Bolaji Adebiyi in Abuja and Crusoe Osagie in Lagos
Former President Goodluck Jonathan monday said he did not leave an empty treasury for President Muhammadu Buhari who took the reins of government from him on 29 May last year.
“It is not true; there is no way that he (President Buhari) would have inherited an empty treasury and at the same time give bailout to the states. It’s not possible,” he told Bloomberg TV.
The former president, who also said he was under investigation apparently by the federal government, pointedly refuted the Buhari administration’s claim that he left behind an economy that was on its knees.
“Nigeria is a fairly robust economy,” Jonathan said, adding: “But sometimes, we over politicise some issues and make it look so bad. It was not that bad. Some people ask questions like I was the president of Nigeria since independence; I was the president for five years.”
The federal government under President Buhari’s watch had blamed the prostate state of the economy on its mismanagement by the Jonathan administration, stating that it met an economy battered by large scale corruption.
Many of the past administration’s senior officials have since been investigated and large sums of money recovered from them even as some others, including the National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.), are being tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Close associates of the former president, including his cousin, Robert Azibaola, his Senior Special Assistant on Domestic Affairs Dudafa Waripamo-Owei, are also under arrest and investigation, sparking speculations that Jonathan would soon be taken in.
Jonathan confirmed monday that he was indeed under investigation but refused to give further details. “Of course, obviously, I would be investigated. In fact, I am being investigated. Investigations are going on. I would not want to make certain comments because government is working,” he told Bloomberg TV.
He told the foreign electronic service that he would prefer to reserve further comments in order not to distract the government.
“It would not be proper for the immediate past president to make certain statements. I will allow the government do the work. I wouldn’t want to make serious comments on that.
“After all the investigations, the stories will be properly documented. I have just left office and I should allow the president and his team do what they think is best for the economy,” he said.
Jonathan said there was no big deal in President Buhari’s ongoing war against corruption, arguing that it was a normal past time of a fresh regime seeking legitimacy from the people.
“It is routine in Nigeria,” he said, explaining that from the collapse of the first republic to date every government had blamed corruption for the failure of the preceding administration.
According to him, “When the second republic collapsed, the military blamed corruption. If there is a major change in government, one political party taking over from another one, there must be issues.”
But he said he tackled the ill in his own way. “In the area of fertiliser subsidy, we cleaned up and the corruption was removed. I wanted to do the same thing in the oil industry but the same people who are accusing us of corruption are the very people that were frustrating it,” the former president said.
Earlier yesterday at a lecture he delivered at the Bloomberg Television Centre in London before an elite audience of Nigerian professionals, diplomats, friends of Nigeria and international investors, Jonathan highlighted his significant achievements in office, pointing to the peaceful transfer of power to President Buhari as the most remarkable.
He said as the first elected Nigerian leader to willingly hand over power through the ballot box to an opposition party without contesting the outcome of the election, he proved to the ordinary man and woman in the country that every Nigerian had a chance to be what they wanted to be.
Stating the significance of his action, he said: “I was true to my word when on March 16, 2015, just after the election, when the results were still being collated by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), I called my opponent, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), to concede, in order to avoid any conflict and ensure a peaceful transition of power.
“This was without precedent in my country and I am proud that it achieved my goal of no conflict arising from the result of the election.
“Some may think it is ironic that perhaps my proudest achievement was not winning the 2015 presidential election. By being the first elected Nigerian leader to willingly hand over power via the ballot box to the opposition party without contesting the election outcome, I proved to the ordinary man or woman in the country that I was his or her equal. That his or her vote was equal to mine and that democracy is the ‘government by the will of the people’, and Nigeria, and indeed Africa is ripe for democracy.”
Jonathan also called on all Nigerians to work towards consolidating democracy and winning the war against corruption, adding that he remained committed to good governance, effective stewardship and transparency.
Nigeria, according to the former president, needs deeply entrenched freedom, peace and unity to make meaningful progress.
Speaking further he said: “For this to happen, it is imperative that both the executive and the legislative arms of government institute a bill of rights. A bill of rights that will end discrimination and tribalism, and promote equality, enabling everyone to work towards the common goal for the development of the nation.”
The former president, who further highlighted the achievements of his administration, especially in the areas of agriculture, education, youth empowerment and peace building in Africa, also restated his commitments towards upholding democratic principles and energising citizen entrepreneurship and intra-Africa trade, through the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation.
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