Former President Goodluck Jonathan said on Friday that prior to the time he became the deputy governor of Bayelsa State, he was not interested in politics.
He made this known during a civic reception organised by the Bayelsa State Government at Gabriel Okara Cultural Centre in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital.
The former President, who arrived at the state capital in company with his wife, Patience, was given a heroic welcome.
Present at the reception was the host governor, Seriake Dickson, his wife, Rachel, Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, and the outgoing Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim.
Others were former Governor of old Rivers State, King Alfred Diete-Spiff; former Governor of Adamawa State, Boni Haruna, and Speaker, Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Kombowei Benson, among others.
Many women groups and musicians were on ground to give the ex-President a rousing welcome.
The venue of the reception was filled to capacity with the people singing and dancing.
Narrating how he dabbled into politics, Jonathan said, “It all started with me and Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. I knew Alamieyeseigha when he wanted to contest the governorship of Bayelsa State under the defunct United Nigeria Congress Party. That was the first time I knew Alamieyeseigha. We formed groups in every local governments – two persons to sign petition to enable Alamieyeseigha to contest.
“But a late Chief Judge asked me and one person from Ogbia to sign the petition. Even though I was a civil servant, I signed the document. I was in the Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission then. Of course, when he started his campaign, I joined.
“Not because I was interested in any elective office, but what drove me into joining Alamieyeseigha’s team was that those of us from very small communities always have problems and sometimes you have to run to government for assistance. I felt that if I worked with him and luckily he won, I would know some of the people in government.
“When electioneering started after Abdusalami Abubakar took over, Alamieyeseigha did not call me. But somewhere along the line because we had worked together, one evening, one Bozimo and another person came to my house and asked me to run with Alamieyeseigha as deputy governor.
“I was living in Port Harcourt then and I knew how primaries work and I said I would think about it. In fact, the following day, I told Bozimo that I was not interested, but the whole thing changed later. The detail will come later. That was how Bozimo and Alamieyeseigha brought me in and during the election, we won.
“From 1999 to date, my people and Nigerians have given me rare opportunity, rare privilege. I was deputy governor, governor, vice-president and President of the country. I am grateful to all Nigerians.”
He said the only thing he could do was to thank all Bayelsans, all Ijaw people, all people from the South-South and indeed all Nigerians for giving him the privilege to serve in different capacities. He said the best he could do now is to dedicate the remaining part of his life to peace building across the country.
He added, “Nigerians have given me so much that I cannot stay back. That is why I maintain that we need peace in this country. We need development in this country. Political crises don’t bring development.
“And I believe the new administration will work with all Nigerians and make sure Nigerians are happy. I am indeed happy about the statement the President made that he did not belong to any clique, but to Nigerians. I congratulate him for that.
“I thank Dickson and the people of Bayelsa for honouring me and my wife. I thank you all.”
In his remarks, Dickson described Jonathan as the hero of democracy in Nigeria and Africa.
“Jonathan is the hero of democracy and father of modern democracy in Nigeria. I thank God for giving us Jonathan. He is a great man of Ijaw nationality and Nigeria.”