Abuja — In a carnival-like political rally attended by the cream of the nation’s political elite, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday at the Eagle Square, Abuja declared his intention to contest next year’s presidential election.
He also used the occasion of the colourful ceremony to tell Nigerians the story of his life which saw him rise from the poor environment in Ituoke, Bayelsa State to the Aso Presidential Villa in Abuja.
In his best speech yet as a politician, President Jonathan, promised to focus on provision of quality education, make the nation attain self sufficiency in food production and build a strong economy if elected as president.
The President said he waited till now before declaring his interest in contesting next year’s election because an earlier declaration would “have immediately distracted us from all the development initiatives we have accomplished so far.
“As President and leader of this government, I decided not to place partisan politics above the immediate needs and priorities of our people. I therefore told Nigerians to give me time to concentrate on my work, and that at the appropriate time, I would make a public statement on my political future after widespread consultations.
“Those consultations have now been concluded. The Independent National Electoral Commission has recently announced a time table for the 2011 general elections in the country. My party, the Peoples Democratic Party, has also published a timetable for its primaries.
“In the circumstances and after a thorough self examination and prayers with my family, I, Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, have decided to humbly offer myself as a candidate in the Presidential Primaries of our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party, in order to stand for the 2011 Presidential elections. I pledge once again to all the people of this nation that they will have a free and fair election, even as I stand to be a candidate. In this race, I have the honour to have as my running mate, Architect Namadi Sambo, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. ”
Earlier in his speech, Sambo described Jonathan as a very hard-working person who he can vouch for to deliver the country from its myriad of problems.
He said: “President Jonathan and I have enjoyed a chemistry and an intimate working relationship that I have never experienced in all my public life. I found in him a man that is humble, honest, patient, patriotic and highly detrabilised, a modern Nigerian.
“We represent a young generation in the politics of our dear nation. The generation is significant because it represents a bridge between the old and the new. We were born in the dying years of colonial rule, nurtured through the post-independence era, witnessed our trying times, attended better schools and universities than those at variance with the new generation and worked in the digital age. Our experiences therefore straddle through two generations
“We bring into office the experiences of growing up with the old, the pains of our trying times and the necessity to avoid any threats to our national unity. We also bring to office the nostalgia for our past glories: desire to see our schools return to quality standards and a desire to drive away poverty among our people. These unique experiences make President Jonathan our agent of transformation.”
Using his personal experience as a motivation to others, Jonathan said he had a humble beginning but that the opportunity presented by access to good education has helped to transform his life.
“I was not born rich, and in my youth, I never imagined that I would be where I am today, but not once did I ever give up. Not once did I imagine that a child from Otuoke, a small village in the Niger Delta, will one day rise to the position of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I was raised by my mother and father with just enough money to meet our daily needs.
“In my early days in school, I had no shoes, no school bags. I carried my books in my hands but never despaired; no car to take me to school but I never despaired. There were days I had only one meal but I never despaired. I walked miles and crossed rivers to school every day but I never despaired. Didn’t have power, didn’t have generators, studied with lanterns but I never despaired.
“In spite of these, I finished secondary school, attended the University of Port Harcourt, and now hold a doctorate degree.
“Fellow Nigerians, if I could make it, you too can make it!
“My story is the story of a young Nigerian whose access to education opened up vast opportunities that enabled me to attain my present position. As I travel up and down our country, I see a nation blessed by God with rich agricultural and mineral resources and an enterprising people. I see millions of Nigerians whose potentials for greatness are constrained by the lack of basic infrastructure.”
“Fellow Nigerians, if I could make it, you too can make it. My story symbolizes my dream for Nigeria. The dream that any Nigerian child from Kaura- Namoda to Duke town; from Potiskum to Nsukka, from Isale-Eko to Gboko will be able to realise his God-given potentials, unhindered by tribe or religion and unrestricted by improvised political inhibitions.
“My story holds out the promise of a new Nigeria. A Nigeria built on the virtues of love and respect for one another, on unity, on industry, on hardwork and on good governance,” he added.
Other issues which Jonathan said will form the priority of his government if elected next year are putting an end to the agony of power shortage, implementation of maximum health care programme, waging war against corruption and anti-crime war and strengthening of the civil service.
He also laid the speculation that he will drop Vice President Namadi Sambo to rest, assuring that he will seek PDP’s ticket with Sambo as his running mate.
“Let the word go out from this Eagle Square that Jonathan as President in 2011 will herald a new era of transformation of our country; an era that will end the agony of power shortage in our country. Let the word go out from here that I will be for the students, teachers and parents of Nigeria, a President who will advance quality and competitive education. Let everyone in this country hear that I shall strive to the best of my ability to attain self sufficiency in food production.
“Let the word go out that my plans for a Sovereign Wealth Fund with an initial capital of $1billion will begin the journey for an economic restoration. This restoration will provide new job opportunities and alleviate poverty. Let the word go out that our health sector will receive maximum priority in a new Jonathan administration, a priority that will ensure maximum health care and stop our brain drain.
“Let all the kidnappers, criminal elements, and miscreants that give us a bad name be ready for the fight that I shall give them. Let the ordinary Nigerian be assured that President Jonathan will have zero tolerance for corruption. Let the international community hear that today I have offered myself to lead a country that will engage them in mutual respect and cooperation for the achievement of international peace and understanding.
“To help me in these tasks effectively, I will re-train, revamp, and motivate the civil service.
While promising that his candidacy would unite Nigeria, the President said: “My dear good people of Nigeria, I got here today by the power of God and the support of all Nigerians; all ethnic groups, North, South, East and West. I am here today because of your support and prayers. I want all of you to know that I am one of you and I will never let you down! I want you to know that I will keep hope alive; I want you to know that your time has come.
“I stand before you today, humbly seeking your support for me, Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, to run for the office of the President of Nigeria with Architect Namadi Sambo as my running mate.
“We will fight for justice, we will fight for all Nigerians to have access to power, we will fight for qualitative and competitive education, we will fight for healthcare reforms. “We will fight to create jobs, for all Nigerians, we will fight corruption, we will fight to protect all citizens. We will fight for your rights.
“My dear country men and women, give me your support, give me your votes and together we will fight to build a great nation of our dreams.”
In an apparent response to the advocates of zoning, who have been clamouring that the PDP Presidential ticket should be reserved for candidates from one geo-political zone, Jonathan said : “My fellow Nigerians, this is what has brought me to Eagle Square today. I have come to say to all of you, that Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan is the man you need to put Nigeria right.
I have come to launch a campaign of ideas, not one of calumny. I have come to preach love, not hate. I have come to break you away from divisive tendencies of the past which have slowed our drive to true nationhood. I have no enemies to fight. You are all my friends and we share a common destiny.
While extolling the virtue of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Jonathan said both of them shared great dreams for Nigeria. “We toiled together to realize those dreams in order to justify the confidence Nigerians reposed in us. Together we swore to execute a joint mandate and today I come before you to make a pronouncement based on that undertaking,” he added.
While giving account of his stewardship in the last few months when he was sworn in as substantive president, he said the period has opened his eyes to the vast potentials of the office as a potent instrument for the transformation of our country.
“I discovered that by sheer willpower, I could end the long queues and price fluctuations in our petrol stations. Today, all our refineries are working, saving us huge amounts of funds spent on importation of petroleum products.
“I discovered that by insisting that the right things be done, we could begin a turnaround in our power sector by involving the private sector in power generation and distribution. As you can see from the lower quantities of diesel that you are buying today, power generation has significantly improved.
“I have put in place new gas policies and very soon, we will be saying goodbye to gas flaring in our oil fields. Working with the National Assembly, we rolled out a law that requires companies operating in the oil and gas sectors of our economy to utilise an appreciable percentage of their goods and services from local sources. We saw to it that normalcy began to return to the Niger Delta by ensuring government’s fidelity to its promises, and this has helped to stabilize our national revenue.
“In the last few months, I embarked on monumental projects in our road infrastructure to end the carnage on our federal highways. I began several projects to make our water resources available for drinking and farming. I targeted our educational system to return quality and competitiveness to them. I re-addressed our drive for self sufficiency in food production. I have taken bold steps to confront our security situation. In this regard, we are pursuing the revision of our laws to be more responsive to international conventions and more punitive to criminals.
“I set the stage for free and fair elections by constituting an electoral commission comprising of Nigerians with impeccable credentials for firmness and incorruptibility. I charged our anti corruption agencies to speed up the war against corruption, and respect no sacred cows in the process. In the management of the economy, I advocated a more transparent banking industry, price stability, low inflation, and aggregate increase in productivity as a way to drive us to a more prosperous economy. In International Relations, I advanced the respectability accorded our country by effective engagement in global fora.
Chuks Okocha|19 September 2010|This Day (Lagos)
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