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President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday looked back at his 16 years in public service and concluded that he was “in a cage” during the period.
But he was quick to admit that he had yet to see anybody luckier than he had been.
Jonathan spoke while receiving residents of the Federal Capital Territory who were led by Vice President Namadi Sambo to pay him Easter homage at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said, “For me as an individual, this Easter concides with the time I am leaving(office) but I always say that I am one of the luckiest Nigerians. I have yet to see somebody luckier than me.
“I have been in government for 16 years beginning from 1999. Not in government as a parliamentarian because if you are a Senator or House of Representatives member, you take care of yourself, you live in your own house.
“I was in a cage, being taken care of by government. From May 29, 1999 to date; 16 good years. I think it is enough and I am happy.
“Please help me to thank God for that. I will continue to thank Nigerians for giving me that privilege. I became a deputy governor because Bayelsans voted for me and my governor then (Diepreye Alamieyeseigha). I became a Vice-President because Nigerians voted for (Umaru)Yar’Adua and myself.
“I continued in 2011 because Nigerians voted for me and Namadi Sambo. I have to thank all Nigerians. Wherever I will be, I will remain grateful to this great country. Today is a glorious day for me.”
Jonathan said Nigerians should be ready to make sacrifices for the survival of the government at every given time.
He said during his days as deputy governor, he kept telling people that what he needed was patriotism and not loyalty.
The President cited the examples of soldiers and policemen who, according to him, are dying daily in the fight against Boko Haram in order for others to live.
He added, “So as a people, as a government, what I believe we should always ask is: ‘What sacrifice are we making?
“Now, it is not about supporting Jonathan or his government. Now, Buhari is coming on board; it is not about supporting Buhari or his government but the sacrifice we are willing to make for government and for the nation?
“If you are a businessman and you say you are supporting government but you don’t pay tax, how then do you expect that government to survive?
“While in Bayelsa State as a deputy governor, people used to come to me to say ‘I’m loyal;’ but I always tell them to say that they are patriotic to the country.
“To me, whenever I travel out of the country and see things work, I tell myself that those things didn’t fall down like manna; people made sacrifices. Therefore, people in Nigeria must also be ready to make sacrifice.
“Whoever becomes President is immaterial so long as the citizens are happy: our children go to school, the sick go to good hospital and of course, the economy is working. But for them to take place, people must make the required sacrifices.
“In the ECOWAS sub-region for example, Nigeria has the lowest rate of Value Added Tax which is five per cent. Other countries in the region pay up to 12 per cent.
“If for instance, Buhari decides to increase VAT from five to 10 per cent, will Nigerians support him? That is sacrifice and we must make sacrifice.
“Nation building depends on sacrifice by individuals and patriotism.
“We are talking about Boko Haram or terror, soldiers are dying so that others can live, policemen are dying while protecting us. These people are making sacrifices. As individuals we don’t need to die but there roles we need to play and one of them is to make sacrifice.”
Jonathan cited the case of China, saying when its economy was threatened, the citizens locked up themselves for a period of time.
He recalled that by the time they opened their doors, the country became a threat to the biggest economies.
The President wondered if Nigerians were ready for that kind of sacrifice which, according to him, is one of the key lessons of Easter.
Sambo, in his remarks, thanked Jonathan for what he described as achievements.
The Vice President said by accepting defeat in the last elections, Jonathan had saved the country and made it a pride of Africa and a global star.
“For your contributions and actions, your name will forever be in gold in the history of the world ,” Sambo said.
The Vice President said he was proud to remain the President’s deputy, friend and brother.
He said since the five years he spent with the President were enough to obtain first and second degrees in a university, he had obtained Ph.D under Jonathan’s tutelage.
“I will forever be loyal to you. We are members of one family. We are very proud of you. All Nigerians appreciate the strong foundation you have put in place,” he added.
A giant Easter greeting card was presented to the President during the event that was attended by the deputy governor of Sokoto State, Muktar Shagari; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim; the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan; and the Primate, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Most Revd. Nicholas Okoh.
The Head of Service, Danladi Kifasi; the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Muhammed; the Minister of State, FCT, Olajumoke Akinjide; and the Chief Imam of Abuja, Muhammed Musa were in the delegation.