By Lawrence Olaoye
President Goodluck Jonathan has described some acclaimed statesmen in the country as ordinary politicians who are not better than mere motor touts working against the progress of the country.
The President, while responding to comments made by the Chairman of the Northern Elders Council (NEC), Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, during a courtesy visit to him by the group said the fact that some of the self acclaimed statesmen occupied some exalted positions in the past did not qualify them to be regarded as statesmen.
This is coming as Jonathan denied the allegation that he hated the north by skewing developmental projects against the region.
It would be recalled that Jonathan had recently come under vitriolic attacks from former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka of Adoration Ground, Enugu.
Jonathan said “Some people call themselves statesmen but they are not statesmen; they are just ordinary politicians. For you to be a statesman it’s not because you have occupied a big office before but the question is what are you bringing to bear? Are you building this country? Or are you a part of people who tell lies to destroy this country? To create enmity and make people who ordinarily would have been living together to fight themselves. Are you planning to set the country ablaze? Because you did not get that particular thing you want.
“At the appropriate time, Nigerians will know all of us even though I know most of you know us but the younger ones do not know. Some people are hiding under some clogs, some big names and creating a lot of problems in this country; making provocative statements in this country; statements that will set this country ablaze and you tell me you are a senior citizen. You are not a senior citizen you can never be, you are ordinary motor park tout.
Because if you are a senior citizen you will act like one. It is not because of the offices we occupy; it’s by divine grace and providence that some of us occupy these offices. But what role are you playing to build this country?”
Responding on the allegation of hating the north and skewing projects against the region, the President said “Some people say Jonathan hates the north, I have heard that statement and I use to ask Namadi Sambo, they say I hate the north but you are here. I asked the National Security Adviser and my Principal Secretary the same thing.
“In fact, my Principal Secretary has been my Principal Secretary since I was the deputy governor. I never knew I was going to come here as Vice President not to talk of President. But I have known him since I was the deputy governor of Bayelsa State. My Chief Detail, Yusuf, from Borno State has been with me since I was a deputy governor in Yenagoa and I see him as a good person and I have carried him along with me. So, I had to ask how can somebody wake up and say I hate the north?”
According to him, his government designed educational programmes to favour the north so as to ensure the liberation of the educationally disadvantaged children of the region.
Jonathan, who regretted that the older elements in the country have succeeded in building ethnic barriers to limit the development of the country, said he resolved to establish nine universities in the north and three in the south to ensure parity as there was a policy in place for there to be at least one federal university in each state of the federation.
He said “When I came on board, I said even though as a country we have the policy on paper, every state must get a federal government university. Out of the 12 federal universities created, nine was in the north while three was in southern Nigeria. The only three states that had no federal university were Bayelsa, Ebonyi and Ekiti.
Those who were in charge of the university establishment were not fair. For us to liberate ourselves we must go to school. If I hate the north would I have done that?”
He continued “We talk about Almajiri’s education. We felt we must change. Luckily, we initiated it but now states governments are keying into it because I know that it was education that liberated me. I would have been a local canoe builder like my father and grandfather. But I’m here because of Education and I feel if we must liberate Nigerian children, whether they are from Zamafara, Bayelsa, Kebbi, Delta, they must be educated. I feel we must enter the north by aggression through education.”
“Whenever we get the statistics of school drop out I’m not happy. The number from states in the north some about 50 per cent some even more. The last was up to 70 per cent. I said no we must change this statistics. Somebody who hates the people cannot talk about educating their children because the people we are educating are the future leaders of this country,” he declared.
Jonathan also disclosed that he made inquiries into the allegation that projects were skewed against the north by challenging northern ministers in his cabinet to investigate the matter.
He however assured that he would not cheat any part of the country in the distribution of developmental projects.
Yankassai in his earlier comments had told Jonathan and his Vice, Src. Namadi Sambo, that “Nigeria is passing through political transformation and it is important to all Nigerians and indeed Northerners to appreciate the fact that thus country was crafted in such a manner that no section can rule the country without the other.
He said his group believes in peaceful coexistence and extension of hands of friendship to brothers and sisters from the other side of the nation stressing that it was unpatriotic for anybody to instigate people against any person or peoples because of a temporary gain.
“Politics of insult, blackmail and castigation of individuals shall not take this country anywhere,” Yakasai declared.