President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday hit back at his critics and opposition parties, accusing them of painting his administration “bad before the global community.”
He therefore warned that he would not allow their selfish ambition for the 2015 general election to destroy the country.
His warning is coming six days after an 18-page letter in which a former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, made scathing remarks about his administration was made public. It also came less than 24 hours after the opposition All Progressives Congress called on the National Assembly to immediately commence impeachment proceeding against Jonathan for alleged gross misconduct.
Although he has yet to personally respond to Obasanjo’s letter and the APC’s call for his impeachment, the Peoples Democratic Movement and the Nigeria Labour Congress on Monday, said he needed to do so because the allegations levelled against him by the former President were weighty.
At a lecture and award ceremony in Abuja on Monday, Jonathan told his critics to be cautious in attacking his administration because it was the selfish ambition of some politicians that led to the “wrongful overthrow” of the Shehu Shagari administration in 1983.
He was represented at the annual lecture, the third in a series by Nigerian Pilot Newspapers and Nigerian Newsworld, by the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku.
The President claimed that the criticisms against his administration were not constructive enough to challenge his development strides.
Jonathan,who said he had developed a “thick skin against such criticisms”, however advised politicians to thread with caution as their actions could destabilise the democractic structures already in place in the country.
He said, “There is a difference between ambition and reality. Go for your ambition, nobody is disturbing you because it is a free world. Go and compete, but don’t pull down this country called Nigeria because of your personal ambition. It is unacceptable.
“I think there is a difference between debates and insults. I reject insults and the fact that I am a public officer doesn’t give anybody the liberty to insult me. Most of the time you cannot detach the Office of the President and honour of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“There are people who are honestly trying to put things down for this country to move on. I think we can see the difference between facts and fiction.
“Let us not continue to behave as if we can pull down our own house; we as politicians and public servants should not behave as if we were picked on the streets. You don’t just go and pour acid on the faces of public officers.
“When Shagari was overthrown in 1983, there was a lot of noise that the government was not doing anything and nothing was not said about Shagari’s regime.
“Shagari was overthrown amidst lies….The greatest shame of this country is Ajaokuta Steel Complex. If Shagari was there, by 1986, he would have completed Ajaokuta.”
But Maku took a swipe at the media, stressing that on a daily basis, they were awash with highly fictional information.
He said, “If you look through our media reports today, we see insults and abuses, every day. If somebody did not abuse Mr. President, it will look as if there is no journalism on that day.
“We are talking about our country, our nation’s institutions and democracy; we are talking about setting standards for this democracy, standards of behaviour, standards of conduct and standards of principles of behaviour and every democracy must be parliamentary. We should not go personal, but we are going too personal.”
Maku compared the media to a mirror, which when broken, gives a false image.
He said, “We must not destroy the mirror and present the image as ugly.
“The mirror is very important in conveying the good image of our people. We have completely ignored issues on the ground and we are embarking on personality debates.
“The way we are sensationalising the development of this nation in public debates, is so annoying and it is not supposed to be so. I am a big time journalist.
“But there is a difference between reporting events and articulating a position because the media are supposed to articulate public debates. When the media embark on abuse and insults, the people will be confused.”
He also stated that the liberty being enjoyed by Nigerians had been taken for granted simply because “the President believes in the rule of law.”
But as he spoke, the PDM, like the APC, called on the National Assembly to impeach Jonathan if he failed to defend himself against the allegations by Obasanjo.
It also advised Nigerians to stop trusting him since he had been unable to do so.
The party argued that the allegations contained in the former President’s letter were earth-shaking.
In a statement on Monday by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Ahmadu Abubakar, the PDM listed all the allegations in the letter and said the President, in his interest and that of the country, must address them.
It said it was bad that Jonathan , instead of addressing the issues, resorted to crude means of answering them.
The statement reads in part,” If the President cannot defend himself of these allegations, he should come clean and openly say so instead of resorting to the dubious tactic of non response.
“If he cannot defend himself against these grave allegations levelled against him by no less a personality than … a person who knows fully the implications of what he says, there is no reason why Nigerians should trust him a day longer than necessary with the fate of their country.
“In which case, he should either promptly resign or be impeached.”
It also called on the National Assembly to fully and painstakingly investigate Obasanjo’s allegations by first, asking the President to fully explain himself.
Also, the NLC called on Jonathan to respond to the “weighty” allegations against his administration.
The congress, through its Acting General Secretary, Mr. Chris Uyot, told one of our correspondents that Jonathan’s response was needed because the allegations bordered on national security and the management of the nation’s economy.
It also urged the ruling Peoples Democratic Party to ensure that its lingering internal crisis did not engulf the country.
The labour group argued that since the letter by Obasanjo became public knowledge, Nigerians had patiently waited for a response from Jonathan.
It said, “The issues raised are weighty enough for the President to respond to. One of the issues borders on national security while another is on the management of the economy.
“As far as we are concerned, Obasanjo wrote a letter to the President and made those allegations, and Nigerians want him to respond to the said letter. The NLC would respond to the controversy at the appropriate time.”
Obasanjo had in the letter dated December 2, 2013 and titled, “Before it is too late,” accused Jonathan of taking actions inimical to the well-being of the nation.
The former President also alleged that the President was committing anti-party activities against the ruling PDP because of his political ambition.
Obasanjo, who accused Jonathan of training snipers and putting 1, 000 politicians under watch, alleged that he was also dividing the country along ethnic and religious lines.
But the NLC said that the ruling class in the country had been engulfed by a war which Nigerian workers must avoid.
It said that workers should be watchful and vigilant enough to avoid being drawn into taking sides in the fray among the ruling elite.
The congress added, “This is not the time for sentiments; it calls for reflection, we all know the problem of Nigeria. Let the PDP not make its problem a national problem.”