The president said he is not ‘anti-North’
President Goodluck Jonathan has challenged his critics, the opposition, and other Nigerians not to judge his performance by those of previous Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, administrations; but to measure his achievement based on his tenure as president.
Mr. Jonathan is a member of the PDP, the party that has ruled Nigeria since return to democracy in 1999.
The President, who was speaking at a meeting with North West delegates of the PDP, led by former Minister of Defence, Bello Haliru, also noted that he is not bothered by the several criticisms against his administration as most of them are illogical and cheap blackmails that only exist in newspapers and television stations.
According to the President, such blackmails are further advanced in the media in a format that is not new in the Nigerian political system towards an election year.
The president also indicated that he wants Nigerians to ignore the first year he spent as Nigeria’s president between May 2010 and 2011; and not judge him by his (in)actions then. Mr. Jonathan, who was formerly vice president, was sworn-in as president on May 6, 2010 after the death of then President Umaru Yar’Adua.
“Sometimes when you hear people talk about this government on the television or in the newspaper you will think this government is 10 years old, but we are only two years eight months old,” Mr. Jonathan said implying his administration should only be judged from May 2011 when he was sworn-in after winning the presidential election.
“By May this year we will be three years old and by May 2014 we will be four years old. And I challenge some of those who criticise without thinking, to compare what we have done in the two years eight months with that of any other administrations in this country and outside,” the president said.
“That is why when we presented our mid-term report for two years, I asked people to develop their marking scheme. It is not just to criticise but you have to compare and especially a government that is facing too much challenges.”
Mr. Jonathan said it is wrong for anyone to think Nigeria’s position is secured in the committee of nations by its oil. He said what makes Nigeria relevant is its verse arable land resources and the diversity of its people as oil does not make Nigeria wealthy when placed side by side its population.
Thanking the delegates for paying him a solidarity visit following all that is going on in the PDP, Mr. Jonathan noted that the visit was unique as this “is the first PDP group coming for a solidarity visit.”
“Ethnic nationalities and different groups are coming but PDP stakeholders from either a state or a zone, this is the first visit so we appreciate,” the president said. “The North West is the first, for you to have done this, it means PDP in the zone have been meeting, discussing and have been strengthening the party. This is critical because unity is strength in terms of political party.”
“As long as the PDP in the zone continue to discuss on how to stay together and work together to protect the interest of the party, there is no way any other party can come and overtake us,” he added.
The President, who said PDP is still the number one party in Nigeria, urged the delegates not to allow anyone deceive them to defect to another party.
“Yes people may have access to the media and use it robustly to their own advantage or disadvantage. But as long as we are united which we will do everything possible to keep the party together, PDP continue to dey dam dam. No shaking!
“Nobody should come and deceive to cross over to the other side that you don’t know what is there. Some people are crossing to where they don’t know; well we will know as we progress but collectively all of us working together with other members across the country, we will still be the leading party.
“There is no ward, no voting unit that you don’t have PDP members, in fact if you go to some areas they don’t even know this new name yet, even where to thumb print on the ballot paper they don’t even know. So be rest assured our party will continue to work together to strengthen the party and it will continue to be the number one party in this country,” the president said.
Mr. Jonathan also denied allegations that he was against the North. He listed some of his administration’s policies in the region including the establishment of nine universities in northern states to buttress his claim.
“If I am against them would I have done that?” the president asked his audience. “The issue of Almajiri education if I am against the north would I have encouraged that we work with the governors to provide (education for) quite a number of children who are out of school? We can go on and on but this is not the time for that. Because all these are blackmail, political blackmail.”
The over 200 North West delegates arrived in seven buses. The delegation included Governors Shehu Shema (Katsina), Muktar Yero (Kaduna), and Seidu Dakingari (Kebbi). Others in the delegation included the Deputy Governor of Sokoto State, Muktar Shagari; Mohammed Abacha, son of late military dictator, Sani Abacha; and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Na’Abba.
The delegates were from the seven North West states of Sokoto, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kaduna, Katsina, Kano and Zamfara.
In his speech, the leader of the delegation, Mr. Bello, said they came to pledge their support to President Jonathan for his transformation agenda, developmental policies, and ‘milestones’ set in the education sector; as well as the national confab and the security measures taken in the North East.
Mr. Bello said with the caliber of people at the meeting with the president, the party had lost nothing in the zone even as it restructures for 2015.
Two former PDP governors from the zone (Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto and Rabiu Kwakwanso of Kano) had joined the All Progressives Congress, APC, while a third, Sule Lamido of Jigawa, was not at the event.
The former minister commended the president for some of his policies including the construction of Almajiri schools in northern states. He, however, called on the president to further provide assistance to farmers in the region.
Mr. Bello also praised Vice President Namadi Sambo for galvanising the party structure in the region and strengthening the stronghold of the party amidst political realignments.