President Goodluck Jonathan
By Muhammad Bello
President Goodluck Jonathan Wednesday promised the international community that he would not cling to power like some of his African counterparts, adding that he would continue with the electoral reforms to ensure that the choice of the people emerges at the next general election.
Jonathan, who spoke at a breakfast meeting in New York to rekindle investors’ interest in the Nigerian economy, said it was because he had no such intention that he had made electoral reform a cardinal point of his transformation agenda.
Also at the occasion, organised by the Africa Business Roundtable (ABR), former British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, urged Nigerians to be critical about the stance of the opposition on issues, while a former United States Secretary of State, Ms. Condoleezza Rice, warned that it was dangerous in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic state like Nigeria for the “strong to keep exploiting the weak”.
Assuring investors that he was ready to do anything to sanitise Nigeria to attract investments that will bring the country at par with other world economies, the president stated that he would ensure that he rid the country of corruption having taken the risk to conduct a free and fair election in 2011.
“Let me assure friends of our country and businessmen interested in investing in Nigeria that Nigeria is committed in giving you the support.
“We are totally committed to solving our problems. We started with the electoral process and we have demonstrated our commitment in sanitising that system because when the people put you there, you will be committed to serving them.
“I was ready to lose the election if Nigerians did not want me in 2011. If I was ready to be disgraced out of office to sanitise the system, that is to tell you I am ready to sanitise the system to bring about investments in our country,” Jonathan said.
He told the audience, which included Akwa Ibom State Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, and his Benue State counterpart, Mr. Gabriel Suswam, that Nigeria has numerous problems but his government has decided to prioritise them in order to systematically deal with the challenges.
Blair, who called for support for Jonathan, praised his efforts to reform the country, which he observed was a difficult but necessary thing to do.
Citing the case of the deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry and other critical areas, he said this was a moment of opportunity and therefore, Jonathan must have the courage to proceed with the planned economic reforms even though this would cause anxiety among Nigerians.
He said with what was going on in Nigeria, the country was on its way up, and that also meant that Africa was on its way up.
According to Blair, “This forum is to send out a clear message to the world that Nigeria is on the way up. So, to the international investors, come, see, and be part of the success story.
“I know it is tough and it is hard. One of the things I learned since leaving office is that it is not easy to get the advice and take the decisions.
“My plea is to stick with it, support the president and the ministers making these changes. My plea to Nigerians is: don't be deterred by the voices that say they are representing the majority of the public, but often are actually representing the minority or vested interests.”
On her part, Rice said for the first time, news emanating from Africa on issues that have caused global stigmatisation of the continent such as AIDS, famine and wars, are no longer critical.
She said four critical responsibilities that are key if Nigeria is to realise its potential are good governance, which includes transparency, fighting corruption, the importance of the rule of law, and democratic governance that is inclusive.