President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday acknowledged that the opposition was stronger for him today than in 2011 because people who defected from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gave the opposition the strength it currently enjoys.
According to him, if the PDP elements were to leave the opposition, they would crumble like a pack of cards, even as he said he was confident, however, that the PDP was still stronger and would emerge victorious in the coming election.
Speaking when he appeared in an African Independent Television (AIT) live programme, Kaakaki in Abuja, President Jonathan also declared the Secondary School girls abducted in Chibok, Borno State who have spent close to a year in Boko Haram captivity are still alive and will be rescued soon.
Acknowledging that the opposition is stronger now than in 2011, Jonathan said, “I agree with you, it was easier (in 2011) but PDP is still the dominant party. There is no polling unit in Nigeria where you don’t have members of the PDP.
“Yes, for one reason or the other, within the party people get angry and may even vote against PDP but in terms of membership of the PDP, there is no party that has that spread. So, PDP still has the most formidable structure, PDP has better chances of winning a national election.”
“Even the opposition will tell you they are realistic. Who has strengthened the opposition? Are not the PDP elements? If you remove the PDP election from the opposition, they will just crumble like a pack of cards.
“Why are people aggressive towards the PDP to the extent that even the presidential convoyed is stoned? Why do you show that aggression? If you are comfortable, you will not do that.”
Emphasizing on why this election may be more difficult, the president said, “Globally, it is more challenging for a president to secure a second term than the first tenure,” because people get disappointed when their expectations are not quickly met by those they voted for.
He added that in spite of that, “PDP still has an edge over the opposition.”
Giving reasons why he should be re-elected, the president listed some of his administration’s numerous achievements in the different sectors including roads, power, transport, aviation, adding that if given the chance, he would consolidate on them in the next four years.
He said when he re-elected, he would make deliberate effort to better communicate government’s activities to the people to carry them along in a better manner.
On the Chibok girls, Jonathan premised his conviction that the school girls have not been killed by the insurgents on the notion that if they were dead, the blood thirsty terrorists would have been to glad to display their corpses for the purpose of showing off.
He noted that the terrorist activities of the insurgents became intense because at first, the federal government underestimated the group which started as a non-violent sect which later grew in capacity.
On why the military is now doing within a period of six weeks what government could not do in five years, the president explained that the military now equipped up to 65 percent and has the platform needed to prosecute the war against the insurgents.
He added that with the level of success recorded so far, the territories yet to be recovered from the terrorists in Adamawa and Yobe states were likely to be recaptured in the next few days.
Asked why the Chibok girls have not been found in spite of the military successes, the president said, “we still have reasonable territories in the hands of Boko Haram. We promised that we must get the girls.
“The good story is that they have not killed them because the terrorists, when they kill, they display. They use it to intimidate the whole society. They girls are alive. We will get the girls. Luckily, we are narrowing down the area of their control. So, we will get them”.
He pointed out that why it appeared as if the military had been reluctant to strike the sect with full force was because government was mindful of the fact that the terrorists are fond of using captives as human shield, saying “that is why the pace had to be slow.”
On why it took so long for military successes to come against Boko Haram, the president said, “Yes, agreed that at the beginning, probably we did not really (correctly) estimate the capacity of Boko Haram. It is obvious. Boko Haram started as a non-violence group led by Yusuf, limited to around Maiduguri area, Yobe. They did not even get to Adamawa.
“Just like every group of youths or young people is inclined to criminality, over the period, they expanded their network and linked up with other terrorist organizations like in the North Africa like Al-Qaeda and other similar brands in the world.
“So, they continued to build their capacity and it got to point to know that for you to tackle them in the kind of environment they operate, you need some specialized equipment to use and we don’t manufacture these equipment now”.
Jonathan further noted that even though government had challenges at the beginning in acquiring the necessary weapons from other countries, the story has changed with about 65 percent of the weapons now available to prosecute the war.
The president remarked that efforts were ongoing to mop up areas that have already been liberated to ensure that Boko Haram did not relaunch attacks on them in order to enable the Internal Displaced People (IDPs) to return to their homes.
He said he was happy that the mopping up exercises have succeeded so far because there were no new reports of terrorist seizing territories, especially with the collaboration of neighboring countries’ armies which has blocked escape routes.
President Jonathan denied that the recent reduction in fuel price reduction was politically motivated even as he assured that the issues responsible for he current fuel scarcity were being addressed.
He said: “For the fuel scarcity, we are doing everything humanly possible to ensure it is taken care of. It is very temporary. Of course, there issues of payment being addressed and we believe that within one or two day, this will completely go.
“Until we start refining our crude oil to get our own products here within the country, we cannot get out of some of these. It is even really the policy of government. When you continue to export raw materials, you are actually exporting jobs.”
He assured that the nation’s refineries would completely be privatized, even as government would continue to encourage private sector as according to him, they were better managers of infrastructure.
He said, “It is not politically motivated. The way people play politics with everything in Nigeria is quite unfortunate. Pump prices are not constant but are based on changes in the international market.
“When I came as vice president in 2007, the price of crude oil at the international market dropped to about $40, there was a day it dropped to $38 per barrel and we dropped the pump price to N65 per litre. And we had to keep it up to N97 when the price went up to about $111 per barrel at the international market.
“The cushioning gap was because the subsidy became unbearable to government. So, we had to push it up to N97 per litre. Now that the international crude oil price has dropped back to about $60 or so, it would not be fair for you to still ask Nigerians to pay N97 except you want to deregulate completely.”