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A more assured performance: GEJ’s interview with Al Jazeera’s Stephen Cole (READ)

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A more assured performance: GEJ’s interview with Al Jazeera’s Stephen Cole (READ)

by Stanley Azuakola

It’s been an eventful week for President Goodluck Jonathan. But then, is there any week that isn’t so for the president of Africa’s most populous nation?

24 hours after his interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, President Goodluck Jonathan once again sat down with a foreign journalist on Thursday and addressed various issues ranging from Nigeria’s intervention in Mali and the state of insecurity in the country, to education and diversification of the economy.

This time, the host was veteran journalist Stephen Cole, who prior to joining Al Jazeera in 2005, had enjoyed stints at Sky News, BBC and CNN.

The interview was short, but Nigerians were able to see a more assured Jonathan in the few minutes it lasted. Of course, we don’t expect oratory or dexterity from President Jonathan at any time whatsoever, but compared to Wednesday’s interview, this was a much finer performance.

Meanwhile, the president returned to Nigeria yesterday, earlier than expected. A tweet from his spokesman, Reuben Abati, did not give much details except that he needed “to attend to some urgent state matters.”

President Jonathan has cut short his trip to Switzerland to return to Abuja to attend to some urgent state matters. He is back in Abuja.

The Al Jazeera interview is reprinted below:


Nigeria has sent a battalion of Army to Mali, how does the war in Northern Mali impact on Nigeria?

Terror anywhere on earth is a terror to everybody. Because of the excesses of this terrorists group in Northern Mali is a threat to West Africa, a threat to Central Africa and North Africa. They cannot limit themselves to Northern Mali.

Terrorists are criminals they don’t respect territorial boundaries. They don’t need a visa to enter any country. They do that at their will. So if we all don’t collectively solve the problems in Mali, none of the countries in West Africa, in Central Africa and of course North Africa is safe.

Do you worry about the conflict in Mali becoming internationalised?

Yes of course, some of the local terrorists in Nigeria called Boko Haram are trained in Northern Mali. There is a solid link between what is happening in Northern Mali and what is happening in Northern Nigeria. People have written a lot about how to manage terror. Nigeria is not the first country that is experiencing terror.  Managing terror takes different dimensions and we are taking all the dimensions and options that are known to man.

So what do you do about Boko Haram. Do you fight Boko Haram or negotiate with them?

It is not just to fight or negotiate with them. Those are just two options. I have told you that if you read about terrorism all over the world there are various options and we are using all the options.

What are the options?

The use of the security. We are using intelligence surveillance. In terms of reaching out to them, the government has not really reached out to them because they are operating as faceless organization and I have been repeating it all over the place that the government cannot operate with a faceless organization. You must have an identity for us to negotiate with you.

But there are individuals, some religious organizations, civil society groups and journalists like you. Journalists operate like security underground. They have some means and when they come to us to tell us… we say we want to know them, we want to see them and want to know if they have some problems we want to solve that problems. So through that means people are reaching out to them, but not the government directly.

We are also looking at the issues because when you have a terrorist group there may be some few people, tiny minority people, sometimes only one or two person come up with this ideas, but if you have a number of boys who probably are not well educated or not occupied they could be easily be brainwashed and recruit them into the group.

Is education one of your priorities?

Yes that is why we came up with the basic educational program we call Almajeri educational programme to cater for those young boys whose parents may not be able to cater for and are only given religious education. So we say no in addition they should in addition to learning about your religion you must develop skills.

Are you trying to diversify your economy from oil?

Yes oil brought money to Nigeria, oil also brought problem to Nigeria. There are two areas we think oil brought problem to Nigeria. The first is that with the advent of oil Nigeria abandoned agriculture which has been our primary source of income.

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