#OccupyNigeria Protests Were Sponsored Protests – President Jonathan
You begin to ask, are these the ordinary citizens that are demonstrating, or are people pushing them to demonstrate?”
Those were the words of President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday, in Abuja, where he made his contribution to the 52nd independence anniversary lecture, part of the series of events scheduled towards the October 1st independence anniversary celebration.
The 2012 lecture is titled, Nigeria: Security, Development and National Transformation.
President Jonathan was addressing the remarks made by a previous speaker, Mr. Jibril Ibrahim, who is the director of Nigeria’s Center for Democracy and Development, who had touched upon the subject of subsidy of petroleum products and the reaction it generated in the country last January.
The president made the case that the protest were not as spontaneous as widely believed, saying that it was instead a case of a certain class of people in the country who are opposed to what he called the liberalization of the petroleum sector in Nigeria.
Using Lagos and the reaction of is residents to illustrate his point, Mr. Jonathan said that Lagos being the economic powerhouse of Nigeria at 53% of the economy, it was highly unlikely that Lagosians feel as much pinch as Nigerians in the hinterlands, who didn’t have bottled water to drink and entertainers to serenade them while the protests lasted. In the president’s view, the fact that the protests featured all that and more was proof that the protests were well planned, as opposed to their being spontaneous.
“Take the case of Lagos,” President Jonathan said. “Lagos is the critical state in the nation’s economy, it controls about 53 per cent of the economy and all tribes are there. The demonstration in Lagos, people were given bottled water that people in my village don’t have access to, people were given expensive food that the ordinary people in Lagos cannot eat. So, even going to eat free alone attracts people. They go and hire the best musician to come and play and the best comedian to come and entertain; is that demonstration? Are you telling me that that is a demonstration from ordinary masses in Nigeria who want to communicate something to government?”
Saying he is less inclined to pay heed to persons who manipulate persons and issues, Jonathan went on to conclude that the protests were not genuine.
He also complained that the media in Nigeria has been hijacked to serve political purposes in national conversation with an eye on the 2015 elections. According to President Jonathan, the recently enacted freedom of information act has become a tool in this regard, with the resultant effect of overheating the polity.
“The key issue we are discussing is about peace and development and of course we all know that there is no way you can talk about development when you have a lot of crisis. In fact some people make more money when there is crisis and when there are crises it’s like a country in a state of emergency, anything goes.
“Crisis is one aspect but generally if there is no peace is extremely difficult for the ordinary people to survive though big players in economy may survive. Ordinary citizens having small and medium enterprises cannot come out to do business during crisis and of course it affects the economy. So you must have peace to develop.”
President Jonathan spoke on a wide range of issues, including the challenges facing his administration and the country in general. He mentioned among other things the issue of political security in Nigeria with special attention to the threat that the Boko Haram menace constitutes to stability and development.
Citing the Boko Haram issue along side media attacks as distracting to his goal to leave a lasting impact in government, Jonathan appealed to Nigerians to give government time to delivery on promises.
“I will plead with us as Nigerians that whenever we elect government into power at whatever level, at least for the sake of the country, allow the government to work before going into unnecessary overheating the system.
“When you talk of providing infrastructure, whether power, water, there is nothing you can use the magic wand to provide for the people, it takes time. To build your personal house, there must take a good number of days not to talk of infrastructure like power in a country like Nigeria and with the challenges we have and so on and so forth.
“I believe our great problem is political conflict, for a typical politician, the day you win election is the day you start the next election,” he said.
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