As he prepares to hand over power after his humiliating defeat at the Presidential election, President Goodluck Jonathan, has compared the last 16 years during which time he has held various political offices as like being in a cage.
Speaking during a visit by the Christian community in Abuja, Jonathan said he has had enough and expressed gratitude to Nigerians for giving him the opportunity to serve.
Jonathan suffered a humiliating defeat at the presidential polls held on March 28, losing to the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), retired General Muhammadu Buhari, and is set to hand over on May 29.
Describing himself as one of the luckiest Nigerians today, President Jonathan said Nigerians had given him opportunity to serve the country in the last 16 years at different levels of leadership and that he remained grateful to God and the people of the country for that privilege.
“This Easter period coincides with when I’m leaving but I always say I’m one of the luckiest Nigerians. From 1999, I have been in the hands of government. I am yet to see somebody who is luckier than me,” he said.
“I was in the hands of governments for 16 years, not in government as a parliamentarian, because if you are in the National Assembly or state House of Assembly, you take care of yourself in your house. I was in a cage being taken care of by the government. But I think it is enough and I am happy. Help me thank God for that.”
Of his successor-in-waiting, Jonathan said Buhari could only succeed if Nigerians cooperate with him and are ready to make sacrifice for the nation, adding that those countries, which succeeded achieved such success because of the sacrifice of its people.
He said: “As a people, what I always believe we should ask is what sacrifice are we making? It is not about supporting Jonathan or government. Now, Buhari is coming on board, it is not about supporting Buhari or his government but what sacrifice are you willing to make for government and for the nation as an individual?
“Nation-building depends on the sacrifice of individuals and the patriotism of the citizens. These are two key elements, and we must be ready to sacrifice for our nation.
“If you are a businessman and you say you are supporting government but you don’t pay tax, how do you expect that government to survive? That government will not survive. To me, whenever I traveled to different countries and saw things work, I realised those things didn’t fall down as manna but people made sacrifice.
“Therefore, in Nigeria people must also be ready to make the required sacrifice. Whoever becomes president is immaterial so long as the citizens are happy. Our children go to school, when we are sick they go to good hospitals and of course the economy blossoms.”
On the economy, Jonathan wondered whether the opposition government would be any better, explaining, for instance, that Nigeria has the lowest Value Added Tax, VAT, of five per cent in the entire Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, sub-region but that this would likely increase under the incoming regime.
He said: “In ECOWAS sub-region, for example, Nigeria has the lowest VAT of five per cent payment, while other countries 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.”
Also speaking at the meeting, Vice President Namadi Sambo, commended the President for the leadership he has provided the country resulting in huge infrastructural development in different sectors.
He joined others who have commended Jonathan for conceding defeat and preventing Nigerian form going into an unnecessary political overheat.
“Your action has saved Nigeria and made you tall in the comity of nations. Your name will ever be put in gold not only in the history of Nigeria but also the whole of Africa. I am proud to have been your vice, you will ever remain my teacher,” Sambo said.
Present at the Sunday’s meeting were the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan; Minister of FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed; Olajumoke Akinjide; President, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Abuja Chapter, Israel Akanji; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Ayim; Head of Service of the Federation; Primate Anglican Communion, Nicholas Okoh and the Deputy Governor of Sokoto among others.