By Samuel Oyadongha & Emem Idio
OTUOKE- FORMER President Goodluck Jonathan has urged Nigerian youths to cultivate the will to make sacrifices for the country when they are in position to do so, just as he had made his’ for the collective interest of the country.
Jonathan made the remarks when students and youth groups including the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, National Youth Council of Nigeria, NYCN, and Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, among others, paid him a birthday solidarity visit in his country home Otouke in Ogbia local government area of Bayelsa State.
The former president, who said though some persons are undergoing trials and others are suffering because of the decisions and sacrifices he made, however pointed out that it was for peace and collective interest of the country that he made his decision.
Jonathan who described the occasion as unprecedented and memorable however said that it was only the second time celebrated his birthday in his life, the first being in 2004 while he was deputy governor of Bayelsa State.
The former President added that he never celebrated birthdays before his foray into politics as he was not used to the luxury of life having come from a humble place.
Present during the visit were the former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, former Permanent Secretary Ministry of Power, Ambassador Goodnows Igali, Chairman of Ogbia Brotherhood, Chief Benson Agadaga, Chairman Azikel Group, Dr Azibapu Eruani, and Professor Brisibe, among other political associates and friends in the state.
According to Jonathan, “Sometimes things could be so challenging that we begin to think that that is over but what I have seen today I am convinced that we still have a country.
“All of your speeches centre on the position I took especially when I surrendered in a way and made sure there was peace in the country because the tension was quite high.
“You also made mentioned of some of the few things we did when I was in office especially relating to education and that is an area I can say we tried.
“My happiness is that this is a very enlightened youth group that are here today, more than fifty per cent of you are graduates and others undergraduates.
“So, am speaking to the future of this country, whatever sacrifices I have made as an individual or I discussed with my political party and others because elections is not only about one person. We know a number of persons that are in court, not even me yet who are suffering because of me.
“Politics is all about the people, so the decision I took, though I made the pronouncement but it affected everybody. So if we have made this kind of sacrifice and people are still sacrificing now, my plea with you is that you know that this country is in your hands, the hands of the young people, forget about those who are contesting or not contesting elections.
“Whatever sacrifices I have made be willing and ready to make similar sacrifices whenever it is your turn, make similar sacrifice for the collective interest of our nation.
“If one of the super powers and G5 nation like France can elect a 39 years old as president, then almost all of you here are very qualified to be president. And to add to what France did, I think Austria elected a thirty-one year old as president. So, don’t consider yourself too young and even in our country Gowon became a president at thirty-two and my governor then, the governor of Old Rivers State who is now the King of Twon Brass he was made the military governor at the age of twenty-eight and they all worked very well.
“I enjoined all of you who are making efforts to ensure that this age barriers are either eliminated completely or reduced in our laws I think that you are advocating for that and I join you and I have always been on that track that we don’t really need age barriers.
“I also agree that there is no need for age barriers; because age barriers that have been introduced reduced to the body politics in this country it has reduced the local government councils to only where you will get young people and they are running the councils anyhow think that they do not have responsibilities that it is when you grow old that you grow up, no.”
Speaking on behalf of the youth groups, President of Ijaw Youth Council, Worldwide, Mr. Oweilaemi Pereotubo, described former president as a colossus and an inspiration to the youths and younger generation.
He called on the Federal Government to stop the continued persecution of the former first family noting that Ijaw youths will no longer watch one of their own being harassed.
Highlight of the occasion was the cutting of the birthday cake while Timi Dakolo and Winner of the Voice Nigeria, Idyll Diongoli rendered musical performances.
The occasion also featured presentations of gifts by NYCN, led by Amb Sukubo Sara-Igbe, chairman of the the 36 states chairmen forum and NANS Zone B comprising the South-South and South East.
A one minute silence was offered in honour of the country’s former Vice President, Dr Alex Ekwueme who passed away on Sunday.