By Dele Sobowale
“Better a declared enemy than a doubtful ally”. Napoleon Bonaparte, I769-I8I5, (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS P 48).
Part one of this series ended last week with the declaration that Jonathan, instead of hunting around for his enemies, real or imagined, determined to ruin him, should instead engage in a critical analysis of who those antagonists are. Since he had declared the media as his number one enemy, I have served as proxy for the media.
For the second ranked enemy, the president had been urged to look in the mirror and he will see the face of his second most important enemy. When Socrates reportedly advised each of us to “Know thyself”, he meant that we should be honest with ourselves. All of us, presidents and paupers, are our own worst enemies.
Presidents, Prime Ministers, in short, leaders of people, fortunate, or unfortunate, to select the people who will work with them, invariably end up with subordinates created in their own images. Thus, Ministers and Special Advisers, even if foisted on the leader by others, almost always end up reflecting his personality – if they last long in the corridors of power or if they don’t want to be side-lined.
So, President Jonathan, when attending the next Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting should look around the table and he will see, starring back at him, the faces of his few of his best friends; but, mostly, his worst enemies. Some, as he had admitted himself, are Boko Haram moles; planted at the top level of government.
Others are adversaries because they have come into government with personal, or group, agenda which might not tally with the President’s Reformation Agenda (whatever that is). Yet, a few become foes inadvertently. In other words, the last group had no premeditated plans – they just end up messing up the president. Three examples will illustrate the points made above.
President Jonathan probably lost the majority of Nigerians on January I, 20I2 when he increased the pump price of petrol from N67 to NI4I.
Every other calamity befalling his government had built on that one or has been made worse by it. Even, his handling of Boko Haram, which in my view is the best he can do, given a guerilla/religious outfit, has not received the sympathetic support he deserves because on the first day of the year, he, literally, spilled the blood of the people of Nigeria.
As everybody knows, transport is the life-blood of the economy and life. The fuel price increase was not a brain wave of the President. The decision was reached after months of public debate, starting from July 20II, when the President first announced that the energy sector was going to be deregulated and subsidy removed.
Despite the repeated calls by several segments of the population, economists, financial experts, professors, former Ministers, religious leaders, Labour, ASUU etc for Jonathan to forget the idea, he was adamant. “There is no going back on subsidy removal” was the official announcement. Even, the argument that there was no subsidy to remove, only corruption to eradicate, fell on deaf ears.
Shockingly, the fuel price increase was introduced at the worst possible time. Millions of Nigerians travel for the Yuletide, after calculating the cost of fuel or transport fares to take them to their destinations and back. Invariably, they would return to base with the last naira in their pockets. The price increase on the first day of the year left millions stranded. It was a slap in the face people will never forget.
But, how did Jonath an come about the decision that there was a huge subsidy to be removed? For this mistake, which had cost him so much ill-will, he has three officers to thank primarily. The first is the Minister of Petroleum Resources, whose ministry provided the bogus figures pointing to subsidy. Nigerians would recollect the Minister telling the National Assembly, NASS, that the nation consumed 57 million litres of petrol in one month.
It was a colossal lie. The second officer is the Minister of Finance, former World Bank Managing Director. Had Dr Ngozi Okonkjo-Iweala, done what we were taught in universities in the US – namely ask for the monthly breakdown of the total NI.3 trillion phantom subsidy, one month would have alerted her to the scam going on. That was the month Nigerians “drank” 57 million litres of petrol. It was totally out of line with other months; all of which were generally in the 30 million range.
That was the month the “forwarding” and “backwarding” reached insane proportions. Instead, she accepted the lie told by the Ministry of Petroleum, proceeded to develop her own set of lies, expensively published in the SURE-P document which Jonathan had ordered withdrawn. In that document, “Madam World Bank” promised to undertake with NI.3 trillion projects which N400 trillion could not have accomplished.
The third officer was the ubiquitous, Governor of Central Bank, who later told us that in actual fact, over N2 trillion bills had been submitted for fuels not fully delivered. One could not fail to get the impression that, had OCCUPY not taken place, the CBN would have paid the fraudsters without raising a query.
The three only serve as examples of how Presidents are undermined by their Ministers. But, supposing Jonathan had acted differently. If instead of a fuel price increase on January I, 20I2, he had announced that he had set up a panel to examine the accounts of the Ministry of Petroleum and the colossal fraud had been revealed.
He could then simultaneously announce the result of the audit; fired all the top people involved in misleading him, order the prosecution of all the culprits and shelf any fuel price increase. Had he done that, the 20I5 election would have been easily won in 20I2. He still has a chance to redeem his lost popularity; if only he gets rid of the liars who get him into trouble all the time – like those Ministers, at least two, announcing millions of jobs created.
JUDICIAL “MURDERS” AND NIGERIAN POLITICS – 2
“Time was when a lawyer could predict the likely outcome of a case because of the facts, the law and the brilliance of the lawyers that handled the case. Today things have changed and nobody can be sure….Nowadays, politicians would text the outcome of the judgment to their party men before judgment is delivered and prepare their supporters ahead of time for celebration”. Chief Afe Babalola, SAN, in PUNCH, September 23, 2012, p 9 in an article titled Toying with corruption in the temple of justice.
The new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar, has a whale of a job on her hands; if she intends to make good on her promise to stop corruption in the judiciary. That Sunday’s PUNCH reached me in one of the Southsouth states where, as usual, I had gone to mind everybody’s business.
It was in connection with another Election Tribunal case which had just been decided by a High Court on technicalities – the Honourable Justice, declared, after sitting on the case for several months, that he lacked jurisdiction. Three facts about the matter call for national, if not global, outrage.
First, bearing in mind the new Electoral Act stipulation that all election petitions must be concluded within 120 days, why should a judge spent almost all those days deciding whether he had jurisdiction or not? Second, the matter of jurisdiction was earlier raised in the case. Instead of addressing it, and saving time, the judge promised to deal with it when judgment is given; only to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.
Third, and this might shock nearly everybody (even in a country immune to shocks), complainants and the justice especially; plans for celebration were already made before the judgment was delivered in court. The last bit was one of several things which I discovered on my trip down south. That tallied with the statement credited to Chief Afe Babalola. That alone should make all of us tremble that the judiciary had sunk so low.
Three questions which the Chief Justice must address, urgently, as this case moves to the Court of Appeals, are as follows: Why was it possible for the defendants to know the outcome before the verdict was rendered in court? Second, if every court in a zone disclaims jurisdiction for a breach of the constitution committed in that zone, how would aggrieved parties ever get justice? Third, as one of the defendants was often heard to boast, “if money cannot buy it, more money can buy it”, while summarizing his “Ghana-Must-Go” policy on how to settle disputes in his favour. The issue is, has this judgment been bought?
As far as I am concerned, the defendant is at liberty to use any method, fair and foul, to win his case. It is the judiciary which must be held to account for miscarriage of justice.