President Goodluck Jonathan says he is not ready to join issues with former President Olusegun Obasanjo over his decision to tear his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) membership card. He said Obasanjo remained his father and such disagreement should be expected between political children and their father.
“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,” he told the Nigerian Tribune in an interview when asked to tell Nigerians what was responsible for the criticisms Obasanjo had launched against him in recent times.
“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.”
However, President Jonathan noted that senior citizens must always remember the need to keep Nigeria united even when they have cause to disagree politically.
“[…]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.”
Jonathan 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 had such pact.
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.
Explaining further, Jonathan said 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, as well as security stress and tension the nation goes through during elections.
“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.