In a move likely to trigger a fresh round of criticism from his adversaries, President Goodluck Jonathan Sunday night gave a new timeline within which Nigerians should expect concrete results of governance from his administration, declaring in a televised media chat citizens should expect fundamental change in the country from 2013.
“No matter the abuse, we must plan. And after the abuse, people will see the results by 2013 and things will change,” he said.
The president’s earlier assurance of reigning in the extremist Boko Haram sect in before June has exposed him to criticism as the month arrived with even more violence in some parts of the north.
Speaking at the session, the president said his administration would not bow to “abuses” and disruptions, although he, at a point conceded the upsurge in insecurity may have upset his government plans. He said Nigerians should remain faithful with his administration.
Mr. Jonathan gave a forceful defense of his trip to Brazil while violence raged in northern cities last week, arguing that failing to attend the United Nation’s summit on account of domestic insecurity, would have excited the Boko Haram sect, which he said is waging an anti-government war.
“Around the world, no president will play into the hands of terrorists,” Mr. Jonathan said on the media chat Sunday evening, his third since taking office. “Boko Haram and their sponsors can never stop Nigeria from moving forward.”
The interview, running through two hours, and having the president respond to questions on multiple national concerns, was the portrait of the vast contrast between a vigorous public that criticizes government’s decisions, and the thinking within the corridors of power.
While the administration has been criticized for the security in the land, the president said he has taken the right decisions, and that the war remained winnable.
Criticized for shielding corrupt associates and superintending over a waning anti-corruption war, he said he initiated the probe in the oil sector, meaning he had nothing to hide. The president said the problem rather, was with the slow process of securing justice.
On the economy, the president said the sector was “professionally managed” and that the indices were impressive, and jobs, were, and will be created in the coming months.
Then, on the change of name of the University of Lagos, Mr. Jonathan said he followed the right procedure in declaring the change before seeking the endorsement of the National Assembly.
He also declared that appearing before the National Assembly to respond to summons issued last week over the nation’s security was “no issue” because he had always wished to address the nation from there on topical issues.
In all, the president admitted he has faced intense criticisms, but said they may not reflect the true position of Nigerians, but those of a few, proliferated using modern online and social media technologies.
The session was to entertain questions from a panel of four journalists with phone-in questions allowed after the first 60 minutes. But for the duration, only one call came through, with the rest suspended before a question could be put across to the president.
For the most part, Mr. Jonathan appeared calm, intermittently exchanging banters with his interviewers.
Questions started expectedly on the escalating insecurity that has claimed dozens of lives within the past one week, and Mr. Jonathan, appearing agitated on that subject, provided responses that made no pretense of government’s frustration with the Boko Haram sect.
“We will fight to bring Boko Haram to an end,” the president again, vowed.
Later in the interview, the president conceded his programmes, notably on power as envisaged before his election in 2011, had faltered largely because dealing with the sect had overtaken power as government’s top priority.
“At that time, we did not know that Boko Haram will overtake power as government’s priority,” he said, when asked about failing electricity generation he promised.
But on the Brazil trip that drew scathing condemnations for the presidency, Mr. Jonathan said acting otherwise would have been perilous for a nation building on her international presence, and seeking investments.
“The day the international community gets to know that the president of Nigeria couldn’t travel because of Boko Haram, then we are finished,” the president said.
Mr. Jonathan denied he was shielding the prosecution of officials and businessmen connected to him, indicted in fuel subsidy reports by the House of Representatives, and also rejected allegations he knew about the operations involved in the $3 million bribery between member of House, Farouk Lawan, and oil marketer, Femi Otedola.
He said maybe the State Security Service could provide an answer, but denied ordering any operation on the lawmaker. The president however, could not hide his government closeness to Mr. Otedola.
He said the practice of governments indulging their country’s top business personalities was global. “If I even want to do a sting operation, why would I use Femi?” he asked.
On corruption, generally seen to be surging under his watch, Mr. Jonathan said allegations heads of the anti-graft agencies needed clearance from him, and needed to assess his body language before proceeding on a case, were untrue.
“A lot of people misunderstand me,” he said. “I am one person that gives people the latitude for them to do their jobs. If anybody says he needs to know my body language before doing his work, then that person is not competent.”
The president rebuffed repeated questions seeking a definite position on his ambition in 2015.
Mr. Jonathan said he had a cordial relationship with the National Assembly despite frosty exchanges between the House and the presidency lately.
On the summons, he said it was not an issue, but he might go, and he might not.