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“It’s too early to judge me” – Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday said that Nigeria’s greatest problem is political security. He disclosed that the country cannot develop in the face of this unending political conflicts and crisis.
The president said this at the 52nd Independence anniversary lecture tagged, Nigeria: Security, Development and National Transformation which had former President of Ghana, John Kufour as one of the speakers.
Jonathan, said that at least for the sake of the country, Nigerians should allow the government to work before going into unnecessary overheating of the system, asserting that six months would have been too short to pass any valid judgment on him, adding that is rather a media war on his administration.
“Peace is one of the cardinal marks of a leader. In the monarchy in the olden days, the king had maximum power but for your kingdom to be stable you must have the military strength. So without stability of any state we cannot develop.
“I agree totally with President Kufour who really gave us the break down of the kind of security situation that we have.
“When you talk of insecurity of using bombs and guns to kill people that has been described as physical security but in terms of social security, food security, health and the justice system, all have to do with the security of the individual.
“But I believe what we face in Nigeria though not peculiar to us, one of our greatest problems is what I described as political security. Government can continue to provide physical security but also very important is the political security. When you have unending political conflicts in Nigeria, the country cannot develop.
“I believe political security is a big issue. There is this axiom that the pen is mightier than the sword. The sword is used to kill and destroy but what we use the pen to do is also very critical. When you have society with these unending political conflicts on the media whether print, electronic or social media, it brings a lot of insecurity to the system and some times people begin to doubt your government.
“For example when we were contesting election we promised it will be free and fair. I was convinced I must do that even if I will lose the election. After our election in 2007, even the presidents in our neighboring West African states were finding it difficult to congratulate us because the observers felt the election was not properly done. That hounded us even when we traveled out and I promised myself that if I have the opportunity to preside over election, I will do something different even at my expense at least for the sake of the country. And we did that but unfortunately, though there were crises in some parts of the country, observers felt the election was reasonably free and fair compared to others. But immediately after that election, not quite six months, the kind of media hype that started hitting us made us to stop and ask where is this coming from?
“I said I did not just come out from the blues to contest the election, I was deputy governor for six and half years, I was a governor for one and half years, I was a vice president, and before election, I was the president up to April when the elections were conducted, people knew me. So within this period including when I even acted, if I was that bad would people have voted for me? So for Nigerians to have voted for me overwhelmingly that means there must have been something they were expecting and definitely six months would have been too short to pass any valid judgment. But the media condemned me.
He disclosed that the media is abusing the use of FOI Acts, “And I believe it is not just the media. When we talk about the Boko Haram, we have political Boko Haram, religious Boko Haram and criminal Boko Haram. So also in the media, you have the professional media and the political media. That is why I talk about the political media. Because of the interest of 2015 whatever you do is immaterial, the government must be brought down. And that mentality cuts across most African countries and even outside Africa.
“So addressing insecurity is critical in developing African states. When you have this unending political conflict, especially in a country like Nigeria that is highly religious and with high ethno-tribal sentiments, it becomes very potent to even create a lot of problems for government.
“So I will plead with us as Nigerians that whenever we elect government into power at whatever level, at least for the sake of the country we should allow the government to work before going into unnecessary overheating of the system.
The President also advised Nigerians against overheating the polity, “When you talk of providing infrastructure whether power or water, there is nothing you can use the magic wand to provide for the people. It takes time to build your personal house, it must take a good number of days not to talk of infrastructure like power in a country like Nigeria and with the challenges we have.
“I believe our greatest problem is political conflict. For a typical politician, the day you win election is the day you start the next election.
“So as government we are committed to creating the enabling environment. I’m quite pleased with the way President Kufour spoke on the issue of transformation. I agree that the leader must be the key actor for transformation but those who will implement are the citizens. For instance, during the election, we advocated one man one vote, we were totally committed and I said it that nobody should rig election for me. But Nigerians believed that we were sincere and because they knew we were sincere, that took the life of its own. No I don’t need to go and preach again.
“We have monitored elections in Edo and other places, nobody wants to compromise with his vote. It is government that created that environment but it is not government that will enforce it, it is the citizen.
“That is why we are a bit worried that sometimes when government creates the environment, whether economic, social or even the media, how the citizens use those privileges matters so much.
“Take the media environment for instance, we signed the Freedom of Information bill into law, it became the Freedom of Information Act, but are we using it in the way we are supposed to use it? Are some of us not abusing the privileges? The media environment that should have helped our transformation agenda are being used negatively, these are some of the issues we need to address.
“The way Nigerians challenge and abuse me, yes the president has enormous power but if you use that enormous power to some extent you will look like a dictator. In a democratic setting, you want to create an environment where people can create their opinion and that is why people are allowed to talk freely and demonstrate. But are we doing so properly?”. He queried.
On the January subsidy protest by the organized Labour, the President said “the citizens were right, in a way they maybe right, in a way they were also misinformed. If you had followed the last Earth Summit in Brazil, about two countries came out to condemn the issue of subsidizing hydro carbon all over the world. They stated that subsidizing hydro carbon does not bring development?
“Look at the demonstrations back home, look at these areas this demonstrations are coming from, you begin to ask, are these the ordinary citizens that are demonstrating? Or are people pushing them to demonstrate.
“Take the case of Lagos, Lagos is the critical state in the nation’s economy, it controls about 53 per cent of the economy and all tribes are there. During the demonstration in Lagos, people were given bottled water that people in my village don’t have access to, people were given expensive food that the ordinary people in Lagos cannot eat. So even going to eat free food alone attracts people. They go and hire the best musician to come and play and the best comedian to come and entertain, is that demonstration? Are you telling me that that is a demonstration from ordinary masses in Nigeria who want to communicate something to government?
“For me, if I see somebody is manipulating anything I don’t listen to you but when I see people genuinely talking about issues I listen. I am hardly intimidated by anybody who wants to push any issue he has. I believe that that protest in Lagos was manipulated by a class in Lagos and was not from the ordinary people.
“Government everywhere must create environment for development and transformation, so I agree the lead must come from the government but the people must be the implementator if we must transform our country.” He added.