Former President Goodluck Jonathan has expressed worry that Nigerians are fond of playing politics with just everything, warning that such attitude would not get the country anywhere.
He lamented that one of the problems of the country is that the nation plays politics with things that have very much to do with the national interest.
“We play politics with our security. We play politics with our economy. We play politics with almost everything. That, definitely, is not the way to go, if we must make progress in realizing our national aspirations and goals.”
Jonathan spoke at the launch of a book titled: “The National Conversation,” written by James Akpandem and Sam Akpe. The book deals with the intrigues that shaped the 2014 National Conference as well as the inside story of the conference.
Ex President said: “if we take politics out of our national calculations, we would all agree that with a fresh government, it would have been easier to achieve the implementation of the report.” he stated.
He said that he was determined to implement the 2014 National Conference recommendations because he was confident of winning the 2015 general elections, but that apart from losing the election, there was what he called “the gale of defections that hit the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at that time, as well as the length of time it would take to implement the report.
The ex-President said that those knowledgeable about the processes of constitutional reforms would know that to implement the Confab report, a number of alterations would be made in the constitution which would require the involvement of the National Assembly and State assemblies.
Jonathan who was represented by former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, said that such an elaborate review couldn’t have been possible at that time because the report submitted in August 2014, at a time when the country was already on the verge of a general election.
“It is also important to point out that at that time, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who was a member of my party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had already moved out, with some members, to the opposition party,” he said.
He stated that the then Senate President Senator Bukola Saraki with some senators had moved out of the PDP.
“The statistics showed that a reasonable part of the two chambers were anti-government at that time.
The former president said that understanding that the parliament is under that kind of situation, it would have been imprudent on my part to take such a precious document, which he considered crucial to the nation’s development yearnings, to a parliament that would not give it due consideration.
“If we had a task that would require the alteration of the constitution, enactment of new laws, and amendment of some existing ones, there was no way that could have been done overnight.
“We were also fully aware that, for the segments of our population that were already suspicious of all the actions of government, our intentions could have been misread, especially against the backdrop of the ECOWAS protocol on constitutional reforms which states that no substantial modification shall be made to the electoral laws of the member states in the last six months before elections,” he said.
He said that when he contested the 2015 elections, expected to win a second term within which period he would have worked on the implementation of the Confab report.
“I felt that within the next four-year mandate, my first two years would have been dedicated to implementing a reasonable part of the recommendations.
“Whenever people say that I should implemented its recommendations, my feeling is either those people did not understand the political environment at that time, the length of time it would take to implement the report of a conference like that or probably were just playing politics with such an important matter.”
He wondered why comments, appraisal, and controversy have continued, many years after the conference.
“One of the questions that has been variously asked has to do with why my administration did not implement the recommendations of the conference before leaving office.
“Although I had offered reasons for this on many occasions and even addressed it in my book ‘My Transition Hours’, the concern has continued to recur. However, since this is the first major public event on the 2014 Confab after I left office, I feel obliged to offer further explanations on my thoughts on the conference.
“The essence of the 2014 Confab was to encourage a healthy conversation among the populace, address the queries agitating the mind of Nigerians and mend fences, where possible. At that time, it was obvious that the ethnic nationalities were singing discordant tunes about the state of the nation and the future of the country.
“The widening fault lines posed a clear threat to the stability and existence of our dear nation.
“In responding to the yearnings of the people, my administration inaugurated the conference to provide the opportunity for Nigerians to discuss their issues and agree on the way forward.”
He said that his message to the conference was very clear; that they could discuss everything, save for the sovereignty of our great country, Nigeria.
“I believe, like most Nigerians, that we are better off as one united country. The ethnic diversity and population of our great country can be deployed to enhance our economic development and our relevance in the global scheme of things.
“On the contrary, the disintegration into smaller fragments will diminish the status of our people and their standing in the world.”
He commended Akpandem and Sam for the great idea of documenting the experience of the 2014 National Conference, including the intrigues, scheming, interests, and the side attractions that formed part of the activities that produced the beautiful document we have as the report of the Conference.
He prayed for the repose of the soul of Justice Idris Kutigi, chairman of the Conference, who died in 2018.
However, he said that the vice chairman, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi and other members who are still alive can testify that he never interfered with any decision of the conference.
“I can recall a particular incident when the chairman and his vice approached me for my guidance on a pressing matter before them, but I bluntly told them to figure it out themselves.
“I reminded them that, apart from the representatives of the youths, human rights, and student groups, most of the members of the conference, up to 60 per cent of them, were older and even more experienced than myself. I encouraged them to deploy their vast experience to execute the assignment without interference.”
“I plead with Nigerians not to play politics with the 2014 Conference report. I believe that at the appropriate time, the country through a dedicated parliament will do the right thing. And the right thing is to duly and dispassionately consider the report of the conference with a view to implementing the recommendations for the good of the country.”