- Â Jegaâ€™s aide: Alleged disparity between presidential and Nâ€™Assembly votes in Kano, a ruse
Â Bolaji Adebiyi in Abuja
Â As the book, Against the Run of Play, written by the Chairman of the THISDAY Editorial Board, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, continues to generate heated reactions, a new book, Facts Versus Fiction: The True Story of the Jonathan Years: Chibok, 2015 and Other Conspiracies, has given a detailed account of a March, 2014 meeting between the Barack Obama administration and 12 northern governors, saying it was the clearest evidence of the U.S.â€™ push for regime change in Nigeria in 2015.
The new book, written by former Special Assistant to Jonathan on New Media, Mr. Reno Omokri, quoted copiously, a top intelligence analyst with the Obama administration, Mr. Matthew Page, who he said admitted that the meeting was meant to gauge the governorsâ€™ disposition to the possible change of the Nigerian president who had disappointed the U.S. on a number of key issues.
The revelations in Omokriâ€™s book, due for release next month, coincides with a rebuttal by Abdullahi Usman, former Personal Assistant to the former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, on Jonathanâ€™s claim that the difference of a million votes recorded in the presidential and National Assembly elections in Kano State was ample evidence that the presidential election might have been manipulated.
â€œGo and check the results from Kano. The presidential election and that of the National Assembly happened on the same day and same time. The National Assembly result reflected that about 800,000 people voted but that of the presidential election reflected a vote of about 1.8 million,â€ Jonathan had said in Adeniyiâ€™s book, implying that this was the general trend in the northern part of the country.
The former president had also blamed a U.S.-led conspiracy, including Britain and France, as one of the key factors that led to his defeat by the All Progressives Congressâ€™ (APC) Muhammadu Buhari, explaining that the foreign powers gave teeth to a local conspiracy of northern political establishment to unseat him.
The former presidentâ€™s claims triggered searing attacks from critics who said he was fishing for excuses for a defeat that was expected due to his perceived abysmal performance in office.
But Omokriâ€™s upcoming book supported his former bossâ€™ claim, contending that the Obama administrationâ€™s meeting with the northern governors was part of the grand plot to remove Jonathan from office.
One of the former governors that attended the meeting, Dr. Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, had hinted at this in Adeniyiâ€™s book, saying: â€œThat was my reading of the situation. I believe it was all about the 2015 election for which the Americans had resolved not to support Jonathan. They just wanted to size us up for the level of commitment to regime change.â€
Quoting Page, who until his resignation in 2016 was the U.S. State Departmentâ€™s top intelligence analyst on Nigeria and who also served as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Africa with the U.S. National Intelligence Council, Omokri gave a fuller picture of Aliyuâ€™s recollection and detailed how the 12 northern governors were invited to the U.S. for the meetings that began at the State Department and ended in the White House.
Issues raised with Page included why the Obama administration organised the meetings; what transpired at the meetings; and who said what, where, when and why.
According to Omokri, Page, who was at the meetings, said the former governor of Adamawa State, Admiral Murtala Nyako (rtd.), was the most vocal in voicing anti-Jonathan sentiments. He was supported by former Governors Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto) and Kashim Shettima (Borno).
Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and former Governor Idris Wada (Kogi), he said, were non-committal.
Page noted that the meetings at the United States Institute for Peace, which started at the State Department and ended in the White House, were initially innocuous but that when the governors proceeded to the closed-door sessions at the U.S. State Department, the purpose became clearer.
According to Page, present at the State Department meetings were Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield, who was then the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the U.S. Department of Stateâ€™s Bureau of African Affairs; Ambassador Thomas Alfred â€œTomâ€ Shannon Jr., who was then the number three man at the State Department; the acting Deputy Secretary of State and the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.
Omokri quoted Page: â€œAdmiral Murtala Nyako read out a memo he had written itemizing the case against Jonathan. He was so openly and almost violently against the Jonathan administration in his speech that he had to be openly rebuked at the meeting by the then Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Ambassador Adebowale Adefuye of blessed memory.
â€œAdmiral Nyakoâ€™s belligerence to the Jonathan administration was so venomous that it prompted a rebuttal from the Gombe State Governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, who showed loyalty to the then Nigerian president.
â€œThis prompted most of the other Northern governors present to turn on him.â€
Page said after the State Department meeting, the governors went for a follow up meeting at the White House on March 18, 2014 and met with the then U.S. National Security Adviser, Ms. Susan Rice.
When asked specifically if the Obama administration was against the re-election of Jonathan, Page said: â€œMy objective opinion is that it was not as if the administration was against Jonathan. There were a number of issues.
â€œThe Obama administration was a bit disappointed (I know that sounds paternalistic) but there were some issues they had felt let down on.
â€œThe human rights situation in the North-east, which has still not changed under Buhari, and Diezani Alison-Madueke, who they felt should have been removed.
â€œThere were some issues with some clauses in the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2013.â€
Intent on drawing a linkage between the governorsâ€™ meetings and the presidential election, Omokri wrote: â€œAnother interesting connection is that these high level meetings arranged for Northern governors by the Obama administration took place in 2014, at the same time that Obama confidant and former White House Senior Advisor, Mr. David Axelrodâ€™s firm, AKPD Message and Media, began to work as a paid consultant to the then Nigerian opposition party, All Progressive Congress.â€
He argued: â€œSubliminal messages were communicated by President Obama when he took the unusual step of addressing Nigerians on March 23, 2015, just five days to the presidential elections on March 28, 2015.
â€œIn that broadcast, Obama told Nigerians: â€˜Now you have an historic opportunity to help write the next chapter of Nigeriaâ€™s progress by voting in the upcoming electionsâ€¦Boko Haram wants to destroy Nigeria and all that you have built. By casting your ballot you can help secure your nationâ€™s progress.â€™
â€œNote the words â€˜next chapterâ€™. During the present Fourth Republic, Nigeria had had four successful presidential elections before 2015. 2015 was not a â€˜next chapterâ€™. The only way it would have been a next chapter would be for the incumbent to be unseated by the opposition.â€
Commenting on Omokriâ€™s book, Jonathanâ€™s media assistant, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, said Pageâ€™s comments confirmed what was already known by many Nigerians on the outcome of 2015 presidential election.
He, however, urged Nigerians to wait for his bossâ€™ account, adding: â€œOnly then will people realise that Jonathanâ€™s claims did not stem from sour grapes, but from a patriotic attempt to ensure that future elections are decided by the Nigerian people without any undue foreign influence.â€
Jonathan had in a short reaction on his Facebook page to diverse and critical comments on his claims, said: â€œAt the right time, the main characters in the elections, including myself will come out with a true account of what transpired, either in major interviews or books.â€
Kano Votes Not Unusual
In the meantime, Usman, the former personal assistant to Jega, the former INEC chairman that conducted the election in which Jonathan was shown the exit, has controverted the former presidentâ€™s claim that there was a major disparity between the votes cast for the presidential and National Assembly elections in Kano State in 2015.
Jonathan had said in Adeniyiâ€™s book: â€œGo and check the results from Kano. The presidential election and that of the National Assembly happened on the same day and same time. The National Assembly result reflected that about 800,000 people voted but that of the presidential election reflected a vote of about 1.8 millionâ€.
But Usman said Jonathanâ€™s claim was factually inaccurate, pointing out that the official figures released at the end of the elections had nothing unusual about them and insisted they reflected a general trend in the country.
â€œThe figures ascribed to each of the two elections in the earlier statement were nowhere near the actual number of voters in the officially declared results of the two elections,â€ he said in a statement made available to THISDAY yesterday.
According to him, â€œIn truth, therefore, the total number of votes cast in the 2015 presidential election in Kano State was 2,172,447, as captured on INECâ€™s official results collation document, the Presidential Election Summary of Results from States â€˜Form EC 8D (A)â€™, a stamped and sealed copy of which was given out to agents of all the 14 political parties on the ballot, as well as to representatives of each of the security agencies present at the International Conference Centre Results Collation Centre, following the formal declaration of results by the commission in the early hours of Tuesday, March 31, 2015.â€
He said the total votes scored by the two leading political parties in the contest for the three senatorial districts of the state was 2,097,881, excluding rejected ballots and votes scored by the remaining political parties that contested for the election in each senatorial District, explaining that rejected votes could be responsible for the difference of 74,566 between the total votes cast in the presidential and senatorial elections.
Usman added that the total votes scored by the two leading political parties in the House of Representatives election across the state was 2,032,472, excluding rejected ballots and votes scored by the remaining political parties that contested for the election.
â€œFrom the foregoing breakdown of votes tally across the three elections conducted on March 28, 2015 in Kano State, therefore, it is quite evident that any allusion to a probable disparity of one million votes between the number of people that voted in the presidential election and those that voted in either of the two National Assembly elections is nothing but an illusion,â€ he said.