President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday condemned some politicians parading themselves as statesmen and senior citizens whereas, they are by their utterances, “ordinary politicians and motor park touts.”
He said such politicians could not be described as statesmen because of the big offices they occupied before but by virtue of what they brought to bear on the nation.
Jonathan spoke while playing host to a delegation of the Tanko-Yakasai-led Northern Elders Council in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Although the President did not mention names, former President Olusegun Obasanjo had on Monday said Nigeria was facing economic problems due to the failure of the present administration to plan for a rainy day.
Obasanjo had told Iyalodes and eminent women leaders from the South-West, who visited him at his Hilltop residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State, that the nation’s reserves which as of 2007 stood at $67bn had been depleted by the Federal Government.
The former President had earlier written an open letter to Jonathan in which he accused him of tribalism, condoning corruption and training snipers.
But a visibly angry Jonathan told the Northern elders that some people were hiding under big names to create problems for the country.
Jonathan also said that such people were in the habit of making unguarded statements with the aim of creating enmity.
The President said, “Some people call themselves statesmen but they are not statesmen, they are just ordinary politicians.
“For you to be a statesman, it is not because you have occupied a big office before but the question is what are you bringing to bear on the nation?
“Are you building this country? Or are you a part of the people who tell lies to destroy this country; to create enmity and make people who ordinarily would have been living together to fight themselves?
“Are you planning to set the country ablaze because you did not get that particular thing you want?
“At the appropriate time, Nigerians will know all of them even though I know most of such people. The younger ones do not know.
“Some people, including those with big names, are hiding under some clogs and creating a lot of problems in this country.
“They are making provocative statements that will set this country ablaze. How can someone tell me that such people are senior citizens. They are not senior citizens and they can never be. They are ordinary motor park touts.
“If you are a senior citizen, you will act like one. It is not because of the offices we occupy, it is by divine grace and providence that some of us occupy these offices. But what role are you playing to build this country?”
Jonathan also used the opportunity to assure the delegation that he was not against the Northern part of the country.
He said whenever he heard about such accusation, he always turned to Vice- President Namadi Sambo who is from the North to ask if, indeed, he is anti-North.
The President listed his Principal Secretary, Hassan Tukur, and his Chief Detail simply identified as Yusuf, as some of his close aides from the North.
Jonathan said because of his background, he believed that the only thing that could liberate individuals was education.
He said that was why he insisted that nine out of the 12 new federal universities be located in the North.
Jonathan said, “I used to tell Nigerians that I come from a background people refer to as the Talakawas; I come from that level and I am here today talking to Alhaji Jimeta because I went to school.
“And I said the only thing that can liberate an individual or a group of individuals is education. If I had not gone to school, I wouldn’t have been here to talk to big people like these.
“If you didn’t go to school, you wouldn’t have spoken the way you spoke, you would have looked for somebody to interpret. This is what I believe. I don’t play politics with it. It has been my policy that I don’t play politics with education.
“When I came on board, I said even though as a country we have the policy on paper, every state must get a Federal Government university.
“Out of the 12 federal universities created, nine of them are in the North while three are in southern Nigeria. The only three states that had no federal university were Bayelsa, Ebonyi and Ekiti.
“Those who were in charge of the university establishment were not fair. For us to liberate ourselves, we must go to school. If I hate the North, would I have done that?
“We talk about Almajiri education, we felt we must change. Luckily, we initiated it but now state governments are keying into it.
“I know that it was education that liberated me. I would have been a local canoe builder like my father and grandfather. But I am here because of education and I feel if we must liberate Nigerian children whether they are from Zamafara, Bayelsa, Kebbi or Delta state, they must be educated. I feel we must enter the North by aggression through education.
The President also referred to a newspaper publication (not The PUNCH) which, he said, indicated that the Federal Government awarded a few projects for the North-East and a chunk for the South-South.
He said he had reproduced copies of the publication and distributed them to ministers with a directive to ascertain whether indeed projects were skewed in favour of a particular geopolitical zone.
Jonathan added that he directed the ministers that if the report was indeed true, they must explain the reason(s) to him.
He said despite all the negative campaigns against him and his government, he would not cheat any part of the country.
The President said, “For the people who want to paint us in all kinds of colour, we will explain to Nigerians. There are a lot of documentations we will show Nigerians.
“Let me reassure you that this administration is working with your sons and daughters; we will not exploit any part of this country; we will not cheat any part of this country.”
Jonathan also stressed the need for peace and unity in the country, saying there could be no development without the two factors.
He said he was saddened that young Nigerians were seeing the country as a divided one.
The President said, “I feel sad that our younger ones are beginning to see Nigeria as if we are so divided. A Nigeria that a Muslim and a Christian cannot sit down together.
“I was told that the driver of the late Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa, was a Christian. Our people lived together in those days. Why not now that we have even modern ways of life?
“Any country that its citizens see themselves through their tiny tribal enclaves cannot go anywhere.”
Yakasai had in his remarks said it was important for all Nigerians to appreciate the fact that the country was crafted in such a manner that no one section could rule without the support of the other.
He recalled that it was the North that endorsed the principle of power shift which brought about the Presidency of Obasanjo and Jonathan.
He said it behoved on all Northerners and indeed, other Nigerians to continue to respect the principles of democracy.
Yakasai said, “Northern Elders Council believes in peaceful co-existence and extension of hands of fellowship to brothers and sisters from the other side of the nation.
“It is unpatriotic for anybody to instigate people against any person or peoples because of a temporary gain.
“Politics of insult, blackmail and castigation of individuals will not take this country anywhere.
“We therefore believe in peaceful co-existence among Nigerians and by working together shall we move the country forward.”