Warns 'don't use dynamite to blow up the house you seek to occupy'
In response to the barrage of criticism in recent weeks, especially from the seven aggrieved governors of his own Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday told his critics to stop distracting him and allow him to do his job, warning those seeking his job “not to blow up the house you are seeking to occupy with dynamite.”
The president, who spoke at the interactive lunch held yesterday with the Nigerian Diaspora community at the New York Plaza Hotel, also spoke on his achievements and his transformation agenda in office, adding that when he appointed a team to his cabinet, he went out of his way not to appoint politicians but appointed transformers to help him achieve his objectives.
Specifically, the president mentioned the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina; and Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, whom the president said he barely knew but appointed them primarily on the basis of the recommendations made to him and their CVs.
“My goal was to bring in more technocrats to the cabinet and not just political appointees. That is why I appointed the likes of Ngozi (Okonjo-Iweala), Adesina and Aganga.
“I did not know these people before I appointed them. When Ngozi was finance minister the first time, I was a deputy governor and out paths hardly crossed. But based on recommendations and their CVs I appointed them to help me in my transformation agenda.
“Each of them has performed very well and it is to their credit that we have been able to transform the agriculture sector, attract more investments into the country and kept the economy on track,” the president said.
Continuing, the president said: “The team is doing well and if given the chance, without distractions, it would do even better. Yes, we are not yet in the Promised Land but we on are track, so they should give me the chance to do my job.”
On the criticism that his administration was not doing enough to tackle corruption, Jonathan said he would rather deal with facts and numbers instead of speculation.
He pointed to the agriculture sector where N25 billion was being spent on subsidising fertilizer by past regimes which barely reached farmers, adding, however, that the trend had been reversed under his administration.
“N25 billion was being spent in the past to make cheap fertilizer available which hardly reached the end users. But today, we cut the amount to N5 billion to N6 billion per annum and 80 per cent of farmers have access to fertilizer to improve their yields. Yet they say I am not doing enough to curb corruption,” Jonathan said.
In the area of the power sector, he added that his administration had implemented the most transparent privatisation programme that was above board, adding, “No one gave us a chance. But for the first time, the federal government has implemented the most transparent privatisation programme, which was above board.
“The winners have emerged and will be taking over the distribution and generation companies in the next few weeks.
“With the handover of the power sector to the private sector, we will begin to witness improvement in electricity generation and intend to hit 10,000 megawatts of electricity generation by next year.
“Through the privatisation programme, we realised close to $3 billion which again is the highest ever realised from the sale of government companies.
“This is unlike what obtained in the past when the process was corrupted by those who were responsible for it. Yet the same people have the temerity to say I am corrupt when they could not run a clean process.”
The president also spoke on the petroleum downstream sector in which he said his administration tried to remove subsidies, but could not do so because Nigerians opposed the scheme.
“If this government was corrupt, I would not have asked that subsidies on petrol should be removed. I could have left it as it was in the past where we had all manner of marketers defrauding the government of billions of naira.
“But when I tried to remove the subsidy on petrol, we were forced to reduce it because we had to consider the demands of the Nigerian people who did not want the subsidy removed,” he said.
The interactive session, which was hosted by Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States of America, Professor Ade Adefuye and Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Professor Joy Ogwu, was attended by Aganga, Adesina, Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, Chairman/Editor-in-Chief, THISDAY Newspapers, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, Chairman of Forte Oil Plc, Mr. Femi Otedola, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), Mr. Uche Orji, among others.
Meanwhile, the president yesterday debunked an online report that he is in New York with 600-man delegation from Nigeria.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, the president said the report was untrue and misleading.
“We have noted with regret the continuation today by saharareporters.com of its usual scurrilous and baseless attacks on the Jonathan administration with publication of a false claim that the president is leading a 600-man delegation to the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
“While we trust that discerning members of the public who are already very familiar with Sahara Reporters’ usual fare of mischief, outright falsehood and erroneous speculation will rightly dismiss this latest claim as a fresh manifestation of the online medium’s ill-will towards President Jonathan and his administration, we wish to affirm for the benefit of the unwary that there is absolutely no truth in the allegation that the president took a 600-man delegation to New York.
“There is also no substance to the rehashed charge of profligacy which Sahara reporters annually makes against the president when he leads Nigeria’s delegation to the UN General Assembly.
“The truth is that less than 30 persons arrived in New York with the president this morning as members of his entourage. Other than them, the only other persons who are in New York for the UN General Assembly with the president’s knowledge and approval are relevant ministers and a few essential aides.
“President Jonathan’s official delegation is definitely not out of proportion with Nigeria’s size, role and relevance in Africa and the global community.
“Sahara Reporters’ claim that the president’s delegation is the largest at this year’s General Assembly is an unjustifiable fabrication which can never stand any rigorous test of truthfulness.
“We are certainly aware that many Nigerian citizens are currently on visits to New York. These persons are here for their own purposes and neither President Jonathan nor his administration has any responsibility for the presence of these persons in New York.
“We will not be surprised if it is such persons who include Nigerian businessmen who are here for an African Business Roundtable event, members of non-governmental organisations and tourists that Sahara Reporters has been counting, for the sole purpose of mischief-making, as ‘members of the Nigerian delegation’,” the statement read.