Goodluck Jonathan, a former president of Nigeria, has said he is proud of his democratic credentials while in office saying that he never imprisoned his critics for writing or speaking against him.
Dr. Jonathan said this during his remarks at the merit award dinner hosted by the Nigeria Lawyers Association of the US in New York.
The former president said he ensured that there was freedom of speech and freedom after speech during his administration and that he made sure he upheld the provisions of the Nigerian constitutions by following the principles of federal character in appointments.
“I am proud to say that while we were conscious of the federal character as our constitutional guiding principle, we never placed ethno-religious interest above merit or individual values,” Dr. Jonathan said.
“Accordingly, diversity could remain strength only when all interest groups in the society feel safe and secured, in their day to day activities.
“That is why no matter what any critic said about me, I ensured that there was both freedom of speech and freedom after the speech. Under my watch not a single Nigerian was sent to prison because of anything he or she wrote or said about me or about the administration that I headed.”
The former president said there were neither political prisoners nor prisoners of conscience under him.
“Nigeria had no political prisoners under my administration and we certainly did not have any prisoners of conscience because we ourselves ensured that we acted according to our conscience in all we did,” he said.
“You in the diaspora can attest to the fact that Nigeria had no political exile. Not only did I take a stance to allow people express their opinions without let or fear, we also enacted the freedom of information Act and by that, we tore the veil of secrecy covering governance. Nigerians deserve to know how their government functions.
“I am proud to say that we gave them knowledge, and that is a genie you cannot put back to the lamp. We gave institutions unlimited freedom and ensured that the Nigeria Bar Association and other professional unions, fraternities and guilds were completely devoid of any governmental influence.
“Finally, we enacted the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, one of the most progressive criminal justice acts ever signed in Nigeria. The provisions of this Act are geared toward ensuring that the system of administration of criminal justice in Nigeria promotes efficient management of all criminal justice institutions, speedy dispensation of justice, and protection of the rights and interests of the victim of crime and the suspect. The Act, along with other institutional reforms, will help our country in fighting corruption and other crimes.”
Jonathan described himself as a democrat, saying he made appointments to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) without considering his personal interest.
“I am also proud of my records as a democrat. We gave the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), unconditional freedom and ensured by deliberate actions that elections were free, fair and transparent,” he said.
“We ensured that the transition from one government to the other was peaceful. We achieved this because in constituting the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) we ensured that the appointments were not based on personal relationships.
“This gave the commission credibility and earned the confidence of the electorate. The chairman, Prof Jega, whom I appointed, was a person I had never met in my life. The same sense of patriotism and profound desire to put my country’s interest first influenced the critical decisions I made as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The 2014 National Conference was a platform for all Nigerians, men, women, old and young, from all walks of life, and of diverse backgrounds, to have a conversation about our shared challenges, strengths and weaknesses, with the aim to strengthen our unity. It was not designed to promote the political ambition of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. The chairman of the conference, Justice Kutigi, a retired chief justice of Nigeria (CJN) has stated publicly that I never called him or sent anyone to him to influence any of the conference decisions or recommendations. They were to discuss everything except the sovereignty of Nigeria. My sole interest and total commitment was the unity and advancement of our country.”