• Ex-president explains how he fought corruption
• Former leader seeks bill of rights for Nigerians
Although the President Muhammadu Buhari government has not publicly admitted a direct investigation of his predecessor for corruption, the latter thinks he is under probe.
Erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan declared yesterday: “Of course obviously, we’ve been investigated, and I’m being investigated.”
Insisting that his successor should be allowed to do his work, Jonathan said: “After all these investigations, the whole stories will be properly chronicled. I’ve just left office, and I should allow the president and his team to do what they believe is good for the country.”
Jonathan who spoke in an exclusive interview with the New York-based Bloomberg TV, after a speech he delivered at Bloomberg Studios, London, the United Kingdom yesterday declined to make further comments on the Buhari presidency, saying: “As the immediate past president, it is improper to make certain statements when the government is working.”
Many aides and associates of the former president are under investigation with many of them currently in detention by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for $2.1billion meant for the procurement of arms for the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency in the North Eastern part of the country with some Nigerians calling for Jonathan to be investigated as well.
But contrary to the perception in some quarters that the administration of Jonathan was abjectly corrupt and inept, the former leader said his government took many steps to curtail graft in the areas of finance, agriculture and petroleum.
In his speech, Jonathan said beyond job creation, Nigeria like other developing countries, faced the challenge of corruption, which is a stumbling block to the development of nations.
On how his government tackled corruption, Jonathan said: “I think it is important to let you know my administration took many steps to curtail this scourge, in the areas of finance, agriculture and petroleum.
“To take just one example, we drastically reduced corruption in the agricultural sector with the help of a simple mobile phone.
We achieved this by providing an e-wallet to farmers, which grew the percentage of registered farmers receiving subsidy from 11 per cent to 94 per cent. And in the process we were also able to save billions of naira in fertiliser subsidies.
“Through our Agricultural Transformation Agenda, we greatly boosted food production and saved almost a trillion of naira on food imports.
“This one initiative had the benefits of improving food security, creating more jobs and reducing inflation to its lowest levels in over five years.”
He also explained that the ambition of his government was to check the corruption in petroleum subsidies by completely deregulating the sector but lamented that unhealthy political resistance frustrated the efforts.
“Consolidating democracy and the effective war against graft should be the collective responsibility of all citizens,” he said.
He acknowledged that there had been corruption right from the country’s independence but defended his administration’s anti-graft war.
“I cannot say the country from the beginning of our independence, that there was no corruption, yes there has been corruption. I did very well also, to curtail corruption,” he said.
Explaining how he approached the fight against corruption, Jonathan said: “My approach to corruption, was ‘don’t make money available for anyone to touch.’
While he expressed commitment to good governance, effective stewardship and transparency, the former president insisted that for Nigeria to further develop, it needs peace, freedom and unity, saying: “These values need to be deeply, strongly and irreversibly entrenched in Nigeria for all time. For this to happen, it is imperative for both the executive and the legislative arms of government to institute a Bill of Rights.”
He said: “Such a Bill of Rights will end discrimination and tribalism, and promote equality, enabling everyone to work towards the common goal for the development of the nation.
“A Bill of Rights, which like the British Magna Carta, some 800 years ago, enshrined the principle of habeas corpus so that no person is deprived of his liberty without a trial of his peers.
“A Bill of Rights, like that introduced by America’s Founding Fathers, which stated that ‘the people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.’
“There is a statement by Cicero going back to ancient Rome.
He said: ‘Civis Romanus Sum’ meaning : ‘I am a Roman citizen.’
But it meant much more than that. It meant that every Roman was entitled to all of the rights and protections of a citizen in Rome. It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor or even a prisoner, you were still a citizen of Rome and protected by the state. Wouldn’t it be good for us to aspire to a Nigeria where we too could apply that same principle: ‘Civis Nigerianus Sum?’
“Each of us could say, ‘I am a citizen of Nigeria!’ We would be able to look beyond where each of us comes from, and look past our tribal origins.
“We would be able to evaluate each other on our merits, rather than our religion, or region. We would be free to think or do as we wished, as long as we observe the laws of the land, without fear that the land would withhold our rights under the law.
“What would it mean to be able to declare ‘I am a Nigerian citizen?’ You would be judged on your own merits, not your tribe.
You would have access to education that can help you succeed on whatever path you choose. You would be part of a proud culture, one that others want to invest in.
“You would be safe in knowing that society judges you by your successes and failures, rather than your place of origin. You would be equal before the law and your protection is enshrined in the laws of the country.
“You would be an asset and a valued member of your country; one who is worth investing in; who can return that investment tenfold within your lifetime. Ultimately, it means that you would be an ambassador for Nigeria, and you would be able to proudly go around this world and say: ‘I am a citizen of Nigeria,” he added.
According to the former president, his administration decided to invest in people because “if we did not invest in our people, then we will not be ready to manage.
“Our money, he said, must go towards providing education for all, because we know that once our citizens are educated, they have futures.
“Those futures lead to safer cities, stable economies, and more businesses. When a young person does not have access to education, their future is jeopardised and statistics show that they may be prone to antisocial and criminal activities.”
He said: “I am proud of the fact that my administration established a federal university in every one of the 12 states that did not previously have them. Now, for the first time in our country’s history, every state has a university established by the Federal Government. Despite it not being the responsibility of the Federal Government to develop primary and secondary schools, we built hundreds of these schools across Nigeria.
“Yet we need to build on these achievements by changing our mindset to investing in the resources above the ground, rather than below the ground. Once we invest in our citizens, it will be our time to confidently enter the international stage.”
On the issue of same-sex law, which he said was one area in which some members of the international community disagreed with him, the former president said he signed it into law because the bill was put forward in the context of polls that showed 98 per cent of Nigerians did not think same sex marriage should be accepted by the society.
“This was the highest percentage of any country surveyed. The bill was passed by 100 per cent of my country’s National Assembly.
“Therefore, as a democratic leader with deep respect for the rule of law, I had to put my seal of approval on it,” he added.