Media Adviser, the Presidency wishes to affirm, for the purpose of emphasis, that the former Borno State governor was not on President Jonathan’s delegation to Chad.

In keeping with President Jonathan’s commitment to transparency and openness in the conduct of government business, names of the key members of his delegation were announced a day before his trip to Ndjamena.
They included the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.), the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nurudeen Mohammed and the Director-General of National Space Research and Development Agency, Prof. Seidu Mohammed.

As can be easily verified from the complete list of members of the Presidential entourage to Chad which was also circulated on Sunday and never changed, Senator Sheriff’s name was not on it. The only other persons on the list were the President’s aides, security personnel and journalists.

The APC and others who rushed to condemn President Jonathan for a non-existent indiscretion would have found, if they took the least trouble to double-check, that there was absolutely no factual basis for their accusation.

Those who associate with Senator Sheriff know that he has longstanding interests in Chad and often spends a lot of his time there. He happened to be in Ndjamena at the time of President Jonathan’s visit and joined other Nigerian residents of the Chadian capital in coming to the airport to welcome their President.

That was the full extent of his participation in the visit and it was also at Ndjamena Airport that the pictures which formed the basis of the bogus allegation of President Jonathan hobnobbing with an “accused sponsor of terrorism” were taken.

The former Governor’s presence in Chad was certainly not at President Jonathan’s instance and he did not participate in any of the President’s discussions with President Idriss Deby or his other engagements in Ndjamena.

President Jonathan is fully aware of the allegation made against Senator Sheriff by Stephen Davis. That allegation is already being investigated by the security agencies who will make their findings known to the public in due course.

The President assures all Nigerians that he has not willfully taken any action that could prejudice the outcome of that ongoing inquiry.

He seizes this opportunity to reassure the nation once again of his total commitment to doing all within his powers to bring all identified and verified sponsors of terrorism to justice, and ending the menace of violent extremism in the country.

Reuben Abati
Special Adviser to the President
Media & Publicity
September 11, 2014


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