Dr. Jonathan sacked 10 ministers last year.
The President told a delegation of the Northwest Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the Presidential Villa in Abuja that the PDP is still the party to beat.
The delegation was led by former Defence Minister Haliru Bello. There were over 200 members from Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Kaduna, Katsina and Jigawa.
Three governors – Saidu Dakingari (Kebbi), Ramalan Yero (Kaduna) and Ibrahim Shema (Katsina) – were on the delegation alongside Deputy Governor Muktar Shagari (Sokoto).
With the President were Vice President Namadi Sambo, PDP National Chairman Bamanga Tukur and other senior party officials.
In Jonathan’s view, his administration has performed better than its predecessors in its two years and eight months. He promised not to interfere in the proceedings of the national conference, and said he is not anti-North, adding that Nigeria’s amalgamation is not by chance.
Ministers of Education, Agriculture, Mines and Steel, gave accounts of their ministries’ performance in the Northwest zone.
He said: “Some people call themselves progressives. They have done that before; did they change the system? Today, if you can abuse Jonathan, you are a progressive; if you can attack the Federal Government, you are progressive; even if nothing is happening in your state you are progressive. We have seen the progressives.”
He went on: “But just like the Vice President said, PDP is still the number one party and it will continue to be the number one party. Yes, people may have access to the media and use it robustly to their own advantage or disadvantage. But as long as we are united which we will do everything possible to keep the party together, PDP will continue to dey dam dam. No shaking! Nobody should come and deceive you to cross over to the other side that you don’t know what is there.
“Some people are crossing to where they don’t know. Well we will know as we progress but collectively, all of us working together with other members across the country, we will still be the leading party.”
“That is why when we presented our mid-term report for two years, I asked people to develop their marking scheme. It is not just to criticise, but you have to compare and especially a government that is facing too much challenges. If you look at the excesses of Boko Haram of which even the Police Headquarters was bombed here in Abuja, the UN building bombed. The bombing started from Abuja. Thank God we have generals among us here; they can tell you the cost of fighting this kind of situation. Even under this situation we have progressed significantly and sometimes people don’t even appreciate but time will come that people will know.”
Dr. Jonathan spoke also about education. Besides, he replied those who, according to him, said he is anti-north and “does not want to develop the North.”
Sometimes he said, “they sell these ideas to people from outside, especially those from the United States of America; you Nigerians believe the West must say something for us to listen.
“And I have spoken to one or two envoys and I said, look, if I am anti-North, agreed I am from Southsouth minority, if I had established three universities in the North and three in the South because there is no money, nobody will castigate me.”
“In the South, there were only two universities before we established the new universities, there were only three states without Federal universities – Ekiti, Ebonyi and Bayelsa. All the others have federal universities. As at that time, nine states in the North did not have Federal universities. And I believe that the very first thing you use to emancipate people is education,” Jonathan said.
He went on: “I often use myself as a good example. I grew up in a peasant home. If I did not go to school, there is no way I would have been here today. What has made me to be here today is education. They said I am lucky; if I didn’t go to school, will luck bring me to be President of Nigeria? And I say it is not fair, no matter what, let’s start small universities that will not admit more than 400 students that we can provide decent environment, more facilities. All the states in the North have federal universities.
“So if I am against them, would I have done that? The issue of Almajiri education; if I am against the North, would I have encouraged that we work with the governors to provide quite a number of children who are out of school?” he queried
He added: “I’m yet to get the last briefing on desert encroachment. I believe it is because there is no substantive minister yet, but immediately the National Assembly resumes, they will get the list of ministers. So that we will get a law that will establish a body. We are no longer going to play with this. We have assigned N10 billion as a take-off fund; this is from ecological fund not from line budgeting.”
“On agriculture, I read an article in the paper where somebody said government has budgeted N2 billion for the North; how can a government budget N2 billion? That was seed money. In some northern states alone, we are intervening with N14 billion, which I have approved and that is outside line budgeting.”
Jonathan also said when the security challenges in the North are reduced to a reasonable level, it would be discovered that the North has more resources.
“What is in the Niger Delta is oil; the land there is not good for farming. We have the best savannah area from the green savannah to the Sudan Savannah to the Sahel savannah to the Mambila Plateau area. We have the best ecological zone and this is where the resources are. The solid mineral is there. Let’s just work together and you will see how much we can transform the economy of this country that will benefit all of us.”
“Our strength is in our diversity, not in the oil. There are small countries that produce more oil but nobody hears about them. The oil we have in Nigeria is very small; if you divide the oil you have by your population, you will know you have nothing. If anything happens in this country, the whole world is shaking; why? Because of our diversity. And these are areas we must exploit to our maximum advantage. What we should be talking is the next 100 years and I believe then we will not be talking about north and south. We will be talking about who is going to the moon; who is manufacturing what.”
On National Dialogue, he said: “I also appreciate your support for the national dialogue. In fact, today we have a meeting with the committee. Sometimes people, for selfish or political reason, say all kinds of things in the media, but we believe people cannot just continue to talk in a way that instead of bringing unity are separating us.”
“Some of the people that are much more older than me. They are supposed to blame themselves that they have not been able to bring this country together. We should come together and encourage the younger ones to think about how to go to the moon, not to be fighting themselves. So, that is the need for the dialogue.”
He said the government would not interfere with the process. “Only to make sure we set the process properly so that it can continue to run. We are to make sure the national conference will not create more problems for the country but rather to solve what the people think are the problems in the country,” the President said.
The leader of delegation, Dr. Haliru Mohammed, maintained that the Vice President and the President had been working very hard to reinvigorate the party and to maintain its vibrancy in the Northwest zone and the North generally.
He said: “Let me assure you Mr. President that the Vice President is very much on ground and he is holding forth for you in our zone and the North in general and PDP is intact in the Northwest zone, despite all other information you may be getting.”
“Your Excellency, your steadfastness and determination to put in place a solid and well thought out transformation agenda for repositioning the country for a better future of steady and sustainable development is very appreciated by people in our zone and all Nigerians alike. Your transformation agenda is now embedded into the country’s template of economic revitalisation and is well on course. The dawn of a new era of progress and the betterment of the fortune and lives of Nigeria and our Nigerian people has brighten the horizon of hope.”
Speaking with State House correspondents at the end of the visit, Shema said the North will forever be united with Nigeria just as he maintained that defection is normal in politics.
He said: It is part of politics in the history of Nigeria. Since 1999, I don’t know how many number of people have left the PDP, came back to PDP, left another party.”
On the allegation that Jonathan is anti-north, he said: “The President has told you he is not anti-North. From what he said, I believe him. You take a man by his words and he said he is not anti-North. So, who are you to say he is anti-North.”
Mohammed, son of the late former Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, when asked to speak on alleged running down of the President by Kano State Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso, said: “I will not want to speak on that right now. But I think that we should all be friendly with each other. Nigeria belongs to all of us. Tomorrow, he may be the president, only God knows. But you see, it will not be fair for someone else to come and run him down. Then, unfortunately, I think we are creating a situation for ourselves in the North which will not be good for us in the future.”
On the criticism of the president, he said: “I think it is a simple thing. I will shortly say, those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. That’s all.”
Among those on the delegation are Senator Ahmed Makarfi and Alhaji Mahe Dange, National Organising Secretary of the PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Mustafa, some state chairmen of the party, Alhaji Dahiru Barau Mangal from Katsina State, former House of Representatives Speaker Ghali Umar Na’Abba and Hon. Faruk Lawan.
Also at the meeting were Col Bala Mande, Alhaji Bala Ka’oje, former Zamfara State Governor Mamuda Aliyu Shinkafi, Alhaji Munir Abukur, Col. AbdulMumini Aminu (rtd) and General Mogoro.