Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan asks for international cooperation in combatting and defeating terrorism.
By Peter Clottey and Paul Ndiho, New York
His comments also follow the attack in Nairobi, Kenya, on the Westgate shopping mall by members of the Somali-based terror group, Al-Shabab.
The West African nation is also facing security challenges due to the violence carried out by Islamic sect, Boko Haram. Based in Nigeria’s north, the group uses violence in an attempt to force the country to adopt strict Islamic law. Human Rights Watch says Boko Haram has killed an estimated 3,000 people since 2009.
In an exclusive interview with VOA, Mr. Jonathan says there is no justification for armed groups who use violence to terrorize unarmed civilians.
“Now, we are confronted with people who can just kill people without provocation. You ask what the reason is, is it religious? If it is religious that means there is a wrong teaching because there is no major religion in the world that I know that asks you to kill somebody you don’t even know,” said Jonathan. “I believe that a terror attack anywhere on the surface of the earth is a terror attack on all of us, and the world must come together to fight terror. Nobody should use any excuse.”
Jonathan says security has improved significantly since the declaration of a state of emergency in some northern parts of Nigeria. He also vowed that his administration will continue with its partnership with Washington as well as international partners to confront terrorism.
Over the years, Nigeria has faced electricity or power shortages, which affect manufacturing industries. President Jonathan promised to address the problem. He refused to criticize previous administrations for their inability to solve the problem.
“We are addressing it in different [ways]. First and foremost, we are increasing our generation, we are increasing the distribution facilities,” said Jonathan.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, and the petroleum industry is the main generator of the country’s GDP. But, critics say successive Nigerian governments have failed to improve living standards in spite of the country’s enormous natural resources. But, President Jonathan says his government is determined to diversify the economy to improve living standards.
In its 2012 ranking released by Transparency International on global corruption, Nigeria placed 139th position out of the 176 countries surveyed.
But, President Jonathan says his administration has implemented aggressive measures to address the problem in Africa’s most populous nation.
He acknowledged that there is a perception among Nigerians that public officials are often involved in corrupt activities, but he quickly added that his government seeks to end the menace by ensuring transparency in all levels within the administration.
“I can tell you that as a government we are addressing it aggressively,” said Jonathan.
Some analysts say that the governments of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are not proactive in resolving political instability in the region often brought about by military coups. But, President Jonathan rejected the criticism.
“That is an area in [which you] should commend the heads of state and government of West Africa. Because of the ECOWAS position [on] unconstitutional governance, [military rulers] didn’t stay long, and we conducted elections very quickly, unlike before”.
He cited instances where heads of state intervened in countries including Niger and recently Mali to hasten the return to constitutional rule.
“In the case of the Niger republic, immediately after the coup came up we said ‘you [military] cannot stay long.’ We put pressure on them, and they did not stay long. Then we had the case of Cote d’Ivoire where the election was stalemated, where somebody wanted to stay long. We said ‘no, you must obey your laws, so you must go.’ You don’t lead the country into crisis, and of course because of the strong position of ECOWAS, we have been able to stabilize the country”.
President Jonathan discussed his legacy ahead of the 2015 general election where some analysts say he faces a lot of opposition.
“I want people to know first and foremost that within the period that I have served this country that I meant well for Nigerians. I did not serve because of my own personal interest, [and] that I have interest for this country at heart,” said Jonathan. “We have shifted Nigeria out of this mono-economy, where everything begins and ends with petrol. [Now], agriculture, mines and solid minerals and even manufacturing are playing a key role in our economy.”
He expressed hope that the security challenge from recent violence perpetrated by the Boko Haram could be decisively dealt with.
“One thing that I want to leave behind is that elections in Nigeria are credible. Nigerians should be able to vote [for] who they want not somebody hiring boys and weapons and shooting themselves into office or buy themselves into office, and that the votes of Nigerians matter. The world should know that our method of electing those who govern us either at the executive level, governors, chairmen of local governments or presidents or at the parliamentary level are duly elected by their people,” he concluded.