President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday blamed last January’s protest over the removal of fuel subsidy in Lagos on manipulation by certain Nigerians who wanted the retention of the status quo of corruption in that sector.
He spoke at the 52nd Independence anniversary lecture with the title, Nigeria: Security, Development and National Transformation where the former President of Ghana, John Kufour, identified imbalance in development as the bane of the security situation in Nigeria.
According to President Jonathan, the situation where citizens abuse the privileges guaranteed by government as detrimental to the development of the state was worrisome, noting that because of the interest of 2015, the media were being used to abuse the privileges of the Freedom of Information Act to the point of overheating the system.
The President said: “The key issue we are discussing is about peace and development and of course we all know that there is no way you can talk about development when you have a lot of crisis. In fact some people make more money when there is crisis and when there is crisis it is like a country is in a state of emergency, anything goes.
“Crisis is one aspect but generally if there is no peace, it is extremely difficult for the ordinary people to survive though big players in the economy may survive. Ordinary citizens having small and medium enterprises cannot come out to do business during crisis and of course it affects the economy. So you must have peace to develop.
“But I believe what we face in Nigeria though not peculiar to us, one of our greatest problems is what I described as political security. Government can continue to provide physical security but also very important is the political security. When you have unending political conflicts in Nigeria, the country cannot develop.
“I believe political security is a big issue. There is this axiom that the pen is mightier than the sword. The sword is used to kill and destroy but what we use the pen to do is also very critical. When you have society with these unending political conflicts on the media whether print, electronic or social media, it brings a lot of insecurity to the system and some times people begin to doubt your government.
“For example when we were contesting election we promised it will be free and fair. I was convinced I must do that even if I will lose the election. After our election in 2007, even the presidents in our neighbouring West African states were finding it difficult to congratulate us because the observers felt the election was not properly done.
“That hounded us even when we traveled out and I promised myself that if I have the opportunity to preside over election, I will do something different even at my expense at least for the sake of the country. And we did that but unfortunately, though there were crises in some parts of the country, observers felt the election was reasonably free and fair compared to others.
“But immediately after that election, not quite six months, the kind of media hype that started hitting us made us to stop and ask where is this coming from?
“I said I did not just come out from the blues to contest the election, I was deputy governor for six and half years, I was a governor for one and half years, I was a vice president, and before election, I was the president up to April when the elections were conducted, people knew me.
“So within this period including when I even acted, if I was that bad would people have voted for me? So for Nigerians to have voted for me overwhelmingly that means there must have been something they were expecting and definitely six months would have been too short to pass any valid judgement. But the media condemned me.
“… During the demonstration in Lagos, people were given bottled water that people in my village don’t have access to, people were given expensive food that the ordinary people in Lagos cannot eat. So even going to eat free food alone attracts people.
“They go and hire the best musician to come and play and the best comedian to come and entertain, is that demonstration? Are you telling me that that is a demonstration from ordinary masses in Nigeria who want to communicate something to government?
“For me, if I see somebody is manipulating anything I don’t listen to you but when I see people genuinely talking about issues I listen. I am hardly intimidated by anybody who wants to push any issue he has. I believe that that protest in Lagos was manipulated by a class in Lagos and was not from the ordinary people.”