Immediate past President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has called on the executive and legislative arms of government to work on giving the citizens a ‘Bill of Rights’ similar to the British Magna Carta, passed some 800 years ago. The former President made the suggestion while delivering a lecture at the Bloomberg Television Centre in London before an elite audience of Nigerian professionals and diplomats. Jonathan’s remarks were made known on Monday in a statement made available to newsmen in Abuja by the former President’s Special Adviser on Media, Ikechukwu Eze. As the statement was being released, the former president also spoke with Bloomberg TV where he said he is currently under investigation for corruption. “Of course, obviously, I would be investigated. In fact I am being investigated. Investigations are going on.
I would not want to make certain comments because government is working,” he said in the television interview. According to the statement, Jonathan said such a Bill of Rights would end discrimination and tribalism, and promote equality, enabling everyone to work towards the common goal for the development of the nation. “A Bill of Rights, like the British Magna Carta, passed some 800 years ago, enshrined the principle of Habeas Corpus; so that no person is deprived of his liberty without a trial of his peers,” he said.
“A Bill of Rights, like that introduced by America’s founding fathers, which stated ‘the people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.’” Borrowing an ancient Roman phrase, “Civis Romanus sum,” meaning, “I am a Roman citizen,” Mr. Jonathan said the phrase meant more than its literal interpretation. He argued that the phrase, which was attributed to Cicero, meant that every Roman was entitled to all of the rights and protection of a citizen in Rome, irrespective status and class. “Wouldn’t it be good for us to aspire to a Nigeria where we too could apply that same principle, ‘Civis Nigerianus sum,’”
Mr. Jonathan asked. “When each of us could say, I am a citizen of Nigeria! We would be able to look beyond where each of us comes from, and look past our tribal origins. We would be able to evaluate each other on our merits, rather than our religion, or region. “We would be free to think or do as we wished, as long as we observed the laws of the land, without fear that the land would withhold our rights under the law.” By confessing Nigeria, Mr. Jonathan said each citizen would be judged by their merits and not by tribe and everyone would have access to education that would help them succeed in whatever path they choose. Continuing, he said, “You would be part of a proud culture, one that others want to invest in.
You would be safe in knowing that society judges you by your successes and failures, rather than your place of origin. “You would be equal before the law and your protection is enshrined in the laws of the country. You would be an asset and a valued member of your country; one who is worth investing in; who can return that investment tenfold within your lifetime. “Ultimately, it means that you would be an ambassador for Nigeria, and you would be able to proudly go around the world and say, I am a citizen of Nigeria. “Isn’t it true that we are all citizens of a proud Nigeria – home to great civilizations, such as the NOK and Igbo Uku, which date back over 4,000 years?
We are one of the oldest cultures in the world. “We are a civilization that had faced challenges, fought wars, and reformed our systems. We have always prevailed through difficult times. We are a civilization that now stands at a crossroads, a key time when we must make a decision to move forward or go back. “It is my belief, that no matter what location, no matter what faction, no matter what tribe, each one of us can come together as citizens of the future Nigeria.” Citing Ralph Nader, an American Green Party politician who said, “There can be no daily democracy, without daily citizenship,” the former president said Nigerians needed a shift in their mindset to consider the rights of everyone when making government and investment decisions.
Rather than spending money on resources that would run out, he advised that the country should invest in people who he described as “constant elements in the socioeconomic transformation of society.” With a projected population that would surpass that of the United States by the year 2050, he called for huge investment in the Nigerian people to avoid the crisis associated with having a growing but poor population. Mr. Jonathan advocated increased funding of education to empower and ensure the future of the country and the citizenry.
He said a future with highly educated citizenry would translate to safer cities, stable economy, and more businesses. “When young people don’t have access to education, their future is jeopardized and statistics show that they may be prone to antisocial and criminal activities,” he said. “I am proud of the fact that my administration established federal universities in every one of the 12 states that did not previously have them. Now, for the first time in our country’s history, every state has a university established by the federal government.