Former President, Goodluck Jonathan, has rightly boasted that all through his tenure as President, no Nigerian became a political prisoner or a prisoner of conscience due to their criticisms of his administration.
The former President said this while delivering a keynote speech at the annual Merit Awards Dinner of the Nigerian Lawyers Association of the United States of America, USA.
This may be an indirect criticism of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s goverment which has been accused of human rights violations.
Jonathan asked leaders to ensure unity and harmony in Nigeria by guarding their language and conduct.
He pointed out that diversity could remain a “strength only when all interest groups in the society feel safe and secured, in their day to day activities.”
“That is why no matter what any critic said about me, I ensured that there was both freedom of speech and freedom after the speech.
“Under my watch not a single Nigerian was sent to prison because of anything he or she wrote or said about me or about the Administration that I headed. Nigeria had no political prisoners under my Administration and we certainly did not have any prisoners of conscience because we ourselves ensured that we acted according to our conscience in all we did.
“You in the diaspora can attest to the fact that Nigeria had no political exile. Not only did I take a stance to allow people express their opinions without let or fear, we also enacted the Freedom of Information Act and by that, we tore the veil of secrecy covering governance.
“Nigerians deserve to know how their government functions. I am proud to say that we gave them knowledge, and that is a genie you cannot put back to the lamp. We gave institutions unlimited freedom and ensured that the Nigerian Bar Association and other professional unions, fraternities and guilds were completely devoid of any governmental influence.
Jonathan further highlighted some of his achievements as president to include, the enactment of the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, liberty for Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to operate without government interference among others.
The former President also highlighted some of his achievements in office to include, the enactment of the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, liberty for Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to operate without government interference among others.
He said, “Finally, we enacted the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, one of the most progressive criminal justice acts ever signed in Nigeria. The provisions of this Act are geared toward ensuring that the system of administration of criminal justice in Nigeria promotes efficient management of all criminal justice institutions, speedy dispensation of justice, and protection of the rights and interests of the victim of crime and the suspect.
“The Act, along with other institutional reforms, will help our country in fighting corruption and other crimes. I am also proud of my records as a democrat. We gave the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), unconditional freedom and ensured by deliberate actions that elections were free, fair and transparent.
“We ensured that the transition from one government to the other was peaceful. We achieved this because in constituting the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) we ensured that the appointments were not based on personal relationships.
“This gave the Commission credibility and earned the confidence of the electorate. The Chairman, Prof. Jega, whom I appointed, was a person I had never met in my life.”
Jonathan added: “The same sense of patriotism and profound desire to put my country’s interest first influenced the critical decisions I made as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
“The 2014 National Conference was a platform for all Nigerians, men, women, old and young, from all walks of life, and of diverse backgrounds, to have a conversation about our shared challenges, strengths and weaknesses, with the aim to strengthen our unity.
“It was not designed to promote the political ambition of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
“The Chairman of the Conference, Justice Kutigi, a retired Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) has stated publicly that I never called him or sent anyone to him to influence any of the Conference decisions or recommendations.
“They were to discuss everything except the sovereignty of Nigeria. My sole interest and total commitment was the unity and advancement of our country.”