When pushed to the wall, Nigerians, obviously in total frustration, develop the wrong idea that the country is an island unto itself, especially in matters of politics and credibility of the stakeholders. Lately, it emerged that even in self-designated God’s own country, United States, the situation is not better as observers’ assessment is that current President Donald Trump, in less than four years, has made more than 15,000 false claims.
A false claim means it is not reliable or you rely on it at your own peril. Nigeria is not without its share of false pledges by politicians, especially since the return of democratic rule in 1999. Product of a bizarre compromise after cancellation of the 1993 presidential election and the controversial death in detention of the presumed winner, Basorun MKO Abiola, the agreement with northerners was that substitute President Olusegun Obasanjo would serve four years and quit. When the moment came, Obasanjo reneged and pleaded for extra four years, supposedly ending in 2007. Instead, Obasanjo even employed force against dissenting state governors and attempted to rupture Nigerian Constitution for everlasting rule. But National Assembly rejected the mutilated Constitution and ended Obasanjo’s tenure.
When his successor, President Umaru Yar’Adua died in office, Nigeria was almost throw into political anarchy on whether Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan should, as of right, succeed Yar’Adua or a fresh candidate should be elected from the North to supercede Jonathan. Buoyed by the stalemate created by anti-June 1993 election cancellation agitators, the emerging post-Yar’Adua crisis in Nigeria was patched by yielding the presidency to Jonathan to complete his late predecessor’s tenure. Which tenure? The one ending in 2011 or 2015?
Again, a pledge to allow Goodluck Jonathan complete the entire Yar’Adua two-term tenure in 2015 adopted more as gentlemen’s mutual agreement. Reading the body language of Jonathan and his backers in 2014, Niger State governor, Babangida Aliyu, invoked the gentlemen’s agreement, if only as a reminder. Jonathan, instead, repudiated such agreement and demanded the document he signed to that effect, if any. Breach of that agreement was the sole cause of Jonathan’s defeat in 2015, as he lost the northern voting bloc, the biggest in Nigeria.
No matter how disgusting might be the unreliable tactics of politicians, the bitter truth is that, all over the world, politicians are virtually the same, on that score. Or how do we situate the latest in Malaysian politics? Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad resigned seemingly (at least for now) in keeping with his 2018 election pledge to serve for ONLY two years and hand over to a political protege Anwar Ibrahim, who, at that time, was in jail for reasons of political differences with the authorities. It was not as if Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad completely rode to power on the public support of a political prisoner in 2018.
Mahathir Mohamad was first elected prime minister in 1981 and served for 22 years consecutively, quitting honorably in 2003. His successor, Najib Razak, became controversial and unpopular for dictatorship and alleged corruption, such that in 2018, Mahathir Mohamad, more on a rescue mission at the age of 92, came from retirement to lead opposition coalition parties in the elections called by the government of Najib Razak, whose career ended with a resounding defeat. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s resignation partially fulfills his pledge to serve for only two years. He may even have solid reasons for, so far, not fulfilling the other half of his pledge to hand over to his protege Anwar Ibrahim.
The worrying speculation is not only that, after his resignation, Mahathir Mohamad remains in office as caretaker prime minister pending the formation of a new administration. There lies the dishonour. At the age of 94, Mathahir Mohamad has not denied strong speculations that he is manouvering major re-alignment of political parties under his leadershipr to enable him continue as prime minister.
For this, the caretaker prime minister has drawn the ire Anwar Ibrahim who has called the bluff of those he described as “traitors”. What with the support of other coalition parties who reportedly have not only submitted his name to be appointed the new prime minister but are also, in the alternative, demanding fresh elections.
Nigeria and Malaysia are in tropical zone. To politicians in both countries, glorious exit is an anathema.
Metuh, all on his own
Eventually, Olisa Metuh, former national publicity secretary of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), lost the battle against four-year trial for inability to give convincing reasons of how he came about public fund to the amount of N400 million or for what was the money. To drive his point home, Justice Abang faulted Metuh for failing to call former President Goodluck Jonathan to defend him by explaining for what special assignment, if at all, N400 million was dished out. Just like that. The only hope now for Metuh is to succeed in his appeal. And that is like crying for the moon.
All the same, Olisa Metuh’s trial and conviction raise debatable issues, all of which have to do with his misfortune rather than the pungency of Justice Abang’s judgment. Such are the men with whom our judiciary should be blessed. Abang’s courage, firmness and thoroughness enriched the judgment.
Why, for example, did the trial take up to four years to be concluded? Cheap delay tactics, all with the hope of frustrating or delaying prosecution till a favourable environment or atmosphere returned under which disturbing influence would have been peddled for pampered and soft landing over taxpayers’ money. Unfortunately, such did not happen partly owing to the swiftness of trials under the Criminal Justice Act.
Olisa Metuh was accused of violating financial crimes law on or about 2014. Has the Ciminal Justice Act, therefore, necessarily acquitted those accused since 2007 or 2015? Or was Metuh the only accused in the PDP or under the tenure of President Jonathan for collecting public funds? Those on trial since that time must be looking forward to 2023 when they hoped they would escape. The more reason other outstanding trials must be accelerated.
If Nigerians are concerned about 2015 trials, what do we say about senior looters since 2007, comprising former ministers and former governors? Some of them now parade as ethnic champions in desperation for national political crisis under which they will escape ongoing prosecution and get away with their loot. Others trade their financial crime to bargain for surreptitious withdrawal of pending prosecution or they blackmail and intimidate their party with threats of disruption of decisions of political appointments in National Assembly.
A great mistake is the illusion that Nigerians are unaware of what is going on. In the process, relevant government agencies are rendered ineffective, weak and indeed ridiculed in discharging their statutory duties. Hence, the Metuhs of the distorted Nigerian system easily acquire public sympathy for their plight of second class citizenship.
Poor Olisa Metuh. Any limit to his handicap? The guy is away for seven years only, through the favour of Justice Abang who ruled the sentences to run concurrently. Otherwise, Metuh would have had to serve over 30 years. In this same country for collecting or even stealing N400 million. In addition, Olisa Metuh will have to pay N400 million to federal government as fine and forfeiture. In one aspect, that is fine and proper.
With better luck, the same Olisa Metuh would have been tried for collecting billions of naira in public funds. Yet, because there are two laws under ehich he could be tried and the judge would have exercised his discretion to go soft by not jailing Metuh, all in a convenient (very, very convenient) option of a fine of less than N1 million. Indeed, only about N800,000 and he would have gone home to his family, even if he forfeited the stolen amount to the government. At other times, his case file would have been withdrawn from the prosecuting EFCC.
Needless security row
Quite so soon, it was remarkable that National Security Adviser, General Babagana Monguno returned from an official trip overseas to attend the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council. Monguno’s return belied earlier reports in sections of the media that he shunned the meeting President Muhammadu Buhari held with Service Chiefs earlier in the week. But for ignorance, any journalist should know that even a four-star General would never shun his C-in-C’s summons.
For the umpteenth time, it must be mentioned that political discussions in Nigeria are ever jaundiced with double standard. Otherwise, it is not unprecedented that President Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, is involved in security matters, as he must have been so authorised by Buhari or anybody in Buhari’s position.
The most powerful man in former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration as an elected leader was Major-General Abdulahi Muhammed. Yet, Obasanjo deliberately designated him Chief of Staff. In reality, General Muhammed’s schedule throughout Obasanjo’s eight-year tenure was strictly over security matters.
That was despite the fact that Obasanjo also appointed Air Vice-Marshal Sarkin Mouktar Muhammed as National Security Adviser. Only the Commander-in-Chief issues order, directive or schedule on security matters, to whom he pleases. It is totalitarian. But that is the atmosphere in armed forces all over the world. Whether you are condemned as an ass, or your mother is slandered as a prostitute and your father is labelled an idiot, all in quick succession, the instant response you are trained to give within seconds is “Yes Sir” in the loudest and completely submissive tone. This is a hypothetical situation, which rarely happens. But if and when it does, there is no dissent.
All in all, security is team-work.