Presidency, ex-ministers in war of words over Jonathan’s achievements
SOME former ministers who served under erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan have risen in his support, urging President Muhammadu Buhari government to stop discrediting the immediate past administration.
A statement issued yesterday by a former National Planning Minister, Abubakar Suleiman, on behalf of other former ministers in the Jonathan administration listed the gains recorded by that regime in some sectors, including agriculture, electoral reform and national stability. They insisted that the records of achievements of the Jonathan administration remained unbeatable.
In a swift reaction, the Presidency urged the former ministers to pause and reflect deeply on their stewardship to Nigerians, “rather than embarking on a wild goose chase raising issues where there were none in the present administration’s war against graft.”
The statement by the ex-ministers which was circulated by Suleiman’s Media Assistant, Abdul Rahman AbdulRauf, in Abuja reads in parts: “We, the ministers who served under the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan administration, have watched with increasing alarm and concern the concerted effort by the Buhari administration and members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to condemn, ridicule and undermine the efforts of that administration, in addition to impugning the integrity of its individual members.
“While we concede that every administration has the right to chart its own path as it deems fit, we nevertheless consider the vilification of the Jonathan administration, to be ill-intentioned, unduly partisan, and in bad faith. The effort that has been made to portray each and every member of the Jonathan administration as corrupt and irresponsible, in an orchestrated and vicious trial by media, has created a lynch mentality that discredits our honest contributions to the growth and development of our beloved nation.”
It continued: “We are proud to have served Nigeria and we boldly affirm that we did so diligently and to the best of our abilities. The improvements that have been noticed today in the power sector, in national security, and in social services and other sectors did not occur overnight. They are products of solid foundations laid by the same Jonathan administration.
“Contrary to what the APC and its agents would rather have the public believe, the Jonathan administration did not encourage corruption, rather it fought corruption vigorously, within the context of the rule of law and due process. For the benefit of those who may have forgotten so soon, it was the Jonathan administration that got rid of the fraud in fertilizer subsidies, which had plagued the country for decades. This helped to unleash a revolution in agricultural production and productivity.”
The former ministers further noted: “It was also the Jonathan administration that supported the institutional development of strong systems and mechanisms to curb corruption in the public service and plug revenue leakages. These included the development of the Government Integrated Financial Management Platform, The Single Treasury Account (TSA), and the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Management Systems (IPPIS), in addition to the biometric registration of civil servants and pensioners which saved the country over N100 billion paid to ghost workers and ghost pensioners.
“To ensure greater transparency and integrity in the oil and gas sector, the Jonathan administration ordered investigations and put mechanisms in place to check the theft of Nigeria’s crude oil. It was also under the Jonathan administration that a Nigerian Content policy was introduced, which opened up that sector to Nigerians in a manner that was not previously the case. It was also the Jonathan administration that mobilised and secured the support of our neighbouring countries to ensure a robust multinational response to the menace of terrorism and insurgency, resulting in notable advancements in the fight against terror. President Jonathan personally initiated the collaboration that led to these advancements and ensured that Nigeria provided the needed financial support for the Multinational Joint Task Force.”
According to the statement: “It was the Jonathan administration that repaired and rehabilitated over 25, 000 kilometres of our nation’s roads. Nigeria also became a profitable and preferred investment-friendly destination. It was under President Jonathan, for example, that Nigeria’s electric power sector became more competitive and attractive to local and foreign investments.
The same administration promoted the rule of law, free speech, fundamental human rights, and a robust freedom of information regime. Women’s rights to participate in public life and the federal character principle as well as other constitutional principles were also respected.
“In every respect, our administration promoted inclusive governance and encouraged all stakeholders including the private sector to play key roles in the transformation of Nigeria.”
The former ministers said: “It should also not be forgotten that the Jonathan administration strengthened electoral institutions and created a peaceful environment for democracy to thrive. On this score, it is sad and ironic that the chief beneficiaries of that same legacy are the most vociferous today in condemning President Jonathan and his team.”
Challenging Buhari to publish the handover notes it received from Jonathan, the ex-minister said: “Perhaps the new administration and the APC would be sincere enough to publish the details of the handover notes they received. In addition, the Buhari administration should be fair enough to acknowledge the good works of the Jonathan administration. No administration can be either completely bad or completely good. President Jonathan’s achievements in moving this country to greater heights deserve to be duly acknowledged. We urge President Buhari to build on these achievements.
“We also urge him to press on with the anti-corruption fight, but in a fair and non-partisan manner, in line with due process, and not as a political witch-hunt.
“The various lies and fabrications being peddled by some self-appointed spokespersons of the administration may entertain the unwary, but such sensationalism may achieve the unintended effect of de-marketing our country within the international community. All such persons playing to the gallery for whatever gains should be called to order. The name-calling of members of the Jonathan administration and the trial by news media should also stop.”
The former leaders also said: “We encourage President Buhari to continue with the probes, but this must be in strict accordance with his oath of office to treat all Nigerians equally and with the fear of God.
“We have reserved our comment until now, in the fervent hope that once the euphoria that may have inspired the various attacks on the past administration wears off, reason will prevail. But we are constrained to speak up in defence of the legacy of the Jonathan administration, and shall do so again, for as long as those who are determined to rubbish that legacy, are unrelenting in their usual deployment of blackmail, persecution, and similar tactics.”
In a statement, the Presidency hoped that the former ministers have not turned themselves into the latest trade union in town. Calling them the Association of Ex-Jonathan Ministers, the Presidency asked them to do a bit of self-reflection on the sort of government they handed to Buhari back in May to determine for themselves if it would have been right for any incoming government, not just this one, “to ignore the issue of the brazen theft of public assets, perhaps the first of its kind we have ever seen in this country.”
A statement last night in Abuja by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, noted that the earlier statements by government that there is no witch- hunt or malice against anyone in the pursuit of the county’s stolen assets still stands.
Re-iterating the government’s position, Shehu’s statement entitled: “What are the former ministers afraid of,” said: “This war against corruption knows no friend nor foe. There is no intention to deny anyone of their good name where they are entitled to it and that President Buhari reserves the highest regards for the country’s former leaders, including Dr. Jonathan Goodluck, whom he continues to praise to the high heavens for the way and manner in which he accepted defeat in the last election.
“That singular action remains a feat that has earned the former president and Nigeria as country befitting commendations all over the world, the latest coming from Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations who visited a week ago.
“For the purpose of emphasis, the issue of fighting corruption by President Buhari is non- negotiable. It is sine qua non to the overall reconstruction of the economy and social systems, which suffered destruction and severe denigration under the last administration. President Buhari will not be deterred or blackmailed into retreat and surrender.
“No one in the PDP can accuse President Buhari of undermining the economy when all they handed over to him is at best, was a tottering economy hobbled by corruption and the absence of due process.
“Things have become worsened by the continuing fall of oil prices, which is expected to fall even further with the imminent full return of Iran to the market. All he has been doing while around is to put things together, organising to defeat Boko Haram, paying outstanding salaries, cleaning up the mess left behind, improving security and restoring our relationships with neighbours and the world.
“So what are former ministers afraid of in these things? Have they become a new trade union? Let this collection of ex-VIPs allow the President the peace he needs to handle the reconstruction of the economy and the nation in a manner that most serves Nigeria’s best interests. President Buhari does not need these types of distraction presented by the so-called association of former ministers.”