Why I won’t declare stance on 2015 now – Jonathan. • Denies signing pact not to re-contest • Says ASUU is playing politics with strike

THOSE waiting for President Goodluck Jonathan to officially declare interest or otherwise in the 2015 presidential election may have to wait longer.
He explained Sunday that apart from an early declaration creating more problems in the polity than it is aimed to solve, it would equally be breaching regulations in that regard.
During a Presidential Media Chat in Abuja Sunday, Jonathan noted that the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) rules and regulations concerning election processes were clear and none of the provisions mandate that the President must declare early.
However, the President denied ever entering into any agreement with any person or group not to seek a second term in office. He challenged any person or group with such a document to make it public.
The President, who believed that critics of his reported ambition were merely heating up the polity as regards 2015, said he did not need to declare his intention to run before others with such ambition did so.
On his alleged agreement not to contest in 2015, he said: “I did not sign any agreement. If I had signed (any agreement), they (the critics) would have shown it (document).”
On the indefinite strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the president noted that it was indeed unfortunate that the action had persisted for three months despite “government’s most serious commitment.”
According to him, “labour crisis is common in developing countries, but this ASUU strike is very unfortunate. We have been part of this system and we know what it is like. Government has never taken the pain to visit schools at all levels to take inventory of the state of infrastructure.
“This is what we did and they came up with the result, which we showed to all the governors. The state of the infrastructure must change but not overnight. But for ASUU to now insist that it must be overnight is what is most unfortunate.
“It is very unfortunate for ASUU strike to have lasted up to three months. We have seen strikes before, but none that has not been quickly resolved even with lesser commitment than we are putting in this one. It is just not right for ASUU to say that infrastructure is just the main thing.”
For the sake of Nigerian children, he said, the aggrieved lecturers should call off the strike, citing that the issues were beyond the said 2009 FG/ASUU pact.
Jonathan also denied saying that he would not contest for a second term when he interfaced with some Nigerians in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, some time ago, adding that he only advocated a seven-year term that could serve Nigeria better.
However, he insisted that ASUU was playing politics with the months-long strike, as the government had met some of the issues the union was protesting against.
According to him, the Federal Government, without any external prompting, set up committees that took inventory of the decaying infrastructure in the universities, which the government was addressing.
He wondered why ASUU in state universities also embarked on strike in matters affecting the Federal Government, which has no control over state universities.
Jonathan asked Nigerians to plead with ASUU to go back to work.
He asked ASUU to “work with my government to improve education” and work to fully implement autonomy in the universities as “autonomy without responsibility is a potential for crisis.”
Noting the importance of education, he said : “I am nothing without education. I came from a poor background. Without education, you will not see Jonathan here (as President). For you to liberate a people whether they are from southern Nigeria or extreme North, it is education. The ASUU strike is very unfortunate. If you see the sincerity of government, you will know that we really want to do something.”
On the contention of the splinter Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that the Nigeria is broke, the President stated: “Anybody who talks about Nigeria being broke is just playing politics or talking out of ignorance. We must show patriotism.”
He explained: “Sometimes people play politics with serious issues because for anybody to wake up and say that Nigeria is bankrupt, how do you tell that the country is bankrupt? There must be some parameters you use to determine bankruptcy. You don’t get to wake up in your dreams from your sleep to say Nigeria is bankrupt. Nigeria as a nation in terms of foreign direct investment coming into Africa, more interest is in Nigeria by bigger economies outside. We had been meeting with President Obama; I have just been given the privilege for the traditional bell ringing to close the New York Stock Exchange market because we had been meeting with President Obama. For them to give me that privilege that shows that the Nigerian business environment is very healthy. That is an indication. In our capital market, more than 80 per cent of those that invest in it are non-Nigerians. If Nigeria is bankrupt, they would remove their money overnight because they read every day the Business Times and other papers that talk about finance of the world. They have experts to do that for them. Anybody who talks about Nigerian being broke is just playing politics with what he is supposed not to do. Or such a person must be doing so out of extreme ignorance.”
On corruption, the President said that the perception of corruption in Nigeria is different from reality. Quoting a report, he noted that “everyone talks as if corruption is our number one problem. But corruption is not Nigeria’s biggest problem. International businessmen say corruption is the third most important challenge they face in Nigeria. The key thing is access to finance, infrastructure. We are winning the war on corruption. The fertilizer scam and the corruption in the oil sector is being tackled.”
Jonathan said his administration was working with the legislature and the judiciary to fight corruption. He however noted that as a President, one could not gag the judiciary. One must allow the Judiciary to be independent.
He noted that “the dropping of ministers has nothing to do with G7 governors. A cabinet is like a football team, you keep strengthening your team.”
On the appointment of a substantive minister of defence, the President said: “Those who handle defence issues are the service chiefs. That is why I don’t envy being a service chief. There is no way you can do away with the service chiefs. We can even do without a minister of defence. You can do away with minister of defence.”
On insecurity, the President said his administration was refocusing attention in North-Eastern Nigeria, where there is resurgence of Boko Haram activities in recent weeks in spite of the state of emergency in three states in the area.
Jonathan said he could not confirm the death of the sect leader, Ibrahim Shekau, who denied the information passed by the Military Task Force battling the insurgents.
He asked rhetorically, “can poor people buy AK47? The excesses started with the bombing of mammy market, UN building and police headquarters. That time, we never had security architecture. I am not God. But within the limit of human competence, we will do our best. We will do all we can to ensure this embarrassing attack is brought under control. No President can wake and say we cannot have a criminal activity in the country. I am not God and can’t say they (terror attacks) will never happen. But I promise Nigerians that within the limit of human competence, I will make sure we do not get to that situation (of Kenya shopping mall massacre). We are doing our best. We had a Security Council meeting today (Sunday) with respect to the Yobe killings.”
Meanwhile, Jonathan has assured that his administration would leave the country better than it met it, and that those exploiting the country’s diversity to create problems would not succeed.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja at an interdenominational church service to commemorate Nigeria’s independence, Jonathan, who lamented the killing of over 44 students yesterday morning in Yobe State, said the killings going on in the country were the creation of the devil to slow down the pace of development.
He said: “If you were in my shoes, you may lack words. We had this programme in mind before we went to bed last night, we planned to come here today to thank God but around 12: a.m. about 21 students were murdered in Yobe State by a group that described themselves as Boko Haram.
“If you were in my shoes, what courage would you have to stand here before Nigerians, what message would you give to the parents of the deceased? Would you say that the killing is political? These students were not members of any political party.
“Would you say it is ethnic cleansing? These students belonged to different ethnic groups in Nigeria. Would you say the killing is religious, these students were they Christians or Muslims?
“These are the questions we are confronted with everyday but you will agree with me that we have hope and by God’s grace will get to where we want to as a nation. The challenges we are seeing now are transient. No Boko Haram or any group will frustrate this country.”
President Jonathan observed that as Nigerians look forward to the centenary celebration, there are questions on whether Lord Lugard made a mistake by amalgamating the Northern and Southern Nigeria, but he quickly added: “We know that God does not make any mistake.”
According to him, Nigeria has reached the turning point where it must move and join the developed societies. He noted in the journey of advancement, any nation must ensure that it has civilized ways of electing its leaders.
“We have almost reached there, we will make sure we have free and fair election even though the forces of darkness do not want that, they want to continue to impose themselves on us.”
He further stated that his administration had privatized about N3 billion worth of government assets without any fuss, adding that by the time the liberalization of the power sector is concluded, it would be like the telecommunications sector.
In his sermon, President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, said that three forces fighting the nation were corruption, political rascality and terrorism.
The issues troubling Nigeria, according to him, are terrible demonic sacrifices some Nigerians have made on demonic altars in their quest to gain spiritual and political powers, but “God is fighting the battle for Nigeria.”
Oritsejafor warned Nigerians to stop making security issues political but “join hands to tackle the problem. We need to put our conscience on the altar.” He further urged the security agencies to identify and rid themselves of bad eggs who divulge information to the terrorists.
Also, he urged the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government to shift grounds in the effort to end the ongoing industrial action.
In attendance at the service were Senate President David Mark, former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, former Head of Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim, Chairman Board of Trustees, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Tony Anenih, members of the diplomatic corps, among others.