IN clear terms, President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, previewed 2015 politically and economically and returned a grim verdict: It may be a turbulent year and there is need for Nigerians to pray.
Speaking at the Christ Apostolic Church, Area I, Durumi, Abuja where he joined other worshippers for the last Sunday service of the year, President Jonathan specifically enjoined religious leaders to pray to God to guide him and other politicians in the country aright so that they will not set the country ablaze through their utterances.
On the drop in the price of crude oil, Nigeria’s main foreign revenue earner, Jonathan admitted that the trend will “affect us in one way or the other” but promised that “the economic team is working very hard to stabilise it and we believe that although there may be temporary inconveniences, it will definitely not bring the economy down.”
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, presidential candidate reiterated that the ambition of anybody in the country was not worth the blood of any Nigerian.
The president spoke on a day Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State urged him and Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential standard bearer, to sign a peace accord for the forthcoming general elections.
A tempting year
According to the president, for every office in the country, there are a thousand and one Nigerians who are qualified to occupy such office, so no politician should think that he is the only qualified person for the office.
His words: “Next year is a tempting year for us. Election year in Third World countries is always a turbulent year with all kinds of predictions. I, however, believe that God who brought us to this level will see us through.
“All that I will request of you is to continue to pray for us politicians, myself and other politicians from all political parties, for God to guide us in our utterances and what we do so that we will not sacrifice the lives of Nigerians because of our ambitions.
“Nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian. Pray to God to give us that wisdom and mind to make sure we conduct ourselves in a way that will not set the country ablaze because of our personal ambitions.
“There are so many good Nigerians that can hold the offices we are occupying or aspiring to occupy, it is by privilege of God that we are here in positions to ask for the mandates of Nigerians.
“None of us should begin to think that he is the best person to be anywhere from state houses of assembly to the Presidency. There are a thousand and one Nigerians that are super qualified more than those people who are even aspiring to occupy offices.
“Pray for us that God should give us the wisdom to conduct ourselves in a manner that at the end of the day, this country will triumph.”
Essence of leadership
Emphasising that the essence of leadership is to serve the country and its people, Jonathan said any person seeking to lead would not encourage the killing of people he seeks to lead or the destruction of their property.
He said: “The development of Nigeria is what all of us want. If every aspirant has the mind to develop the people, then you do not need to kill or maim people to get there. You do not need to kill the people you want to develop in order to get to the office you want except if you are aspiring for that office for a different reason.
“If the idea is to help the people, grow the economy and make the people happy, you won’t want to kill, you won’t want to maim or burn down houses, vehicles and property.”
Acknowledging that the country is under going a lot of challenges, the president hoped that the country would overcome the challenges.
“We are facing a lot of challenges now as a nation. The challenges did not start today but somehow, instead of abating, the problems started increasing for one reason or the other. But I am convinced that it would have been worse than this but for your prayers. With the prayers you continue to offer to God, God will see us through,” he said.
Jonathan also acknowledged that Nigeria, as a nation, had not reached where it ought to be, saying his administration had put in place policy measures that will begin to bear fruits in the next four or five years and change the face of the country.
He said: “Those who are taking pains to look at what we are doing will agree with us that if we progress as a nation steadily in this manner, in the next four or five years, this country will be a better place.
“Only a few days back, the Vice President was in Port Harcourt to flag off the Eastern railway. The Western one moving from Lagos to Kano has been running. We will start using the modern one from Kaduna to Abuja by the first quarter of next year and the one from Port Harcourt.
“We relied on agriculture before the oil boom or doom and all that died. We are reviving it and the whole world has appreciated that we are moving forward in agriculture. When they start something, people do not see the benefits immediately. We know that as a nation, we have a lot of challenges in terms of getting jobs for our young graduates and we have set up a lot of programmes that can create job opportunities for our young men. The result may not be obvious immediately but God willing, job opportunities will continue to increase and many more young people will be engaged.”
We’ll work hard to make polls violence-free — APC
However, the APC has assured Nigerians and the international community that it will do all in its power to make sure that the 2015 general elections are violence-free, saying the rising apprehension about the polls among the populace is inimical to the conduct of a successful election.
In a statement issued in Lagos, yesterday, by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said its efforts should be complemented by the PDP-led Federal Government, which has a propensity for using the security agencies to harass and intimidate the opposition and ordinary citizens.
It also said the Federal Government should take necessary measures to ensure that the elections are free, fair and credible, since rigging and other acts of electoral malfeasance constitute the immediate trigger for anger and violence during and after elections.
It said: ”We have heard from Nigerians who are so afraid about possible violence during the forthcoming elections that they are even willing to relocate to other countries until after the elections. But, as the biggest opposition party in Nigeria and a major stakeholder in our nation’s democracy, we are assuring, on our part, that there will be no violence.
”Though our party has no history of violence, we have commenced a nationwide effort to sensitise our members and supporters to the need to eschew rancour and embrace non-violent methods, even in the face of the kind of provocations to which we were subjected during the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, when our members were needlessly harassed, arrested and detained by partisan security agencies acting under orders from the Federal Government.
”If the Federal Government allows a level playing field for all contestants, if the security agencies stop acting as the armed wing of the ruling PDP, if the electoral umpire will carry out its duties without fear, favour or bias and if citizens are allowed to exercise their franchise unmolested, the stage will be set for a non-violent, free, fair and credible polls. In other words, the government has a major role to play in making the forthcoming polls peaceful.
”On our part, in addition to other efforts aimed at ensuring a peaceful election, we pledge to accept the result of an election that is not only free, fair, credible and transparent, but one that is also seen to be so. We hope other parties will make a similar pledge.”
The party said it demonstrated, during its recent rancour-free and festive national convention in Lagos, that elections should be a celebration of democracy, rather than a moment of fear, violence and threat to lives.
It said far from mere rhetoric, it had taken practical steps, as far back as May 2014, to work with the PDP to ensure violence-free polls in 2015.
APC said: ”Following up on a meeting of representatives of both parties in Washington, DC, US, April 7-8 2014 under the auspices of the CSIS Nigeria Election Forum, at which it was agreed that a joint meeting of both parties be convened to discuss and agree on the crucial issue of a Code of Conduct for the campaigns and the elections, we wrote a letter to the PDP suggesting a bipartisan meeting to address the issue.
”The PDP agreed to the proposal and suggested that it should be expanded to include the leadership of other political parties in the country. However, problem with logistics meant that the meeting did not hold.
”Even with the little time left for the election to hold, we strongly believe that a meeting of the leadership of the two political parties, the APC and the PDP, will send a powerful message to our compatriots and indeed the international community and douse the tension that is building up ahead of the election.”