President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday, February 11, 2015 hosted a session of the presidential media chat, the 8th of its kind since his assumption of office in May 2011.
During the course of the session with seasoned journalists: Adesuwa Onyenokwe, Ibanga Isine, Deji Badmus and Ibrahim Sheme, President Jonathan addresses topical issues as affects current-day Nigeria.
The media chat, which was beamed live on television saw President Jonathan answering questions bordering on the forthcoming election, the shift in election date, the missing Chibok girls, insecurity, the rumoured sack of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) among others.
Speaking on the postponement of the election and the possibility of providing adequate security within six weeks when it hadn’t been possible in six years, President Jonathan sighted the acquiring of new weapons by the Nigerian military and the recent formation of a Multi Nation Joint Task Force (MNJTF), aimed at halting the operations of the insurgents from all corners.
He said: “In 2011, when the elections were conducted, we had Boko Haram. Boko Haram started before 2007 but became a major problem when their leader was killed in 2009. Nobody is saying we must wipe out Boko Haram completely before conducting elections.
“We said that security wise, there are certain things that they need so that they can consolidate on the security architecture; so that we can conduct elections but in the next six weeks, security advancements will be made but we cannot say we will wipe out Boko Haram. At best we can only regain territories.
“When they started, they were not taking over territories; they were going to markets and using suicide bombers. Elections will hold and I don’t see why we should continue to doubt the inauguration of next President in May.”
Still on the security issue, the President was quizzed about the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents, President Jonathan said: “I belief the story of Chibok Girls will get better in the next few weeks, but don’t quote me. We are working with our neighbours, we will comb the whole of that place Partying after abduction? It’s unfortunate that people play politics with the issue of Chibok girls. It’s not like that elsewhere. In other countries, political boundaries collapse in the face of terror attacks, not so in Nigeria.
“I believe now that we are working with Chad and Cameroon, in the next few weeks, the story of the Chibok girls will change. It’s going to get better.
“I believe we should be able to rescue some of them. But I don’t want to be quoted, I don’t want you to say the President said so, that in two weeks time or in four weeks time, I cannot say that because the diapperance of those girls has taken quite some time.
“But we have mapped out strategies, we are working with our neighbours and we will comb all the areas. So, just give us sometime.
“People are playing politics with Chibok girls and it is very unfortunate. That is one of the problems that we have in Nigeria. In other countries, when there is an issue of terror, political boundaries collapse and people work together.
“The interest of the country is paramount but in this case when we have terror, then Nigerians believe it is better to go to the United States or the United Kingdom or France and appear on television to celebrate themselves. Is that how we will bring back those girls?
“Let us face facts. When there was 9/11 in the US, how many Americans went round the world criticising their government? Is it by carrying flags and singing around the world that we will bring those girls back? I expected that those with international connections would help the country and not the other way round.”
On rumours of the imminent sack of Jega and his confidence that INEC could conduct credible elections in six weeks, President Jonathan posited that it would have been better if Jega was there to answer the question, adding that he had at no time thought of replacing Jega.
He said: “I wish Jega were here, I could have asked him to answer whether I have confidence in him Yes those who called for his sack may be close to me, but they express their own opinion. More than 80 per cent of those who sponsor messages on our behalf we don’t even know them. People use the reschedule of election to misinform Nigerians.
“I have never thought about removing INEC Chairman, though I have the constitutional power to do so.
“The level of misinformation, especially from young people is high.
“During the Council of State meeting, the issue of security was emphasised and there is no way security chiefs would have disclosed all the details to everybody but they disclosed some things to me which they did not mention to others.
“There are two aspects to the issue of insecurity. The first is Boko Haram and the second is the threat factor in the country.
“When INEC picked the dates for elections, the threat level was not high until we started the campaign. So, it was important for the security chiefs to review the security architecture otherwise the country would have gone up in flames.
“In election, a lot of problems are involved. When the issue of PVC was being branded as a problem, INEC, from what Jega mentioned that day, clearly was not ready for the elections. They said they were ready but they were not.
“The day we held that meeting that led to this adjustment of dates, in Lagos for example, only about 38 per cent of registered voters had their PVCs. That means if we conduct elections in Lagos, 62 per cent of voters not would not have been able to vote.
“Don’t you think there are security implications in that?
“Some other states had slightly above 30 per cent collection while some had 50 per cent and there were some states that had 60 to 70 per cent. The security agencies highlighted the security implications of this but ordinary people might not see it that way.”
President Jonathan also addressed a statement attributed to him that he said stealing was not corruption, saying he was only quoting the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapha.
Mr. President said: “People who told you I said stealing is not corruption did not tell you I said stealing is good. That is why philosophers say that the primary reason people disagree is because people use one statement to explain two typical things or vice versa.
“I made that statement because I quoted the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mustapha, (when) I called a meeting then, with the anti-crime organisations and the judiciary.
“The CJN, Mustapha decided to take a look at the files that dealt with corruption and more than 80 per cent of them were just cases of stealing. But people use corruption to cover all. What I am saying is that let us go to the South-West and go to a typical community and they look at you and say this man is corrupt, people will be looking at you. But call that same man “ole”, that is thief, and see what will happen to him. Our people hate thieves more than corrupt people yet most times, we use corruption to cover the lapses.
“A thief should be called a thief and treated as such. In my village, when an adult steals, they strip him naked, humiliate him and his family, but if you say this man is corrupt, they won’t know what you are talking about. We are using corruption to cover it all up.
“So, let us communicate properly. It was not me that said it, I quoted Mustapha. He examined the corruption cases and he saw that they were just cases of stealing.
“We are identifying thieves; we can talk about what the agencies are doing. We have made more convictions in this period than before. But I always say that the answer is not convicting more people. We must make sure that they don’t steal. Do not put the money where they can steal it. That is what we are doing.”
President Jonathan was also asked if he will hand over to the opposition if he loses. President Jonathan said: “If the elections are conducted and I lose, of course, another president would be sworn in.
“Let me assure Nigerians that a new government will be formed on May 29.They should not be perturbed about rumours that we are planning to send Jega on a terminal leave and other rubbish that is being circulated.
“In 2011, I said I will conduct a free and fair election and that if I lose, I will happily move on and that it should be recorded.
“Then I just concluded the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s tenure. I said I will be happy to go if I lose. I said this nation is more important than anybody. Anyone who wants to hold the office of President and feels he is more important than the nation is not right.
“So if as of 2011, I made a commitment that if I lose I will go, it should tell you more about my stand on free and fair elections.
“But now, Nigerians have given me the opportunity to be here for four good years and so if the elections are conducted and I lose, of course, we will inaugurate a new government.
“The rumour that I will not hand over or that I am scheming to prolong my tenure are insinuations; they are not true. Those are insinuations; it is quite unfortunate that so much wrong information is floating in the system.”