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Presidential Media Chat
Sunday, 24th June, 2012
"If we are broke, nobody will come and invest here. The Chinese will run away, the Indians will run away… I don’t run the economy."
Security and Boko Haram
“Security is a global challenge now, not just in Nigeria. Just like the economic recession is global, different countries are having their share. Security issues are not issues that we are going to discuss in details. The issues of dialogue continue to come up. Some people feel that government should not dialogue with terrorists and criminals. That is the position of some, particularly in the West. But to us in this country and to me in particular, the Boko Haram members are Nigerians and I don’t want to lose the life of one Nigerian. I will love a situation where the Boko Haram people will stop the rubbish that they are doing so that they can be trained in business skills that will enable them to become productive and contribute to our economy.”
“Government will like to dialogue with Boko Haram but presently, Boko Haram has no face. Nobody will come and tell you I am the leader of Boko Haram. And government will not dialogue with a faceless group. You must have a face; you must tell us the reason why you are doing what you are doing. Then of course, we will dialogue. We want them to change; we want them to become decent citizens; to become top businessmen in this country.”
“They believe that when they attack a church, Christian youths will revolt against Muslim youths, and they don’t care about who dies in the process. They also think that government will be destabilised when they are attacking churches. Watch out, if it doesn’t work, of course, we will stop it, but if it doesn’t work, the same Boko Haram will start attacking mosques to instigate Muslim youths to attack Christians.”
“The issue of Boko Haram which is giving Nigeria the indignity of security challenges which government is dealing with, definitely we will get over it.”
Public Asset Declaration
“The issue of public asset declaration is a matter of personal principle. 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 political 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.”
Timing of his trip to Brazil
“I have no regrets travelling to Brazil for the Rio Conference last 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 travelled 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 government from moving.The day the international community gets to know that the President of Nigeria could not travel because of Boko Haram, we are finished.”
Sack of former Defence Minister and NSA and Appointment of New Defence Minister
“Relating to the changes we made where the Minister of Defence was removed. We have not named anyone yet because that one has to get to the Senate. We cannot announce any name because it is the Senate that has to clear him or her. So we don’t announce until the Senate clears. But the NSA, which is a Political Adviser position, some other person has taken over.”
“Those two who occupied those two offices have done well. But if you look at the evolution of Boko Haram, they have changed their tactics. The interest of terrorists is to destabilise government. If they use one thing it doesn’t work, they want to use another thing. So, you too will begin to change your personnel, change your style, (and) change your strategy. I also thought it was time some other hands came in to do things slightly differently; it’s not that the people who were there before did not do well. They (Azazi and Bello) worked very hard. We will continue to adjust our security architecture and where there is the need to change personnel to fit into the new programme, we will surely do that.“
“Let us face the challenges of the country first. If I say I am running, the heat will even be more. Let’s see what we can do in terms of wealth creation. It is too early to talk about 2015. When INEC opens the gate, we will know who will contest and who will not. It is too early for Nigerians to be interested in whether Jonathan will run or not. When I came up with the concept of tenure of seven years, people were worried whether I wanted to serve for four years and come back for a single seven-year tenure but I said, ‘No, It is not about me.”’
“Even though I do not want to talk about 2015 now because the time is still far, the North should know that only Nigerians have the power to stop anyone from becoming president; even if Jonathan wants to run today, the North cannot stop him because apart from the fact that he has the right to run, the North should equally know that they are not born to rule over others in the country.”
‘Body Language,’ Anti-Corruption Crusade & Farida Waziri Removal
“A lot of people misunderstand me, I am calm because we have many mischievous people. If you have the privilege of being a ranking official, you must be careful. The new ICPC will impress Nigerians.”
“I give them (EFCC and ICPC) the latitude, I am one Nigerian who has the privilege of holding this office that gives these people the latitude to do their work. When I give you a job, I will give you time to do it. Assuming somebody, who is heading an agency that is supposed to handle corruption, is not doing that and he says it is because of the President’s body language, that person is not competent. But I am happy that Nigerians have confidence in the EFCC.
“Of course, there was a lady (Farida Waziri) who was there. There were lots of complaints. Some may be right, some may be wrong but perception matters so much when handling matters like corruption. The confidence of the people must be there. I had to remove her and that does not mean she is guilty of the allegations but because I saw that Nigerians no longer had confidence in her.”
"Lamorde investigated me when I was governor of Bayelsa State. So, if I need somebody I could control, I wouldn't have chosen Lamorde. I have confidence in Lamorde."
Fuel Subsidy Scam Report and Otedola-Lawan Scandal
"The PDP has a Board of Trustees and since the fuel subsidy probe report was made known, no PDP member was indicted in that report. So the claims that PDP was indicted are wrong. All the noise that the President is part of the Farouk sting operation is wrong. Yes, I have heard about the Farouk issue and the matter is being investigated by relevant agencies. As a president I don't have time for that. Femi Otedola is a business man, why would I be involved in the sting operation? The questions on Farouk are questions you have to take up with the SSS. One thing I discovered is that criticising Jonathan and Jonathan's administration is a serious business among Nigerians. People don't know that I initiated the subsidy probe before the Senate and the House of Representatives started it. Just yesterday I read a story in Punch Newspapers and I have directed the EFCC to start investigating Nigeria's accounts in the United States following the newspaper report."
“Even before the House of Representatives started the probe, Senate was probing the oil subsidy. Conventionally, when one arm of the National Assembly is doing something, one will have to wait.But even before the Senate and the House, the Federal Government set up panel that was looking into this; it was published in national dailies. One of them was headed by Mallam Nuhu Ribadu. Ribadu is not a Peoples Democratic Party member; he was an Action Congress of Nigeria presidential candidate for the 2011 poll and somebody who headed the EFCC and the whole world liked him.”
“So, if I had something to hide or the Ministry of Petroleum had something to hide, we would not go and bring Ribadu. We feel that this country belongs to all of us. I asked Segun Aganga when he was Minister of Finance to get an international audit firm to audit the NNPC, Petroleum Development Fund and all the major areas where we were losing money.”
Epileptic Power Supply and Increase in PHCN Tariff
“When we were campaigning, we didn’t know that BH will overtake the priorities of government.”
“Some of the basic things needed before the importation of more transformers were not put in place. For example, the pipelines that would bring gas to the turbines have not been put in place. Where the transmission lines would pass are not ready also. However, with time we would get over it. The gas Nigeria is depending upon belongs to multinational companies and they have invested heavily on it. It takes time to address this issue with the multinational companies, with time it would be addressed. Periodically, the Minister of Power will brief the country on this issue.”
"Nigerians have been paying tariffs before now. What we did was to adjust the tariff for Nigerians to pay more. Those with low income will pay less than what they were paying before now, while higher income consumers will pay more. If we can generate electricity freely and distribute it freely without it affecting our economy we would have done so."
On the time frame for steady power supply, he said the government is working to improve the power situation in the country, adding however, that the government cannot give a specific time frame.
Renaming of UNILAG
“It is just like declaring a state of emergency. There is no law that says you must first contact the Senate before changing the name. People may like it or not, but we acted within the law. You do not consult the Senate before changing the name of a university.”
Appearance before the House of Representatives
“I heard that they wanted to invite me to the National Assembly. I have a good relationship with the National Assembly; it is not as if there are no issues, no doubt about that, especially in a presidential system. Inviting me to the National Assembly is not even an issue. In most countries when the president wants to address the nation he goes to the National Assembly to address. But here it is limited to budget presentation. I am even trying to see if I can, outside the budget, have an annual address. In some countries it is even more than two times a year that a President address the nation through the National Assembly.”
Criticisms and Social Media
“Criticizing Jonathan and Jonathan administration is big business. When I took over as president, I told my close friends that they will hear people abusing me in 2012 until 2013 when they will start to see results and the insults will reduce. 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.
“We are giving cotton seeds free in the North... we are revolutionizing agriculture”
The live media chat was anchored by Ohi Alegbe of NTA; with Edward Dickson of Tribune; Ishak Modibo Kawu, Vanguard columnist and Maupe Ogun of Channels as panellists.ShareThis