ABUJA — PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, urged political leaders, stakeholders and elders to stop making provocative statements capable of dividing the country, stressing the need for statements that will build Nigeria.
He spoke at the reception held in honour of Chairman, Board of Trustees, BoT, of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Tony Anenih, who marked his 80th birthday, at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
President Jonathan said it was unfortunate that some highly inflammable statements were coming from elders, who witnessed the Civil War.
He said: “That’s why I use this opportunity of celebration to plead with our elders to sing the song of unity in this country.”
President Jonathan, who described Anenih as a leader that had remained very relevant in the political landscape, said: “To pass through one winter is a tug of war, to cross 80, is worth celebrating.
“80 years of bad health is like punishment to the body. For all the period I have known Anenih, he has been very vibrant.”
He noted that it was not easy for the political icon to have remained relevant all these years, saying “to be relevant politically for all these years, is not easy. It is not easy for a politician to stay on top for a long time.
“I see something in him which is a little advice I will give to all us. Tony Anenih has shown that he is a nationalist. He has not shown that he belongs to one tribe, or one religion.
“So in spite of the challenges of politics, the unpredictable political environment, he continues to stand tall.”
Meanwhile, Chief Tony Anenih, broke down yesterday and wept while acknowledging the presence of Hajia Binta Yar’Adua, wife of late General Shehu Yar’Adua.
He sued for peace, saying governance was one person after the other, adding that if Nigeria’s past leaders and elders can genuinely advise President Jonathan, there would be peace in the country and the Boko Haram will be a thing of the past.
He said: “If you look round, you will know that Nigeria is here. We must forget the past and move forward. I was thrilled when I saw former President Olusegun Obasanjo in the Church today. For him to be here is to me forgiveness.
“I want to appeal to IBB, Abdusalami, Danjuma, Obasanjo that Nigeria needs peace. If they can give us peace and Jonathan is genuinely advised, he will move forward; if these men come together and advise Jonathan, Boko Haram will die.
“Nigeria is turn-by-turn. We should wait for our time. Jonathan is there now, it will get to another person; we should talk less.
“Let us put our hands behind the President. Time flies. Today he is the one, tomorrow it will be your turn.’’
Cardinal Onaiyekan preaches charity
Earlier at the thanksgiving mass, which took place at our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Area 3, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan called on politicians to remember the poor in their daily activities.
Onaiyekan, who challenged politicians in the country to imbibe the true virtue of selfless service in their leadership roles, said that what Nigerians need was peace and prosperity.
The Cardinal, who noted that most Nigerians were currently amassing wealth, which they do not really need, reminded everyone that life and the world itself were vanity.
Preaching from Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21-23, the cleric said: “It is foolish to store up treasure for one to be rich in the sight of God. Greed is same as worshiping other gods.
“Those who pursue political power with the intention of honouring God and improving the lives of others are doing His will. As we celebrate Anenih at 80, let us also make our other brothers to see reasons and cause to celebrate.’’
He’s a father — Oshiomhole
Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, who was at the service, told journalists that he was there to honour Chief Anenih, whom he described as a father to all, adding that his culture demands that elders must be respected.
Oshiomhole said: “Politics aside, he is our elder. At 80, he is a father of all of us. It does not matter that we disagree on some issues.
“Some of us may not believe in his party, but after politics there is life. In our culture, we respect our elders. I wish him well.”
Governor Godswill Akpabio, who spoke on behalf of governors of PDP, hailed Anenih at 80, stressing that with Nigerians present in the hall including former presidents, heads of state, retired Chief Justices, among others, the BoT Chairman’s birthday could be used to discuss the unity of Nigeria and address all the problems in the country.
Former Head of State, General Abdusalami Abubakar, who said he does not belong to any political party, said he first met the elder statesman in 1964 in Agbor.
Former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme, presented a card on behalf of members of the BoT to mark and welcomed him to the club of the octogenarians