Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Jonathan in Secret Talks With Royal Fathers

President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday embarked on a cross-country visits to Kano, Osun and Oyo States, where he met behind closed-doors with the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Oyiwola Adeyemi III, and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijiwade. The purpose of the visits was shrouded in secrecy as at press time.

Jonathan, who arrived at Malam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano around 11:30am, proceeded straight to the Emir's palace in Kano city, where he met with the revered traditional ruler for about 30 minutes.

Speaking at the Emir's palace, President Jonathan said he was in Kano to visit Bayero over his state of health and to thank the traditional institution for its efforts in maintaining peace in the state.

"I've been longing to see you since you returned from medical trip abroad. I'm happy to meet you in good health," he said.

The president noted that he was always open to receiving wise counsel and advice from traditional rulers, while calling on the monarch to continue to guide and encourage the political leadership.

Responding, the Emir thanked the president for the visit and urged him to carry all Nigerians along in his administration.

"Treat everybody equally. This is one country and you are the president. Administer the affairs of the country in such a way that everybody will be proud to be a Nigerian," he said.

Bayero also charged the president to give more attention to the security challenges bedeviling the country and promised to continue to offer prayers for peace.

Addressing journalists at the palace shortly after the visit, Central Bank (CBN) governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, described Bayero's advice to the president as instructive and supportive.

"The position of the Emir is very clear. He is always praying for peaceful co-existence. The Emir said this is one country, one indivisible nation with one president. He said they will continue to support the president as he continues to work to create an environment in which every Nigeria will feel he belongs.

"I am sure that the message is encouraging and it is a message of support, prayers for peace and development and also for the unity and serenity of this country," he said.

The president, who was accompanied on the visit by the National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki, former Kano Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, Central Bank (CBN) Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and a ministerial nominee, Ambassador Aminu Wali, was received in Kano by the state deputy governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje.

Later, President Goodluck Jonathan stormed the ancient town of Oyo in Oyo State where he held private talks with the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olyiwola Adeyemi III.

After the meeting, Jonathan commended the monarch for his contributions to peace in his domain and across the country.

While describing his visit as 'a very private one', President Jonathan told the eagerly expectant crowd at the reception hall, where he was received, that he had come home to visit his father and was not expecting any publicity, saying, however, that there was no way he could hide.

The president said he had come to thank the people of Oyo State and the entire South-West for the supporting him and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2011 election.

But he noted that he would not want to talk much on the subject so that he would not be seen to be campaigning.

"I thank, not only the people of the state, but the entire South-West for the support we received in 2011 and I have come to reciprocate the gesture with the hope that things will continue as well. We are one, I remain your own," he said.

The president was accompanied to the Alaafin's palace by the Oyo State governor, Senator Isiaq Abiola Ajimobi, the Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide, and other important government functionaries and party chieftains.

Oba Adeyemi, who initially declined to make any statement later, described the visit as purely a private one, saying since President Jonathan didn't say anything about it, then it was a private visit.

He said the monarch disclosed that the president enjoined him and other Obas across the country to continue everything within their powers to ensure that their citizens continue to live in peace with one another.

Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo, who was part of the entourage of Mr. President that held a closed-door meeting with the Alaafin, later told journalists that Jonathan was doing the right thing by his visiting not only the Alaafin, but also the Ooni of Ife.

At the palace of the Ooni of Ife in Ile-Ife, both Oba Sijiwade and President Jonathan entered into the inner chamber of the palace and held secret meeting for about 30 minutes.

The President left around 3:45pm without speaking to the press, insisting that his visit to the first class monarch was a private one.

However, sources at the palace said the talks was at the instance of the president and was centred around fashioning out modalities by which Jonathan would gain the backing of the Yoruba people in the next general elections.

Oba Sijuwade, a prominent traditional ruler in Yoruba land and President Osun state Council of Traditional rulers and Chiefs is believed to be a major factor in Yoruba land.

The Deputy Governor of Osun State, who welcomed the president to the state on behalf of Governor Rauf Aregbesola, was among the dignitaries at the palace of the Ooni of Ife.

A governorship aspirant of the PDP in the state, who is also an indigene of Ile-Ife, Senator Iyiola Omisore, while speaking to journalists, said the president had through the visit shown that he had respect for the traditional institution.

A ministerial nominee from the state, Alhaji Jelili Adesiyan, was among dignitaries that received President Jonathan at the Ooni's palace, while traditional rulers from across the state also prayed for the president and his government.

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