Sunday, 22 February 2015

I and my team underestimated Boko Haram – president Jonathan

In an interview with ThisDay, President Jonathan said he underestimated the strength of terror group Boko Haram when he assumed office as President but now believes that the leader of the sect will be arrested before the elections. 

He said bad press & poor Public relations has negatively affected his government as people, including himself and his cabinet members are not up to date with the achievements of his government. Read the interview after the cut...
"I think the thing that has brought this government down with both Nigerians and non-Nigerians, is the issue of Boko Haram. One thing is that terrorism is all over the world, but they believe that we did not handle it the way we were supposed to handle it. Probably at the beginning, we and I mean myself and the team, we underrated the capacity of the Boko Haram. Capacity not in terms of what they have in Nigeria, but their international linkages, we underrated that and thought that we were dealing with some local elements that we could overrun.
Many of the security chiefs had made statements that later on you people took them up on. That shows they underestimated their capacity. We’ve now realised that the handshake had gone above the elbow and so we have to move fully and that’s why we are running round to get the right military equipments we need. Somehow we could not get them early enough, and now it has moved too close to the election. But with what is happening now, in the next two weeks, that is three weeks into the six weeks, God willing, Nigerians will be happy with what the military has done in the North-east.
On whether there is anything I would have done differently, yes. I think one thing about the government is that we have done quite a number of things. At times many of us in the government don’t even know what we have done. People tell us. I remember in the beginning of this campaign, if I wanted to visit a state, I will ask those in my office to list out some of our projects in some of these states so that we can tell them what we’ve done. Sometimes when I go to the states, people from the host governments will give me a longer list than the ones prepared for me in my office. That means that even some of us in the government don’t even know all of what we have done to impact positively on Nigeria.
Probably we did not put attention and resources on media and public relations. Public relations is a major thing and that is why companies have departments for this. No matter what you do, you must have a team that would manage your image. Shell doesn’t need anybody to advertise their crude oil, they’ve sold it already, but they still have image makers. I think we downplayed the issue of image for the government, and of course making our achievements known.
Also probably the issue of corruption, because these are the two areas people tackle us - corruption and security. For security, God willing, that will soon be a thing of the past. The next thing is the issue of corruption, and I used to tell people: if I don’t want to fight corruption, I wouldn’t have brought in (Ibrahim) Lamorde as chairman of the EFCC.
I came on board as the vice-president of Yar’Adua, (Nuhu) Ribadu, you all know the story, was removed. Lamorde was Ribadu’s second in command, he was the Director of Operations, and was removed from the EFCC back to the police. Farida was appointed and she was trying her best, because she used to brief me from time to time. We had to drop her because of reports from both within this country and outside. And given that Ribadu was Lamorde were well- trained by the west, they argued that if I bring Lamorde back that EFCC would improve. If I am someone that don’t want to fight corruption I would not have listened and brought back Lamorde because he once investigated me. My in-law was detained here in Abuja for weeks. But I sent for him and told him that Nigerians and non-Nigerians believed in him, so we would bring him to help EFCC, because he was the backbone of Ribadu. So we asked him to come and be the head of the agency.
But people often say that my body movement encourages corruption which is not true.  Lamorde told me about their limitations, being in court and the court compromising. I then came up with some innovations again. Though constitutionally, the three arms of government are not supposed to meet; there is no platform for the three to meet, even though the executive and parliament do meet because we are all politicians, but I said look we must, for the image of the country, come together. I then called for a special meeting with myself, the vice-president, then the head of corruption agencies, EFCC, ICPC and the Senate president and his deputy, then the speaker and his deputy. Then for the judiciary, all the judges of the federation, the president of the court of appeal, the chief judge of the federal high court and (from) each of the zones, we nominated a state chief judge each. I told them that the executive, legislature and judiciary must work together in the interest of the country to fight corruption.
I called the meeting because of the issue of court delay, and we discussed and everybody showed concern. But the judiciary operates like a university setting where every lecturer behaves like he is 100 per cent academic  freedom .Every judge has some level of autonomy, and if they don’t operate that way there will be issues. So there is a limit that even the chief judge of the federation can control a judge. The only thing is that if they misbehave they will be punished under their guide book, but other than that, the judge can decide to ignore any decision. We had several meetings, and it was in one of those meetings that the question came up about the difference between corruption and stealing based on the laws.
We are doing our best to see that corruption is reduced. You can see that in the payroll system, we have eliminated corruption and theft including the agric sector. One major area that we will go into is the oil sector.  So we are going to sanitise all the sectors, but I always believe that fighting corruption is not just about first  arresting people and celebrating the arrest on television.  We have to investigate and prosecute before publicity" he said.