Nigeria’s former President Goodluck Jonathan has reiterated his support for freedom of speech for Nigerians, as enshrined in the nation’s constitution.
Addressing a gathering of lawyers at a dinner he attended in the United States on Saturday, the former Nigerian leader told the gathering that he was proud to say that his administration never placed ethno-religious interest above the individual values of Nigerians.
“I am proud to say that while we were conscious of the Federal Character, as our constitutional guiding principle, we never placed ethno-religious interest over our individual values.
“Accordingly, we made efforts to ensure that interest groups in the society feel safe and secured in their day to day activities.
“That is why no matter what any individual or group said about me, I ensured that there was both freedom of speech and freedom after the speech,” Dr. Jonathan stressed.
His speech comes at a time that most of his allies are facing corruption charges in different courts, with some of them in detention.
Expressing his support for what he called ‘freedom after speech’ he said: “Under my watch not a single Nigerian was sent to prison because of anything he or she wrote or said about me or the administration that I headed.
“Nigeria had neither political prisoners nor prisoners of conscience because we ourselves ensured that we acted accordingly in all we did.
“You in the diaspora can attest to the fact that there was no Nigerian on exile,” he stressed.
Before he lost his re-run election in 2015 to President Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, he was at a time described as the most abused leader, but he told the lawyers that he took a stand to uphold the freedom of speech for all Nigerians.
“Not only did I take a stand to allow people express their opinions without 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 and I ensured that all institutions including the Nigeria bar association were completed devoid of any governmental influence”.
This speech is coming days after the former president dismissed allegations against a former National Security Adviser that served under him, insisting that Colonel Sambo Dasuki could not have stolen $2.2 billion under his watch as the president.
“I don’t believe somebody can just steal $2.2 billion. We bought warships, we bought aircraft, we bought lots of weapons for the army and so on and so forth and you are still saying $2.2 billion? So, where did we get the money to buy all those things?” he questioned while giving a lecture on Youth Entrepreneurship at the famous Oxford Union in the United Kingdom.
After that comment, the Nigerian government responded to his claims, saying that only a competent court can decide if Colonel Dasuki stole over two billion dollars meant for purchase or arms for the country or not.