By BEN AGANDE
ABUJA — President Goodluck, yesterday, stated that he has no personal grudge against the northern part of the country and stressed that his administration would continue to ensure speedy and equitable development of all parts of the country.
The Presidency also described reports attributed to the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr Okey Wali that President Goodluck Jonathan refused to receive a minority report from the Presidential Advisory Committee on the proposed national conference as untrue and incorrect.
A statement signed by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, said Jonathan was unaware of the existence of a minority report supposedly prepared by a member of the committee, Chief Solomon Asemota.
Abati’s statement read, “It is also a verifiable fact that Chief Asemota himself was present at the submission of the committee’s report to the President on December 18, 2013.”
However, speaking when he received a delegation of chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP, from the North West region, Jonathan said, “Sometimes people say Jonathan is anti-north; he does not want to develop the north and sometimes they sell these ideas to people from outside, especially those from the United States of America, USA.
“You Nigerians believe the West must say something for us to listen. And I have spoken to one or two envoys and I said I am not anti-north. Agreed I am from South South minority. I had established three universities in the North and three in the South.”
President Jonathan explained that before he came on board, there were some states that had no Federal universities in the South.
Jonathan said: “Before we established the new universities, Ekiti, Ebonyi and Bayelsa, had no Federal universities, in the south. All the others have federal university each.
“As at that time nine states in the north did not have universities. And I believe that the very first thing you use to emancipate people is education. I often use myself as a good example. I grew up in a peasant home, if I did not go to school there is no way I would have been here today.”
He stressed that what stood for him to achieve his present height was education. “What has made me to be here today is education. They said I am lucky, if I didn’t go to school, will luck bring me to be President of Nigeria? And I said it is not fair, no matter what let’s start small universities that will not admit more than 400 students, that can provide decent environment and more facilities.
“Some people call themselves progressives; they have done that before, did they change the system? Today if you can abuse Jonathan you are a progressive, if you can attack the Federal Government you are progressive, even if nothing is happening in your state you are progressive. We have seen the progressives.
“So if I am against them would I have done that? The issue of Almajiri education, if I am against the north would I have encouraged that we work with the governors to provide for quite a number of children who are out of school? We can go on and on but this is not the time for that. All these are blackmail, political blackmail.
“We have also agreed to tackle the issue of desert encroachment robustly. I am yet to get the last briefing; I believe it is because there is no substantive minister yet. But immediately the National Assembly resumes, they will get the list of ministers, so that we will get a law on that.
“We have earmarked N10 billion as a take off fund, this is from the ecological fund not from line budgeting. And we will make sure that it is not just planting trees but planting trees and grasses that would create income for the people.
“On agriculture, I read an article in the paper where somebody said government has budgeted N2 billion for the north. That was seed money. In some northern states alone we are intervening with N14 billion which I have approved and that is outside line budgeting for some northern states not the whole country.
“The northern part of this country has more resources. What is in the Niger Delta is oil, the land there is not good for farming. We have the best savannah area from the Guinea savannah to the Sudan Savannah to the Sahel savannah; to the Mambila Plateau area. We have the best ecological zone and this is where the resources are.’’
He then asked the north to support his government to deliver on the transformation agenda, saying, “the indivisibility of Nigeria is guaranteed, there is no one person or group of persons that can divide us. Lord Lugard brought the north and the south together, there is a reason why that was done, it was not by chance.”
“Nobody should intimidate you, we will continue to support you, PDP is still the number one party, and will remain so.”
Earlier, the former Defence Minister, Haliru Mohammed, who led the group said Vice President Sambo was working very hard to organize and reinvigorate the party and to maintain its vibrancy in the zone and the north generally.
“Our political party, the PDP on which platform we still stand daram dam dam as Kaduna State people would say. It is not under any threat and we urge you to continue the implementation of the manifesto of our great party.
President among those who attended the meeting are Governors Shehu Shema (Katsina), Muktar Ramalan Yero (Kaduna), Seidu Dakingari (Kebbi),
Others are Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur; Mohammed Abacha, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Na’Abba and Deputy Governor of Sokoto State, Muktar Shagari.