President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja on Wednesday told some Northern elders that he does not hate people of the region.
Speaking when a delegation of the Northern Elders Council, NEC, visited him at the Presidential lodge, Mr. Jonathan wondered what informed such suggestion.
He also flayed the attitude of some people, who paraded themselves as statesmen but “make provocative statements just to create enmity and division in the country”.
Citing projects executed by his administration in the north and appointment of many northerners into key positions in his government, Mr. Jonathan said he would provide documents to prove his critics wrong.
“Some people say Jonathan hates the north; I have heard that statement and I tell Namadi Sambo; ‘they say I hate the north but you are here as my Vice-President’.
“I tell the National Security Adviser and my Principal Secretary the same thing. In fact my Principal Secretary (Hassan Tukur) has been my friend since I was the deputy governor of Bayelsa.
“I never knew I was going to come here as Vice-President not to talk of President. But I have known him since I was the deputy governor of Bayelsa.
“My Chief Detail, Yusuf, is from Borno and has been with me since I was a deputy governor in Yenagoa.
“I see him as a good person and I have carried him along with me. So I had to ask how can somebody wake up and say I hate the north?” he said.
The president stated that out of the 12 new federal universities established by his administration, nine were in the north while only three were in the south.
Mr. Jonathan said his government also initiated Almajiri education in the north to bring the region at par with the south in terms of education development.
He expressed happiness that state governments in the north had keyed into the imitative, which he said had greatly expanded access to education in the region.
“I feel we must enter the north with aggression through education.
“Whenever the statistics of school dropouts in the country is released, I’m not happy. The percentage from states in the north is sometimes as high as 50 (per cent) and even more.
“The last one was up to 70 per cent. I said no, we must change this statistics.
“Somebody who hates the people cannot talk about educating their children because the people we are educating are the future leaders of this country,” he said.
The president expressed concern over provocative statements by some elderly Nigerians, “who parade themselves as statesmen.
“Some people call themselves statesmen but they are not statesmen; they are just ordinary politicians.
“Being a statesman is not because you have occupied a big office before but the question is what are you bringing to bear?
“Are you building this country or are you a part of people who tell lies to destroy this country and to create enmity between people who ordinarily would have been living together?
“At the appropriate time Nigerians will know all of us even though I know most of you know us but the younger ones do not know.
“Some people are hiding under some clogs, some big names and creating a lot of problems in this country”, he said.
Mr. Jonathan commended NEC for its commitment to peace, unity and progress of the country, saying government would continue to protect Nigerians and make the country safe.
Earlier, the Chairman of NEC, Tanko Yakasai, said the purpose of the visit was to formally present members of the body to the president.
Mr. Yakasai used the opportunity to call for a peaceful coexistence among all Nigerians irrespective of religion, ethnic groups and location.
“The Northern Elders Council believes in peaceful co-existence and extension of hands of fellowship to brothers and sisters from the other parts of the nation.
“It is unpatriotic for anybody to instigate people against any person or people because of a temporary gain.
“Politics of insult, blackmail and castigation of individuals shall not take this country anywhere.
“We, therefore, believe in peaceful co-existence among Nigerians and by working together shall we move the country forward”.