Sahara Reporters has replied presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben abati, that it lied in a report it carried that the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, contrary to his promise of cutting spending on foreign trips, went to the African Union Summit that ended today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with a delegation that did not fulfill his pledge.
According to the reply written by Omoyele Sowore, Sahara Reporters accused abati of being economical with the truth by not stating the fact that the First Lady was also attending another fringe meeting on the side of the AU meeting involving First Ladies of other countries and thus had her own entourage.
Sahara Reporters put the entourage of the First Lady at 32, which was the total number of delegates Abati said was on the trip to Ethiopia.
The publication challenged Abati to make available to Nigerians the names and designations of those officially on the trip to Ethiopia with Jonathan to prove that the delegation was indeed not more than 32.
The letter by Sowore reads:
“Dear Reuben Abati,
“I read your cleverly written letter to me regarding our latest report on President Goodluck Jonathan’s junket to Ethiopia. In writing what purports to be a rejoinder, you deliberately left out details of our sms exchanges on the same issue. That omission, I suggest, was an attempt to evade the central issue raised in our report. Instead of confronting that issue – the list of delegates invited and sponsored by the Jonathan administration and his wife to Ethiopia – you chose to play a semantic game over what is a straight forward issue. I’ll respond to your rejoinder pointedly.
“1. You sent me a text message on Friday claiming that our report on the Ethiopia trip was false and malicious because, according to you, there was a “mix up” somewhere. I quickly responded, telling you that a truthful report could never be malicious. Thereafter, you sent another text saying you didn’t mean to criticize the report, but wanted to put matters straight. You proceeded to explain that there was only “one delegation” led by the president to Addis Ababa and that the number of people on the list was far lower than we reported. I quickly requested for the list. You responded by claiming that it was in your bag at your hotel room. However, you curiously sent another text claiming you couldn’t reach some people involved in getting the list as it was “past midnight” in Addis Ababa. My last text to you was a reminder that I would be waiting for your response regarding the list and size of the delegation. That response never came; instead, you released this letter that pretends to be a refutation, but is rather an attempt at obfuscation.
“2. You claimed that there was a single list of delegates to Ethiopia. That claim amounts to a puerile effort to conceal the fact that Mrs. Patience Jonathan was attending a program of African First Ladies which was different from the AU summit being attended by President Jonathan. This meant that the “First Lady” was traveling with a retinue of staff, associates and hangers-on to aid or support her “official” activities at a separate event from that of President Jonathan.
“3. As the president’s chief spokesman, you ought to have the delegate list. I challenge you then to provide the public with a breakdown of Mr. Jonathan’s “one delegation entourage” to Addis Ababa, categorized in order of designation of officials, their date of travel, mode of travel, and explanation of whether they were part of the advance party or arrived in Addis Ababa in the same aircraft as the President – or in an extra aircraft that was deployed.
“4. From your letter, it is clear that you concede that some “Nigerians” may have traveled with the delegation “unofficially.” Does this technical admission not defeat your initial insistence that there was only “one delegation”?
“5. SaharaReporters has a history of documenting the culture of waste occasioned by the profligate junkets by the Presidency. We are glad that your principal appears to have realized that wasteful trips need to be eliminated and the size of delegations cut – especially after the president’s scandalous outing in Perth, Australia where an out-of-control delegation engaged in waste, corruption and even broke Australian laws.
“6. We maintain that “First Lady” Patience Jonathan traveled with a retinue of aides, friends and associates to the tune of 32 people. Their travels and accommodation were arranged and paid for by the Nigerian government. What you owe the public is an obligation to be transparent. In this event, that entails releasing your official delegates’ list as well as names of associates, contractors, friends and “other Nigerians” the government gave a nod to visit along with the president and his wife on this trip to Addis Ababa. In other words, we await the release of that list that you claimed was in your bag in the hotel room in Addis Ababa. Thank you.”