Boko Haram amnesty: Why we made U-turn, by Jonathan

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President Jonathan

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, gave reasons yesterday the Jonathan administration reversed its earlier position not to grant amnesty to the Islamist sect, Boko Haram. He said President Goodluck Jonathan had to bow to pressure from notable personalities from the North, who pleaded for an amnesty deal to stop further killings by the sect. Okupe gave the explanation during a visit to the corporate headquarters of The Sun Publishing Ltd in Lagos.

He was accompanied by the Special Assistant to the President on Public Relations, Dr Olusanya Amosan, the Director, Digital and Social Media, Churchhill Umoren, the Director, Media, Bamidele Salam and the Publicity Secretary, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Lagos State, Taofik Gani. Okupe, who led the team, was received by the company’s Deputy Managing Director, Mr. Femi Adesina and other management staff including the Editor, Saturday Sun, Onuoha Ukeh, the Editor, Sunday Sun, Funke Egbemode, the Editor, Magazine, Sola Osunkeye and the Deputy Editor, Daily, Femi Adeoti. Okupe extolled The Sun as a frontline newspaper in the country, describing its titles as rich in content.

He said the company has become a national pride, adding that the products are impressive. On the dramatic reversal of the Federal Government ‘s stance on amnesty, he said the President acceded to pleadings from the leadership of the North, who recommended the deal to curtail insurgent attacks in the region. He described Jonathan as God-sent, noting that he prized the safety and well-being of every Nigerian above his personal ego and interest. “President Goodluck Jonathan, take my word for it, is the best option for Nigeria at this time. Goodluck Jonathan is the best option for this time and for this season. God does not make mistakes. God knows that we will go through these difficulties and challenges. If we didn’t have a man at the saddle of affairs in this season, only God knows what would have happened to the country.

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“Goodluck behaves in Christ-like manner, taking the sins of others on your head, accepting them and moving on as if nothing has happened. The President is a caring man. The President, even though he did not believe in amnesty for Boko Haram because they were not known, not well-identified. But when the entire region, the political leadership, the traditional leadership, the social leadership of the entire North came and insisted on amnesty, they found a listening ear in Goodluck Jonathan.

This is a caring person that places the love and well-being of every Nigerian over and above his personal rationalisation,” he said. Okupe said Jonathan had not hired ‘ghost catchers’ to arrest the Boko Haram faceless members, noting that the President acted like a statesman by acquiescing with the leaders of the region to fashion out a peace plan. He said the huge sums of money expended on interventions to curtail this silent war would have been better spent on job creation, social services and infrastructure. Okupe, who wore a white caftan and black cap, expressed pity for Jonathan, whom he said had to live with a maze of uncertainties beclouding the nation. He said Jonathan was ushered into power when half of the populace were hostile and the opposition increasingly vociferous.

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“Apart from the time of civil war, this is an unparallel period in our history. Sometimes, if you are spiritual, you would begin to wonder if there was a major issue or not. Killings, deaths and bloodshed everywhere! If you are the President and you carry such a burden, you will be totally destabilised. The President has to live with the anticipation and fear of where they would bomb tomorrow, how many people would be killed tonight, it is difficult to even remain focused. I actually feel sorry for him. He is a strong person,” he said. Okupe noted that some people openly decimate and desecrate the Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria before foreign countries, describing such disparaging comments as unpatriotic and unbecoming of an elder statesman.

He accused the opposition of spearheading activities capable of destroying the country. He said highly dependable sources have revealed how the opposition spend millions of ill-gotten dollars on lobbyists to malign the Jonathan administration and entrench western contempt. Okupe denied having any personal issues with General Muhammad Buhari. He condemned the comments credited to the former military leader which blamed Jonathan for the Boko Haram insurgency, accusing him of being unfair to Mr President. “General Buhari consistently wants the Nigerian people to believe that anything that is wrong in the country is Jonathan. He is one of those enforcing the idea of ineptitude, It is a fallacy.

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It is not correct, if you talk about governance on issue-based matters, we will take you up on that. But if you disparage my principal, I am sorry, I cannot take that,” he said. Okupe also knocked opposition parties, challenging the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to present its score card for public scrutiny. He said the party has nothing to show in Lagos State, in spite of the 12 years of its leadership. He said the party was defective in performance, wearing tattered shirts to mask its over-bloated ego. He also laughed off the threat of the merger party, All Progressives Congress (APC), describing the coalition as a bunch of ‘political first-timers’, ‘political Lilliputians’ and ‘pretenders to the throne.’

While welcoming the guests, Adesina said The Sun is printing simultaneously from its three plants in Lagos, Abuja and Aba to serve the markets efficiently. He promised that the organization would not renege on its mandate to serve Nigerians better, describing the various titles as ‘a reliable vehicle’ to reach millions of people in the country.

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