Donald Duke, the former Cross River state governor, has disclosed some of the intrigues that led to the appearance of Alhaji Shehu Musa Yar’Adua as the PDP presidential flag bearer and how he came to be replaced by ex-president Goodluck Jonathan as Yar'Adua's running mate.
The former governor discussed this in the first edition of a magazine, The Interview, published by the former group managing director of Leadership Newspapers.
Duke recounted how Yar’Adua never sought to be president and that the late president had contacted him on three occasions seeking his agreement to be his running mate.
He said: “You don’t give authority to an unwilling person, particularly in a country like Nigeria. Umaru never wanted to be president. He was dealing with his health issues and wanted to retire and go lecture in a university. He was really offered an appointment at the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria. Jonathan, on the other hand, had just been re-elected to be governor of Bayelsa and when he was picked, he was not so pleased. He said to Obasanjo and me, ‘I don’t want this job.’
“If these two men never aspired to the office but were recruited to take on a responsibility as daunting as the management of Nigeria without mentally preparing for the office and having a grand vision of where they wanted to take Nigeria to, then there is a problem. The mental preparation is absolutely important. The vision can be scripted for you, but if you are not prepared and you have no capable team to help you follow through, it is grossly unfair. It is like converting a passenger on an aircraft to a pilot.”
Duke clarified that the serious mistake of saddling men who were unprepared with the duty of running the country is what has brought the country to its present state.
After the 2007 resolution that made the late Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan the PDP aspirants for president and vice president, Duke was cited as saying that Nigeria would regret the decision.
Duke explained the remark by saying: “It is one prophecy I wish never came to pass. Some people regretted it while others came out looking really good”.
“I put myself forward for the presidency in 2007. Umaru Yar’Adua approached me thrice to run along with him and thrice I agreed. The third time, he came with Ibrahim Shema, who later became governor of Katsina State, asking me again. I was exasperated and I said, ‘Look, Umaru, we have agreed on this, but it is still your decision to make.’ He said, ‘Gladly, I would think so, but I would discuss with President Obasanjo.’ I said, ‘Very well, do that and let me know.’ That was the last I heard of it. Then, I got word from party operatives that we should go into a party convention with one candidate for unity of purpose. At that point, it was inconceivable that I would win the primaries; I would only spend money and still lose. I backed out. The rest is history. There is a story making the rounds that I rejected it.”
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“I never did. Umaru is not alive today, but I did not. Later on, Obasanjo said to me that he thought I had a personality that was so strong and would be in conflict with Umaru who appeared so weak. I said it was all spilt milk. Umaru could appear weak, but he was not, which we now know. Secondly, he said he didn’t want a repeat of the conflict he had with Abubakar Atiku, his vice president at the time.”
Yar’Adua was the president of Nigeria and the 13th head of state. He was announced the winner of the controversial Nigerian presidential poll held on 21 April 2007, and was sworn in on 29 May 2007.
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