Former President Goodluck Jonathan succeeded John Kerry, US secretary of state, as the speaker at Oxford Union — the home of talks and debates for influential personalities in the UK.
Jonathan joins a long list of influential personalities, including Michael Jackson, late king of Pop; Sheikh Hasina, Bangladeshi prime minister; Robert Greene, author of 48 laws of power; the Dalai Lama; former British prime ministers Winston Churchill, Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher and John Major; Mother Teresa; and former US presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton.
Speaking at the 190-year old Union, domiciled in the University of Oxford, Jonathan said his government was not perfect but it made Nigeria the biggest economy in Africa and the 23rd largest in the world.
Speaking on the ‘Transformation Agenda’ at Oxford University on Monday, Jonathan said his administration invested in Nigeria’s youth, and made the country experience unprecedented growth.
“As a leader, you can decide through your policies to educate the youths, or face the consequences of failing to do so. The Transformation Agenda was conceived to engage the latent potential in the entire nation, and to stimulate and enable higher productivity,” he said.
“We increased the allowances due to Youth Corp members by more than 100% in 2011. As Governor of Bayelsa State and later the President of Nigeria, I asked myself some critical questions.
“Why do individuals that grow up in similar circumstances end up differently, with some as successes and others as failures? Why are some nations rich and some poor? Is the wealth of nations a result of geography, weather, culture, destiny, etc.?
“What could a leader do to effectively lift a people out of the depths of poverty, and enable them to achieve prosperity? After much soul searching, I concluded that: wealth is a creation of the human mind properly prepared by education.
“Any nation that does not spend its wealth and resources to develop the capacity of its youth will be forced to use them to fight insecurity.”
He said his government “identified Nollywood as a sector that can employ many young people and provided a grant of $200 million to boost the industry”.
“As a result, Nollywood became a major contributor to our GDP and in 2014, the industry contributed 1.4% to our GDP. My Administration came up with various programs to encourage young entrepreneurs,” he said.
“I urge contemporary African leaders to see youth entrepreneurship as a collective project transcending national boundaries. Despite incredible challenges, Nigerian youths are achieving great things and placing Nigeria positively in the world map. They inspire us.
“We may not have been perfect, but we did our best, and our best yielded an era of unprecedented economic growth for Nigeria. A growth that proved the truism that a Nation’s wealth is not underneath the ground but between the ears of her people
“Under my watch, Nigeria was projected by CNN Money to be the third fastest-growing economy in the world for the year 2015. Nigeria was rated as the largest economy in Africa and the 23rd in the world by the World Bank and the IMF, with a GDP above US$570 billion.
“While serving as President of Nigeria, I worked for the next generation and not for the next elections. I have no regrets for what I did. Somebody must sacrifice and work for the next generation otherwise your children’s children will suffer the same predicaments as you have.”