In what appears like a criticism of his successor’s selective anticorruption war and intolerant for freedom of speech, former President Goodluck Jonathan has implored Nigerians to continue to support democratic governance.
Speaking at a dinner he attended in the United States on Saturday evening, the former President said “ under my watch, not a single Nigerian was sent to prison because of anything they wrote or said about me or the administration that I headed,” He added that “Nigeria had neither political prisoners nor political exile under my administration.”
Jonathan, who was the keynote speaker at the Nigerian Lawyers Association’s annual dinner and merit awards ceremony held in New York, mentioned some factors he considered to be his administration’s demo cratic credentials. In his speech posted on his Twitter page on Saturday, he said “I urge the Nigerian lawyers in the US and those in the Diaspora to do their best to support the democratic institutions we have built”.
His speech came at a time several of his aides are being detained and some prosecuted for alleged corrupt practices while many others have since absconded from the country. Some of his former aides being prosecuted include ex-NSA Sambo Dasuki and former presidential aide Waripamowei Dudafa. Others being investigated and currently in detention include former presidential spokesperson, Reuben Abati, and ex-FCT minister Bala Mohammed. Some others like former aide Kingsley Kuku and expetroleum minister Diezani Alison-Madueke have since left the country allegedly to avoid prosecution.
The speech also followed an increasing crackdown by security agencies on citizen journalists and bloggers. In Abia State, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu admitted to plotting the arrest of a blogger and indigene of his state, Emenike Iroegbu. In Katsina, a blogger was arrested and detained for 22 days for posts criticising the administration of Governor Aminu Masari. Within this period, it was also reported that no fewer than five cases of individuals being arrested and charged – or released – by the authorities for offences bordering on expressions. In his speech, the former President also argued strongly for Nigeria’s diversity and its inherent benefits.
“Diversity could remain a strength only when all interest groups in the society feel safe and secure,” Jonathan said, while speaking on the theme ‘Diversity As Our Bridge to Tomorrow.” The former president said he carefully selected his cabinet members to reflect the diversity of Nigeria and warned against exploitation of the country’s fault lines by any leader.
“Most of my principal aides in government hailed from different ethnic nationalities,” Jonathan said. “We never placed ethnoreligious interests above merits or individual values when making decisions. “Nigeria is for all Nigerians.
We must resist the push of ego that may make us want to pursue a regional or narrow agenda.” Jonathan ended his speech with a touch on transparency and accountability. “We enacted the Freedom of Information Act and by that, we tore the veil of secrecy covering governance.”