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‘I Can Confidently Say that In All My Public Life, I Was Inspired To Lead Nigeria By My Conscience’ – Ex-president, Goodluck Jonathan Says



Former President Goodluck Jonathan, is currently in Malaysia for the  World Peace Summit. In his paper which he titled “Conscience Based Leadership: The Secret to Global Peace and Security.’, Jonathan spoke of how he was inspired to lead Nigeria by using his conscience dispassionately. 

“Since you specifically invited me to share my experience as a political leader and President, with the forum, I will, therefore, like to mention some of the things I did in office, to build a peaceful society. I can confidently say that in all my public life, I was inspired to lead by conscience. This is in agreement with my personal philosophy which I first proclaimed while running for the office of the Governor of my home state Bayelsa in 2006, and re-echoed when I ran for the office of the President of Nigeria in 2011 and 2015. Then, I made it clear that my political ambition is not worth the blood of anybody. Ever since I said that in November of 2006 in Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa State, I have always lived by it. This philosophy informed my 12 decision to concede the 2015 Presidential election, even while the results were still being collated”

Speaking further, he said “Let me give an example of one way I was inspired to lead by my conscience. In Nigeria, there were 10.5 million (about 15% of the population) out of school children who were of school age, going by UNICEF figures, as at the time I became President. This was a disproportionate portion for my country which was quite alarming, considering that many other developing nations with much higher population had fewer numbers of out of school children. Over 80% of these children for which majority are known as Almajiri came from the northern part of Nigeria, where I recorded the least votes in the elections I contested. Knowing the value of education , I could see that the ugly situation was limiting the opportunities of these children and negatively affecting the development of my country. That was why my administration decided to build 165 Almajiri Integrated Model Schools which combined both western and Islamic education in its curricula. They were designed to have significant impact in reducing the number of out of school children, and opening the space for them to dream like other kids in other parts of the nation. Constitutionally, the Federal Government which I led was not obligated to build primary and secondary schools. It is the 13 responsibility of the states and local governments. But I believed that without providing education to these children, the country would be fated to spend more money in fighting insecurity. My administration took education seriously because I saw education as the weapon with which we could break the bond between illiteracy and crime levels. For instance, it was obvious that Boko Haram terrorists were exploiting these innocent children in the northern part of the country and using them as canon fodders to destabilize the country. The situation was so awful that security reports indicated that even parents were alleged to be giving out their innocent and illiterate children to terrorists for suicide bombing.

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I am a firm believer in education, and just as I had said elsewhere, any nation that does not spend its wealth in educating its youth will eventually spend that wealth to fight insecurity. With my one and half years stay as the governor of my State, Bayelsa, one of the remarkable things I tried to do then was to upgrade and improve infrastructure in our educational institutions in my determination to encourage more children to go to school, and stop them from taking to crimes. I also revived the award of post primary school scholarship to bright students from mainly the rural communities and sent them to the best 14 secondary schools in Nigeria.

I introduced a concept of building two specialized post-primary institutions as centres of excellence for gifted and talented students. My aim was to build role models who will inspire others in all the nooks and crannies of the state. I believed that one of the most effective ways of discouraging restiveness and other crimes that are prevalent in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s seat of oil exploration, was to build role models to give hope to other disenchanted youths. The whole idea was using education to solve social and security problems in my country.

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When I eventually became President, I thought it was time to mainstream this programme to the centre, by expanding the opportunities for qualitative education at all levels, to every hardworking Nigerian youth. Throughout the time I was in office, education enjoyed the highest sectoral allocation in the nation’s budget. This was why we were able to scale up our education programmes, especially at the tertiary level, where there was an obvious need to address the challenge of insufficient spaces for our youths.

We built 12 additional conventional universities and two more specialised institutions including one maritime university and a police university. With that, we expanded the opportunities to educate our youth in relevant fields, and produce the manpower needs of our economy. 15 For a nation to truly develop, it must cultivate a crop of manpower that could revolutionise its technological advancement. For this reason, we introduced the Presidential Special Scholarship Scheme for Innovation and Development (PRESSID). With this programme, we offered scholarship to the best of our first-class graduates from the technical disciplines, to embark on further studies in the world’s leading universities. The idea was to send them to these institutions to acquire technical skills that are relevant to our development goals. To reduce tension and conflict in the Niger Delta, we equally implemented a programme for the training of the youths in different disciplines, skills and technical vocations relevant to our economy, in many local and foreign institutions”.

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