In a veiled response to the letter written to him by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday in Abuja warned that he would not tolerate insults against his person just because he is a ‘public officer, adding that those who have been “painting the administration bad” before the global community should desist, saying they should not allow their selfish political ambition to destroy the country.
According to him, ambition was what led to the “wrongful overthrow” of ex-President Shehu Shagari in 1983, adding that such criticisms were not constructive enough to challenge the development strides of the present administration.
The President, who was represented by the Information Minister, Mr. Labaran Maku, sounded the warning during the third annual lecture and award ceremony of Nigerian Pilot Newspapers and Nigerian Newsworld Magazine.
Mr. Jonathan, who disclosed that he had long developed “thick skin against such criticisms”, however, advised politicians to thread with caution as their actions could destabilize democratic structures already in place.
“There is a difference between ambition and reality. Go for your ambition, nobody is disturbing you because it is [a] free world. Go and compete, but don’t pull down this country called Nigeria because of your personal ambition. It is unacceptable”, he stated.
The president continued: “I think there is a difference between debates and insults. I reject insults and the fact that I am a public officer doesn’t give anybody the liberty to insult me. Most of the time you cannot detach the Office of the President and honour of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“There are people who are honestly trying to put things down for this country to move on. I think we can see the difference between facts and fiction. Let us not continue to behave as if we can pull down our own house; we as politicians and public servants should not behave as if we were picked on the streets. You don’t just go and pour acid on the faces of public officers”, he warned.
Mr. Obasanjo had in an 18-page letter to Mr. Jonathan titled ‘Before it is too late’, accused the president of reducing his office to an Ijaw affair and condoning corruption, which he said stinks all around him and his government among other weighty allegations.
The Information Minister then berated the media for its daily reportage of what he called highly fictional information.
He said, “If you look through our media reports today, we see insults and abuses, every day. If somebody did not abuse Mr. President, it will look as if there is no journalism on that day.
“We are talking about our country, our nation’s institutions and democracy; we are talking about setting standards for this democracy, standards of behaviour, standards of conduct and standards of principles of behaviour and every democracy must be parliamentary. We should not go personal, but we are going too personal”.
Maku likened the media to a mirror, which when broken, creates a false reflection, saying “We must not destroy the mirror and present the image as ugly.
“The mirror is very important in conveying the good image of our people. We have completely ignored issues on the ground and we are embarking on personality debates.
“The way we are sensationalising the development of this nation in public debates, is so annoying and it is not supposed to be so. I am a big time journalist”, he added.
“But there is a difference between reporting events and articulating a position because the media are supposed to articulate public debates. When the media embark on abuse and insults, the people will be confused”.
Maku also stated that the liberty being enjoyed by Nigerians had been taken for granted simply because “the President believes in the rule of law”.