by Stanley Azuakola
On Tuesday, former Ghanaian President John Kuffour was in Nigeria, where he delivered this year’s Independence anniversary lecture which had as title – Nigeria: Security, Development and National Transformation.
The talking point post-event, however, were the remarks made at the event by Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan. Lots of Nigerians were miffed by some of the things the president said, and expressed worry about the kind of advice he might be getting. You’ll see why shortly. Here are ten quotes from his speech.
1. The January protest against the removal of subsidy was stage-managed and was not a genuine move by ordinary Nigerians.
“Take the case of Lagos, Lagos is the critical state in the nation’s economy, it controls about 53 per cent of the economy and all tribes are there. The demonstration in Lagos, people were given bottled water that people in my village don’t have access to, people were given expensive food that the ordinary people in Lagos cannot eat. So, even going to eat free alone attracts people. They go and hire the best musician to come and play and the best comedian to come and entertain; is that demonstration? Are you telling me that that is a demonstration from ordinary masses in Nigeria who want to communicate something to government? For me, if I see somebody is manipulating anything, I don’t listen to you, but when I see people genuinely talking about issues, I listen. I am hardly intimidated by anybody who wants to push any issue he has. I believe that that protest in Lagos was manipulated by a class in Lagos and was not from the ordinary people.”
2. Who implements this transformation agenda we keep talking about? Answer: It is not the government.
“Government everywhere must create environment for development and transformation, so I agree the lead must be the government but the people must be the implementators if we must transform our country. I agree that the leader must be the key actor for transformation, but those who will implement are the citizens. For instance, during the election, we advocated one man one vote, we were totally committed and I said it that nobody should rig election for me. But Nigerians believed that we were sincere and because they knew we were sincere, it took the life of its own. No, I don’t need to go and preach again. We have monitored elections in Edo and other places, nobody wants to compromise with his vote. It’s government that created that environment, but it’s not government that will enforce it, it is the citizen.”
3. The president is not all that bad, people… or so he says.
“I said, I did not just come out from the blues to contest the election, I was deputy governor for six and half years, I was a governor for one and half years, I was a vice president, and before election, I was the president up to April when the elections were conducted, people knew me. So, within this period, including when I even acted, if I was that bad, will people have voted for me? So for Nigerians to have voted for me overwhelmingly, that means there must have been something they were expecting and definitely six months would have been too short to pass any valid judgement. But the media condemned me.”
4. A quick exposition on the types of Boko Haram, as well as the types of media in Nigeria (Spoiler: It’s not print, electronic, or social media)
“And I believe it’s not just the media, like when we talk about the Boko Haram, we have political Boko Haram, religious Boko Haram and criminal Boko Haram. So also in the media, you have the professional media and the political media. That is why I talk about the political media, because of the interest of 2015, whatever you do is immaterial, the government must be brought down. And that mentality cuts across most African countries and even outside Africa.”
5. One thing I ask of thee, says Mr President.
“So I will plead with us as Nigerians that whenever we elect government into power at whatever level, at least for the sake of the country, allow the government to work before going into unnecessary overheating the system. When you talk of providing infrastructure, whether power, water, there is nothing you can use the magic wand to provide for the people, it takes time. To build your personal house, there must take a good number of days not to talk of infrastructure like power in a country like Nigeria and with the challenges we have and so on and so forth.”
6. It would help if Nigerians, especially the media stop abusing privileges though –like this:
“Take the media environment for instance, we signed the Freedom of Information Bill into law, it became the Freedom of Information Act, but are we using it in the way we are supposed to use it? Are some of us not abusing the privileges? The media environment that should have helped our transformation agenda are being used negatively, these are some of the issues we need to address.”
7. Mirror, mirror on the wall, which is the greatest problem of them all?
“But I believe what we face in Nigeria though not peculiar to us; one of our greatest problems is what I described as political security. When you have unending political conflicts in Nigeria, the country cannot develop. I believe political security is a big issue. There is this axiom that the pen is mightier than the sword. The sword is used to kill and destroy, but what we use the pen to do is also very critical. When you have society with these unending political conflicts, it brings a lot of insecurity to the system and sometimes people begin to doubt your government. For example, immediately after the 2011 election, not quite six months, the kind of media hype that started hitting us made us to stop and ask where this coming from?”
8. And of course, no occasion is complete these days without lamenting about how awful Nigerians keep abusing the most abused president in this critically abused planet.
“The way Nigerians challenge and abuse me, yes the President has enormous power, but if you use that enormous power to some extent, you will look like a dictator. In a democratic setting, you want to create an environment where people can create their opinion and that is why people are allowed to talk freely and demonstrate. But are we doing so properly”.