President Jonathan being conducted round the premises of ThisDay by the Chairman, Leaders and Company Limited, Prince Nduka Obaigbena (3rd right) during a visit to the newspaper house, bombed in Abuja Thursday
* The NSA, Azazi in trouble
* President takes on Azazi: He must explain himself
* PDP says he committed grave error
In what is becoming a very messy affair, President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, took on his National Security Adviser, NSA, General Patrick Azazi, on his comment that the insurgency in the country could be traced to the zoning arrangement of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, declaring that “people need to ask the NSA to explain what he really meant”.
Jonathan’s statement, which attempted to create a soft landing for Azazi by insinuating that he didn’t believe “that the NSA meant that the practice in the PDP are anti-democratic”, is coming at a time the PDP castigated the statements of the NSA.
Meanwhile, more criticisms continued to trail the statements of Azazi. A key functionary of the Jonathan administration, who preferred to remain anonymous, yesterday, said: “TheNSA would have to come out and explain the people he is working for; he is the NSA in this PDP administration and security matters are under his watch; he needs to come out and explain what he meant because such statements are very dangerous at a time when the Islamic sect just went on a bombing spree last week with attendant loss of lives”.
Jonathan on NSA’s statement
The president, who spoke when he visited the bombed office of ThisDay Newspapers in Abuja, maintained that the PDP’s actions are based on democratic norms.
The NSA had alleged that the security challenge in the country is exacerbated by the position of the PDP which, he said, “got it wrong from the beginning by claiming that its convention and rules state that this person can rule and this person cannot” – this was a reference to the party’s zoning arrangement and the imposition of candidates, practices which, he said, were contrary to the 1999 Constitution.
But, reacting to the allegation, Jonathan said the NSA’s statements may have been misinterpreted, pointing out that Azazi needed to explain what he meant.
According to the president, it was unlikely that the NSA, in his comment, intended to characterise the PDP as anti-democratic.
He stated: “I don’t believe that the NSA meant that the practices in the PDP are anti-democractic. I cannot comment much on what happened in the first republic, but the second republic that I marginally participated in and this third republic that I am a key actor, presently as a member of the first eleven, I still see that the PDP is one of the most democratic parties.
“So, I don’t believe that it is undemocratic practices in the PDP that could give rise to Boko Haram or any other groups. So, probably, people need to ask the NSA to explain what he really meant. I have read it in the papers. I don’t believe it is undemocratic practices of the PDP that gave rise to this or any other militant groups”.
Jonathan attributed the interpretation being given to the NSA’s position to a possible breakdown in communication.
“One thing I do know, like philosophers will say, is that human beings disagree because people use different words to mean the same thing and use one word to mean different things.
“That is the primary reason for disagreement. That is why public officers like us are extremely careful because words are extremely elastic. So, sometimes, you have something in your mind you want to communicate, but the way you communicate it, different people will give different interpretations.
“That is why some human beings who don’t think are quarrelsome. When they hear something, they only understand it in one way. They don’t give the opportunity to look the other way”.
Speaking on the attack on ThisDay, the president accused the Boko Haram of seeking to gain world attention by attacking newspaper houses. He, however, reiterated his vow that the activities of the terrorists would be defeated.
Jonathan’s words: “From the beginning of these terrorists’ attacks on us as a nation, I have always maintained that position that terror attack on any part of the country is a terror attack on all of us and indeed the whole world. Terrorists’ method is to ensure maximum damage that the whole world will begin to look at their direction for relevance.
“You see that this is a media house, not a government establishment. Media help to inform all of us about what is happening and, of course, the media is now also a victim.
“That is why as Nigerians, no matter what we do or where we come from, we must all join hands in fighting this terror. I can assure you that we will get over it. Other nations have passed through it.
“When I say that, Nigerians begin to misunderstan; we are just sleeping, to wait that it will come and go like wind, no. We say that countries have faced it, US has faced it and other countries too did. They were able to conquer it. We are working very hard, our security services are working very hard and we will conquer it”.
According to him, in striving to conquer the terrorists, government would not resort to arbitrary measures, but would adopt global best practices which, he said, would involve all means necessary including dialogue, but he added that those against dialogue with the terrorist group were also right.
The publisher of Thisday, Mr. Nduka Obiagbena, said the attack would not deter the media from defending freedom of speech in line with the constitution, saying: “What is not worth dying for is not worth living for. We will continue to defend freedom of speech in line with the constitution.”
PDP lampoons NSA
Meanwhile, the national leadership of the PDP took a swipe at the NSA, yesterday, saying his accusations against the party were made in grave error.
The party also told Azazi that he got it wrong on the root causes of insecurity in the country for blaming the menace of Boko Haram on the zoning policy of the party, adding that the problem of insecurity in the country started before President Goodluck Jonathan came the president of Nigeria.
The PDP, while reacting through a statement signed by the National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metu, noted that the party is one and united behind President Goodluck Jonathan, adding that Azazi’s statement is “a very poor reflection of the foundation and the internal workings of the Party as well as a wrong deduction on the roots of security challenges in the country.
According to Metuh, ‘’President Jonathan emerged with overwhelming votes of delegates from every state in the country, a feat that was again repeated in April 2011 general elections which of course, have been adjudged the best in our recent history. It is therefore a comment in grave error, a fatal diagnosis of facts for anyone to insinuate or directly assert that a section of the membership of the PDP or its foundation predisposes that only a certain section and not others will aspire to the highest office in the country.
“Without fear of contradiction, the PDP is one and truly united in its support for President Goodluck Jonathan who by carriage and personal example has remained the father of all.
‘’The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has strongly dismissed media reports wherein the National Security Adviser, Gen. Oweye Azazi blamed the Party for the current security challenges in the country.
‘’Contrary to assertions by the National Security Adviser, the PDP has remained the strongest catalyst for the unity and progress of Nigeria. Arguing that equity, fairness and all inclusiveness have been the cardinal operative principles of the PDP since formation.
‘’The spread of all the offices in the Party as well as in the federal government which it has been controlling are firm demonstration that the PDP is a sure vehicle for every Nigerian to seek and realize political ambition notwithstanding the hindrances of tribe and religion.
“We wish to state without any ambiguity that our great Party remains the only political party in Nigeria that is not owned by any ethnic group, person or group of persons. All Nigerians are equal stakeholders.
All our special National Conventions for the election of our Presidential flag bearers since 1998 have seen candidates emerge on the strength of National unity, a common motif which envisages that every section of the country, majority or minority can aspire to the highest political office in our fatherland via a well entrenched rotation and zoning principle in the constitution of our party.”
According to the statement, the 2010 presidential primaries of the PDP through which President Goodluck Jonathan emerged was an acid test that proved the founding fathers of the PDP as true architects of national unity.
“While through the military and civilian administrations hitherto, the nation witnessed eruptions of religious violence, the Boko Haram insurgency which itself predated the tenure of the current President is only different in sophistication which again is aligned to the sophistication in this ugly global trend of violence.”
Metuh who noted that PDP has been in the vanguard of the crusade against all forms of violence, said, “The PDP is the only political party that has been entrenching an unambiguous clause against violence in all its electoral guidelines and examples abound of our members who have been disqualified from participating in elections for attempting violence.”
“Our Party will not relent in seeking an end to the scourge of violent attacks in the country and will continue to encourage the security agencies to do their best in the interest of the nation.
However, it is important for us to advise appointees of government to navigate on only on the terrain where their authority will not be humbled by superior knowledge so as to avoid attracting undeserving and unnecessary ill feelings for their principal. The PDP as a Party will not cease supporting and assisting the National Security Adviser in as much as he remains focused in this job of securing the lives and property of Nigerians.’’