BY ANYAORA THELMA CHIOMA.
In his book, Against The Run Of Play, Olusegun Adeniyi paints a picture of an out-of-control Dame Patience Jonathan. In this interview, he explains that he only presented the facts and was not out to drag her name in the mud. Also, he speaks on the challenges he had identifying and confirming those that worked against the peaceful transfer of power after the 2015 presidential polls had been won and lost
Against The Run of Play is your account of the circumstances and events that shaped the 2015 presidential elections. It has been on sale for a few weeks now, are satisfied with the reviews it has gotten?
The reviewers will do their job. By and large, I think the reviews have been fair. The ones that I have read, they have been very good.
President Goodluck Jonathan called into question, some of the accounts of people you spoke to. Do you think you were misled by some of those people?
I do not believe that anyone misled me. They stated their views, their own interpretation of how President Jonathan lost. He didn’t agree with that which is fair. But I am not responsible for what they said so long ask I quoted them accurately. It wasn’t for me to put words in their mouths. Those I interviewed, those were their views, and their interpretation of how Jonathan lost. If he discredits them, I have no problem with that. It is not me he is discrediting. He is discrediting the views of those people and they are entitled to their opinion just like he is entitled to his.
You started the book by naming the president’s aides that pleaded with him to concede the election. You didn’t mention those urging the president to hold on and fight the election outcome. Doesn’t this create an incomplete and misleading narrative?
I can’t name names of people that I cannot confirm. I had names but a few of them, I spoke to them and they disputed it. A few I couldn’t reach. Some refused to speak to me and I had to avoid libel. But the people who were their begging, who were pleading, I spoke to them and they confirmed. President Jonathan himself confirmed those ones. Apart from Orubebe whose name I mentioned and I even tried to speak to him, he refused. So I cannot name people who will go to court, I have no proof over it and that is why I refused to go into it. But there were people; there were forces that also wanted Jonathan not to concede. But I couldn’t name names because I had no proof.
Sometimes, it appeared you were afraid of exposing the truth when it came to people you were acquainted with?
I wasn’t acquainted with them. These are not people I am acquainted with. It is just that I had no proof. If I name someone and the person goes to court, what will be my proof? I wasn’t there so I had to rely on what people said just like I relied on what people said about those who were pleading and they confirmed and President Jonathan confirmed to me too that those three people were actually there but I am sure he will not confirm the names of people who were urging him not to concede.
You chose the stories to tell and you seemed to blame the former First Lady Patience Jonathan for the dysfunction in the Jonathan presidency. Were you not unfair to her by not seeking out her version of events?
I didn’t blame Mrs. Jonathan. People mentioned her with regards to events that happened and also from my own research. For instance, on Chibok, it is on record what she said. So I put some of those issues and what people said. I didn’t blame anybody; I just narrated my own story.
Why didn’t you seek out her side of events?
Because I spoke with the president, I didn’t think it was important to speak to his wife.
You brought up her public spat with Rotimi Amaechi, her verbal assault on Aminu Tambuwal, how she sought to control events in PDP and her response to the Chibok kidnappings. They all featured prominently in the book. Did you set out to demonise her or at the very least, to drag her name in mud?
When I started the story, I didn’t know she was going to be that prominent in the story. But it turned out that at every point, her name just came up. I spoke to Amaechi for instance and her name came up because she had an issue with him. I spoke to the president about him and President Jonathan said he had no problem with Amaechi. It was his wife who had an issue with Amaechi. On Chibok, it is on public record what she did. So those are just the issues that came up.
There are literally thousands of people whose job it is to develop policy and advise the president on issues of economics, politics and security. The absence of details about these people and the processes that led Jonathan to make the decisions he made puts all the blame for failings of the system on him. What that the intention?
No. I didn’t write a book on Jonathan administration. I wrote on the election and I picked the issues that defined the election. So maybe when Reuben Abati will write his own or when the president will write his own, he will write on his administration. This is not an account on the Jonathan administration; it was my understanding on why and how he lost the election.
Amaechi is quoted as saying he pushed for the governors to join APC. From available public records, Murtala Nyako was the driving force behind the five governors leaving PDP. He even announced his departure from the party days ahead of the others. And if there’s a single individual that was responsible for the downfall of Jonathan, it is probably Nyako. Yet, he came up in the book only once. There was nothing on his impeachment. Did you find that irrelevant?
I didn’t want to go too much into so many issues. I went into the issue of the Governors’ Forum because it affected the election. Amaechi came in on the account of him being chairman of the Governors’ Forum and the role he played in the crisis within the Forum that became a catalyst for five governors leaving. Nyako had a personal problem with Jonathan.
Was it personal? Wasn’t it more about the political resistance to Jonathan re-contesting? Adamawa was central to it and at point after Nyako was impeached, the presidency was basically governing Adamawa with Hassan Tukur calling the shots.
Adamawa was key because the PDP chairman at that period, Bamanga Tukur was from Adamawa. But generally speaking, I didn’t want to go into too many issues that would distract me from what I wanted to achieve, why did Jonathan lose? And I also mentioned Nyako because the former governor of Niger Muazu Aliyu actually mentioned him and the role he played in the meeting they had in the U.S, he was decidedly opposed to Jonathan and it was very clear. But I didn’t want to go into the impeachment of Nyako. There are several issues that I could have delved into. For instance, there are some people who told me that I didn’t tell the APC account, that there were things I ought to have brought up, especially with regard to 2011 election. I didn’t want to go too much into the past. I knew the story I wanted to tell and how I wanted to tell it. And I also didn’t want too big a book. I believe I achieved that.
In the course of your research for the book, you must have gathered a lot of information that appear in the book. Who in the government was advocating they do away with the election and simply extend the tenure on account of the war on Boko Haram?
In fact, I have written that in my column before. It was in meetings that were held either preceding or after the postponement of the elections. There were names I had, but can’t mention names of people when I had no proof and I cannot substantiate because I was not in those meetings. I cannot mention names of people that will take me to court and I will get to court and look stupid. One book cannot capture all that happened. Other people will write books and some of these gaps will be filled. Jonathan will write, Jega will write his own. I was with Jega at a meeting together last Friday and he asked for a copy of book. He said he would read it so as to know some of the issues to respond to. I told him, Jonathan spoke about how you conducted the election. So, Jega will his own, Jonathan will write his own. Tinubu said he is writing his and probably President Buhari will write one too. And from all this, we can fill the gaps.
On the book, an obvious question is why you didn’t get Buhari’s perspective.
I tried. I was supposed to interview him. I had an agreement with the Chief of Staff that I would interview him. I think two or three days before our interview, he travelled. I actually waited because I thought he would be back. When he went, I think it was supposed to be for 10 days or two weeks. But when it elongated to three weeks, four weeks, five weeks, then I knew I had to do a cut off. But I actually wanted to interview him and I got assurance from the Chief of Staff that I would get to speak with him.
What will be your next project? Should we expect a book on Buhari’s second coming?
I am working on a book but it is not political. In 2014 or 2015, using my younger brother, I delivered a lecture on people who travel to Europe by road, If You Stay Here You Will Die.