Friday, August 10, 2012

Hillary Clinton urges President Goodluck Jonathan to make tough decisions

United States secretary of state Hilary Clinton yesterday implored President Goodluck Jonathan to take the tough decisions that were needed in tackling insecurity and economic problems in the country and gain the full support of the US in fighting the Boko Haram group.

Clinton, who arrived in the presidential villa about 3:52pm amidst tight United States security accompanying her convoy, walked straight into President Jonathan’s office as soon as she alighted from a vehicle.

“We want to work with you and we will be by your side as you make the reforms and take the tough decisions that are necessary,” she told Jonathan in a close-door meeting.

LEADERSHIP gathered that Clinton who assured Jonathan of United States readiness to assist Nigeria in tackling terrorism head-on noted, however, that the country may not succeed if it depends on the military and conventional warfare only.

She said: “We appreciate that you know how committed United States and the Obama administration is to our partnership with your country. We consider it absolutely vital to our Bi-National Commission which, as you have mentioned has helped us to expand and deepen our cooperation on a full range of issues.

“We are working on economic matters, the improvement of productivity in agriculture, education and health, security, diversification of your economy and so much more. We intend to remain very supportive on your reform efforts.

“Thank you for mentioning the work we did together on the election. We were also very supportive of anti-corruption reform efforts, more transparency in the work that you and your team are also championing because we really believe that the future for Nigeria is limitless but the most important task that you face, as you have said, is making sure that there are better opportunities for all Nigerians, south, east, west – every young boy and girl to have chance to fulfill his God-given potential.”

Earlier, President Jonathan had thanked Clinton for raising the relationship between Nigeria and America to a very high level that had never been reached for quite some time before she became secretary of state.

Noting that Clinton had been very supportive by personally chairing the Bi-national Commission in which various issues bordering on security and the economy were discussed, Jonathan said President Obama’s administration had been quite passionate about Africa and Nigeria in particular.

He said, “He (Obama) has always been very supportive of us for the past five years. From the days I came in as vice president, especially that period which as a nation we faced a lot of challenge when the late president was very ill... the support he gave us is one that stabilised this country. And when we insisted we must conduct an election that free and fair because that is the only way we can stabilise democracy, they were very supportive.

“They gave us moral support, technical support to INEC, and assisted us in making sure that we conducted elections that national and international observers declared as quite free and fair.

So let me on behalf of government and good people of Nigeria really thank you and President Obama and the good people of America for this your help for Nigeria and Africa and all what you are doing to make sure that this part of the globe develops.”

Clinton held a meeting with all the security chiefs in the country who were at the presidential villa an hour before she arrived. She also held a meeting with a group of ministers led by finance minister and coordinating minister for the economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala before leaving for the Abuja airport at about 6:10pm to proceed to Ghana for the late President John Atta Mills’ burial.

President Jonathan followed immediately to the airport where he flew to Ghana with the Nigerian delegation for the burial.

CAN writes Clinton, seeks collaboration
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has written the United States secretary of state Hillary Clinton seeking collaboration and necessary assistance to bring to a permanent end the insecurity bedevilling the nation, particularly as it affects worship places where worshippers are killed in their numbers.

In a letter addressed to the secretary of state who was in Nigeria yesterday on a working visit, the CAN president Pastor, Ayo Oritsejafor, on behalf of the entire Christian body, it said:

“Welcome to Nigeria and thank you for taking the time to visit our beleaguered country at a time when insecurity is at the highest levels it has been in recent memory. Just days before your visit, 17 worshippers were killed in a church service, so we do indeed appreciate the effort and courage you displayed in coming.

“Madam Secretary, I had wanted an audience with you to raise my concern over recent statements credited to the US Government, including at a congressional hearing in which I testified last month. These pronouncements from the State Department have distortions, omissions and in some cases clearly misrepresent facts on the ground in a manner that beclouds the crisis facing Nigeria and is ultimately deleterious to the quest for a peaceful and truthful resolution.

“However, as I understand that your schedule is very tight, I will address here the latest such statement contained in your just released 2011 International Religious Freedom report.

Much to our dismay, the information contained in our memorandum to the Presidential Panel on Post-Election Violence was not included in the 2011 State Department International Religious Freedom Report. Our memo presented widespread incidents of violence targeting Christians in 12 northern states in April last year during the reporting period of the 2011 report.

Unfortunately, the destruction of over 700 churches and the systematic massacres of hundreds of Christians in 48 hours – the largest single attack on Christendom in contemporary world history anywhere on the planet - were not included in your report.

“Even more surprising, the report failed to accurately describe the horrific Christmas Day multi-city church attacks. These coordinated attacks on three states, comprising Niger, Plateau and Yobe, claimed over 60 lives and, for a second consecutive year, stunned the world. The report merely mentions the Christmas Day church bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla, and then fails to communicate the scope and significance of the Christmas Day attacks.

“The pernicious persecution, denigration and dehumanisation of Christians in northern Nigeria especially have been a fact of life for over a quarter century. It is therefore disconcerting that the US report addresses it in a speculative tone that undermines the harsh reality of the masses of orphans and widows left behind.

“The report while conceding that the Nigerian constitution forbids adoption of state religion does not plainly point out that the 12 northern states by adopting Sharia codes and creating religious police, ministries of religion and funding mosques are an affront to the constitution’s establishment clause as well as the doctrine of separation of faith and state.

“Finally it is deeply troubling that your report makes an unsubstantiated claim that more Muslims than Christians died in the attacks of last year. This theory was predicated on an erroneous assumption that since the attacks was in ‘predominantly’ Muslim areas, it ‘follows’ that Muslims would be hardest hit.

Even if such assumptions could be made without empirical data, the more credible and more plausible proposition is that, given Boko Haram’s declared intent to obliterate Christianity in northern Nigeria and its systematic attacks which began almost a decade ago, the majority of the victims are Christians. Since Boko Haram has stated that it does not theologically or operationally target mosques and has so far not succeeded in attacking any, it is only logical that Muslims cannot be the majority victims.

“This is borne out by quantitative data. Out of the 137 religious-motivated violent incidents we tracked, 88.3% were attacks on Christians, 2.9% were attacks on Muslims, attacks on security agents 4.4%, sectarian clashes 2.2% and extra-judicial killings were 2.1%. The US Terrorism Report 2011 indicates a total of 136 terrorist attacks in Nigeria. It is inconceivable therefore that Muslims were the primary victims of a jihadist group whose intent is to Islamize Nigeria.

“This year 2012 alone, there have been 49 security incidences of which 80% have targeted Christians.

“There are numerous other points that we take issue with but that will have to wait till we have an appropriate forum to fully dialogue on this. However to assist you to be better informed, we are attaching several documents on the conditions of Christians in northern Nigeria: firstly, the Memorandum of the Christian Association of Nigeria to the Presidential Panel of Post-Election Violence of 2011, and secondly, the Compendium of the Marginalisation and Persecution of Indigenous Christians and the Church in the 19 Northern States of Nigeria conducted in 2010.

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