Abuja, Nigeria – Former President Goodluck Jonathan has called on Nigerian youths to vote for politicians who believe in Nigeria’s unity.
Jonathan said this on Saturday at an event organised in honour of Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, a former member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) board of trustees (BoT) to make his 80 on Sunday.
Speaking on the theme, ‘Igbo Quest for Nigeria’s Unity’, the former president appealed to Nigerians to pay less attention to differences and focus on the issues that foster unity.
“Luckily, we are in an election cycle, so my challenge to the youth is to take charge of their future by electing those who believe in our unity and will promote peace and progress — not those who will erect ethnic walls and religious barriers among our people,” he said.
“Collectively, if we work together and accommodate our differences, we can build a nation where everybody will have a sense of belonging, and everyone’s rights will be guaranteed.
“That is the way we must go; a Nigeria where equality and justice reign.”
Jonathan said the quest for Nigeria’s unity can be achieved, adding that it, however, requires all stakeholders to work in synergy and imbibe the principle of nationhood above ethnic and religious inclinations.
“Nigeria as a country should know that we need to review certain things,” he said.
“We cannot become slaves to our challenges. If we work together, we can build a nation where everyone will have a sense of belonging.”
Similarly, speaking as a special guest of honor on the occasion of Bishop Matthew Kukah’s 70th Birthday celebration held in Abuja yesterday, Former President Jonathan also spoke about the country’s democracy, asking Nigerians to protect it from derailing into fascism. According to him, democracy remains the best bet to manage the nation’s diversity.
He urged Nigerians not to lower their guard but use the forthcoming 2023 elections to save the country’s democracy.
Speaking on the theme of the event, ‘Nigeria’s Unfinished Greatness: Next Steps’, Jonathan urged Nigerians to remain vigilant and put all hands on the deck to choose leaders that would take the nation to the promised land
He said, “Obviously, many people, especially our youth are becoming increasingly disillusioned about our politics and our democracy.
“However, we must remain on the democratic path because it is the only practical way of effectively managing our diversity, developing sustainably and recording progress as a nation.
“The task before all of us is not to lower our guard, lest the democracy we cherish today, succumbs to threats and recedes into fascism tomorrow.
“Towards this goal, we are again faced with a good opportunity of choosing our leaders as the nation prepares to go to the polls next year. Let us choose those that will take us to the desired destination and the promised land.
“I am particularly thrilled that Nigerian youths are participating actively in the politics of 2023. According to the latest figures from INEC, youths constitute the majority of the 96.2 million registered voters, in the build-up to the next election. That is a good sign.”
He charged the youths that have registered ahead of the 2023 elections to endeavor to walk their talk by making sure they come out to vote on election day.
According to him, “They should, by all means, resist the machinations of unscrupulous politicians who would wish to exploit them by luring them to commit acts of violence or disrupt the process of free and fair elections.
“Our recent experience with the heightened youth interest in politics shows how desirous they are of participating directly in the governance process. They now know better not to lend their youthful energy to unpatriotic acts, during elections.”
The former Nigerian president described Nigeria as a work in progress; adding that until that work was done, people like Bishop Kukah, who serve as the conscience of the nation would continue to be around to constantly hold the mirror of the nation’s progression to its face.
He explained, “In the course of the last few years since I left government, I have been involved in the work of promoting democracy, credible elections and peaceful transitions across Africa.
“From what I know and have seen, I can confidently say that the experience and struggle for development are similar in many parts of Africa.
“Nigeria may not be where we want it to and should be, but we should not give up or lose hope by focusing on only the negative.
“Judging from where we are coming from since independence in 1960, we may have been moving slowly in our journey of nationhood, but it is a journey of progress, all the same.
“Our greatness is still work in progress because we have not been able to adequately deploy the enviable human and natural resources that God gave us, to full advantage. It is a task we will continue to work on and improve.
“A nation is an organic being that sometimes suffers setbacks. Along the line, from 1960, the nation no doubt has had its own doses of setbacks. This cuts across civil and military rule. The worst was the three-year civil war.
“In every set back, there are always lessons to be learnt and positive takeaways from such painful experiences that should guide us to a more productive future.”
Former President Jonathan also narrated how his government resolved a lingering strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in one night.
“The society we are managing is complex. Now, we are talking about ASUU strike. During my time too, ASUU had four months of strike. Different committees were meeting but nothing was working. I said ‘How can our children stay out of school for four months?” Jonathan said at the event.
“So, I had to call a meeting of all the leadership of ASUU. I presided over the meeting with my vice president. The Attorney General was there. I said that that night we must solve the problem. The Attorney General was there; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation was there; the ministers of education were there; the labour ministers were there; the finance minister and everybody that had to do with it [strike].
“And I thought that my being there would help us to do things quickly. But we spent the whole night. We finished like 5:30 am and the strike was called off. So, there were issues,” Jonathan said.