The presidency today called on the Nigerian media to “eschew undue negativity and join hands with the government to promote peace, national security and political stability.”
The advice is contained in a statement by spokesman Reuben Abati protesting reports which correctly quoted President Goodluck Jonathan at a Christmas church service as expressing pessimism about the war against terrorism. Churches in at least two northeastern States were closed at Christmas.
The spokesman declared the reports to be “completely untrue and a mischievous misrepresentation” of what Mr. Jonathan actually said.
“President Jonathan’s verifiable remarks at the Cathedral Church of the Advent, Life Camp Abuja were to the effect that in comparison with some other countries which have experienced the scourge of terrorism, Nigeria has made remarkable progress in dealing with the security challenges posed by terrorism and insurgency,” Abati said.
He added that headlines such as “Terrorism Has Come to Stay” and “Insurgency Far From Over – Jonathan” are incongruous with the thrust of the President’s remarks and amounted to taking “extreme editorial liberties” with his comments.
“It is apparent that in their indecent haste to cast the most sensational and negative headlines, some editors never paused to consider that it would have been most absurd for a President whose administration has done so much to reverse the tide of terrorism, to publicly assert the contrary,” the statement continued.
In terms of the substance of the remarks, he said Mr. Jonathan only pointed out that whereas terrorism remains a global challenge and a source of continuing concern in some countries, Nigeria has done comparatively better in reducing the incidence of terrorist attacks within its borders to a “reasonable level”.
“Interpreting those remarks, which are clearly in tandem with facts available to all objective observers of Nigeria’s war against terrorism, as an expression of defeat or helplessness, amounts to reckless scaremongering which can only serve the purpose of needlessly instigating fear among the populace and bolstering the confidence of criminal and unpatriotic elements,” Mr. Abati observed.
He described the war against terrorism as “very winnable” and that Mr. Jonathan’s administration as “steadily winning it” in Nigeria, adding that the government, the Armed Forces and national security agencies will continue to build on the successes they have achieved so against terrorists, insurgents and their sponsors.
In a front page lead today, the Abuja-based Daily Trust wrote as follows: “President Goodluck Jonathan says his administration is making headway in tackling security challenges but that the insurgency afflicting parts of the country is far from over. He said had it not been for the success recorded in the campaign against terrorism, the State House in Abuja might have been targeted by now.”
The Eagle Online, in a transcript published online, demonstrates that President Jonathan clearly expressed helplessness about terrorism. The following is a verbatim transcript of the segment of Mr. Jonathan’s extempore address relating to terrorism, which includes the remark that “countries that are infested with terror will hardly get out of it”:
“The primate mentioned a number of issues that deal with nations, which have crises.
“For those who know about terrorism, countries that are infested with terror will hardly get out of it.
“If you look at Pakistan, we even go there to train our soldiers in some parts of Pakistan.
“As we are even talking now, there appears to be no government.
“So, this country could have been worse.
“Look at the incidences in Abuja, even the police headquarters was bombed.
“The UN (United Nations) building right here in the seat of government.
May be the next target would have been State House.
“So, we have to thank God that we have been able to bring it to a reasonable level, though we are far from getting through.
“There are a lot of challenges but we have to thank God.
“The primate said if it were to be like Syria.
“Look at South Sudan too.
“They were part of Sudan and they felt that they were being dominated.
“They have resources, there is oil in parts of South Sudan.
“They carry arms against the state.
“Finally, the whole world, through the UN, liberated them.
“In fact, within this week, we will be going for a security council meeting on South Sudan under the African Union.
“My envoy just came back on Sunday from where he had a conversation with them.
“How do we stop this madness?
“So, we have to thank God even though we still have these security challenges in our country, at least we are reasonably better.
“In terms of Nigeria, if we have crises, the Primate was mentioning whether Ghana or Sierra Leone can accommodate us.
“Even now, Nigerians in these countries, the people who own the country are not even comfortable with the number.
“From Cameroon to Senegal, Nigerians are everywhere.
“If not for political and diplomatic reasons, they would have even asked some of them to go.
“Then assuming we have crises, what will be your state, where will you go?
“Is it the Atlantic Ocean?
“So, I urge you to continue to pray.
“I also thank the religious leaders of this country.
“They have been praying and I believe God has been hearing our prayers.
“We will do our best within the period that God has asked us to occupy the positions we are occupying.”