President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, flagged off his campaign for re-election in Lagos, declaring that his generation has failed Nigeria.
“I believe that the young Nigerians are the future, we are finished. We believe that the youths will be the ones that will take us to the moon, my generation has failed because we could not take Nigeria to the moon,” he said.
“I don’t want to address old people like me because we are spent already. I am going to dwell on three things because those, who said they are going to take over from the PDP have been telling a lot of lies. They have hired people all over the world and are feeding people with lies on the social media. They are painting all sorts of colours and giving you all sorts of claims that they cannot defend,” Jonathan told youths at the gathering.
He listed the three points as his administration’s attitude towards corruption; alleged weakness of his government and the perceptions of lack of planning.
Reacting to the challenge from Buhari on the administration’s alleged failure to address the insecurity in the land, the President said: “They talked about insecurity. They said they will fight insecurity. And I ask, are our armed forces weak? If we have problems, what is the cause? Equipment. Somebody who told young people that he is going to fight insecurity, ask him if he bought one riffle for Nigerian soldiers when he was the Head of State. These people did not buy anything for the Nigerian soldiers. They refused to equip them. Ask them what they did with their defense budget.
“They said my government is corrupt and that we are not fighting corruption. Only yesterday, I addressed anti-corruption agencies and told them that people are deceiving young Nigerians. I said that they must tell Nigerians what they are doing.
“We have arrested more people and done more convictions. Let me apologise to some Nigerian federal civil servants who did not receive their December salaries early enough and I will tell you what happened. I apologise to those families that suffered because we believe and I believe that for you to fight corruption, we must take measures. If they had succeeded in fighting corruption, corruption would not have been with us today. If they had set up structures especially with the days of modern science and technology using ICT, to manage resources, we would not have been talking about corruption today.
“What happened in December was because of a software that is used for processing salary packages. Sometimes, people steal through salaries and some federal government agencies, including some ministries try to divert funds to try and pay for some allowances and the system is scientific. It is not a human being. Once money meant to pay salaries is diverted, it shuts you down and those departments of government were shut down. This is the only way you can prevent corruption.”
The president also boasted that his administration has recorded success in combating corruption in the agriculture sector, especially through fertiliser distribution. He however noted that brutal responses would not end corruption.
“If somebody tells you that the best way to fight corruption is to come and arrest your uncle and father and show him on television and jail him, it won’t stop corruption. It even encourages corruption. Armed robbery is still with us, we are shooting armed robbers, is that stopping armed robbery?
“So, arresting people and showing them on television will not stop it; we must set up institutions and strengthen them to prevent people from touching the money and that is what we are working on and we are succeeding,” he said.
Speaking on issues that haunted the administration arising from the procurement of arms, Jonathan said: “We talked about corruption and they say that the military is corrupt. When this crisis of insecurity came up, we had nothing, so to get these equipment quickly, we had to use vendors to procure them; but now, what we are doing is government to government transaction. Any new procurement we are doing whether for the Air Force, Navy or Army, is government to government. There is nothing like corruption any more even if we had some issues. Is that not the way to fight corruption?
“You must prevent people from touching your money and this is what government is doing and succeeding in a number of areas especially in the procurement area. If you look at it, we are reducing corruption.”
Referring to the aborted kidnap of Alhaji Umaru Dikko from Britain by the Buhari administration in 1984, Dr. Jonathan said: “They say we are weak but we know that there were some people who, while they were abroad, some people drugged them and put them in crates and attempted to fly them to Nigeria but they were intercepted by superior powers. That blocked Nigerians from even going to Britain; the whole world isolated Nigeria. They say that is the best way to fight corruption. Is that the way to stop corruption? Not to follow due process? So, immediately I suspect your uncle, I just go and crate him and put him in Kirikiri (Kirikiri Prison). Is that the way to stop corruption?”
Jonathan asserted that his opponent’s anti-corruption stance was a way to simply deal with enemies. “They want power at all cost, all they want to use power for is to lock up and imprison their enemies. I have no enemies to fight. I won’t stop corruption by arresting people and putting them in jail. You cannot stop corruption that way.”
On youth empowerment, the president said; “Government feels that Nigerians are very dynamic people, creative and industrious people and, as you know, we are over 200 million people but we cannot touch everybody the same day.
“We came up with the concept of YOUWIN to give grants and not loans to young Nigerians that have ideas. We have done that and some of them are already manufacturing things. In the next five years or so, some of them will be exporting things out of the country. Can you do that without planning? And they say we have no plans for the youths, let them come and tell us the plans they have for the youths. Look at what India is doing, look at what countries that we were at par at independence are doing. Do you want to go back to those days where they had no plans for the youths?”
PDP stalwarts present at the rally included Vice-President Namadi Sambo, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, Senator President, David Mark; Emeka Ihedioha, Governors Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Theodore Orji (Abia), Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), Lyel Imoke (Cross River), Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti), Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), Jonah Jang (Plateau), Isa Yuguda (Bauchi), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina) Idris Wada (Kogi) Aliyu Babangida (Niger) Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo (Gombe), Nuhu Ribadu, among others.