Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, in a candid lecture, has yet again responded to the nationwide strike and mass anti-subsidy removal protest that seized the country at the start of the year.
At the 52nd Independence anniversary lecture, titled Nigeria: Security, Development and National Transformation, Jonathan accused a greedy class of Nigerians of staging the unrest that swept through the nation after he announced the removal of fuel subsidies and subsequent hike in fuel prices.
Jonathan defended his January decision to end subsidies for petroleum, saying the practice has in recent times received condemnation from many other countries. He referenced the Earth Summit in Brazil where some countries stated that “subsidizing hydro carbon does not bring about development”.
The president further speculated that the protesters had been pushed to demonstrate and he honed in on Lagos where the demonstrations drew tens of thousands on to the streets and froze businesses in the nation’s commercial hub.
He accused this mysterious class of Nigerians of providing refreshment and entertainment especially at the Lagos rallies, spearheaded by the Save Nigeria Group and convened over by former CPC VP candidate Pastor Tunde Bakare. While he mentioned no names, the President said in the lecture accused the organizers of playing dirty.
Inviting top musicians to the rally at Gani Fawehinmi park as well as a slew of comedians undermine the credibility of the protests, the president argued.
“They go and hire the best musician to come and play and the best comedian to come and entertain; is that demonstration? Are you telling me that that is a demonstration from ordinary masses in Nigeria who want to communicate something to government?
“For me, if I see somebody is manipulating anything, I don’t listen to you, but when I see people genuinely talking about issues, I listen. I am hardly intimidated by anybody who wants to push any issue he has. I believe that that protest in Lagos was manipulated by a class in Lagos and was not from the ordinary people.
While there certainly was an abundance of entertainment at the Save Nigeria anti-corruption rally, free drinks and food were not on the menu, contrary to the President’s assertions.
Jonathan went ahead to focus in on peace and development and the impact of the radical terrorist Boko Haram sect on Nigeria’s economy, saying “there is no way you an talk about development when you have a lot of crisis”.
The president, whose administration has come under heavy criticism, with some threatening impeachment, says political security is every bit as important when securing a nation.
“I believe political security is a big issue. There is this axiom that the pen is mightier than the sword. The sword is used to kill and destroy, but what we use the pen to do is also very critical. When you have society with these unending political conflicts, it is there on the media whether print, electronic or social media, it brings a lot of insecurity to the system and sometimes people begin to doubt your government.”
He accused the media of condemning his administration harshly and ignoring his past record and political history. The complaints didn’t stop there for Jonathan as he criticized not only the media’s role in the president’s public perception, but also all manner of Boko Harams.
“I believe it’s not just the media, like when we talk about the Boko Haram, we have political Boko Haram, religious Boko Haram and criminal Boko Haram. So also in the media, you have the professional media and the political media. That is why I talk about the political media, because of the interest of 2015, whatever you do is immaterial, the government must be brought down. And that mentality cuts across most African countries and even outside Africa.
“So addressing insecurity is critical in developing African state. When you have this ending political conflict especially in a country like Nigeria that is highly religious and with high ethno-tribal sentiments, it becomes very potent to even create a lot of problems for government.
“So I will plead with us as Nigerians that whenever we elect government into power at whatever level, at least for the sake of the country, allow the government to work before going into unnecessary overheating the system.
“When you talk of providing infrastructure, whether power, water, there is nothing you can use the magic wand to provide for the people, it takes time. To build your personal house, there must take a good number of days not to talk of infrastructure like power in a country like Nigeria and with the challenges we have and so on and so forth.
“I believe our great problem is political conflict, for a typical politician, the day you win election is the day you start the next election.”