by Akpene Jacob
The former President, Goodluck Jonathan has urged youth in Nigeria to use their opportuned positions to make sacrifices for the country.
Jonathan made the remarks when students and youth groups including the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), and Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), among others, paid him a birthday solidarity visit in his country home, Otuoke in Ogbia local government area, Bayelsa.
The former president, who said though some persons are undergoing trials and others are suffering because of the decisions and sacrifices he made, however, pointed out that it was for peace and collective interest of the country that he made his decision.
The former President said he never celebrated birthdays before his foray into politics as he was not used to the luxury of life having come from a humble place.
According to Jonathan, “Sometimes things could be so challenging that we begin to think that that is over but what I have seen today I am convinced that we still have a country.
“All of your speeches centre on the position I took especially when I surrendered in a way and made sure there was peace in the country because the tension was quite high.
“You also made mentioned of some of the few things we did when I was in office especially relating to education and that is an area I can say we tried.
“My happiness is that this is a very enlightened youth group that are here today, more than fifty percent of you are graduates and others undergraduates.
“So, I am speaking to the future of this country, whatever sacrifices I have made as an individual or I discussed with my political party and others because elections are not only about one person. We know a number of persons that are in court, not even me yet who are suffering because of me.
“Politics is all about the people, so the decision I took, though I made the pronouncement, it affected everybody. So if we have made this kind of sacrifice and people are still sacrificing now, my plea with you is that you know that this country is in your hands, the hands of the young people, forget about those who are contesting or not contesting elections.
“Whatever sacrifices I have made be willing and ready to make similar sacrifices whenever it is your turn, make similar sacrifices for the collective interest of our nation.
“If one of the superpowers and G5 nation like France can elect a 39 years old as president, then almost all of you here are very qualified to be president. And to add to what France did, I think Austria elected a thirty-one year old as president. So, don’t consider yourself too young and even in our country Gowon became a president at thirty-two and my governor then, the governor of Old Rivers State who is now the King of Twon Brass he was made the military governor at the age of twenty-eight and they all worked very well.
“I enjoin all of you who are making efforts to ensure that this age barrier is either eliminated completely or reduced in our laws I think that you are advocating for that and I join you and I have always been on that track that we don’t really need age barriers.
“I also agree that there is no need for age barriers; because age barriers that have been introduced reduced to the body politics in this country it has reduced the local government councils to only where you will get young people and they are running the councils anyhow think that they do not have responsibilities that it is when you grow old that you grow up, no.”
Speaking on behalf of the youth groups, the President of Ijaw Youth Council, Worldwide, Oweilaemi Pereotubo, described the former president as a colossus and an inspiration to the youth and younger generation.
He called on the Federal Government to stop the continued persecution of the former first family noting that Ijaw youth will no longer watch one of their own being harassed.
A one minute silence was offered in honour of the country’s former Vice President, Dr Alex Ekwueme who passed away on Sunday.