President Goodluck Jonathan Sunday cleared the air on reports that he had signed a pact with some politicians in 2011 that he would not seek a re-election in 2015.
Jonathan, fielding questions from a panel of interviewers on this month’s edition of the presidential media chat, said he had no agreement with anyone that he would not run for a second term in office
He also clarified that his statement in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, which is being used to buttress the claim that he promised not to seek a second term in office, was misconstrued by many.
He explained that the issue of one term came up while he was interfacing with Nigerians in Addis Abba and suggested that because of Nigeria’s level of political development, for any president to do well, he should be allowed uninterrupted seven years rule.
He challenged those peddling the rumour that he signed an agreement to do only one term in office to bring out a copy of the agreement he reached with anyone on the matter.
Niger State Governor, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, in an interview with a Kaduna-based private radio station, Liberty FM, last February, had alleged that the president entered into an agreement with Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors that he would do only one term in office.
But Jonathan disclaimed his narration, saying: “I didn’t sign any agreement with anybody. If I did, they would have shown you the agreement. It was in Addis Ababa, where I said it would be more productive if a president serves for a single term. I did not say Jonathan is not going to contest.”
When asked whether he would run in 2015, the president reiterated his stand that it was premature to say he would run or not.
Doing so now, he added, would cause distraction and generate problems in the polity.
He advised that his non-declaration of his political ambition should not prevent anybody nursing presidential ambition from doing so, even as he emphasised that the Electoral Act has given the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) a timeframe for the commencement of campaigns.
According to him, any person who is waiting for Jonathan to declare before he starts preparing to run for the seat is not serious, adding that whether he declares or not, the person should have been prepared well ahead for the election.
“You are running a government and you want to campaign? The electoral law gives INEC powers to regulate time for campaigns. If you go against it, you can be arrested. If you declare early enough, you will create a problem. Don’t ever force a president to declare. It will cause problems. A lot of people have been coming that I should declare, but now we are talking about development and not campaigns. Whether I am contesting or not should not be an issue in a normal society. My not declaring does not mean I am not preparing to contest. If you want to contest governorship in a state where the incumbent is also interested in contesting, would you wait until he declares?” he queried.
The president denied knowledge of any of his campaign billboards, saying he was going to crosscheck with security agencies if they had seen any such thing.
Jonathan, who underscored the important roles of education in liberating Nigerians, said his administration was the first to carry out an inventory of the infrastructure in all the nation’s universities with a determination to change things for the better.
He attributed the delay in resolving the ongoing industrial dispute with university teachers, who have been on strike since July, on politics.
He said on the completion of the inventory of the infrastructure, his administration had set aside N100 billion to reverse the infrastructural decay in the tertiary education sector, adding that the situation would not improve overnight.
“We have witnessed strikes before; most of the strikes, government don’t agree to the extent we have agreed before they called off the strike. I believe in Nigeria, politics has crawled into so many things we do. When you observe the way people do certain things, you have the feeling that something else is happening,” he added.
On the allegation that the federal government refused to implement the agreement it reached with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in 2009, which has forced the teachers to go on strike, Jonathan said the issue was beyond the 2009 agreement.
According to him, the federal government has agreed to all the issues in the 2009 agreement, except the agreement on the transfer of assets and wondered how such an agreement was signed in the first place.
“There are some of the issues in the 2009 agreement; there are those issues that they know cannot be implemented,” he said.
Jonathan also queried the rationale behind teachers in state-owned universities joining the strike despite the fact that they are not funded by the federal government.
He called on ASUU to reverse its position and return to work as it would be impossible to meet their demands at once.
The president also explained that successive administrations led by the PDP in the last 14 years had achieved a lot for the nation and promised that by the first quarter of 2014, power supply would be reasonably stable.
“God willing, before the first quarter of next year; the private sector will take over; on Monday (today), I will release their certificates to them. God willing by the first quarter of next year, power will be reasonably stable and you will see what that will do to change our economy,” he said.
According to him, his administration is not talking about generating 5,000 megawatts but stabilising supply, adding that even if much power was generated without strengthening the transmission network, the efforts would be in vain.
He described the Boko Haram insurgency, militancy and oil theft as cancer and a major challenge, stressing that oil theft was being perpetrated by the rich and powerful persons.
Jonathan also disagreed with the insinuations that Nigeria was bankrupt, saying that there are no facts to support the claims of the opposition that the economy is in danger.
According to him, even if the federal government fails to pay salaries as and when due, it does not imply that the country is broke, stressing that so many other factors could have been responsible.
The president said the perception about Nigeria’s economy in the international community is totally positive as against local perception.
This, he said, informed the opportunity he was given last week during his visit to the United States, to ring the closing bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
“The President of US, President Barack Obama, told me that for you to have been allowed to ring the bell is indicative of the level of confidence investors have in the Nigerian economy,” the president said.
The president said despite the Boko Haram challenges, the country’s security had improved significantly, stressing that the decision of his administration to celebrate the 53rd independence anniversary on low key was not as a result of insecurity.
He assured Nigerians that his administration would do everything to ensure that they do not experience the calamity that befell Kenyans recently.
Jonathan however refused to confirm a report on the alleged death of Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau.
“I don’t know whether he is dead or alive; I don’t know him. I never met him before. But if he has been talking regularly and he stopped talking for sometime; you can speculate,” he said.
While noting that the problem of oil theft in Nigeria is not a phenomenon that “we will use magic wand to wipe out,” he said the federal government is trying to build a security monitoring system around the pipelines.
“We are changing the architecture in monitoring the pipelines and the way we are going, definitely, we will be able to bring it down,” he added.
“Crude oil stealing is not done by the poor people. You have to know some people to sell stolen products. The foreign companies should also check their refineries because even the companies that take these products must have cartels. Though you may see some small boys but these are paid labourers,” he said.