President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday, January 7, 2015 reprimanded some unnamed senior citizens over their utterances which he described as provocative and divisive, stating that they shouldn’t be seen as elder statesmen, as they behaved more like motor park touts.
President Jonathan gave the tongue-lashing while hosting the executive and members of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Northern Elders Council (NEC) led by Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, adding that occupation of a big office does not automatically make anybody a statesman.
The President also talked on a number of issues, including his background, the unfounded rumour being spread of his animosity towards the North and the need for peace and unity in the country.
Although no name was mentioned, many commentators have said that the individual President Jonathan singled out for lampooning was no other than former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has been visibly critical of the current administration.
In President Jonathan’s words: “Some people call themselves statesmen but they are not statesmen they are just ordinary politicians. For you to be a statesman is not because you have occupied a big office before but the question is what are you bringing to bear. Are you building this country or are you a part of people who tell lies to destroy this country to create enmity and make people who ordinarily would have been living together to fight themselves? Are you planning to set the country ablaze because you did not get that particular thing you want?
“At the appropriate time Nigerians will know all of us even though I know most of you know us but the younger ones do not know. Some people are hiding under some big names and creating a lot of problems in this country. Making provocative statements in this country; statements that will set this country ablaze and you tell me you are a senior citizen. You are not a senior citizen; you can never be. You are ordinary motor park tout.
“Because, if you are a senior citizen you will act like one. It is not because of the offices we occupy, it is by divine grace and providence that some of us occupy these offices. But what role are you playing to build this country?”
“Some people say Jonathan hates the north, I have heard that statement and I used to ask the Vice President, Namadi Sambo: they say I hate the north but you are here. I asked the National Security Adviser and my Principal Secretary the same thing.
“In fact, my Principal Secretary now had been my Principal Secretary since I was the deputy governor. I never knew I was going to come here as Vice President not to talk of President. But I have known him since I was the deputy governor of Bayelsa State.
“My Chief Detail, Yusuf from Borno State, has been with me since I was a deputy governor in Yenagoa and I see him as a good person and I have carried him along with me. So I had to ask how can somebody wake up and say I hate the north?
“I tell Nigerians I come from the down trodden; what you call the Talakawas. I come from that level and I am here today, talking to Alhaji Hassan Adamu because I went to school. And I said the only thing that can liberate an individual or a group of individuals is education. If I did not go to school, I wouldn’t have been here to talk to big people like this.
“This is what I believe in. I don’t play politics with it. It has been my policy that I don’t play politics with education.
“When I came on board I said even though as a country we have the policy on paper, every state must get a federal university. Of the 12 federal universities created, nine are in the north while three are in south. The only three states that had no federal universities were Bayelsa, Ebonyi and Ekiti. Those who were in charge of the university establishment were not fair. For us to liberate ourselves, we must go to school. If I hate the north would I have done that?
“We talked about Almajiri’s education and felt we must change the system. Luckily, we initiated it but now some state governments are keying into it because I know that it was education that liberated me.
“I would have been a local canoe builder like my father and grandfather. But I am here because of education and I feel if we must liberate Nigerian children, whether they are from Zamfara, Bayelsa, Kebbi, Delta, they must be educated.
“I feel we must enter the north with aggression through education. Whenever we get the statistics of school dropouts, I feel unhappy. The number from states in the north, some are about 50 per cent, some even more. The last was up to 70 per cent. I said no, we must change this statistics. Somebody who hates the people cannot talk about educating the children because the people we are educating are the future leaders of this country.”
President Jonathan further stressed for the need to shun ethnic nepotism and work for a peaceful Nigeria, regardless of tribe, urging all Nigerians to work with each other, regardless of the ethnic divide.
He said: “I was told that even the driver of Tafawa Balewa was a Christian. Our people lived together in those days, why not now that we have even modern ways of life. Our children leave us and go abroad, they stay together and do a lot of things together. But when we come back home we begin to build walls. This is a southerner, this is a northerner, this is a Muslim, this is a Christian; this is a Yoruba man, this is an Hausa man, this is an Ijaw man, this is a Nupe man. Is that the way we are going to develop our country?
“America is great today because America is made up of various cultural groups, everybody makes America because ethnic lines have been so weakened that people think about America. And that is why America is great today. Any country that begins to see herself through her tiny tribal enclaves cannot go anywhere.
“If today I’m sick, if the best doctor that can treat me is from Zamfara or Enugu or Ekiti, they will bring that doctor to treat me. They will not ask if that doctor is an Ijaw man, Ogbia or any other tribe.
“And until we get to that level where we begin to use people based on their competences, yes there must be spread in political appointment and so on, but until we get to that level where we don’t discriminate based on primordial privileges that, of course, will be the beginning of our development. And that is what we stand for.
“Today I saw a publication in the Daily Trust showing projects that have been awarded by the Federal Government, the ones for the north-east very small, south-south very many. I had to make photocopies and distributed to all the ministers and I asked if it is true that projects are skewed by this government? Because I am a president from the south, I have taken all the projects to the south?
“And I said all the ministers must come up and tell me how the projects are being distributed across the country and if it is skewed you must tell me why it is so.
“One of the ministers incidentally is from the north, she is in charge of water resources. She said the publication cannot be true because Kashimbila Dam alone, the value is more than the amount quoted in that paper.
“This is to show you how mischievous Nigerians are because you want to paint Jonathan bad. All of lies that have been told about this government, I promise you that I am working with your son and I will not cheat any part of this country.
“For the people who want to paint us in all kinds of colour, we will explain to Nigerians. They are a lot of documentations we will show Nigerians.”
Leader of the NEC delegation, Tanko Yakassai also echoed the words of Mr. President. He said: “The NEC believes in peaceful co-existence and extension of hands of fellowship to brothers and sisters from the other side of the nation.
“Nigeria is passing through political transformation and it is important to all Nigerians and indeed northerners to appreciate the fact that this country was crafted in such a manner that no one section of the country can rule the country without support of the other.
“It is unpatriotic for anybody to instigate people against any person or people because of a temporary gain. Politics of insult, blackmail and castigation of individuals shall not take this country anywhere. We, therefore, believe in peaceful co-existence among Nigerians and by working together shall we move the country forward.”