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Interview with Nigerian President; Praying for Change in the Catholic Church

Aired January 23, 2013 - 17:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNNI: Good morning everyone and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour. The eruption of the Al Qaeda franchise across North and West Africa was the focus today of Hillary Clinton's final testimony, as America's Secretary of State. She faced tough questions on Capitol Hill about the deaths of the American Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three others all killed in a terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi on the latest anniversary of September 11th.

For months, here in the United States, there's been a political firestorm over the Benghazi attack and today's hearing grew heated.


HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The fact is we had four dead Americans.


CLINTON: Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.


AMANPOUR: An angry and frustrated Hillary Clinton. But, what seems to be happening is the ongoing fall-out from the fall of Libyan Dictator, Muammar Gaddhafi, warehouses full of weapons were suddenly opened, fighters from across African fanned out into the chaos, the ground was again fertile for Al Qaeda to grow new franchises. And, so it is in Mali, now, where the desperate government called on France to rescue the country from a total takeover by AQIM, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. And in bloody retaliation last week, those same militants took over a natural gas facility in the Algerian Desert. Dozens of jihadis and their hostages were killed.

I heard something last week that perfectly sums up this crisis, from a former US Ambassador to Mali. She said, that the head of the Al Qaeda in Africa is in Algeria, its body is in Mali, and its arms stretch out into Libya and Nigeria, and that leads me to my exclusive guest tonight, the President of Nigeria. I'll be talking to Goodluck Jonathan about his struggle against the militant group, Boko Haram. The name means, western education is a sin. And, the group is blamed for killing at least a thousand Nigerian's in just this past year. Nigeria's massive oil and gas resources make it Africa's second largest economy, and yet more than half the country lives on less than two dollars a day. Rampant poverty and corruption help make Nigeria, too, fertile ground for the growth of, yet another Al Qaeda affiliate in Africa.

My interview with President Goodluck Jonathan in a moment, but first, here's what's coming up later in the program.


AMANPOUR: A man of God on a mission. This Irish Priest is praying for change within the Catholic Church, but it could cost him his collar.

And, the paradox that's Nigeria. In one of the worst cities on Earth, imagine people who sing with happiness.


AMANPOUR: We'll get to that in a bit, but first my interview with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. He's in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. We know our Nigerian viewers are incredibly active on social media, and, so, we encourage all our viewers to join in on Twitter using the hash tag Amanpour to discuss this interview.

President Goodluck Jonathan, thank you for joining me from Davos.


AMANPOUR: Let me get straight to the matter. Today, on Capitol Hill, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton is testifying about Libya and about militant-ism in the region. And, she identified Boko Haram as the biggest threat to one of the most important countries, namely your own. Do you see Boko Haram as a major existential threat to Nigeria, right now?

JONATHAN: Definitely. Boko Haram, if it is not content, It would be a threat not only to Nigeria, but to West Africa, Central Africa, and, of course, to North Africa, where, of course you know, some elements of Boko Haram (inaudible) some of where the Al Qaeda's (inaudible) not in Mali, and other North African countries. (inaudible) is why the Nigerian government is totally committed to work with (inaudible) our friendly governments to make sure that we continue the programs in Mali, because as rightly said, the issue of Libya try to create more programs in the sub-region.

AMANPOUR: We have seen what has happened. You mention Mali, you mention Algeria. Is Nigeria prepared, in case there is a terrorist attack like we just saw in Algeria, on a natural gas or an oil facility? Again, you are the most significant exporter in the region.

JONATHAN: Of course, yes, of course. What happened in Algeria is quite unfortunate and, that's why all the governments have been working there, and that, make sure that, we prevent excesses.

AMANPOUR: Do you believe that Boko Haram is just a security threat for you or, as some others believe, that it is also about resisting, misrule, and corruption and that there needs to be a different or an additional way of dealing with it other than just military?

JONATHAN: No, no, no. Boko Haram is not, as the result of misrule -- definitely not. And sometimes, we'll feel that it's the result of poverty- - definitely not. Boko Haram is a local terror group and we call on the rest of the world to work with us, because now we are talking about Algeria. We're talking about (inaudible) Mali. And, our belief is that, if you allow terror to exist in any part of the world, to not just affect that country or that state, but it will affect the rest of the globe. And, that we should not play politics with Boko Haram.

AMANPOUR: Mr. President, the United States believes that the security forces in Nigeria are driving more people into the arms of Boko Haram and one NGO, at least, is quoted, as saying .


AMANPOUR: . as saying .


AMANPOUR: . that, how, by what they quote as indiscriminate security of, security measures, heavy handed crack downs that round up thousands of people, whether they're civilians and children. People who've got nothing to do with Boko Haram and they're also saying that the police, like in the last year or so, have killed more people than Boko Haram has. So, my question is, do you admit that there is a problem in the security dealing with it?

JONATHAN: That is not correct. That is not correct and I've said it severally. (inaudible) the insinuation by some interest group.


JONATHAN: Definitely they are insinuations by some interest group.

AMANPOUR: All right, so, one of those interest groups is the State Department of the United States. But, let me ask you this,

JONATHAN: No, no, no.

AMANPOUR: Yes, sir.

JONATHAN: People get the wrong information to the State Department of the United States, it is, State Department of the United States, they have the means of knowing the truth. They should tell (inaudible) the truth.

AMANPOUR: Well, well sir, let me just say.


JONATHAN: They should not just listen to some people who have access to them, but they have means of knowing the truth.

AMANPOUR: All right, well, the United States Assistant Secretary of State has said that the methods of the crackdown is inflaming the population and inflaming the situation. Let me move onto the issue of corruption. When I interviewed you three years ago, now, in your first interview, as you assumed power, you said, that the main issues for the people of Nigeria are corruption and even electricity. Power, you talked about. Well today, those are still the same issues. Some sixty percent of the people of Nigeria don't have enough or regular power, regular electricity. They're constantly shortages and outages. Three years later, what do you have to say about that?

JONATHAN: I would have loved that you, (inaudible) not on Nigeria and (inaudible) discretion of a power. That is one area that Nigerian's are quite pleased with the government that commitment to improve power -- it's working. So, if you are saying something different, I am really surprised. That is one area, one area that even (inaudible) members agree that government has kept fate, which as promised.

AMANPOUR: So, what should I tell the people who keep contacting us and say, they hope they have electricity just to be able to watch this interview on their televisions? Clearly, it is still a big problem. Is it still a big problem, despite that you say, the progress that you say you've made?

JONATHAN: We are not quite where we should be, and of course you know the power infrastructure is one investment that you must complete the (inaudible) before the ball collides. You must generate, you must transmit, you must (inaudible), and even if you have the money and the political will to do so, you cannot do it overnight. And we are working very hard and I promise you that, before the end of this year how I will be reasonably stable in Nigeria. This is something that has been a problem for years, for years. So, you cannot correct it overnight. It takes time, even if you have the money.

AMANPOUR: I'm sure that will be a relief. Obviously you do sit atop massive reserves of natural gas and that leads me to the whole issue of corruption, which you say you're trying to tackle. And, when people look at Nigeria, and see all your wealth, they say, oh my goodness this is a country that is stealing and bleeding itself dry. Even your own Minister, you Minister of Finance has talked about, you know, just this past April, perhaps four hundred thousand barrels of oil a day, simply being stolen, simply disappearing without any account. One of your Minister's has said that the level of theft from the country from the government amounts to about seven billion dollars a year. That's still a problem isn't it?

JONATHAN: If I want to talk about crude oil and stealing, yes. I agree with you. Frankly speaking, once international community to support Nigeria, because crude has been bought by refine artists abroad. And, they know the crude oil is stolen. The world must condemn what is wrong. This (inaudible) crude is refined abroad. It's not refined in Nigeria.

AMANPOUR: President Goodluck Jonathan, thank you very much for joining me.

JONATHAN: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And, the President tells me there has been some important progress, since last time we spoke. He says the election system has been cleaned up and he's right about that. International observers praise the 2011 elections, calling them a big step forward for Africa's most populous country. But, Nigeria remains a nation full of ironies.

As we just said, it's rich in oil, but it rarely flows down to the people, except this way. Take a look. A river polluted by an oil spill is the playground for these kids in Nigeria's Delta (ph) Region and that is not the exception. And as we also said, Nigeria's oil pipe lines are targeted by thieves, who sell the precious crude and leave behind a toxic nightmare.

After a break, we'll turn to the world/s smallest state -- the Vatican and the priest who's ruffling some angelic feathers. We'll explain.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Now, turning to the internal struggle in the Catholic Church, something we do cover periodically. How does an institution that dates back centuries reconcile traditional teachings with the modern world? It's a topic, as I say, we continue to cover on the program and most recently, when the church accused the vast majority of American nuns of pursuing a "radical feminist agenda". And, now a Catholic priest in Ireland says that he's been threatened with excommunication, because of his liberal stance on issues like homosexuality and contraception. Father Tony Flannery, welcome from Ireland.

TONY FLANNERY, CATHOLIC PRIEST: Thank you, very much. Good evening to you.

AMANPOUR: Good evening. So, tell me what is it that the Vatican says it's going to do to you? What is it that you're doing that they don't like?

FLANNERY: Well, they originally, almost a year ago complained about substance of my writings, which had to do mainly with the obscure theological issues about the origins of priesthood and the church. But, we largely (inaudible) that out and we thought we had the problem solved last summer, but then in the autumn they asked me to write a (inaudible) document, in which I would state that I accept the (inaudible) Vatican teaching that there can never be the ordination of women, as priests in the Catholic Church, and also, that I accept all the sexual moral teaching of the Catholic Church, and that includes issues like contraception, like homosexuality, issues like that. And, they, what they wanted me to do was to put my name to that document and to publish that and, unto such time as I do that, I will not be allowed to minister as a Priest. So, that is the position I'm in now. I cannot put my name to that document.

AMANPOUR: So, you're saying you cannot do it, because it would contradict what you believe in. But, have they threatened to excommunicate you or have the just .


AMANPOUR: .stopped you from acting as a Priest, right now?

FLANNERY: Both. They have threatened to excommunicate me in a document that I have here from the Vatican. But, one of my difficulties with documents from the Vatican, if the readers, if the listeners can see that it doesn't either have a heading or it's in no way an official document. It has no signature and that's one of my difficulties. I've been dealing with this for eleven months. I have never had any direct excommunication of the Vatican. I've never had a chance to meet my accusers to explain myself. I cannot put my name to this document, because it would contradict what I've been saying for years and what, indeed, most Irish Catholics believe.

AMANPOUR: Father, we have actually tried to contact the Vatican and the particular Vatican watch dog that you say is threatening you and we have had no success in reaching them. But, let me quote part of what got you into trouble. It was something that you wrote in articles, like this about a female theologian you worked with. I cannot accept the thesis that would suggest that the spirit of God was speaking more powerfully through me or my fellow priests than through her. When you write that, what is your goal?

FLANNERY: I'm stating something that I believe that, my understanding of church is a community where all people are treating equally, we are all baptized, we are all equal members of the church, and our gender should not enter into it. Men or women, our sexual orientation should not enter into it. We should all be equal, free members of the church. That is my vision of church, that's the vision I grew up with after the Second Vatican Council.

AMANPOUR: Well, certainly, when you joined the priesthood, it was a much open church and the Second Vatican Council had lots of reforms, but I don't believe, and correct me, if I'm wrong, that they ever condoned homosexuality or the ordination of female priests. So, I guess the question that everybody wants to know is, if you do believe so strongly in that and you do think that the church is so out of touch with the needs of a modern ministry, can you stay in that church or should you go to a different church that has different policies?

FLANNERY: I absolutely intend to stay in the Catholic Church, whether I'm allowed to minister or not. You see, I'm not looking for these changes over night. I'm not looking for, expecting the ordination of women overnight. My problem is that we're not even allowed to discuss these things and in terms of homosexuality, my problem is, when the Vatican says things like, that a homosexual person is in a (inaudible) state or, when they use phrases like, intrinsic (ph) evil about homosexual acts. I'm constantly, in my ministry, as a priest, when I was allowed to minister, meeting parents of sons and daughters who had come out as gay and that's happening a lot in Ireland for the moment, and I could see the enormous pain that was being caused to them by the public stances of the Vatican, at the moment. There is no way that I could possibly put my name to a statement that accepts that type of attitude. But, I will not leave the Catholic Church. This is where I belong.

AMANPOUR: Father, obviously what you've written in your (inaudible) stating your position, publicly now, has drawn a lot of attention. There are some groups who are saying you may be very liberal on certain issues, but, when it comes to the issue of child abuse, which has really rocked your profession over the last many, many years, you have taken a very illiberal stand. They say you have not come out sufficiently strongly and condemned it. So, I'm giving you the opportunity here. Do you condemn, in no uncertain fashion, the sexual abuse and violence that has been visited on so many children, by priests, both in your country, here in the United States, and elsewhere, by Catholic Priests?

FLANNERY: Absolutely, and I have no idea, where that quotation that your basing your comment on has come from. It possibly comes from the fact that I'm one of the founders and leaders of the Association of Catholic Priests and we work to help and support priests in every situation. But, I absolutely condemn the sexual abuse of children by anybody and I have very good reason to do that, because I myself was a victim of child sexual abuse, when I was young, not by a priest, but by a neighbor. So, I have very personal experience of the awfulness and the destructiveness of that. So, I absolutely and totally condemn that.

AMANPOUR: Father Flannery, that's an amazing confession that you've made - admission that you've made, and we appreciate that and we continue to follow your story. Thank you for joining me.

FLANNERY: Thank you, very much. Good evening.

AMANPOUR: And, when we come back, we'll take a last look at Nigeria and Lagos (ph) its largest city. Over twenty million people crowded together, but in the noise and confusion, a voice for happiness and change.


AMANPOUR: And, finally tonight, despite assurances that we heard just now from President Jonathan that things are getting better in Nigeria, its largest city of Lagos, also its business hub, was recently named the third most unlivable city on the planet. But, now imagine that Nigeria's people have been deemed among the World's happiest. It depends not who you ask, but on what you ask. With the city's population estimated at twenty one million, rampant crime, and lack of basic services, like education and health care, even Africa's worst traffic make life in Lagos a daily trial for the many. And, as we said earlier, in spite of vast, national resources, the gap between poor and rich is wide and getting wider. And, yet in other surveys that measure personal contentment more than material advantage, Nigerian's have ranked among the happiest people in the world. It's that resilience that rises above the sorrow, embodied in the music of Nigerian Activists and recording artists, Spanky W (ph) and his call for change.



AMANPOUR: And, life is always surprising. That's it for today's program. Meantime, you can always contact us on our website Thanks for watching and, goodbye from New York.