President Goodluck Jonathan spoke yesterday about his sojourn in governance, saying he has been in a cage since 1999.
Dr. Jonathan spoke when the Christian community in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) paid him Easter homage at the new Banquet Hall of the State House, Abuja.
He described himself as one of the luckiest Nigerians, having occupied public offices from the deputy governor of Bayelsa State to governor, vice-president and president.
He said: “I thank you for coming to encourage us. 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 luckier than me. 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 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 to thank God for that.
“I will continue to thank Nigerians for giving me that privilege. I became deputy governor because Baylesans voted for me and governor then. I became VP because Nigerians voted for me and Yar’Adua. And Nigerians voted for me and Sambo. We have to thank all Nigerians. Wherever I will be, I have to thank all Nigerians. Today is a glorious day for me.”
Dr. Jonathan noted that the key lesson of the Easter celebration is sacrifice.
He said: “Thank you for this Easter homage. It is a period to reflect on the essence of our belief. Because we believe without the resurrection there wouldn’t have been Christianity.
“Whenever we talk about this period, the key lesson there is sacrifice. Somebody sacrificed for our own salvation. So, as a people, as a government, what I always believe we should ask: ‘What sacrifice are you making?’
“Now it is not about supporting Jonathan or government. Now Buhari is coming on board; it is not about supporting Buhari or government, but what sacrifice as individual are you willing to make for government and for the 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.”
Continuing, he said: “While in Bayelsa State as a deputy governor, people used to come to me to say ‘I’m loyal’. Don’t tell me you are loyal, tell me I’m patriotic to the country and that you believe in Bayelsa State.
“To me, whenever I travel to different countries and see things work, those things didn’t fall down as manna. 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 hospital and of course the economy blossom.
“But for that to take place, people must make the required sacrifice. In ECOWAS sub-region, for example, Nigeria has the lowest VAT 5 per cent (Value Added Tax) payment, other countries pay up to 12 per cent.
“If for instance Buhari decides to increase VAT from 5 to 10 per cent, will Nigerians support him? That is sacrifice and we must make sacrifice.
“Nation building depends on the sacrifice of individuals and the patriotism of the citizens. These are two key elements. We must be ready to sacrifice for our nation. We are talking about Boko Haram or terror, soldiers are dying for us to live, police are dying for us to live; that is sacrifice. As individuals, you don’t need to die but there are various roles you need to play. You must make sacrifice.
“The economy of China was threatened but they locked themselves up for a period of time but by the time they opened their doors, they become even a threat to the biggest economy. Are we ready for that kind of sacrifice for the government? Whenever we talk of Easter, these are the key lessons of sacrifice.”
Vice-President Namadi Sambo thanked Jonathan for making Nigeria the pride of Africa and the world.
According to him, Jonathan’s name will be written in gold.
He said that the President had groomed him in the past five years to a doctorate degree level.
Sambo said: “I am proud to be your deputy. You are my brother and teacher forever. For the five years I have been with you, I have got Phd from you. I am forever loyal to you and we are of the same family.”
He prayed for God’s wisdom for the president in leading the nation.
Among the guests are Cardinal John Onayeikan, Chairman of FCT Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Israel Akanji, and the primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) Primate Nicholas Okoh.
Also in the delegation are the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim, FCT Minister Bala Mohammed, FCT Minister of State Olajumoke Akinjide and Chief Imam of FCT Hustaz Mohammed Musa.