The outgoing permanent representative of the United States of America to the United Nations (UN), Ambassador Susan Rice, has said that she will not make any comment on what transpired during the last moments of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, Chief MKO Abiola, for personal reasons.
Rice was the assistant secretary of state for African affairs at the time Chief Abiola died on July 7, 1998.
Our correspondent had sought her comment over what happened before the late business mogul started gasping for breath after allegedly taking a cup of tea that was served by Rice. But after waiting for another three hours and no response was forthcoming, our correspondent called Rice’s number and her secretary said that the ambassador had said she would not be making any comments on the matter owing to her personal reasons.
Also, a former United States ambassador to Nigeria who was also with the former Social Democratic Party (SDP) presidential candidate on the day he died, Thomas Pickering, declined to make comments when our correspondent sent him an electronic mail.
Controversy had trailed the aftermath of the political impasse that followed the annulled June 12 election by the then Gen Ibrahim Babangida-led military junta as there were rumours that the late Abiola died as a result of a poisoned cup of tea that was personally handed to him by Rice in the presence of Pickering.
Information had it that the tea that Rice served Abiola had already been poisoned by agents of the then federal government of Nigeria.
Pickering’s aides stationed at his Woodrow Institute office, who refused to mention his name to our correspondent during a telephone conversation, initially promised to get a comment from him but later said that the former US ambassador would not like to speak on the issue due to security reasons.
The aide also refused to release Ambassador Pickering’s direct mobile numbers when pressed by LEADERSHIP on Wednesday morning.
Our correspondent also made several efforts to get the reactions of Ambassador Rice who has just been named as the incoming national security adviser to President Barack Obama but she did not make any comment on the issue when telephone calls were placed on her office lines at the United States Permanent Mission the the United Nations.
When our correspondent first called, the secretary of the United States Mission in New York, Ms Harrera Kathleen, said that the ambassador was not ready to partake in the telephone interview that was earlier suggested by our correspondent.
She advised that our correspondent should send an electronic mail consisting of the questions that Ambassador Rice was expected to answer to her personal e-mail address. But after the e-mail was sent, Ms Kathleen warned that our correspondent should not continue until a response was given by Rice.