Nigerians will ask for President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 — Okupe
The Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, speaks with OLUSOLA FABIYI on the perception of the President as a slow leader
What do you think is responsible for the attack on President Goodluck Jonathan by Nigerians despite the huge support he got from them during the 2011 election?
They say he is slow and that he doesn’t respond to issues on time. They say the luck that followed him to the Presidential Villa in 2011 has deserted him.
No, no. I don’t think there is a problem with the President; It is the anger that followed the removal of the fuel subsidy in January 1, 2011. What I believe is that by the end of this year when the majority of the transformation agenda of the President must have come to fruition, there would be a turn around. The President himself is not a new man to criticism. When he became Governor of Bayelsa State, the attitude of Bayelsans at that time was similar to what is being done on the larger Nigeria scale today. But when he was leaving, people did not want him to go. All the antagonism latter changed to affection because of his performance.
With the way you said the President is working, and Nigerians different impression about him, how does the President feel?
This President is a man of high strength. Like he says, he is a fisherman and the characteristics of fishermen include ruggedness, patience and perseverance. When you go to the sea to catch fish, you do not know what lies on the sea for you and the challenges you are going to face. So, you are going to have a lot of courage and will have to be hopeful. And when you are at sea and cast your net, you have to wait, and wait for some time, at times; fishermen wait a whole night to have a bumper harvest. These are the characters that are engraved in this President. He is courageous; he is rugged and can persevere. He is also very, resilient. Nigeria is lucky at this time of severe social stress that we have a man who has a lot of patience.
Or a man that is slow, you mean to say?
What people count as being slow is something that I find very interesting. I see President Jonathan as a calculating and a decisive person. He takes his time and weighs his options before taking correct decisions and I think that is better than rushing to decisions that can be regrettable. Some mistakes can be very catastrophic and I’m very sure that we have not come close to that with this presidency and we won’t.
But the opposition is saying that the country is drifting…
(Cuts in) Yes, the country is drifting towards success; the country is drifting from hopelessness; the country is drifting from lack of focus; the country is drifting from low power; the country is drifting from the danger of food crisis towards progress, towards substantial improvement in power supply, towards a transformation in agricultural production and the lives of every citizen of the country.
No, they say the country is drifting towards negativity?
No, that is not correct. And in any case, it is the work of the opposition to say that. We are not perturbed. Between now and 2014 will decide who is right.
So, the coming together of the opposition political parties won’t have any negative effect on the PDP-led Federal Government in 2015?
Opposition can come together, that is something good for the country because this country needs a formidable and virile opposition. It is necessary for democracy to survive. I don’t want a one-party state for the country. We need at least two, or three strong political parties. I just wish that opposition would come together for the interest of Nigerians and come with manifesto that would put the government on its toes.
The scenario you have painted indicates that you would be expecting Nigerians to demand that Jonathan should contest in 2015?
In this country, we do not have too many heroes. I have a deep feeling within me that this same gentleman that some people want us to belief is not doing much for the country today, is the same gentleman that in 2015, there would be a mass movement that would insist that Jonathan must run based on performance and policy.
So, the opposition will have no luck come 2015?
No, I am not saying that. When the opposition come together, their lots would be better and if they are able to put together some credible programme, there would be some marginal improvements in their electoral performance, which is good for the country, but we would still win.
Are you saying Gen. Muhammadu Buhari cannot defeat President Jonathan in a free and fair election?
Buhari cannot win any election in the modern day Nigeria. Even some members of CPC tell me the same thing. He is a very sincere person. He is a disciplinarian and one of the leaders we should be proud of. But his time has passed. There is nothing new he can bring to the table. Being a disciplinarian is not enough for modern things that Nigerians would need in 2015. A movement will come and it will be obvious when Nigeria will be going.
A movement that would be sponsored by the presidency?
No, you don’t understand. It will be a spontaneous one. A movement of the people. That situation is coming.
The major problem of the country is corruption and there are allegations that this government is doing little to tackle it.
That is not true. Your first statement is true while the second statement is false. Corruption is a major problem in this country and is endemic. It is not about Goodluck Jonathan; it is about what Nigeria is. There is corruption everywhere. If you look at the so-called oil thieves, they are neither government workers nor politicians. If you look at the pension scammers, they are all civil servants. We have major challenges with corruption. The government is doing its best and the fight on corruption has to shift to the judiciary. Government has put in the needed apparatus to fight corruption. The President is not interfering with the apparatus. Look at the issue of the pension scammer, you will find out that the maximum sentence for the office is just two years. We still have some things that need to be done. The President cannot on his own change the law.
The President is handicapped by the judiciary or provision of the law?
It is not the President that is handicapped by the law; it is the entire criminal justice that is handicapped by the law of the land. The President has done his own part. When people said this person was not good to head the EFCC, the person was removed and a new person was brought based on recommendations by some people. He has given free hand to all. Nobody in EFCC, ICPC and the police, will say the President is interfering.
Are you saying come 2014 and 2015, we will not see a situation whereby the EFCC will be set against those perceived to be against President Jonathan’s second term ambition?
But the EFCC is right now running after everybody and they are getting judgements.
You didn’t answer the question.
We must change the law. Can President Jonathan stop person from obtaining interlocutory injunction or perpetual injunction? He cannot. It is not in his power. The President is not a god and he is not a king. He cannot use power arbitrarily.
What is the problem with former President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Jonathan?
There is not problem between them. I do not see any major problem between these two gentlemen. People are wishing and hoping that there will be problem. Those who prosper from confusion are the ones looking for problem.
Is there no clash on who should become the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party?
Why should they clash? The former President personally relinquished power as the chairman of the board. So, why should he come back to struggle on who emerges as the next chairman?
Obasanjo may be interested in who succeeds him …
I doubt it. I’m not sure about that. If he wants a successor, he would have discussed it and I know that President Jonathan would have graciously agreed to his nominee.
You have worked with the two of them. How would you evaluate them?
They are two totally different personalities. You cannot put them on the same scale but both of them love Nigeria. Both of them have a fixation about the oneness of the country and they are hard working. President Obasanjo is perhaps more of an extrovert. If he is angry with you or does not like what you have done, he would say it and that is the end. President Jonathan is a little bit of an introvert. That is his own nature, but he is a kind person. He can hardly hurt anyone. Both of them believe in God.
What of their social lives?
I have not seen much of the social life of President Jonathan, but I know that President Obasanjo is a very serious-minded person. He likes to have fun; likes to enjoy himself and he is a very humorous man. Source Punch