Speaking at a thanksgiving and farewell service in his honour at the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Cathedral Church of Advent, Life Camp, Gwarimpa in Abuja yesterday, the president told his ministers who will be bowing out of office with him to brace for “persecution”.
The president, who gave no details recalled how good the system has been to him – and grateful – for his achievements, which he said ordinary people appreciated.
But Jonathan seemed to betray the nervousness that has gripped his cabinet since it became inevitable that a new administration will mount the saddle on May 29.
He said his ministers would be persecuted, adding: “For ministers and aides who served with me, I sympathise with them; they will be persecuted. And they must be ready for that persecution.”
Jonathan went on: “To my ministers, I wish you what I wish myself. They will have hard times; we will all have hard times. Our ways will be rough.
“But we are happy the ordinary people appreciate what we did and that is most important. It’s not what the elite or the privileged few talk or say about you but what the majority of the Nigerian public think about your actions and inactions that matter.
“We came to Abuja peacefully and we are returning peacefully. I thank the church and Nigerians because they stood by us at our most difficult times.
“Even for election, we had people who supported us all over the country and for the success of the incoming administration.”
Recalling how good the system has been to him as an individual, President Jonathan said he was ready to pay the supreme price for Nigeria.
Dr Jonathan said having received scholarship to study and having been a major player on the nation’s political landscape in the last 16 years, including his six years as President, paying the supreme price would not be out of place.
The President said: “When I look at the whole picture of my life up to when I became the president of this country. And I say that if soldiers and police officers that have not received 0. 5 per cent of the benefits that I have received from the state can lay their lives for this country, I should do anything in the interest of Nigeria, including paying the supreme price.
“As long as I live, I will continue to do my best for the state because the state has helped me as a person. I have to thank Nigerians, especially my state, for giving me the opportunity to serve as deputy governor and the country gave me the opportunity to serve as vice president and then president, first was to complete the tenure of the late president and later serve as president from which I am exiting now as a very happy and fulfilled man.”
Jonathan added: “I believe there are reasons for everything. Some hard decisions have their own cost, no doubt about that. That I have run the government this way that stabilised certain things; the electoral process and other things that brought stability into this country. They were very costly decisions which I myself must be ready to pay for.
“Some people come to me and say this or that person, is he not your friend that benefited? Is it not your government that this person benefited from? But this is what the person is saying. But I always say worse statements will come. If you take certain decisions, you should know that those close to you will even abandon you at some point. And I tell them that more of my so-called friends will disappear.”
He recalled that when Frederick W. De Klerk took the decision to abolish minority rule in the Republic of South Africa, his wife divorced him.
He said: “I hope my wife will not divorce me. But that is the only decision that has made Republic of South Africa to still remain a global player by this time. If we still had that minority rule there, by this time, nobody will be talking about Republic of South Africa.
“If you take certain decisions, it might be good for the generality of the people but it might affect people differently.”
The President also pointed out that his ministers would be persecuted as he hoped that they are prepared to face the situation.
According to Jonathan, people will benefit more when the country is in good shape and things are going on well.
He said: “You don’t need to know Mr. President or Mr. Governor. The issue is not about Jonathan or Buhari or any other person. The issue is how the government functions, stability and buoyant economy that will enable Nigerians to move forward and live happy. That is our interest; that is my prayer point.”
He also urged religious groups to continue to pray for the peace and development of the nation.
The President took the Old Testament lesson from Isaiah 40: 25-31. His wife read the New Testament lesson from 1st Timothy 6:11-19.
There was thanksgiving by the first family, which got a farewell gift.
Prayers were said for the first family and the nation.
In his sermon, the Most Revd. Okoh spoke on the need for all Christians to give thanks at all times, in all circumstances.
He took the congregation through 1st Thessalonian 5:16-18, Daniel 4:17 and the book of Hebrew.
Noting that President Jonathan gave thanks to God when he assumed office, he said the Sunday service was to thank God with him as he is rounding off his tenure.
He said: “By God’s divine grace, he was chosen to be President after being deputy governor, governor and vice president. Whichever way you look at it, our God has been good to him.”
“Furthermore, we thank God for the contributions you have made to our development in your tenure. Generations unborn will read about Jonathan.”
“Nigeria will need you. Africa will need you. The international community will need you. You are not expired. The whole of Nigeria is now your political party,” he added.