“Civis Nigerianus Sum” – I am a citizen of Nigeria

“Civis Nigerianus Sum” – I am a citizen of Nigeria
June 07 08:20 2016

By Goodluck Jonathan

Since leaving office one year and one week ago,
I have had the luxury of time to be able to
reflect on the future of my great country,
So today is not about my personal memories or
a litany of ‘what ifs’. No! Today I would like to
share with you what I believe is the key
learning from my experiences for the future of
democracy not only in Nigeria but also across
the entire continent of Africa.
I said before the last election that my political
ambition was not worth the blood of one
I was true to my word when on March 16th,
2015, just after the election, when the results
were still being collated by the Independent
 National Electoral Commission (INEC), I called
my opponent, General Muhammadu Buhari
(rtd) to concede, in order to avoid any conflict
and ensure a peaceful transition of power.

This was without precedent in my country and I
am proud that it achieved my goal of no
conflict arising from the result of the election.
Some may think it is ironic that perhaps my
proudest achievement was not winning the
2015 Presidential Election. By being the first
elected Nigerian leader to willingly hand over
power via the ballot box, to the opposition
party, without contesting the election outcome,
I proved to the ordinary man or woman in the
country that I was his or her equal.
That his or her vote was equal to mine, and
that democracy is the ‘Government by the will
of the people’, and Nigeria, and indeed Africa is
ripe for democracy.
It is my sincerest wish that democracy continues
to be consolidated in the continent of Africa
and it will even get better.

For it has always been my consistent desire to
help consolidate peace and cultivate democracy
in Nigeria and across the Continent.
In fact, it was the key foreign policy objective
of my Administration when we were able to
help broker peace and restore democracy in
Niger, Mali, Guinea Bissau and Cote d’Ivoire.
. In Niger – The first challenge that confronted
ECOWAS when I was Chairman in 2010 was the
military intervention there. We were able to
resolve it through sheer determination and
prudent consultations which paved the way for
the country’s return to constitutional rule and
. In Mali – As the Co-mediator of the effort to
return the nation to democracy after a
surprising military take-over, I was the only
sitting President to visit Mali and meet all the
stakeholders in the early and difficult times of
the crisis.
I ensured that Nigeria played the leading role in
all the negotiations coordinated by ECOWAS.
Our efforts produced a political timetable for
the holding of democratic elections.

I was
happy that our work led to the historic Peace
and Reconciliation Agreement signed in
Bamako on 15th May, 2015, which I was
privileged to witness.
. In Guinea Bissau , a nation known for its long
history of political crises. As leaders of ECOWAS
then, we worked hard to bring about peace by
building international consensus around a
transition arrangement. This led to the full
restoration of constitutional order in the
country. After leading the negotiations that
produced an interim government, Nigeria
provided both financial and logistic support,
making it possible for a successful election to

The process produced a democratic
government that is currently running the
. In Cote d’Ivoire , in 2010, ECOWAS, under my
leadership, demonstrated its commitment to
enduring democracy, by standing firm behind
the winner of the Presidential elections. The
winner H.E. Alassane Ouattara, assumed his
rightful place as President, and went ahead to
provide quality leadership not only to his
country, but also to ECOWAS as its Chairman.
As the President of the Federal Republic of
Nigeria and a key actor in ECOWAS, we were
also able to encourage peaceful elections in
Sierra Leone, Liberia and Togo.
And today, the focus of my energies is to
uphold democratic principles, promote peaceful
political transitions and support citizen
entrepreneurship and intra-Africa trade. These
are precisely the objectives of the Goodluck
Jonathan Foundation.

We will achieve this by working with African
Governments, the private sector, civil society
and other friends of Africa to galvanise action
towards improving our societies and making a
change in the lives of the ordinary people in
our various countries.
We will work for good governance by
promoting credible and transparent elections,
as well as peaceful power transfers. I have no
doubt that this is the basic requirement we need
for strengthening our institutions and
enthroning stability.
Our interest in youth and women
entrepreneurship is driven by the urgent need
to create jobs for Africa’s teeming young
population. To this end my Administration
championed various initiatives and
programmes, including the “Youth Enterprises
with Innovation (YouWin), which encouraged
young people to go into business, and the
“Nagropreneur” programme, which encouraged
them to go into mechanised agriculture.
Beyond job creation, Nigeria like other
developing countries, faced the challenges of
corruption, which is a stumbling block to the
development of nations.
I think it is important to let you know my
administration took many steps to curtail this
scourge, in the areas of Finance, agriculture
and petroleum.

To take just one example, we drastically
reduced corruption in the agricultural sector
with the help of a simple mobile phone.
We achieved this by providing an e-wallet to
farmers which grew the percentage of
registered farmers receiving subsidy from 11
percent to 94 percent. And in the process we
were also able to save billions of naira in
fertiliser subsidies.
Through our Agricultural Transformation
Agenda, we greatly boosted food production
and saved almost a trillion naira on food
This one initiative had the benefits of
improving food security, creating more jobs
and reducing inflation to its lowest levels in
over five years.
Our ambition was to sanitise the corruption in
petroleum subsidies by completely deregulating
the sector.

However, our efforts were frustrated
by unhealthy political resistance.
Consolidating democracy and the effective war
against graft should be the collective
responsibility of all citizens. I would like to
emphasise my ongoing commitment to good
governance, effective stewardship and
For Nigeria to further develop and progress we
need peace, freedom and unity. These values
need to be deeply, strongly and irreversibly
entrenched in Nigeria for all time.
For this to happen, it is imperative that both the
Executive and the Legislative arms of
Government institute a Bill of Rights.
A Bill of Rights that will 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 which like the British Magna
Carta, some 800 years ago, enshrined the
principle of habeas corpus so that no person is
deprived of his liberty without a trial of his

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
There is a phrase from Cicero going back to
Ancient Rome, “Civis Romanus sum.” Meaning,
“I am a Roman citizen.”
But it meant much more than that.
It meant that every Roman was entitled to all of
the rights and protections of a citizen in Rome.
It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor or
even a prisoner, you were still a citizen of
Rome and protected by the state.
Wouldn’t it be good for us to aspire to a Nigeria
where we too could apply that same principle
“Civis Nigerianus sum”?
Each of us could say, “I am a citizen of
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.
What would it mean to be able to declare “I am
a Nigerian citizen”?
You would be judged on your own merits, not
your tribe.

You would have access to education that can
help you succeed on whatever path you choose.
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
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 this world and say, “I am
a citizen of Nigeria.”
Isn’t it true that we are all citizens of a proud
Home to great civilisations, 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 civilisation that had faced challenges,
fought wars, and reformed our systems; we
have always prevailed through difficult times.
We are a civilisation 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.
It was the American Green Party politician
Ralph Nader who said, “There can be no daily
democracy, without daily citizenship.”
The first transformation… must be … a shift in
our mindset.
We have to make the decision to make the
rights of our people our priority when making
government and investment decisions.
Rather than spending money on resources that
will run out, we should be investing it in people
who are the key constant elements in the socio-
economic transformation of society.
Nigeria is projected to have a population that
will surpass that of the United States of America
by the year 2050. But if we have not invested in
our people, then we will not be ready to
Our money must go towards providing
education for all, because we know that once
our citizens are educated, they have futures.

Those futures lead to safer cities, stable
economies, and more businesses. When a young
person does not have access to education, their
future is jeopardized and statistics show that
they may be prone to antisocial and criminal
I am proud of the fact that my Administration
established a Federal University 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.
Despite it not being the responsibility of the
Federal Government to develop primary and
secondary schools, we built hundreds of these
schools across Nigeria.
Yet we need to build on these achievements by
changing our mindset to investing in the
resources above the ground, rather than below
the ground.
Once we invest in our citizens, it will be our
time to confidently enter the international
stage. Each one of us will be able to go to any
nation and proudly proclaim: “I am a citizen of
When we have a good mindset, we must also
strive for equality.

No investment in our people is going to pay off
if we are unequal.
One area some of the international community
disagreed with me, was that while I was in
office, I signed into law a bill that discriminates
against a segment of our population.
This private member bill was put forward in
the context of polls that showed 98% of
Nigerians did not think same sex marriage
should be accepted by our society. This was the
highest percentage of any country surveyed.
The bill was passed by 100 percent of my
country’s National Assembly. Therefore, as a
democratic leader with deep respect for the
Rule of Law, I had to put my seal of approval
on it.
However, in the light of deepening debates for
all Nigerians and other citizens of the world to
be treated equally and without discrimination,
and with the clear knowledge that the issue of
sexual orientation is still evolving, the nation
may, at the appropriate time, revisit the law.

When it comes to equality, we must all have the
same rights as Nigerian citizens.
Former US Congressman Charles Rangel noticed
the same thing when talking about America, he
said “Full participation in government and
society has been a basic right of the country
symbolising the full citizenship and equal
protection of all.”
Equality will promote meritocracy, growth and
security. Tribalism, regionalism and religious
intolerance should never be acceptable in
Within the Nigerian Federation, anyone,
regardless of their home state should be treated
equally and have full protection under Federal
That is the only way that all Nigerians can be at
home in any part of the country and proudly
say “I am a Nigerian Citizen.”
That is the only way we can eradicate tribalism,
regionalism and religious intolerance before
they destroy our beloved Nigeria.
The constitution recognises anyone born in
Nigeria by Nigerian parents as a citizen.

must go the next step and accept all Nigerians
residing in any part of the country as equal
Our new Bill of Rights must therefore amend
our constitution to criminalise discrimination of
Nigerian citizens residing in any part of the
country based on their place of origin.
Indigenes and residents must pay the same
amount for school fees and social services all
over the county.
I ask the same question that Eric P. Liu asks,
“The next time someone uses denial of
citizenship as a weapon or brandishes the
special status conferred upon him by the
accident of birth, ask him this: What have you
done lately to earn it?
Every Nigerian must feel at home in any part of
Nigeria. It is the only way that each of us will
be able to say, “Civis Nigerianus Sum.”
As our country increases its equality, its cultural
value will increase too.
When we increase the cultural value of Nigeria
and show it to the world, not only will people
spend their business dollars in our country, but
their vacation dollars too.

You have to buy into the culture of a country
before you decide to visit or invest.
It will become a self-fulfilling prophecy for our
beloved nation.
As we invest in the equality of our people and
strive to make ourselves more equal, the world
will take notice.
As our image rises in the eyes of others, we will
become even prouder of our national culture.
This will repeat and repeat in a positive
feedback loop where both parts feed each other
and grow as a result.
Before I conclude, let me ask you this:
Which Nigeria do we as citizens want?
An equal or unequal Nigeria?
An educated or uneducated Nigeria?
One Nigeria or many Nigerias?
We all know the answers to these questions
hence my call for a Bill of Rights, based on our
shared vision for a future Nigeria which is…
A Nigeria where you are judged on your merits
and not your origins;
A Nigeria where you can get the education you
want and the future you choose;
A Nigeria whose government serves the people
and is not above the law;
A Nigeria whose government invests in its
resources above the ground and not just the
resources below;
A place where we all work together, rather than
allow ourselves to be divided by tribalism or
Nothing better sums up this vision for Nigeria
than our national anthem, which sounds as
good in prose as it does in song:
“Arise, O compatriots
Nigeria’s call obey
To serve our fatherland
With love and strength and faith
The labour of our heroes past
Shall never be in vain
To serve with heart and might
One nation bound in freedom
Peace and unity.”

I will leave you with this: I am a patriot.
I am so very proud of my country.
And I believe it is only right and proper for me,
and every Nigerian to be able to proudly
proclaim, in our villages, in our towns, in our
cities, in our country and anywhere in the
“Civis Nigerianus Sum”

Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was former President of
This speech was delivered at Bloomberg Studios, London,
United Kingdom on Monday, June 6, 2016.