VIDEO: “President Jonathan Has Brought Light to Nigeria” — Reuben Abati
In an exclusive interview with SaharaTV on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Goodluck Jonathan Dr. Reuben Abati opened up about the future of Nigeria under the Jonathan administration and detailed some of the government’s plans to commemorate Nigeria’s centenary.
Wishing SaharaTV viewers a “goodluck-filled” year, Abati reflected on Nigeria at 100, and why the event should be marked by merrymaking rather than melancholy.
“The beauty of this country, according to President Jonathan, lies in our diversity,” Abati told SaharaTV’s Rudolf Okonkwo. “He says that 100 years later the coming together of Nigeria provides us an opportunity to celebrate.” Abati encouraged Nigerians to be patriotic and to embrace sentiments of a united Nigeria.
“Nigeria has survived beyond being a mere geographical expression,” he stated.
Pressed about the conflicting messages that having a National Conference and a centenary celebration in the same year promoted Mr. Abati described the conference as a chance to discuss the problems plaguing Nigeria. “The National Conference will provide an opportunity for discussion,” he said. “[Jonathan] is looking for an opportunity where issues will be brought to the table.”
Among these issues, the recurrent failure of the power sector is a continued complaint amongst Nigerians. Challenged about the massive provisions for and reliance on generators at Aso Rock in the 2014 budget, Abati, who disclosed that he had not yet read the week-old presentation, detailed that this was merely an emergency measure.
“If there is provision for generators, these are things that intelligent people should respect. These are human situations, you must prepare for contingencies,” he said. “Before President Jonathan came to office, nothing was happening in the power sector, he went into that sector and dealt with issues of management and infrastructure.”
“President Jonathan has brought light,” he said.
Imploring the Jonathan Administration to bring similar light to the increasingly grotesque (and unchecked) instances of government corruption, Okonkwo queried Mr. Abati about the President’s measures to combat the menace going into the new year. To this, Abati assured viewers that “President [Jonathan] too is concerned about corruption”. He added that President Jonathan has increased transparency and accountability in his government, citing the exorcism of payroll “ghosts” and President Jonathan’s commitment to fair elections.
Such transparency and accountability, he said, was also cause for citizens’ heightened involvement in the 2014 budget-making process. “President Jonathan has made the budget an issue that concerns them. In Nigeria today, everyone is involved in the budget making process,” he stated. “Even okada drivers, both the intelligent and the unintelligent. Everyone is making an input into the budget.”
Further commenting on the rights and mental capacities of Nigerian taxpayers to have a say on the budget that will impact them in the next year, Mr. Abati joked, “that is why when some people want to discuss the budget I look at them and their pedigree and I am amazed and amused.” Perhaps because of this wonderment, or because he has yet to review the budget personally, he added, “sometimes I don’t want to talk to them.”
Going forward, Abati encouraged a need for clear discernment on the credentials of those analyzing the budget.
“It is for us to make proper distinction between real economists, voodoo economists, the motorpark economists, and the emergency economists, who all want to run Nigeria. I find it amusing.”
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