*Explains it’s 7 years single term
*Dismisses Wikileaks as beer parlour discusion
BY EMMANUEL, Political Editor, DAPO AKINREFON, CHARLES KUMOLU & GBENGA OKE
ABUJA – President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday said he had no regret for his proposal for a single tenure for the President and Governors which he said was for seven years apiece even as he chided critics for commenting on the issue which he said had not even been tabled before the National Assembly.
Speaking during the first media chat of his new administration, President Jonathan assured Nigerians that the government was on top of the insecurity situation in the country affirming that the top echelon of the security apparatus had been mobilized to curtail the security breaches in parts of the country.
In the wide ranging recorded interview with select journalists in the State House, President Jonathan equally gave his administration’s determination to address lingering issues in the power sector and agriculture.
While drawing back from giving any figure on the projected power generation, he however, promised that power generation would from henceforth steadily increase. Promising a radical departure from the agriculture policies and programmes of his predecessors, President Jonathan pledged not to give waivers on duties for rice imports as he affirmed that Nigeria would through the agriculture programmes being articulated by the administration become self-sulficient in rice.
President Jonathan also used the opportunity to defend Nigeria’s stance on the Libyan crisis saying that Nigeria acted on the basis of the African Union agreement in Malabo, Sao Tome that ousted Libyan strongman, Mummar Ghadafi should step aside.
President Jonathan also used the opportunity to dismiss the leakages of United States diplomatic cables related to him, his wife and one of his top aides, Barrister Oronto Douglas dismissing them as beer parlour talks.
The interview anchored by Stella Din and Tukur Abdulrhaman, Kunle Bakare and Wole Laoye as other members of the panel.
Single tenure proposal
Giving reasons for his proposal of a single tenure which he said the originating committee conceived to be seven years for the President and Governors, he said it was aimed to beat back the tide of unrest and cost associated with frequent elections in Nigeria and the continent.
According to him the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC spent as much as N130 billion in conducting the last election besides the much more expended by other agencies and political stakeholders.
He said: “But the issue is that in Africa elections create social unrest and we need to manage this. Look at election that was conducted in this country that both local and foreign observers agreed that the elections were credible and still there was crisis in some of the states.”
Affirming that he had no regrets over the proposal that has been repeatedly attacked by critics as diversionary and misplaced, he said:
“I have no regrets. Transformation is costly, transformation is painful. The issue of single tenure is to stabilize the polity. A country cannot be stabilised economically without first and foremost stabilizing the polity. We must stabilize the political environment before you can talk about the economy. We and Brazil and Malaysia, we were almost at par at independence.
It is very easy to say all your problem is caused by corruption, corruption is there, and we must all fight corruption. From 1960 to date, Nigeria has not been under steady political environment. Some people are not too sure of what will happen the next day of because the long history of military rule has affected the polity. We had succeeded in installing Obasanjo as the president once; Yar’Adua had been president and now I before another election. We can say that this democracy has come to stay.”
Continuing, he said: “In a situation where you elect a governor and that governor has not sat down, another election is around the corner. Look at Delta State, the Delta state governor was in court until two months, when the decision was taken by the court, he conducted another election. Will you tell me that such government will be focused?
It won’t. Every four years you conduct elections, you create so much tension in the political environment. As we are talking, some people are busy holding meetings for the 2015 elections. It creates series of confusion in the political environment. I am not saying that single tenure, alone, will bring one hundred per cent stability.
There is no political system that is one hundred per cent stable, you must have some tension. That was why I came up with that. We are talking about single tenure; it is not the first time that this issue has been raised. A committee as at that time recommended five years single tenure. The late Yar’Adua appointed Justice Uwais for the political reforms.
Asked on his response to the state of insecurity in the country, President Jonathan said that the administration has mobilized the full apparatus of government to deal with the situation. According to him the government’s resolve is buttressed by regular meetings among security officials at the highest level.”
He said:“The level of sophistication in the ongoing criminality in the country, requires that we need to do more. We need intelligence gathering from everyone in order to tackle the problem. Yes, we have security challenges, I am sure that we will come out of it. For instance, trans-border criminality is threatening all of us. Recently, we spent a whole day during the Council of States meeting, discussing security. The security chiefs of all the western African countries now meet regularly to address the challenge posed by trans-border criminality.”
On the crisis in Plateau State, the President said the crisis was essentially a sectarian crisis that is continuously being fanned by religious sentiments. He pulled back from supporting suggestions for the proclamation of emergency rule in the state.
“The crisis in Jos is over eleven years. The Plateau issue is not caused by religion, but religion is the fire that increases the problem. We are working on how to end it. During the time of President Olusegun Obasanjo, a state of emergency was declared, but it did not solve the problem. For there to be peace in Jos, the people must agree that they want peace.”
He said he is scheduled to meet with Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State tomorrow, Wednesday over the security situation in the state.
According to him the country was now investing in equipment to address cross border criminals who he said were inflaming the insecurity situation in the country.
“We are acquiring more helicopters to provide adequate security at our borders and security chiefs now meet monthly to discuss ways of beefing up the security system in our borders,” the President said.
President Jonathan equally used the opportunity to comment on the lingering crisis in the judiciary opining that the judiciary should be allowed to sort out its internal problems by itself.
He said:“I am worried because an average Nigerian believe the judiciary is the last hope to get justice in this country. I believe the Judiciary will reform itself because they know what happened is no good for them, so they will reform themselves and I believe they are ready for the reform. I also believe after the reforms, they will come out stronger.”
On why the Federal Government turned its back on the Ghadafi regime against the trend of most other African nations, President Jonathan said:
“We did not take any contrary decision apart from that of the African Union, AU. About 45 countries at the last meeting in Malabo gave their support to the Transitional government in Libya. When we met in Malabo, we knew it was obvious that Muammar Gaddafi can’t continue as president. The initial idea was for Gaddafi to step aside but things turned out the other way round. As for Nigeria’s support for the transitional government, Nigeria cannot continue to give support to Gaddafi’s continue stay in government,” the President said.
Why noting improved power generation in the country and a promise to increase power supply to the citizenry, the President, however, refused to be drawn into a specific figure on the level of generation output.
“Presently, we are not talking about megawatts again but we are working day and night to fix the power generation problem. I believe in the next 3months, power will improve but government will have to do away with power generation and distribution to enable the private sector handle the sector properly but I can assure you that power generation will not decrease but will continue to increase.”
President Jonathan also promised that the country would before the end of next December start the export of cement while he promised that his government would through the ongoing reform in the agricultural sector stop the importation of rice. He promised that he would under no consideration grant duty waivers for the import of rice into the country.
He lamented that less than 11 per cent of the fertilizer imported into the country got to the farmers