President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday recounted the numerous privileges he enjoyed from Nigeria and Nigerians, admitting that many of his decisions were very hard nuts for which he was ready to pay, even as he leaves office on May 29, a fulfilled man.
Jonathan spoke during a thanksgiving and farewell service at the Cathedral Church of the Advent, Life-Camp, Gwarinpa, Abuja, to honour him and his wife, Patience, who made a rare public appearance since the Presidential poll.
After dancing to songrs of praise, the President noted that like Frederic de Klerk whose wife divorced him after he abolish minority rule in South Africa in 1997, he would not be shocked if abandoned after the May 29 handover.
According to him, “when F.W de Klerk took the decision to, even his wife divorced him. I hope my wife will not divorce me.
“But that is the only decision that has made South Africa to still remain a global player by this time. If we still had that minority rule there, by this time, nobody will be talking about South Africa.
“If you take certain decisions, it might be good for the generality of the people but it might affect some people differently. So for ministers and aides who served with me, I sympathize with them, they will be persecuted and they must be ready for that persecution.”
“If you take certain decisions, you should know that those close to you would even abandon you at some point. And I tell them that more of my so-called friends will disappear,” he said.
Despite this reality, he assured: “As long as I live, I will continue to do my best for the state because the state has helped me as a person.
“I have to thank Nigerians and my state for giving me the opportunity to serve as deputy governor and the whole country for the opportunity to serve as Vice-President and then President. (The) first was to complete the tenure of the late President (Umar Yar’Adua) and later serve as president from which I am exiting now as a very happy and fulfilled man.”
The President said he had no regrets cleaning up the electoral system and stabilising the polity, even as he was very much aware that some friends of his could abandon him based on the decisions he has made in the interest of the country; and wished his himself and his aides the words of the famous treatise of Tai Solarin – ‘May Your Road be Rough’.
His words: “Some hard decisions have their own cost, no doubt about that. I have run the government this way that stabilised certain things, the electoral process and other things that brought stability into this country.
“They were very costly decisions which I myself must be ready to pay for. Some people come to me and say this or that person, is he not your friend that benefited, is it not your government that this person benefited from? But this is what the person is saying.”
Continuing, he said: “I have all the reasons to thank God. Very few of those in my age bracket have been this lucky. All through, my education was on government scholarship. I have not suffered lack, not because I am hardworking but by God’s grace.
“I look at the whole picture of my life up to when I became the President of this country; and I say that if soldiers and police officers that have not received 0. 5 per cent of the benefits that I have received from the state can lay their lives for this country, I should do anything in the interest of Nigeria, including paying the supreme price.
Jonathan noted that he came to Abuja peacefully and would be returning peacefully while thanking the Church and Nigerians who stood by him at the most difficult times.
He stressed: “Even for the election, we had people who supported us all over the country but things went the way they did because God wanted it that way for a purpose.
“We will continue to pray for the peace of the country and for the success of the incoming administration. When the country is in good shape, people benefit.
“When things are going well, people are happy. You don’t need to know Mr President or Mr Governor. The issue is not about Jonathan or Buhari or any other person. The issue is how the government functions. Stability, buoyant economy that will enable Nigeria to move forward and live happy. That is our interest, that is my prayer point,” he added.
Primate of the Anglican Church, Nicholas Okoh, in his sermon encouraged Jonathan and all Christians to always give thanks to God no matter the situation.
According to him: “We do not give thanks for bad things, we are not to give thanks for people that have perished but that we should give thanks in whatever situation whether you understand or not; but because you believe in the overriding will of God, give thanks.
“The will of God can mean some uncomfortable situation. When Jesus was goiing to the Cross it was not a pleasant experience but today we have Good Friday.”
He noted that Jonathan had a lot to thank God for; “the first one is the privilege to be president of Nigeria, we are over 170 million, if it was done by the tallest, wiseist, strongest, he would not have fitted the bill.
“Having been deputy governor, governor, vice-president, acting president and president, God has been good to him. It is a rare privilege which may not come in many years.
“We also thank God for your contribution and growth to our country. Some of the projects you initated have been completed, advance stage or at foundation stage, whatever stage it maybe, generation yet unborn will read about Jonathan, that he governed from so-so time to so-so time. It will be studied by our children in history books, so we should thank God.
“Again, you are living the Villa alive. Only God knows what would have happened, there is nothing greater than life. The scripture says nothing is greater than life, so that you came in with your family around you and leaving with them you not only to give thanks but to dance like King David.”
Former Minister of Information, Jerry Gana, while paying tribute to Jonathan, said he deepened democracy, restored dignity to civilian authority, given good leadership, and shown that the fear of God matters in good governance.
“Mr. President, you don’t know what you did for many of us Nigerians whether we are supporters or not. The wisdom that God gave you to concede defeat at that point is worth celebrating”, he said.
In his tribute, Minister of Power, Chinedu Nebo, said: “We came to thank God this day for President Jonathan ?for five years he served selflessly, altruistically, magnanimously, compassionately, humbly, meekly and most diligently.
“He had no death squad, no statutory persecutors, no empowered witch-hunters, no organised retaliators, and no penchant for vindictiveness”.
He stressed that Jonathan “could have acted otherwise in response to the election results as others could have done because of incredible figures emanating from all over the country.
“Rather, he choose the path of honour, peace, a vicarious victory and conceded to General Buhari to douse tension, calm fray nerves and give Nigeria one more chance to perfect our unity. That is President Jonathan for you.”
Prayers of thanksgiving and intercession were said for the Church, the country, Nigerians, the incoming administration, and for peace and stability in the nation.
Some of the dignitaries present were Senators, House of Representatives members; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, leading cabinet members; Chief of Staff to the President, leading presidential aides; Head of Service of the Federation, Danladi Kifasi; Acting Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase; and a host other senior government officials and well wishers.