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Bush writes Obasanjo ... over alleged third term agenda

Posted by Yusuf Alli, Niyi Adesina and Musikilu Mojeed on 2005/11/16 | Views: 1418 |

Bush writes Obasanjo ... over alleged third term agenda

Indications emerged on Wednesday that the President of the United States, Mr. George Bush, had advised President Olusegun Obasanjo against seeking a third term in office.

Indications emerged on Wednesday that the President of the United States, Mr. George Bush, had advised President Olusegun Obasanjo against seeking a third term in office.

A diplomatic source said that Bush’s message advised Obasanjo to respect the country’s constitution and hand over to a new civilian leader in 2007.

The source said Bush’s letter was to have been delivered to Obasanjo on October 24, 2005 by the American Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ms. Jendayi Frazier.

But Frazier, who arrived on October 23, could not deliver the letter following the death of President Obasanjo’s wife, Stella in Spain; and 117 people in the Bellview plane crash.

The source said that as a mark of respect for the mood of the nation, Frazier returned to the US without giving the letter to Obasanjo.

He explained that Frazier, however, left the letter with the American Embassy in Abuja for delivery to Obasanjo after the mourning period.

It was not clear on Wednesday whether the letter had been delivered to President Obasanjo.

But our source said the letter was an advice to the President to help put in a place a credible electoral commission and to adhere to the provisions of the constitution on the handover process.

The source said, "Bush said clearly that Obasanjo must respect the Constitution, insisting that it is extremely important to accept the time limit.

"He said it was important to have a transition government from one civilian government to another civilian government and that the United States backs strong democracies."

The American President was said to have described Nigeria as a symbol of democracy in Africa, which should not set a bad precedent.

The source added, "The message from Bush was clear and unambiguous. In the letter, he expressed the wish that the 2007 general election would be free, fair and peaceful.

"He also emphasised that the United States would support the Federal Government in making sure that Nigeria holds a successful election in 2007.

"He made a case for an independent electoral commission and promised that the US would be willing to provide and train monitors."

The Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, however, denied that a warning letter had been received from Bush.

He said, "Nothing could be farther from the truth. And neither was such a letter sent to or received by Mr. President from President George Bush.

"This is purely a case of someone’s wildest imagination going out of control. It is not only insulting but a grave intrusion into the internal affairs of our nation if any President from anywhere in the world had written such a letter to Mr. President. Nigeria is too big for that."

Responding to a question, he said it was doubtful if Bush would write such a letter.

He added, "Let me assure you that the Americans are our friends and allies and they would never attempt to insult or undermine the Nigerian people in such a way."

Attempts to clarify the information from the US Embassy in Abuja met with some dramatic twists.

Our correspondent spoke with the Information Officer of the United States Embassy, Dr. Rudolph Stewart, at about 7:00pm on Wednesday to crosscheck the information on Bush’s letter.

Stewart requested that the correspondent should forward the questions to him through the email so that he could respond appropriately.

After the email, the correspondent also followed up with a short message to put him on the alert on his mobile phone that the mail had been sent.

About 30 minutes later, a female voice from the embassy, who did not mention her name, called on behalf of Stewart, requesting our correspondent to state exactly what he wanted to clarify on the issue. When the clarification was made, she promised to call back, but did not.

At about 8pm, Stewart phoned the correspondent, and said, "It is not our policy to comment on official exchange of correspondence between governments."

Asked if he was not aware of the letter, he said, "That is what I have to say."

The PUNCH, Thursday, November 17, 2005

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