By Ihuoma Chiedozie:

The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council, Lt.-Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd), on Thursday said Nigeria required change and therefore challenged Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan, to take ‘quick and aggressive’ actions in order to save the nation.

Danjuma spoke while responding to the Acting President‘s address at the inauguration of the newly constituted Presidential Advisory Council in the Council Chambers of the State House, Abuja.

Although he admitted that the administration would soon conclude its tenure, Danjuma noted that Jonathan had “sufficient time to make a difference.”

The former Defence minister, who spoke for himself and the 25 other members of the PAC, cautioned Jonathan that he risked losing the goodwill of Nigerians, which he currently enjoys, if he failed to act quickly.

He also told Jonathan that the Almighty God had chosen him as an agent of change, and as a result, he must ensure he does not disappoint Nigerians and members of the international community.

“Nigeria is currently going through extra-ordinary times, which require urgent and extra-ordinary measures,” Danjuma said.

“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 extra-ordinary, the measures that need to be taken are not only urgent but also extra-ordinary.

“Unless you take those measures quickly, the goodwill which you enjoy now 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 the society can be trusted to be so generous as to credit you with your successes and to excuse your errors.”

Danjuma then proceeded to list issues requiring urgent attention, which should be the Acting President‘s priority.

They include the security and development of the Niger Delta; the anti-corruption campaign; electoral reforms and the troubled power sector.

Danjuma declared that a successful reform of the electoral system, leading to free and fair elections in 2011, would be enough to place Jonathan among the country‘s greatest leaders.

He advised Jonathan to ensure the success of the post amnesty programme, and also revitalise the anti-corruption campaign.

The anti-corruption campaign has lost steam, he observed.

Danjuma said, “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 do 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.

“We salute President Umaru Yar‘Adua for his effective use of sticks and carrots in the solution of the long-standing Niger Delta problem.

”His grant of general amnesty to the militants leading to the solution of lingering Niger Delta problem is most commendable.

”We now fervently urge you to implement all the measures that have been agreed upon in order to reconcile the people of that area to the nation.

“The absence of peace in the Niger Delta is a threat to peace in the nation as a whole.

“We commend the efforts of government in its fight against corruption but urge that it should be made proactive rather than reactive because prevention is better than cure.

“There is a general feeling that the fight against corruption has slowed down and we urge that something be done to restore the momentum.”

He continued, “Side by side with the fight against corruption is the need to ensure that our elections are fair and transparent.

“The need for electoral reforms has already been acknowledged by your government and we commend the efforts made so far in that regard.

“We appeal to you 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.

“Over the years, nothing has undermined government‘s efforts at attaining self-reliance more than our lack of constant and reliable power supply.

“This is one factor discouraging foreign investment and local enterprise.

“We need a comprehensive solution, using not only the best experts of our country but also of other nations. No attention paid to this sector will be too great.”

On behalf of the PAC, Danjuma also congratulated Jonathan on his assumption of office as Acting President.

He assured the Acting President that the Council would provide honest and fearless advice.

Danjuma added that Jonathan‘s decision to appoint the Council was an indication that he intended to move the country forward.

He said, “On behalf of members of the Presidential Advisory Council, I congratulate you on your assumption of office as Acting President of our great nation.

“The persons you have appointed into this Advisory Council are hardworking and patriotic men and women of rank and position, who are all distinguished by their length of service and experience and who can be trusted to advise you honestly and fearlessly.

“By appointing this calibre of men and women from all over the country and from all walks of life, you have demonstrated your own commitment to excellence and your determination to succeed.

“On our part, we take this assignment to heart and look forward to all that we can do to make your administration a great success.

“Thank you for this unique opportunity given to us to be of service to the nation.”

Earlier, Jonathan had assured the Council that its recommendations would be taken seriously by the government.

The Acting President said ministers and other top officials of the Federal Government would listen to the Council‘s advice.

Jonathan said, ”Let me assure you that your recommendations and suggestions will not be treated with levity.

“The Federal Executive Council and other key members of the Federal Government will pay attention to what you have to say on matters within the scope of this national assignment.

“There is no doubting the wealth of experience that you have gathered in the varied areas of your life calling.

“It is these experiences and many others from fellow Nigerians that we can call to further service, that we are determined to tap for the good of the people.

“I urge you to come up with practical options that will enable this government to improve the quality of life of all our citizens.”

Jonathan added that the Council‘s assignment ”is beyond politics. It is the big call of our generation. Our citizens are expectant”.

Reminiscing on the circumstances that led to his emergence as Acting President, Jonathan noted that the opportunity to hold public office was a sacred trust which should not be betrayed.

He also promised that he was determined to translate good governance into better living standard for Nigerians.

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