By Chidi Obineche
THE ongoing investigations of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s aides and calls for his probe may have stirred unease across the nation, especially within the camp of the former president, fuelling speculations that agents of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC may soon knock on his door. Talks on this have simmered over time, but gained currency last week when the Senate leader, Senator Ali Ndume demanded that President Muhammadu Buhari should authorize the commission to probe and prosecute him. His intervention, according to him, has become expedient owing to the need for the ex- president to throw more light on the fallouts from the explanations of some of his aides that are being held. Ndume had said, “Nobody is supposed to be above the law. If Jonathan is a culprit, he should face the law. If there is evidence that the former president should face the law, then, he should. After all, he is presumed guilty.” As if on cue, the President’s Special Adviser on Media and publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, while answering reporters’ questions on the subject declared emphatically that ,” The President does not tele-guide the EFCC in any way.” The president’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, corroborated him, adding that Buhari did not sign any pact with Jonathan, or any past president to exempt him (Jonathan) from probe. Expatiating further, Shehu said that Buhari’s open and transparent nature would not allow him to enter into any secret pact with anybody, especially on the ongoing war on corruption.
The resurgence of the clamour to probe and rein in Jonathan, according to Sunday Sun’s findings emanated from pressures mounted on Buhari by some of his adversaries who are now in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and who are bent on capitalizing on the fallouts of the probe to extract a pound of flesh from him. A source within the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP pointedly accused a former governor from the South- south as spear heading the pressure group. “Until recently, Buhari had sought to maintain the unwritten tradition in Nigeria whereby past presidents are always treated with respect and left unruffled on issues of transparency, no matter the agitations, or clamour. That espirit de corps is about to be broken.” In a thinly veiled reference to an all encompassing probe that will brook no sacred cows, the President told Nigerians in an interactive session with them last week in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea that “We will be merciless and relentless in pursuing all those who abused public trust. Nigerians will see how some of the elite conspired to run the nation down.” Although the president did not set out on a witch hunt mission against Jonathan, recent pressures that are basically hinged on the mind-boggling revelations from investigators of Jonathan regime may also have assisted in compelling him to buckle under and develop a thick skin. His stance is equally buoyed by a tacit endorsement by civil society groups, leading opinion moulders and a sweeping percentage of ordinary Nigerians who are outraged by the huge loots.
Second Republic governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa is in the league of those seeking no reprieve for Jonathan. Indeed, he told Sunday Sun on telephone that “If he is not arrested and tried, all the noise about this anti- corruption crusade will amount to nothing.” Balarabe insisted that though Jonathan didn’t start corruption in Nigeria, so much looting occurred in his administration, making it difficult to gloss over his own role in the whole malfeasance. He said: “Remember that the PDP at a time said that Jonathan should answer some questions concerning the Dasuki case. Jonathan is not talking, and I know it is because he does not want to rock the boat.” Balarabe, however is not limiting his call to only Jonathan. According to him, all former Nigerian Heads of State and presidents since 1966, including ex –governors should be rounded up, and tried. He described the administration of Ex- president Olusegun Obasanjo as one that was riddled with corruption, and because nothing was done to nip it in the bud then, his successors adopted it, and improved on it in style and sophistication.. Concluding, he revealed that to show that corruption had long taken a seat in Nigeria, “In 1975, all the governors that served under Gowon were found guilty, except Mobolaji Johnson who is still alive.”
On the part of the National Chairman of the United Nigeria Progressive Party, UNPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie, “ Arresting Jonathan is a very tricky thing, that goes beyond legalities to the issue of commitments and morality. The EFCC cannot just arrest him based on speculations, without concrete evidence, and later get stuck in the prosecution which often makes cases to linger for long. Making a case for the exculpation of Jonathan, Okorie who was the founder and former National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA said Jonathan was the ‘ dove’ God used in giving Nigeria the peace she is now enjoying. Said he: “ Jonathan played a very big role in the peace that we have today. In over 99 per cent of African countries, a sitting president can manufacture excuses to discredit elections and stay back in power. I prefer that Nigerians should give a soft landing for any leader who voluntarily relinquishes power. On the other hand, there is no excuse for corruption. If he had wanted to stay, nothing would have happened. People would have died, properties razed, but he would still have clung to power.
“If I were Buhari, in the interest of national peace, and in recognition of the sacrifice Jonathan made, I will let Jonathan go. That is my own view. Arresting him and subjecting him to humiliation may have repercussions. There is no saint in this country.” Explaining the possible repercussions his arrest may attract, Okorie said it would be a moral burden on Buhari, “because his anti- corruption drive is already perceived as lopsided. It is not enhancing national unity. If he touches Jonathan, there will be sympathy for the former president, because people will demand that all living former presidents from 1960 to date should be probed”. He however added that any loot traced to Jonathan should be recovered in the same way “Abacha loot is being recovered and no member of his family, including his wife and sons whose involvement had long been established has been arrested.”
A PDP leader and member of its Board of Trustees, BOT Chief Ebenezer Babatope, in his own reaction dared Buhari to go ahead and arrest Jonathan and reap the whirlwind. Describing the attempt as a “Wild goose chase”, he affirmed that “It is a useless clamour. In his words, “A country must not consume its leadership in a reckless manner. He also submitted that the late Chief Awo thought them that “We should preserve the myths and authority of a nation if we want to succeed..” Waxing rhetorical, he queried; “ What has Jonathan done? Those who say he should be arrested do not love this country. If they go ahead and arrest him, they will reap the whirlwind of their actions. Let them go ahead. For Chief Olorunfunmi Bashorun, second republic Secretary to the Lagos State Government, and Chieftain of the ruling APC, “ If they trace anything to him, he should be arrested. He has no immunity again. Even Obasanjo and other former leaders, if they trace anything to any of them , that one should be arrested and tried. The law is no respecter of persons”
With the wild card given to EFCC, by the president, Nigerians await with bated breath to witness when Jonathan will be picked up.