Former President Goodluck Jonathan
was on Sunday conspicuously absent when former Nigerian leaders who are Christians gathered at the Aso Villa Chapel located inside the Presidential Villa, Abuja for the end of the year thanksgiving.
The past leaders were invited by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to join him and his wife to praise God for His goodness over the country.
Former Nigerian leaders who attended the service included a former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd.); former President Olusegun Obasanjo; former Head of the Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan; former Chief of General Staff, Gen. Oladipo Diya (retd.); former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme; and Rear Admiral Ebitu Ukiwe (retd.).
Osinbajo, in an interview with State House correspondents at the end of the service confirmed that all the former Nigerian leaders, including Jonathan were invited for the service.
He, however, said Jonathan decided to cancel his attendance at the last minute.
The Vice-President did not give the reason for Jonathan’s decision.
He said there was a great future ahead of the country, hence the need for the thanksgiving service.
Osinbajo said, “Today is a special thanksgiving for the end of the year and as you have seen, all the former Presidents and Vice-Presidents are here for the special thanksgiving service,
“They have been specially invited to come, we also expected President Jonathan but unfortunately, he had to cancel at the last moment.
“So, we are all extremely excited that we have been able to bring everyone together to thank God for our nation and to give Him thanks for the great future ahead of us.”
Earlier during the service, Gowon who said he was attending service at the chapel for the first time, confirmed that Osinbajo personally contacted him to attend the service.
He said even when he told the Vice-President that he would be engaged outside the country at the time, Osinbajo offered to facilitate his (Gowon’s) movement to the venue.
The former military leader urged Christians to love every Nigerian in spite of their faith.
“Our neighbours are Christians, Muslims, traditional religions etcetera. Whatever we do, we make sure that we live up to the expectation of what Christ expects from us,’’ he said.
Gowon prayed for President Muhammadu Buhari, Osinbajo, the entire Presidency and Nigerians that God should guide the leadership to administer the country according to His will.
Obasanjo had earlier taken the first lesson of the service from Luke 17: 11-19.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang, disclosed that the 2017 budget would soon be presented to the National Assembly.
He described the performance of the 2016 budget as good.
“Their appraisal during their oversight showed that the implementation was according to the plan as set out by Mr. President and the leadership of this country.
“I believe it is going to be a lot much better this year and at the end of it,” he said.
The Sunday visit was the first time Obasanjo would be visiting the Presidential Villa since he publicly criticised the Buhari administration recently, saying the President was elected to clear the mess he inherited and not to shift blame.
The former leaders however did not meet with Buhari during their visit.