GENEVA—A confident looking former President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday in Switzerland gave a robust defence of his administration and stated why he would not comment on the current arms probe scandal allegedly involving his National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, and some top politicians in the country.
Speaking at Geneva Press Club on Security, and Development in Africa, the former President said he would not like to comment on the arms probe matter now because his comment could affect witnesses and the judicial proceeding that had been initiated by the current administration.
He said: “I would not like to comment now because the matter is in court. I cannot comment. Definitely, I will speak. My Comment now may affect witnesses and the judicial process.
“When I was President, I tried to build institutions like the Judiciary and separation of power and the electoral bodies. I should not be the one undermining the process.”
The former President fielded questions on a host of issues such as the Chibok Girls, Boko Haram the economy and corruption and also spoke on why he did not challenge his electoral defeat in court.
Pressed to comment on the huge amounts of money allegedly embezzled by some members of his administration, the former President said: “I have an idea about some of the corruption cases you are talking about. The amount being mentioned in some cases are so huge, sometimes people think I was Nigeria’s President since independence. Sometimes, people just bandy figures. I remember somebody said we lost $49 billion in 18 months.
“The same man who made the allegation reduced the figure to 12 billion. I got forensic experts to probe the books of NNPC to ascertain the veracity of the allegation. I even remember asking the German Chancelor who said if that amount of money was missing in her country, it would be a big issue.
“The truth of the matter is that if we lose such amount of money within 18 months as the allegation said, the country will collapse.’’
Negotiating with fake Boko Haram members
On the allegation that his government negotiated with fake Boko Haram members, Dr. Jonathan said it was not true.
“People come up with all sorts of allegations. The truth of the matter was that we realised that the epicentre of the terrorists activities were in two states – Borno and Yobe, we decided to set up a committee of influential people in those two states to interact with their people to see if they can help in tackling the problem.
‘’We did not negotiate with Boko Haram. The people we negotiated with were militants in the Niger Delta and it was successful.
‘’Even the current President said recently that if they see credible members of Boko Haram, they would be willing to discuss with them. If somebody said we negotiated with fake members of Boko Haram, the person is just playing politics,” he said.
On service chiefs and Chibok girls whereabouts
Asked to comment on the statement that his former service chief who said the Army knew where the Chibok girls were being held and till the end of his administration, the girls were not rescued, the former President said when he heard the comment, he was surprised, adding he invited the service chief for a chat.
He said he would someday make public what they discussed.
On why he did not contest his defeat at the poll, Jonathan said: ‘’I did not contest my defeat because I did not get into politics because of what I will gain. An African President on hearing the margin of defeat, said Jonathan must be tired. I could not destroy what I helped to build.’’
In his paper, he said one of the ways of tackling terrorism was through education.
“My policy was to fight insecurity in the immediate term using counter-insurgency stratégies and for the long term, I fought it using education as a tool.
‘’As I always believed, if we do not spend billions educating our youths today, we will spend it fighting insecurity tomorrow. And you do not have to spend on education just because of insecurity. It is the prudent thing to do.
‘’It is no coincidence that the North east epicentre of terrorism in Nigeria is also the region with the highest rate of illiteracy and the least developed part of Nigeria.
FG and primary education
“In Nigeria, the Federal Government actually does not have a responsibility for primary and secondary education, but I could not in good conscience stomach a situation where 52.4 per cent of males in the Northeastern region of Nigeria have no formal Western education.
‘’The figure is even worse when you take into account the states most affected by the insurgency. 83.3 per cent of male population in Yobe state have no formal Western education. In Borno state it is 63.6 per cent.
‘’Bearing this in mind, is it a coincidence that the Boko Haram insurgency is strongest in these two states?
‘’So even though we did not have a responsibility for primary and secondary education going by the way the Nigerian federation works, I felt that where I had ability, I also had responsibility, even if the constitution said it was not my responsibility.
‘’Knowing that terrorism thrives under such conditions, my immediate goal was to increase the penetration of Western education in the region, while at the same time making sure that the people of the region did not see it as a threat to their age old practices of itinerant Islamic education, known as Almajiri.
‘’For the first time in Nigeria’s history, the Federal Government which I led, set out to build 400 Almajiri schools with specialized curricula that combined Western and Islamic education. 160 of them had been completed before I left office.
‘’I am also glad to state that when I emerged as President of Nigeria on May 6, 2010, there were nine states in the Northern part of the country that did not have universities. By the time I left office on May 29, 2015, there was no Nigerian state without at least one federal university.
‘’Now the dearth of access to formal education over the years created the ideal breeding ground for terror to thrive in parts of Nigeria but there are obviously other dimensions to the issue of insecurity in Nigeria and particularly terrorism.
‘’You may recall that the fall of the Gaddafi regime in August 2011 led to a situation where sophisticated weapons fell into the hands of a number of non-state actors, with attendant increase in terrorism and instability in North and West Africa.
Partnership across West Africa
‘’The administration I headed initiated partnership across West Africa to contain such instability in nations such as Mali, which I personally visited in furtherance of peace.
‘’With those countries contiguous to Nigeria, especially nations around the Lake Chad Basin, we formed a coalition for the purpose of having a common front against terrorists through the revived Multinational Joint Task Force, MNJTF.
‘’Those efforts continue till today and have in large part helped decimate the capacity of Boko Haram.
‘’Another aspect of the anti-terror war we waged in Nigeria that has not received enough attention is our effort to improve on our intelligence gathering capacity.
‘’Prior to my administration, Nigeria’s intelligence architecture was designed largely around regime protection, but through much sustained effort, we were able to build capacity such that our intelligence agencies were able to trace and apprehend the masterminds behind such notorious terror incidences as the Christmas Day bombing of St. Theresa Catholic Church at Madalla, Niger State.
‘’Other suspects were also traced and arrested, including those behind the Nyanya and Kuje bombings. Not only did we apprehend suspects, but we tried and convicted some of them, including the ring leader of the Madalla bombing cell, Kabir Sokoto, who is right now serving a prison sentence.
‘’But leadership is about the future. I am sure you have not come here to hear me talk about the way backward. You, like everyone else, want to hear about the way forward.
‘’I am no longer in office, and I no longer have executive powers on a national level. However, I am more convinced now than ever about the nexus between education and security.
The Goodluck Foundation
‘’My foundation, The Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, was formed to further democracy, good governance and wealth generation in Africa.
“Of course, charity begins at home and for the future, what Nigeria needs is to focus on making education a priority.
‘’Thankfully, the administration that succeeded mine in its first budget, appears to have seen wisdom in continuing the practice of giving education the highest sectoral allocation. This is commendable.
‘’I feel that what people in my position, statesmen and former leaders, ought to be doing is to help build consensus all over Africa, to ensure that certain issues should not be politicized.
‘’Education is one of those issues. If former African leaders can form themselves into an advisory group to gently impress on incumbent leaders the necessity of meeting the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, recommended allocation of 26 per cent of a nations annual budget on education, I am certain that Africa will make geometric progress in meeting her Millennium Development Goals and improving on every index of the Human Development Index.
‘’Data has shown that as spending on education increases, health and well being increases and incidences of maternal and infant mortality reduce.”
‘’In Nigeria for instance, average life expectancy had plateaued in the mid 40s for decades, but after 2011, when we began giving education the highest sectoral allocation, according to the United Nations, Nigeria enjoyed her highest increase in average life expectancy since records were kept.
‘’We moved from an average life expectancy of 47 years before 2011 to 54 years by 2015. I had earlier told you about the connection between education and insecurity.
‘’I believe that it is the job of former leaders and elder statesmen to convince executive and legislative branches across Africa to work together to achieve the UNESCO recommended percentage as a barest.’’