Areas in the West African state of Nigeria where violence has flared again. Dozens have been killed in sectional strife., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Hurdles to talks with Boko Haram, by Jonathan .
Monday, 25 June 2012 00:00
From Madu Onuorah, Abuja and Laolu Akande
PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan last night used his third Presidential Media Chat since he assumed office on May 31, 2011 to clear the fog over certain national issues, particularly the appeals by some eminent Nigerians for dialogue with the Boko Haram sect.
Jonathan, who said the Federal Government was willing to dialogue with the group, highlighted the difficulty his administration faces in doing so.
He said: “The Boko Haram members are Nigerians and I will rather not want to lose the life of any Nigerian. The Boko Haram has no face and government will not dialogue with a faceless organisation. Terrorists all over the world have one agenda - to distablise government. They were initially attacking their fellow Muslims, then turned to churches to pit Christians against Muslims.”
The President was short of announcing an amnesty of a sort for the group, when he said whenever it dropped its faceless toga, the government would listen to its misgivings, and even transform their lives through skill acquisition scheme similar to the exercise for Niger Delta militants.
Before that is done, the President said they (Boko Haram) would have to first come out of their shells. He also stated that currently, there was no negotiation or dialogue with the group.
Declaring that security is a global challenge, Jonathan said as the Boko Haram sect change their tactics, the government is also “changing and we will continue to adjust.”
He said the removal of Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed as Minister of Defence and Gen. Andrew Owoye Azazi as National Security Adviser (NSA) was part of the new tactics being adopted in the war against terror and not “because they did not perform well.”
On the number of people arrested in connection with the Boko Haram insurgency and their possible release, the President said: “You must commence a dialogue before you release those arrested. Government is not arresting children and women. People use children for all criminal activities. If the child is up to a reasonable level, the child will be arrested but sent to a home, where he will be remodelled. If women are arrested, it means they are helping the Boko Haram members.”
The President explained why he had not visited Borno State - the epicentre of the group’s violent attacks, saying the time he intended to visit the state the Maiduguri Airport was not functioning.
Jonathan stated that for obvious security reasons, “we did not want to land somewhere and fly in to Maiduguri with a helicopter.”
The President also defended his four-day trip to Brazil for the Rio Earth summit while the attacks and reprisals were on in Kaduna, saying that shelving the journey would have sent a wrong message to the international community.
Jonathan, who vowed that “the Boko Haram and their sponsors cannot stop Nigeria,” said that “the day the international community gets to know that the President of Nigeria couldn’t travel because of group, then we are finished.”
On his failure to declare his assets publicly since the last he did in 2007, the President said it was “a matter of principle. Stating that even if he is criticized from “head to toe” on declaration of assets, he would not buck on this as “it is not right. It is not the right thing to do.”
Jonathan noted that in 2007, he did not want to declare his assets as Vice President but was forced to follow the example of the late President Umara Musa Yar’Adua, who publicly declared his assets.
President Jonathan said that before the end of the year, he would address the nation through the National Assembly, saying that the summons by the House of Representatives “is not an issue. I have a good relationship with the National Assembly. Whenever I travel, I go with at least two members of the National Assembly.”
Speaking on the war against corruption, Jonathan said he was naturally a calm person, who gives people the latitude to do their work, which makes “a lot of people to misunderstand me.” Noting that he does not interfere with the work of the agencies, Jonathan stated that anyone who is waiting for his “body language” to know the direction to follow is incompetent.”
The President also commented on his alleged interest on the 2015 presidential polls. According to him, it was too early to talk about the matter, adding that he was working to deliver on his promises to the Nigerians.
But he stated that Nigerians should not worry about the issue of his declaration of running or not running because of its dare consequences, which the nation should be spared of. In any case, he said, “when INEC opens the gate, we will know who will contest or who will not contest.”
Jonathan said that despite the bashing he had received from the media, especially the online community, Nigerians should still trust him. He blamed his poor public perception on the nature of the social media. Nigerians, the President noted, would begin to see the results of his government next year.”