Ex- President Goodluck Jonathan, has said while Nigeria’s founding fathers deserve credit for the struggle for independence and victory which followed, they should share in the blame for doing a poor job at nation building subsequently.
Jonathan said this in his remarks during a national dialogue and public presentation of 21 books, held in honour of Prof. Udenta Udenta, as part of activities to mark his 60th birthday, in Abuja, on Tuesday.
The former Nigerian leader who served as chairman of the occasion, likened the celebrant who authored all of the 21 books to former Tanzanain president, Julius Nyerere, whom he said championed Tanzanaian nationhood.
He said unlike Nyerere; Nigerian founding fathers paid greater emphasis on ethnic and identity politics at the expense of building Nigeria into a cohesive nation.
Jonathan said, “Have we been able to convince ourselves whether we are a state or a nation? If we are a country and a state, how do we become a nation?
“I am not blaming our founding fathers but they failed to integrate us into a proper nation. They operated as individuals and so on.
“Of course, if you have read some of the comments of our former leaders, someone like (Obafemi) Awolowo made it very clear that there was no nation called Nigeria. That it is a geographical entity, it is a country, it is a state, it has laws but there is no nation.
“The country was so polarized especially during the early political party formation and the parties were regional parties.
“There was no sense of commitment to integrate Nigeria into an entity that you can say yes, this is a nation with core values, common philosophy and people will be patriotic to that nation.
Most of the parties that time belonged to regions and there were no alliances for the purpose of ruling the country.
When I compare Nigeria and a country like Tanzania, I feel that Julius Nyerere made his vision clear to make Tanzania a nation. They have different tribes, maybe not as many as Nigeria but one nation was at the height of his thoughts.”
The Nigerian President explained that like Nigeria, Tanzania is made up predominantly of Muslims and Chirstians.
He further stated that in spite of the numerical strength and popularity of the two faiths, President Nyerere was able to champion a one party state to prevent political parties dissolving into their ethnic and religious cocoons as he worked hard with other nationalists to build Tanzania into the nation is has become.
Jonathan said, “He (Nyerere) made sure that every person from Tanzania speaks that (one) language, those who go to primary, secondary and tertiary schools quickly adhered to this as Nyerere made education compulsory.
So, you hardly see somebody who didn’t get at least basic knowledge of the language in what we call the first nine years of school education. At that level, you communicate in Swahili.”
Ex-President Jonathan recalled that his modest attempt at nation building was the driving force behind the 2014 national conference which was designed to addressed some of the fault lines that have kept Nigerians apart.
He expressed confidence that if the recommendations of the 2014 conference were not only adopted but implemented, “We will not say we have a country called Nigeria, we will not say we have a state called Nigeria, we will also say we have a nation called Nigeria.”
Former Ministet of Solid Minerals and Ex-Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, a Cheiftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, in his remarks confessed that although President Jonathan was right in his attempt to remove fuel subsidies, the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, which he (Fayemi) was part of mobilised Nigerians against it for political reasons.
He said the ‘Occupy Nigeria’ protest which grounded the country was part of strategies employed by the opposition to make the ruling PDP unpopular. He describe the antics of the opposition then as part of politics.
Fayemi said, “Today, I read former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s interview saying our liberal democracy is not working and we need to revisit it. And I agree with him that we must move to a political alternative. I think we are almost at a dead end.
“What we need is alternative politics and my own notion of alternative politics is that you can’t have 35 per cent of the vote and take 100 per cent of the spoil. It won’t work.
“We must look at proportional representation so that the party that is said to have 21 per cent of the vote will have 21 per cent representation in government. Adversaries politics bring division and enmity.
“All political parties in the country agreed and even put in their manifestos that subsidy must be removed. We all said subsidy must be removed. But we in ACN at the time in 2012, we knew it was all politics.
“That is why we must ensure that everybody is a crucial stakeholder by stopping all these. Put the manifesto of PDP, APC, Labour Party on the table and select all those who will pilot the programme from all parties.”
Nigerians will recall that on January 1, 2012, then President Goodluck Jonathan announced the removal of fuel subsidy.
This action led to the adjustment of the pump price of petrol from N65 per litre to N141 the decision sparked mass protests across Nigeria with the economy taking a hit. The administration was literally forced to recind the decision by replacing subsidies and reducing the pump price.
Fayemi equally faulted what he described as Nigeria’ politics of the winner-takes-all. He suggested that all political parties should
be made to place their manifestos on the table for a consensus to be built while an all inclusive system should be built in such a way that parties will find a place in government at the end of elections depending on their performance at the polls.
He equally credited the Jonathan administration for making giant strides in developing Nigeria’s economy. According to him, the last time Nigeria enjoyed economic growth was during his administration.
Also speaking during the event, former Minister of Aviation and a chieftain of the PDP, Osita Chidoka, said as the nation awaits the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Court on Wednesday, parties should prepare to accept the outcome.
Specifically, the PDP Cheiftain advised President Ahmed Bola Tinubu to be prepared to relocate to Lagos and prepare for the 2027 general elections if he loses at the court.
Chidoka said, “If the court says Tinubu is no longer the President, he should pack his things and go to Lagos and prepare for the next election. If they say he is the president, we will continue our agitation for the reform of the electoral management system.”