Monday 6 June 2016

What Nigeria needs to do to progress — ex-President Goodluck Jonathan

Goodluck Jonathan delivering a speech at Bloomberg
Former President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, on Monday said Nigeria could only make progress if it embraced the values of peace, freedom and unity.

Mr. Jonathan, who spoke at the Bloomberg studio in London, insisted that “these values need to be deeply, strongly and irreversibly entrenched in Nigeria for all time.”

As a precondition for the entrenchment of these enduring values, he said it was imperative for the executive and the legislative arms of the government in the country to institute a “Bill of Rights.”

According to him, such legislation would end discrimination and tribalism, and promote equality, enabling everyone to work towards the common goal for the development of the nation.
“A Bill of Rights, like the British Magna Carta, passed some 800 years ago, enshrined the principle of Habeas Corpus; so that no person is deprived of his liberty without a trial of his peers,” he said.
“A Bill of Rights, like that introduced by America’s founding fathers, which stated ‘the people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.’”
Borrowing an ancient Roman phrase, “Civis Romanus sum,” meaning, “I am a Roman citizen,” Mr. Jonathan said the phrase meant more than its literal interpretation.

He argued that the phrase, which was attributed to Cicero, meant that every Roman was entitled to all of the rights and protection of a citizen in Rome, irrespective status and class.
“Wouldn’t it be good for us to aspire to a Nigeria where we too could apply that same principle, ‘Civis Nigerianus sum,’” Mr. Jonathan asked.
“When each of us could say, I am a citizen of Nigeria! We would be able to look beyond where each of us comes from, and look past our tribal origins. We would be able to evaluate each other on our merits, rather than our religion, or region.
“We would be free to think or do as we wished, as long as we observed the laws of the land, without fear that the land would withhold our rights under the law.”
By confessing Nigeria, Mr. Jonathan said each citizen would be judged by their merits and not by tribe and everyone would have access to education that would help them succeed in whatever path they choose.
Continuing, he said, “You would be part of a proud culture, one that others want to invest in. You would be safe in knowing that society judges you by your successes and failures, rather than your place of origin.
“You would be equal before the law and your protection is enshrined in the laws of the country. You would be an asset and a valued member of your country; one who is worth investing in; who can return that investment tenfold within your lifetime.
“Ultimately, it means that you would be an ambassador for Nigeria, and you would be able to proudly go around the world and say, I am a citizen of Nigeria.
“Isn’t it true that we are all citizens of a proud Nigeria – home to great civilizations, such as the NOK and Igbo Uku, which date back over 4,000 years? We are one of the oldest cultures in the world.
“We are a civilization that had faced challenges, fought wars, and reformed our systems. We have always prevailed through difficult times. We are a civilization that now stands at a crossroads, a key time when we must make a decision to move forward or go back.
“It is my belief, that no matter what location, no matter what faction, no matter what tribe, ach one of us can come together as citizens of the future Nigeria.”
Citing Ralph Nader, an American Green Party politician who said, “There can be no daily democracy, without daily citizenship,” the former president said Nigerians needed a shift in their mindset to consider the rights of everyone when making government and investment decisions.

Rather than spending money on resources that would run out, he advised that the country should invest in people who he described as “constant elements in the socio-economic transformation of society.”

With a projected population that would surpass that of the United States by the year 2050, he called for huge investment in the Nigerian people to avoid the crisis associated with having a growing but poor population.

Mr. Jonathan advocated increased funding of education to empower and ensure the future of the country and the citizenry.

He said a future with highly educated citizenry would translate to safer cities, stable economy, and more businesses.
“When young people don’t have access to education, their future is jeopardized and statistics show that they may be prone to antisocial and criminal activities,” he said.
“I am proud of the fact that my administration established federal universities in every one of the 12 states that did not previously have them. Now, for the first time in our country’s history, every state has a university established by the federal government.
“Despite it not being the responsibility of the federal government to develop primary and secondary schools, we built hundreds of these schools across Nigeria.
“Yet we need to build on these achievements by changing our mindset to investing in the resources above the ground, rather than below the ground.
“Once we invest in our citizens, it will be our time to confidently enter the international stage. Each one of us will be able to go to any nation and proudly proclaim: I am a citizen of Nigeria.
“When we have a good mindset, we must also strive for equality. No investment in our people is going to pay off if we are unequal.”
One area, he said the international community disagreed with him was the signing into law a bill that discriminates against a segment of the population.

Mr. Jonathan was apparently referring to the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill, which he signed into law early in 2014.

Before giving his assent, he said a poll was conducted which showed that 98 percent of Nigerians disagreed with same-sex marriage, saying that was the highest percentage of any country surveyed.

Besides, he said 100 percent of members in the National Assembly at the time voted to ban same-sex relationship in the country and as a democratic leader with deep respect for the rule of law; he had no choice but approve the law.

Mr. Jonathan ended the speech by declaring his “Nigerianness” with an adaptation of Cicero’s phrase, “Civis Nigerianus Sum,” meaning, “I am a Nigerian.”

Goodluck Jonathan delivering a speech at Bloomberg
Credit: Premium Times

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