LAGOS—President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, flagged off his campaign for re-election with a declaration that his generation has failed Nigeria.
While addressing youths at the campaign ground, the President told them to work for the future of Nigeria, through hard work and dedication, adding that the youths are the ones to take the country to the moon.
He vowed not to resort to crude tactics to combat the major challenges of corruption and insecurity that have plagued the country.
He also said that voting for the opposition APC was like returning Nigerians to prison. Speaking before an impressive crowd at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos, the president directed his address mainly to the youths who he said were not privy to the rules of the jungle which his challengers were aiming to return the country to.
The president who had all serving governors of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and some principal officials of the National Assembly in attendance, repeatedly flayed the campaign agenda and endorsements received by his All Progressives Congress, APC, challenger, General Muhammadu Buhari.
President Jonathan, however, did not once mention Buhari by name in his nearly 30 minutes speech.
The president, for the first time, also disclosed that the October 1, 2010 attack by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, on the Eagles Square, Abuja was an assassination attempt directed at him. Shortly after the attack the president had, however, absolved MEND from culpability. But yesterday, he firmly blamed the body which has recently endorsed Buhari for the attack.
Before the president spoke, yesterday, the party chairman, Alhaji Adamu Mu‘azu had presented the party’s governorship flag bearers with the party’s flag.
Jonathan is a builder — Mimiko
The party leader in the Southwest, Governor Olusegun Mimiko had earlier welcomed the president to the Southwest praising him for his efforts in office, particularly, the rehabilitation of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway and the revival of the railways as he affirmed Dr. Jonathan to be a true democrat and unlike some born-again democrats.
In an apparent reference to Buhari, Mimiko had said: “We can remember the anti-human decision to terminate the Lagos metro line project by some other government. That project into which the Jakande-led administration had committed a whopping sum of N70 million (about $75 million at that time) was meant to put an end to the traffic nightmare in Lagos metropolis through the installation of a circuit of rail lines that would have stretched from Agege to Marina, Ikorodu in the north and Badagry in the east, ferrying nearly a million people a day, 31-years ago. While some chose to destroy, you have chosen to build,” Mimiko had said.
The campaign flag off paralysed movements around the TBS as many roads including the one adjoining the official residence of the Lagos State Governor were shut to traffic by security men. Yesterday’s flag off did not formally start until 12.30 pm shortly after the president arrived and took a tour round the square to greet party supporters.
Supporters of the party’s governorship candidates, who were bussed in for the function, also seized the opportunity to show off their candidates on poster boards. One exception was Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Ms Jumoke Akinjide, whose posters with the depiction “Jumoke for Jonathan” were conspicuously carried by many women in the arena.
Vice-President Namadi Sambo in his remarks also urged the people to reject the message of the opposition in Lagos.
Following speeches by PDP Governors Forum Chairman, Governor Godswill Akpabio and the National Chairman, the president delivered his speech which he said would be mainly directed at the youths on the claim that his generation was a failure.
Our generation has failed — Jonathan
“I believe that the young Nigerians are the future, we are finished. We believe that the youths will be the ones that will take us to the moon, my generation has failed because we could not take Nigeria to the moon.”
He continued: “I don’t want to address old people like me because we (his generation) are spent already. I am going to dwell on three things because those, who said they are going to take over from the PDP have been telling a lot of lies. They have hired people all over the world and are feeding people with lies on the social media. They are painting all sorts of colours and giving you all sorts of claims that they cannot defend.”
He listed the three points as his administration’s attitude towards corruption; alleged weakness of his government and the perceptions of lack of planning.
Noting the challenge from Buhari on the administration’s alleged failure to address the insecurity in the land, the President said: “They talked about insecurity. They said they will fight insecurity. And I ask, are our armed forces weak? If we have problems, what is the cause? Equipment. Somebody who told young people that he is going to fight insecurity, ask him if he bought one riffle for Nigerian soldiers when he was the Head of State. These people did not buy anything for the Nigerian soldiers. They refused to equip them. Ask them what they did with their defense budget.
“They said my government is corrupt and that we are not fighting corruption. Only yesterday, I addressed anti-corruption agencies and told them that people are deceiving young Nigerians. I said that they must tell Nigerians what they are doing.
“We have arrested more people and done more convictions. Let me apologise to some Nigerian federal civil servants who did not receive their December salaries early enough and I will tell you what happened. I apologise to those families that suffered because we believe and I believe that for you to fight corruption, we must take measures. If they had succeeded in fighting corruption, corruption would not have been with us today. If they had set up structures especially with the days of modern science and technology using ICT, to manage resources, we would not have been talking about corruption today.
Fight against corruption
“What happened in December was because of a software that is used for processing salary packages. Sometimes, people steal through salaries and some federal government agencies, including some ministries try to divert funds to try and pay for some allowances and the system is scientific. It is not a human being. Once money meant to pay salaries is diverted, it shuts you down and those departments of government were shut down.
This is the only way you can prevent corruption.”
The president also noted the administration’s success in combating corruption in the agriculture sector especially through fertiliser distribution. Affirming that brutal responses would not end corruption, the president said: “If somebody tells you that the best way to fight corruption is to come and arrest your uncle and father and show him on television and jail him, it won’t stop corruption. It even encourages corruption. Armed robbery is still with us, we are shooting armed robbers, is that stopping armed robbery?
“So, arresting people and showing them on television will not stop it; we must set up institutions and strengthen them to prevent people from touching the money and that is what we are working on and we are succeeding.”
The president also noted the administration’s success in effective distribution of petroleum products affirming that Nigerians do not have to sleep in petrol stations to buy fuel.
Alluding to issues that haunted the administration arising from the procurement of arms, he said: “We talked about corruption and they say that the military is corrupt. When this crisis of insecurity came up, we had nothing, so to get these equipment quickly, we had to use vendors to procure them; but now, what we are doing is government to government transaction. Any new procurement we are doing whether for the Air Force, Navy or Army, is government to government. There is nothing like corruption any more even if we had some issues. Is that not the way to fight corruption?
“You must prevent people from touching your money and this is what government is doing and succeeding in a number of areas especially in the procurement area. If you look at it, we are reducing corruption.”
Umaru Dikko’s abduction
Referring to the aborted kidnap of Alhaji Umaru Dikko from Britain by the Buhari administration in 1984, Dr. Jonathan said: “They say we are weak but we know that there were some people who, while they were abroad, some people drugged them and put them in crates and attempted to fly them to Nigeria but they were intercepted by superior powers. That blocked Nigerians from even going to Britain; the whole world isolated Nigeria. They say that is the best way to fight corruption. Is that the way to stop corruption? Not to follow due process? So, immediately I suspect your uncle, I just go and crate him and put him in Kirikiri (Kirikiri Prison). Is that the way to stop corruption?”
Noting that Buhari’s anti-corruption stance was a posture to deal with enemies, he said: “They want power at all cost, all they want to use power for is to lock up and imprison their enemies. I have no enemies to fight. I won’t stop corruption by arresting people and putting them in jail. You cannot stop corruption that way.”
Empowerment of youths
Lamenting the failures of his generation, the president said his administration decided to motivate the younger generation with sharp ideas. “Government feels that Nigerians are very dynamic people, creative and industrious people and, as you know, we are over 200 million people but we cannot touch everybody the same day.
“We came up with the concept of YOUWIN to give grants and not loans to young Nigerians that have ideas. We have done that and some of them are already manufacturing things. In the next five years or so, some of them will be exporting things out of the country. Can you do that without planning? And they say we have no plans for the youths, let them come and tell us the plans they have for the youths. Look at what India is doing, look at what countries that we were at par at independence are doing. Do you want to go back to those days where they had no plans for the youths?”
In a throw back to the military era, he referred to the Buhari regime which he said had no single woman in cabinet. In a shocker before he concluded, the president who had earlier in 2010 defended MEND of allegations of orchestrating the 2010 Independence Day bomb attack at the Eagle Square, Abuja reversed himself, yesterday, saying the attack was an assassination attempt on him, the president.
He said: “Let me say one thing and conclude. I read in a paper recently where it said ‘MEND dumps Jonathan’. I am from the Niger Delta, the leader of MEND is one Okar. Okar is in a South African prison because on October 1, 2010, when we were to celebrate our 50th Independence anniversary, Okar was hired by some Nigerians to assassinate me.
“Okar bombed Abuja and the attempt was to assassinate me but intelligence report from South Africa hinted me on the plan to assassinate me. He is now in jail in South Africa and they said MEND dumped Jonathan. Okar that wanted to assassinate Jonathan, will he support Jonathan? I am told that Okar is supporting some people.”
Notable PDP stalwarts present included among others: Vice-President Namadi Sambo, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, Senator President, David Mark; Emeka Ihedioha, Governors Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Theodore Orji (Abia), Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), Lyel Imoke (Cross River), Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti), Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), Jonah Jang (Plateau), Isa Yuguda (Bauchi), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina) Idris Wada (Kogi) Aliyu Babangida (Niger) Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo (Gombe), Alhaji Jelili Adesiyan, Minister for Police Affairs; Mrs Deziani Allison Madueke, Minister for Petroleum Resources; Kem Achikwe, Sen Modu Sheriff, former Governor of Borno State; Sen Bala Mohammed, FCT Minister; Mrs Olajumoke Akinjide, Minister of State for FCT; Musiliu Obanikoro, former Minister of State for Defence; Tom Ikimi, former Foreign Affairs Minister; Nuhu Ribadu, former EFCC Chairman and Senator Iyiola Omisore.