President Goodluck Jonathan has declared that he is not ready to join issues with former President Olusegun Obasanjo over the latter’s decision to tear his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) membership card, on Monday.
Jonathan, who granted an interview to a team of Tribune editors, in Lagos, on Thursday, said that senior citizens must always remember the need to keep Nigeria united even when they have cause to disagree politically.
The president used the occasion of his first interview with a Nigerian media outfit to clear the air on a number of issues, including security, the sanctity of the March 28 and April 11 election dates, expected return of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls and fight against corruption.
He said he was confident of winning the rescheduled elections as none of the other candidates had any plan for the country that could rival his.
President Jonathan stated that Obasanjo remained his father, adding that disagreement should be expected between political children and their father.
When asked to comment on his quarrel with the former president and tell Nigerians exactly what was responsible for the criticisms he (Obasanjo) had launched against him in recent times, Jonathan said: “Obasanjo is a father to me.”
The president said: “First and foremost, Obasanjo is a father to me. By divine providence and the grace of God, I am the President of Nigeria today. It is not by my strength. But God uses human beings to actualise His own blessings on human beings. And He used so many Nigerians, including former President Obasanjo, to play one role or the other for me.
“I became the deputy governor of a state, became the governor, the vice president and president. I have no issues with him, and I really don’t want to join issues with President Obasanjo. I think it is not necessary.”
He, however, cautioned those he called senior citizens to always be mindful of the unity and security of the country whenever they have cause to disagree.
“But I will use this opportunity, because you asked, to just plead with my father that he is a leader, a former president of the country. He has led the country more than anybody — eight years of democratic governance and almost four years of military governance. No other person has that kind of record.
“The stability of this country is critical in terms of the economy of this country. Rating agencies downgrade countries that are going into elections because the feeling is that there would be crisis. When you paint the colour of instability for your own nation, you are doing so much injustice to the country because it affects the economy of the country, not just affecting the country in terms of security and social issues alone. It affects the economy directly. So, I plead with very senior citizens that Nigeria is dear to us; we don’t have any other country than Nigeria.
“So, actions and inactions, or utterances, should be guarded so that we don’t expose our country to the international community as if it is a country in danger, a country that is about to collapse. You are frightening investors, especially those who invest hot cash, to pull out their money from the country and that would affect the stock market and it would affect the economy.
“For one reason or the other, Obasanjo may disagree with me as his first political son. You can even disagree with your own biological children, as a human being, not to talk of disagreeing with your political children. So, he can agree or disagree with me, but the utterances have to be managed in a way that it does not affect the economy and security of this country.”
The president also clarified his stance on the alleged single term pact which he has been accused of breaching by some aggrieved PDP leaders.
He said he never signed any single term pact with anybody.
He stated that his comments in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he met with some Nigerians after his election as president in 2011, were taken out of context to create the impression that he opted for a single tenure.
According to him, he advocated a single term of seven years for executive positions and added a caveat that if the nation agreed to that option, he would not seek re-election, as a sacrifice.
He said that he came to the conclusion of the necessity of a single tenure of office for presidents, having checked the enormity of resources the country commits to electioneering every four years.
He added that the nation also goes through lots of security stress and tension during elections, which could be avoided if the single term option is adopted.
The president stated that it would have been immoral for him to spend 12 years on the seat whereas the constitution would only have preferred seven years.
He said that his critics took out a substantial part of his comments in Addis Ababa to colour his position.
“I added something that people are misquoting. I said that I had won the election then, I used one year to complete (late President) Yar’Adua’s tenure and I had won election for four years. If Nigerians agreed to a single term of seven years, it would not be proper for me to contest. That would mean if I win, I would serve as president for 12 years. I said that people would question that ‘why do you want to serve 12 years and incoming presidents would serve seven years?’ Morally, I cannot defend that.
“So, if the country agrees to a single term of seven years, then I will not contest. I would rather lose so that they would know it’s because of my sacrifice because it is something I believe in. I also believe that the interest of the country is more important to me than my individual interest and I said five years was okay, and that even if I stayed here for 100 years, if I won’t work, I won’t work,” he said.
On how he felt watching Obasanjo destroy his PDP membership card on the television, Jonathan said the incident didn’t have effect on him because the attacks had been coming serially and had become commonplace.
The president, who also spoke on the efforts of his administration to tackle corruption and insecurity, said that corruption could not be fought by merely clamping people to prison.
He denied marginalising the South West, insisting that some persons who did not want the PDP to blossom in the geopolitical zone did their best to block the party’s plan to ensure the emergence of the Speaker of the House of Representatives from the zone.
He stated that his government was systematically refusing making it difficult for anyone to pilfer government’s money through the use of technology, while also ensuring the revival of the railways, building of schools and development of road infrastructure.