From George Oji:
Former Defence Minister and Chairman of the newly constituted Presidential Advisory Council, General Theopilus Danjuma (rtd), has said Acting President Goodluck Jonathan does not have time and should hit the ground running decisively with the new powers given to him.
This is as Defence Minister Godwin Abbe and his Federal Capital Territory (FCT) counterpart Adamu Aliero were yesterday locked out of the council chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, for lateness.
The Acting President, however, has “sufficient” time to make a difference in the lives of Nigerians, Danjuma argued.
Jonathan must act now in order not to undermine the goodwill he enjoys among Nigerians and also strive to leave as his legacy, a transparent general election next year, he declared.
Danjuma spoke during the inauguration of the Presidential Advisory Council.
He observed that Jonathan, who he described as an agent of change, has the rare opportunity of making a fundamental impact on the lives of Nigerians but only if he moves speedily to deal with pressing issues.
While noting that Jonathan has the quality of a leader that can bring about the needed changes in the country, Danjuma said the only thing lacking before now was the power to act.
The Advisory Council is expected to among other functions, provide the Federal Government with alternative inputs into policy formation, promote good governance in the areas of power, economy, security, infrastructure, social sector, the electoral process, and the fight against corruption, among others.
“I must take account of the fact that this administration has barely 12 months to serve out its tenure. This is not an awfully long time to deal effectively with all the problems set out in our terms of reference. But then one day is a long time in politics. Mr. Acting President you have sufficient time to make a difference,” the former minister said.
He continued: “This is a decisive moment in our history. At such moments God always ensures that a nation possesses significant personalities who are to act as his agents for change. You, Mr. Acting president, are the significant personality that God has chosen at this time to take your place at the front in the struggle to save our country.
“Because the times are extraordinary, the measures that need to be taken are not only urgent but also extraordinary. Unless you take those measures quickly, the goodwill, which you now enjoy, may be lost.
“Fortunately you have the required courage and vision. What you did not have in the past was the authority. Now that you have been invested with the authority, the nation expects you to proceed quickly to effect the needed transformation. This is the right time for you to act now, when you can act quickly and aggressively, now when society can be trusted to be so generous as to credit you with your successes and to excuse your errors.”
He also advised the Acting President “to pursue that effort to its logical conclusion with all speed, determination and sincerity. If all you do, as acting president is to ensure that our elections are transparent, it shall be sufficient to endear you to the nation and you shall go down in history as one of our greatest leaders”.
The former Minister stressed the need for Jonathan to step up the fight against corruption and expedite action on providing power for Nigerians.
Danjuma used the occasion to commend President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua for his “effective use of sticks and carrots in the solution of the long-standing Niger Delta problem.” He commended the amnesty granted militants and asked Jonathan to implement all the measures agreed upon in the programme.
He added that lack of peace in that part of the country is a threat to the entire nation.
Speaking earlier, the Acting President reaffirmed government’s determination to address critical national challenges and institute good governance that will improve the living standards of all Nigerians. According to him, “the best advertisement of good governance is its positive expression of happiness in the lives of the governed”.
Jonathan restated his belief that “the privilege and opportunity of service is a sacred trust that we must not betray. It is in this regard that the loud but healthy clamour for good governance across the country cannot be ignored. We are here in the name of good governance and there is no going back,” he stated.
The Acting President told members of the Advisory Council that their wealth of experience and the urgency to deliver good governance to the Nigerian people informed their selection. He urged them to come up with practical options that would guide the government in this regard.
“It is in pursuance of this goal and having due regard to the urgency of the moment, that I have requested that a team of men and women of distinguished pedigree be called to service at this hour and in the interest of our nation. This is beyond politics. It is the big call of our generation, and our citizens are expectant,” he stated.
Jonathan said the inputs of the panel would not be treated with levity. The Federal Government will pay attention to contributions within the terms of reference of the Council, he explained.
Meanwhile, Abbe and Aliero were yesterday locked out of the Council chambers during the inauguration of the 26-member Presidential Advisory Council.
Despite the 15 minutes grace given by Jonathan to enable all the ministers and presidential aides attend the meeting, both ministers were late for the inauguration and subsequently locked out from the proceedings.
The defence minister arrived the venue of the meeting when the inauguration of the council had already been concluded by Jonathan while Aliero who was also late was denied access by security men at the entrance to the chambers when he arrived about 25 minutes later.
Reporters overheard Abbe asking Aliero “what do we do now that the meeting has ended?” Aliero was said to have replied “let’s go in and just shake hands with them and congratulate them.”
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