Opposition Stronger Now Than in 2011 – Jonathan (allAfrica.com)

President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday acknowledged that the opposition was stronger today than it was in 2011. He noted that this was so, because those who defected from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gave the opposition the strength it currently enjoys.
According to him, if former PDP members were to leave the opposition, it would crumble like a pack of cards, even as he said he was confident that the PDP was still stronger and would emerge victorious in the coming election.
Speaking when he appeared on an Africa Independent Television (AIT) live programme, Kaakaki, in Abuja, Jonathan also declared that the secondary school girls abducted in Chibok, Borno State in April last year, who have now spent close to a year in Boko Haram captivity, were still alive and would be rescued soon.
Acknowledging that the opposition was stronger now than in 2011, he said, “I agree with you, it was easier (in 2011), but PDP is still the dominant party.
“Yes, for one reason or the other, within the party people get angry and may even vote against PDP, but in terms of membership of the PDP, there is no party that has that spread. So, PDP still has the most formidable structure. PDP has better chances of winning a national election. Even the opposition will tell you, if they are realistic. Who has strengthened the opposition? Are they not the PDP elements? If you remove the PDP elements from the opposition, they will just crumble like a pack of cards.
“Why are people aggressive towards the PDP to the extent that even the presidential convoy is stoned? Why do you show that aggression? If you are comfortable, you will not do that.”
Speaking further on why the election may be difficult, the president said, “Globally, it is more challenging for a president to secure a second term than the first tenure, because people get disappointed when their expectations are not quickly met by those they voted for.” He, however, added that the PDP still had an edge over the opposition.
Only Right Leadership Can Save Nigeria – Obasanjo
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has said for the nation to move forward, the leadership question must be right.
He gave the verdict yesterday at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, OOPL, venue of a party to celebrate his 78th birthday in Abeokuta.
According to the former leader, once Nigeria gets the right leadership, everything will fall in place.
He further stated that if Nigeria does not get the leadership question right, the country cannot get right the questions of education, economy, security and the will to tackle corruption.
He however, maintained that an individual in leadership position can make all the difference.
He said the entire West Africa sub-region is worried because, according to him, a fraction of a population of 170 million people cannot be accommodated by any nation in the region.
He noted that even Great Britain does not want Nigeria to be in any form of crisis because they fear if one million Nigerians forcefully migrate to the United Kingdom, in ten years, there will be ten million Nigerians.
“Leadership is the problem of this country. We must get it right. If we don’t get it right, we cannot get anything right.”
“Whether education, economy, security or the fight against corruption, we must first get the leadership question right before we can get all these things right.”
The two-term former president reminded Nigerians that insurgency groups cannot be suppressed with force without dealing with the root cause of the problem, which is poverty.
“Insurgency groups will continue to emerge if the leadership of this country fails to deal with the root of the problem. You can suppress it, but in 15 years it will come back because the cause has not been uprooted.”
“If all other things are right, there should be no reason for any Nigerian who wants to be employed not to have the opportunity for employment. And if all those things that all these young ones are expecting are not there, in 15 years time, they will be good recruits for Boko Haram or its equivalent. Don’t let us deceive ourselves.”
“You can supress but if other things that are supposed to be there are not there, you will only supress. Sooner than later, it will rear its ugly head again, and what should be done, it should be removed root, stem and branches and I believe that too can be done.”
He said he believes with the abundance of human and material resources in the country, no Nigerian should go to bed hungry.
“I agree that no Nigerian child should go to bed without food. Indeed in my opinion, it should not be limited to children; no Nigerian
should go to be hungry given the abundance of resources found in this country.”
APC leaders at event
The party became a little gathering for chieftains of All Progressives Congress, APC, when the leader of the party and two terms governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, led the entourage of the party into the hall.
The delegation included the national chairman of the party, John Oyegun; the national vice chairman, south and former governor of Ekiti State, Engr Segun Oni; and former governor of Osun State, Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
In his remark, Tinubu described Obasanjo as a ‘teacher, father, tutor in dignity and boldness’.
He said Obasanjo has kept him on his toes revealing all the encounters he had with Obasanjo in the attempt of the former president to woo him to his side.
“Once upon a time, some nine year ago, I went to the Villa, the President Olusegun Obasanjo asked me to walk out saying I was just abusing him in the papers and I said, ‘Baba, you are tenant here, this house belongs to Nigeria, if I get to Ota, you can send me out, I brought file about Nigeria’ and he said, ‘that is true, sit down.”
He said during the merger and alliance that metamorphosed into APC, Obasanjo’s counsel was sought, describing him as ‘ a fountain of knowledge”.
“And then when we started this present regime of merger and alliances, and we visited him and we told him we wanted him to be a navigator, he said, ‘navigator? I will, my party, I am still in there, partisanship; I will try to avoid it because of Nigeria. But if you people put a good team for the sake of this country together, I will give you wisdom.”
“And if you look at what has been happening since then, Obasanjo is an open book, you read a line, you pick a paragraph, you learn, you comply, if you drink from that fountain of wisdom, you will see value in it, he is very committed to the Nigeria nation.”
He said Obasanjo epitomizes passion for the unity of the country, saying if he had wanted anything from PDP and the present government, he would have got it but chose to be on the side of patriotism, good government and safety of Nigeria.
“There’s nothing Obasanjo would have wanted in terms of material, oil well, oil lifting, whatever, from Jonathan, that he wouldn’t have gotten or from PDP that he wouldn’t have gotten as a retention service. He put all of that aside, believes in the unity, cohesion, and progress of this country in order to free himself from that bondage of commitment to one partisan politics that is probably drifting in the middle of the storm of a political change, he would rather be afloat and chat a new course.”
Earlier, Dr. John Oyegun revealed that when Obasanjo parted ways with PDP recently, the initial thought of APC leadership was to hand him a party card.
He however said the party changed its position when it dawned on them that for the first time, it would be better for Nigeria to have a man, who has been part of the evolution of Nigeria as a nation to remain a source of wisdom where all can approach for inspiration.
“Speaking seriously, a few weeks ago, we saw somebody tearing a party card on his behalf and we all went ecstatic, fantastic! So, leaders of the party quickly conveyed a get together and authorised me if we should issue him a fresh card but we sat down soberly and discussed the issue and at the end of the day we said, we use this words, nationalists, statesman, very loosely in this country and a wise counsel prevailed, and we said this event is more significant than we think, this man has crossed a threshold, he has now become truly a father of the Nigeria nation.”
“We will be demeaning him if we went to him now and said ‘Baba this is APC party card’, we thought we would be demeaning him and we said finally, what Nigeria never had; an icon, a father, a non- partisan person, the very first in the history of this nation, finally has arrived; somebody we can now all go to, everybody, he will just be open to all of us.”
He added that Nigerians have a choice to make now between ‘the gospel of change to move the country forward or stay with continuity of nothingness’.
‘I deserve re-election’
Giving reasons why he should be re-elected, the president listed some of his administration’s achievements in the different sectors To include roads, power, transport and aviation, adding that if given the chance, he would consolidate on them in the next four years. He said that if re-elected, he would make deliberate efforts to better communicate government’s activities to the people, to carry them along in a better manner.
Chibok Girls are alive – President
On the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls, Jonathan premised his conviction that they had not been killed by the insurgents on the notion that if they were dead, the bloodthirsty terrorists would have boastfully displayed their corpses. He noted that the activities of the insurgents had intensified because at first, the federal government underestimated the group, which started as a non-violent sect.
On why the military was now achieving within a period of a few weeks what the government could not do in five years, the president explained that the military was now equipped up to 65 per cent and had the platform needed to prosecute the war against the insurgents.
He added that with the level of success recorded so far, the territories in Adamawa and Yobe states yet to be recovered from the insurgents would most likely be in the next few days.
Asked why the Chibok girls had not been found, in spite of the military successes, the president said, “We still have reasonable territories in the hands of Boko Haram. We promised that we must get the girls. The good story is that they have not killed them, because the terrorists, when they kill, they display. They use it to intimidate the whole society. The girls are alive. We will get the girls. Luckily, we are narrowing down the area of their control. So, we will get them.”
He said that why it had appeared as if the military had been reluctant to strike the sect with full force was because government was mindful of the fact that terrorists are fond of using captives as human shields, saying, “That is why the pace had to be slow.”
Speaking on why it had taken so long for the military to record any success in the campaign against Boko Haram, the president said, “Yes, agreed that at the beginning, probably we did not really (correctly) estimate the capacity of Boko Haram. It is obvious. Boko Haram started as a non-violent group led by Yusuf, limited to around Maiduguri area, Yobe. They did not even get to Adamawa.
“Just like every group of youths or young people is inclined to criminality, over the period, they expanded their network and linked up with other terrorist organisations like in North Africa, the Al-Qaeda and other similar brands in the world.
“So, they continued to build their capacity and it got that for you to tackle them in the kind of environment they operate, you need some specialised equipment to use and we don’t manufacture these equipment now.”
The president further noted that even though government had challenges in the beginning in acquiring necessary weapons from other countries the story had now changed, with about 65 per cent of such weapons now available to prosecute the war.
He remarked that efforts were ongoing to ensure that the areas already liberated from Boko Haram occupation would not come under attack again, so that those displaced from the communities could return to their homes.
He said he was happy that the mop-up exercises were so far succeeding, as there were no new reports of the sect seizing territories, especially with the collaboration of neighbouring countries’ armies, which had blocked their escape routes.
While speaking on the price of fuel and the current scarcity of the product, the president denied that the recent reduction in fuel price was politically motivated, even as he assured that the issues responsible for the scarcity were being addressed.
He said, “For the fuel scarcity, we are doing everything humanly possible to ensure it is taken care of. It is very temporary. Of course, the issue of payment is being addressed and we believe that within one or two days, this will completely go.
“Until we start refining our crude oil to get our own products here within the country, we cannot get out of some of these. It is even really the policy of government. When you continue to export raw materials, you are actually exporting jobs. We’ll soon privatise refineries.”
He assured that the nation’s refineries would completely be privatised, even as government would continue to encourage the private sector as according to him, it had better managers of infrastructure.
He said, “It is not politically motivated. The way people play politics with everything in Nigeria is quite unfortunate. Pump prices are not constant, but are based on changes in the international market.
“When I came as vice president in 2007, the price of crude oil at the international market dropped to about $40. There was a day it dropped to $38 per barrel and we dropped the pump price to N65 per litre. And we had to keep it up to N97 when the price went up to about $111 per barrel at the international market.
“The cushioning gap was because the subsidy became unbearable to government. So we had to push it up to N97 per litre. Now that the international crude oil price has dropped back to about $60 or so, it would not be fair for you to still ask Nigerians to pay N97, except youwant to deregulate completely.”
I Have No Plans To Sack Jega, Jonathan Insists
Jonathan also insisted yesterday that he has never discussed with anybody plans to sack the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega.
The president also cautioned politicians not to talk about things based on rumours. He said, “I have not discussed with heart or even in my dream whether Jega will stay or not. I advise politicians not to discuss things based on unsubstantiated rumours.”
Why Kwankwaso, Others Left PDP – Gov Aliyu
Niger State governor, Banbangida Aliyu has said five of his colleagues among the G7 governors who eventually dumped the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to join the All Progressives Congress (APC) did so because they had already made up their minds to.
According to him, while the idea of the G7 struggle was not to leave the party but address certain anomalies in the PDP, the five governors who left did so, because they had been looking to avail themselves of the opportunity such division provided to leave.
‘My deputy ought to have resigned’
The governor, who stated this during a chat with State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, was reacting to questions on the ongoing rift between him and his deputy, Musa Ibeto, who, he said, ought to have resigned, having decamped from the ruling party.
He said it was in realisation of such moral burden that he decided not to join the governors that decamped from the ruling PDP to the opposition party in 2013.
He said, “Many people asked me why I didn’t go to APC. The idea of these seven was not to leave PDP, it was to correct what we saw as anomalies. But some people, in their own planning, they were looking for that kind of division that will give them cover.
Aliyu, who argued that he did not walk his deputy out of the state council meeting said, “We said how does he resolve this morality matter and he said to me, ‘Excuse me while the council will decide on the matter.’
“Secondly, on the 18th of February, I was already planning on the 19th of February to leave for Saudi Arabia when I saw his letter on my table, saying he was going to leave on the same day and he was in Abuja attending APC meeting. I assume he was going and there is nothing legally or technically that prevents me from giving the speaker. Nothing has been abused
“Since I started in 2007, I have never travelled without writing the president and the State Assembly to say that my deputy will act, but because of that day when I saw the letter on the 18th that he was travelling on the 19th and with the little friction that was there, I assumed he was going to go even without getting the approval. I said since my plan is already on, the speaker should act.”
On the allegation that he ejected Ibeto from the government house, the governor said, “The fact is that office of the deputy governor is always outside the Government House, but in my approach and being a former civil servant, I invited him to come near me.”
Those Against Buhari Are Corrupt Nigerians – Osinbajo
The vice presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Professor Yemi Osinbajo has said that majority of the people opposing Major General Muhammadu Buhari were corrupt Nigerians who were afraid they would be probed, should he win the March 28 2015 presidential election.
Osinbajo, who spoke during an interactive session in Lagos with some Christian and Muslim leaders at a forum organised by the All Christian Leaders/Ministers Forum (ACLMF), said there would be no hiding place for corrupt people in the country, if Buhari wins the forthcoming election.
He pointed out that this had been a major source of headache for his opponents, saying it was the reason why they had embarked on mudslinging to run down Gen Buhari, rather than on issues-based campaigns.
Osinbajo accused the Jonathan-led government of ruining the nation’s economy by allowing oil theft to thrive under its watch and assured that it would become a thing of the past, should the APC form the next government at the federal level.
Highlighting the party’s manifesto and programmes, he said plans were in the offing to feed pupils of public schools a meal per day, for a youth empowerment programme and training programmes for graduates after their national youth service.
Also speaking at the event, the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Lagos chapter, Apostle Alexander Bamgbola called on politicians to caution their followers against acts of violence and embrace peace.