- Seeks abolition of age barrier in politics
Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The final leg of the 60th birthday celebration of former President Goodluck Jonathan has ended in Otuoke, Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, with the ex-Nigerian leader insisting that he and his team made sacrifices for the development of the country while in office despite the turn of events.
He acknowledged the plight of many of his aides who are currently facing court cases and other forms of trials in several parts of the country, noting that governance remains a challenging task for which personal pleasures must be relinquished.
Jonathan was addressing several youth groups, including the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), among others, who were present to felicitate with him on his birthday in his country home.
“So, I am speaking to the future of this country, whatever sacrifices I have made as an individual or I discussed with my political party and others, because elections is not only about one person, we know a number of persons that are in court, not even me yet, who are suffering because of me.
“Politics is all about the people, so the decision I took, though I made the pronouncements, but it affected everybody. So, if we have made this kind of sacrifice and people are still sacrificing now, my plea with you is that you know that this country is in your hands,” he told the youths.
The former president admonished young persons in the country to cultivate the will to make sacrifices for the country when they are in position to do so, explaining that only then can the country truly make progress.
Jonathan who described the occasion as unprecedented and memorable, said it was only the second time he would celebrate his birthday in his life, the first being in 2004 while he was Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State.
While acknowledging several goodwill messages from “senior citizens” including President Muhammadu Buhari and ex-Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, he revealed that he never celebrated birthdays before his sojourn into politics as he was not used to the luxury of life because of his humble background.
Jonathan added: “Sometimes things could be so challenging that we begin to think that it is over but with what I have seen today, I am convinced that we still have a country.
“All of your speeches centre on the position I took especially when I surrendered in a way and made sure there was peace in the country because the tension was quite high.
“You also made mention of some of the few things we did when I was in office, especially relating to education and that is an area I can say we tried.
“Whatever sacrifices I have made, be willing and ready to make similar sacrifices whenever it’s your turn. Make similar sacrifice for the collective interest of our nation.”
According to him, being a young person should not be a barrier to occupying political positions, maintaining that many parts of the world were currently being led by youths.
“If one of the super powers and G5 nations like France can elect a 39-year old as president, then almost all of you here are very qualified to be president. And to add to what France did, I think Austria elected a 31-year old as president.
“So, don’t consider yourself too young and even in our country, Gowon (Yakubu) became a president at 32 and my governor then, the governor of old Rivers State who is now the King of Twon-Brass, he was made the military governor at the age of 28 and they all worked very well.
“I enjoin all of you who are making efforts to ensure that this age barriers are either eliminated completely or reduced in our laws. I think that you are advocating for that and I join you and I have always been on that track that we don’t really need age barriers”, he noted.
President of the IYC, Mr. Oweilaemi Pereotubo, who spoke on behalf of the youth groups, described the former president as a colossus and an inspiration to the youths and younger generation.
He called on the federal government to stop the “continued persecution” of the former first family, adding that Ijaw youths will no longer watch one of their own being harassed.
Wife of the former President, Patience; former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power, Godknows Igali; Chairman of Ogbia Brotherhood, Chief Benson Agadaga; Chairman Azikel Group, Dr Azibapu Eruani, among several other associates were present during the event.