by Hauwa Gambo
In case you thought President Goodluck Jonathan stays awake all night worried sick about what you think of his personal integrity (and almost everything else), well he has five words for you: “I don’t give a damn.”
He gave that response to the question of a public declaration of his assets; a popular trend begun by his predecessor in office, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, but Dr. Jonathan says he will not succumb to any pressure to follow suit.
“The issue of public asset declaration is a matter of personal principle.,” he said. “That is the way I see it, and I don’t give a damn about it, even if you criticise me from heaven. When I was the Vice President , that matter came up, and I told the former President, let’s not start something that would make us play into the hands of people and create an anomalous situation in the country.”
“The law is clear. A public officer should declare his assets, and if there are issues, then the relevant agencies would have a basis to assess whether you have amassed wealth or not. When it is said that people should declare their assets in public, it is not only the President or the vice President, it includes everybody, including Ministers.
“When I was a governor in Bayelsa state for about a year before becoming vice president, I was investigated thoroughly. I have nothing to hide. But, because I was under somebody and it was becoming an issue, because of the media, and because my boss had declared, it was said that the vice President must. I declared, not because I wanted to.
“Initially I said they can talk about it from morning to night, I will not. I said it is a matter of principle. It is not proper. If one amends the law to say that only the President and the Vice should declare assets publicly, fine. But, presently everybody who is holding political office is expected to do, and I say it is not right. Those who made the law knew why they put the law that way. I could be investigated when I leave office.
“You don’t need to declare assets publicly, otherwise you are playing to the gallery.You don’t need to publicly declare assets. That’s a matter of principle. If I have to declare publicly, it means every polictical office holder will have to declare publicly. And it is not the right thing to do. That is my belief.
“It is not the President’s declaration of assets that would change the economy. There are challenges security, power and revolutionising agriculture. These are areas we should be interested in . Whether Mr. Jonathan publicly declares his assets or not is not the issue.”
It was truly an interview of many “quotable quotes”.
What you think of his controversial trip to Brazil while citizens were dying in the North from blasts and attacks? He doesn’t give a damn: “I have no regrets travelling to Brazil for the Rio Conference lat week. The issue of Boko Haram is very pathetic. I sympathise with people who have lost relations and property. People feel unsafe, and I feel the pain. As the president, if one person dies, I feel so sad.
“A lot of Nigerians who were worried that I traveled to Brazil did so out of ignorance. “One of the tactics of terrorists is to strangle government . If they hear that the President, Vice President or Ministers could not travel because of their activities, they would celebrate.
““The government of Nigeria must not stop for a second because of terror. Let the relevant security agencies continue to do their work and allow government to continue to function. The day government stops functioning, it communicates very serious negative signals to the international community. If government stops to function, we would have played into the hands of the terrorists.
“Boko Haram and their sponsors cannot and will never stop the governemnt from moving.”
The chat also touched on agriculture, anti-corruption, his relationship with the National Assembly, his curious closeness with businessmen such as Femi Otedola and Aliko Dangote (the former he seemed to defend in the light of bribery accusations), the Farouk Lawan bribe scandal, 2015 ambitions, railway, YouWin! (the government’s business plan competition for young people), and electricity for which he had this to say: “When we were campaigning (and making promises on electricity), we didn’t know that Boko Haram will overtake our priorities as government.”
And then for you pesky young people who will criticise his responses at the chat from the safety of your Twitter handles, he had this to say: “The kind of abuse they abuse me, if you hear you won’t go to the market,” adding that the anonymity of social media means it is difficult to listen to the criticism it brings – and, oh, some critics have turned it “into a business”.
He will also not be going back on his decision to re-name the University of Lagos, saying the students are too younng to understand the significance of MKO Abiola. “What we did, was the normal procedure,” he insisted.
Then there’s one for the road: “I promise Nigerians that I will not disappoint them; I stand by my promise.”
The president has spoken.