(Continued from last week)
Last week, I recounted the great accomplishments of the Goodluck Jonathan Administration as par the report card the former President presented to his party’s non-elective convention at the Eagle Square on August 12. The report, naturally, drew thunderous applause from delegates who hailed him on end. Well, it is the beginning of the silly season, as Dr. Olatunji Dare described the jostling for 2019, and dramatic moments as we saw that day would not be in short supply. In the spirit of the season, politicians would spin anything and do everything to sell themselves or their acolytes. We saw plenty of that at the PDP event.
Jonathan, however, poisoned his own party by admitting, on one hand, that his government never plugged the conduits in the system; on the other, he exonerated himself by declaring that no nation can kill corruption no matter how hard it tries. Knowing the kind of bizarre bazaar his administration turned government business to, a smarter debater would have avoided any serious conversation on corruption.
But two years since that administration was determined, Dr. Jonathan has made strenuous efforts at presenting the regime as the best and the cleanest thing that ever happened to Nigeria. Granting the manner of his ascendancy to power, that ought to have been the case. Sadly, it was not. And can never be. A little history should help put the matter in perspective. No one can dispute the fact that Dr. Jonathan is easily the luckiest leader this country has ever produced. Before plunging into politics in 1998, the former President, who holds a PhD in Zoology and had variously worked as an education inspector, lecturer, and environmental-protection officer, became Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State on May 29, 1999, “without spending a kobo”. Approximately six years later, precisely December 9, 2005, he succeeded Chief Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, his boss, as Governor of the oil-bearing state. Providence had just begun with the golden boy, as fate, again, tossed another historic opportunity on his lap. He became Governor “without spending a kobo” after Alamieyeseigha was impeached shortly after being charged for money laundering at a British Court’. He would later grant Alamieyeseigha state pardon.
Yet, God was not done with Jonathan. He became Vice President on May 29, 2007, and Acting President on February 9, 2010, three months after seriously ill President Umar Musa Yar’Adua had left Nigeria for Saudi Arabia for comprehensive medical attention. On May 6, 2010, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan became Nigeria’s 14th Head of State, following the death of President YarÁdua. The mantle of the highest office in the land fell on Jonathan, again, “without spending a kobo.”
If we may ape our Pentecostal preachers, we should yell: has God not been copiously gracious to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan? Without any equivocation, we can confirm that the Almighty has be very generous to Broda Jona. And what should a grateful mind do? Serve the people with the last fibre of his being. Give his best to Nigeria and Nigerians as if it was the last thing he would do on earth.
To be fair to the former President, he did his best to leave giant imprints on the sands of time each time history beckoned. As President, he did many good things, including helping to convince Niger Delta Militants to sheathe their swords, an effort that ultimately led to the widely acclaimed Amnesty Programme.
However, whatever Jonathan achieved with his right hand at the helm, he frittered through his left by responding to the cancer of corruption with superb nonchalance. Under Captain Jonathan, corruption, like a ferocious turbulence, buffeted Nigeria’s ship of state from all sides-starboard, port and bow. With water gushing into the hull, threatening to wreck the ship, Captain Jonathan appeared to be standing in the bridge, hands akimbo, not knowing or pretending not to know which command to issue to save the titanic.
The first sign that Jonathan may not take the fight against graft seriously emerged very early in his days at the Villa. As Vice President, and by his own admission, he only declared his assets (then worth ₦ 295,304,420 or US$1,845,652 at the time) only because his boss, President Yar’Adua insisted. That was in 2007. Nobody knows how much he was worth at his exit. But let’s recall that in October 2009, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had successfully prosecuted Chief Olabode George, a chieftain of then ruling PDP, and former chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, and five others for inflation of contracts and contracts splitting. Then NPA Managing Director, Architect Aminu Dabo, was among the five.
Justice Joseph Oyewole jailed George and the gang for 28 years without option of fine. This was under Jonathan’s boss, President Yar’Adua. And many Nigerians had hoped that Jonathan, as President, would sustain the momentum, no matter what. But did he?
Truly, President Jonathan, in July 2011, told the world that his administration was kick-starting its own anti-corruption war with an all-inclusive scrutiny of the finances of all federal government ministries, departments and agencies, with effect from 2007. Did it happen? Maybe four years after that declaration.
Again, we have to be fair to President Jonathan. In March, 2014, his administration uncovered a massive ghost workers scam that cut across government ministries, departments, and agencies. The fraudulent scheme, which occurred between 2007 and 2012, involved 46,639 ghost workers and gulped N118.9 billion of public funds. The colossal sum was pocketed by unscrupulous officials. But long after the story broke, nothing happened. The officials were neither named nor shamed nor punished. Even when a Premium Times investigation revealed that Nigeria’s finance agencies, notably the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Budget Office of the Federation, topped the scam, nothing happened till Jonathan left office.
For months, Lamido Sanusi, then Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, now Emir of Kano, cried himself hoarse that the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, did not remit some $20 billion in oil revenue to the treasury. Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, who was Minister of Petroleum, rubbished the allegation. But Sanusi stuck to his gun. He insisted that something had happened. Jonathan was unimpressed. The Minister’s apologists thought the man had seen a ghost. And they had a good laugh. Finally, on February 20, 2014, barely four months to the expiration of Sanusi’s tenure, Jonathan fired the CBN Governor. As testified by some of the governors of that era, nobody dared Alison-Madueke and survived it. According to them, Diezani is the apple of Jonathan’s eyes. Sanusi never survived the tsunami. He was swept off. We shall return to Alison-Madueke presently.
How about the other devious officials and wheeler-dealers in the nation’s tower of power who bled the economy? The case of Sambo Dasuki, a retired Colonel and Jonathan’s National Security Adviser, NSA, is still fresh. He and others are currently facing charges for allegedly looting funds meant for the purchase of arms to prosecute the war against Boko Haram.
In the first case, the EFCC is prosecuting Dasuki and others on a 19-count charge of money laundering and criminal breach of trust totalling N13.57 billion. In the second, the ex-NSA and others are telling the court all they know in a 22-count charge of alleged diversion of N32 billion.
That pales into insignificance when compared to the allegations of monumental fraud levelled against former Petroleum Resources Minister, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke. Not too long ago, the EFCC announced that it had traced N47.2 billion and $487.5 million in cash and properties to the self-same minister. Only August 7, 2017, Justice Chuka Obiozor of the Federal High Court, Lagos, ordered the final forfeiture of a $37.5m (N11.75bn) 15-storey building in Banana Island, Lagos, allegedly owned by the former Minister, to the federal government.
Last Thursday, President Buhari signed a pact between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates, UAE, that has now cleared the coast for the federal government to confiscate some properties in Dubai traced to Mrs. Alison-Madueke and 21 other politically exposed persons. The persons include seven former governors, seven ex-ministers, four businessmen, a former First Lady, a former PDP chieftain, and a former Comptroller-General of Customs. The former Petroleum Minister, who has been indicted by the United States Department as a beneficiary of a laundered $1.5 billion fund, is purported to account for two of the Dubai properties.
According to those who know him, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan is a good man. They also claim he is a very weak leader who was tossed back and forth by every lie told by manipulative officials. Truth, however, is that aside from having a very weak resolve in tackling widespread corruption under his watch, it never seemed he ever wanted to fight the monster ab initio. Had he done his best to fight the madness, had he tried to rein errant officials and buddies, maybe we wouldn’t have been in this mess. Maybe the economy wouldn’t have been lying comatose. But Jonathan either slumbered or simply looked the other way as his men and women went on rampage. By his inaction, he lost the moral pedestal to talk about clean government and corruption.
Like Dr. Myles Munroe said in his book, The Power of Character in Leadership, “Genuine leadership cannot be separated from the essence of the leader as a person.” It is difficult to extricate the personal flaws of the former President from the monumental heist some folks perpetrated under him. As the man who called the shots at the time, the buck stopped at his table. That is why he should honourably accept the blame for the economic crimes his men and women committed under his nose and forever keep his peace. That is why he should stop insulting Nigerians by his continuous claim that he ran one of the best administrations in our history. And that is why I will continue to support the anti-corruption campaign of the Buhari Administration, even if it is selective as some people allege. Unlike President Jonathan, President Buhari has, at least, shown character and genuine resolve to tame the monster. That is why all Nigerians must support his government’s efforts to kill corruption before it kills our country.
I rest my case. God bless Nigeria.