President Goodluck Jonathan has denied he signed a pact, in 2011, to not seek a second term in office as claimed by his critics.
Despite unambiguously stating he was not going to seek re-election in 2015, Mr. Jonathan also denied he ever gave such verbal commitment.
Ahead of Mr. Jonathan emerging the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP’s presidential candidate, the Niger state governor, Babangida Aliyu, had claimed that the president endorsed a pact with the governors to exit in 2015.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had also reminded the president of his commitment to run for only a term.
Addressing Nigerians in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he attended an African Union Summit, the president had, while regretting that Diasporans would not vote in the April 2011 elections, Mr. Jonathan categorically stated that he would be vying for Presidency in 2015.
“I would have loved that Nigerians in the Diaspora vote this year. But to be frank with you that is going to be difficult now,” he said on January 31, 2011, before striking home his point.
“Nigerians in the Diaspora will not vote, but I will work towards it by 2015, even though I will not be running for election.”
However, speaking to Tribune newspaper, Mr. Jonathan said the comment, which has been repeatedly aired on television and radio by his critics, was quoted out of context.
He explained that what he said after the 2011 election was that occupiers of executive positions should be allowed a single term of seven years and that if this was accepted he was going to forfeit pursuing a second term in office as sacrifice.
Mr. Jonathan said he made the suggestion to avoid the huge security and financial burden that comes with political campaigns. He explained that it would have been unfair for him to remain in power for 12 years after advocating for a second term of seven years.
“I did not sign any document with anybody and I am not someone who signs documents carelessly. I don’t even make promises to people,” the president said. “I have never signed a pact of one term. I never even mentioned it anywhere that I will do one term.”
Of his remarks in Addis Ababa, he said, “I added something that people are misquoting. I said that I had won the election then, I used one year to complete (late President) Yar’Adua’s tenure and I had won election for four years. If Nigerians agreed to a single term of seven years, it would not be proper for me to contest. That would mean if I win, I would serve as president for 12 years. I said that people would question that ‘why do you want to serve 12 years and incoming presidents would serve seven years?’ Morally, I cannot defend that,” he said.
“So, if the country agrees to a single term of seven years, then I will not contest. I would rather lose so that they would know it’s because of my sacrifice because it is something I believe in. I also believe that the interest of the country is more important to me than my individual interest and I said five years was okay, and that even if I stayed here for 100 years, if I won’t work, I won’t work,” he added.
Mr. Jonathan acknowledged that Mr. Obasanjo, at least once, publicly announced that he(Jonathan) would serve for only a term, but said he could not have countered the former president because he needed the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, presidential ticket at the time.
“Yes, former President Obasanjo spoke that way, I think the day of our primaries, and he used that to market me and I listened and I kept quiet,” he said. “It was not proper for me to go there and counter Obasanjo, because I wanted the ticket. I felt that he spoke like an elder statesman and I left it like that.”
President Jonathan also expressed confidence in his chances of emerging winner at the March 28 presidential election, adding his plans for the country are superior to those of his competitors.