I DO not need to recount the recent Immigration Service recruitment fiasco here. The horrors are still fresh, the insensitivity of the Interior Minister—self-styled ‘Comrade’ Abba Moro—continues to rankle; so does the indecent attempt by the opposition to build political capital out of the unfortunate affair.
However, what President Goodluck Jonathan has done in the aftermath of that avoidable debacle is another matter entirely.
That the President expressed visible anger over the disastrous exercise was in order. For too long, many individuals in the higher echelons of public service have conducted themselves with impunity in the face of grievous failings. Now, it would be good to see presidential wrath unleashed with despatch on such individuals.
Meanwhile, considering President Jonathan’s easy-going nature, it is conceivable that the post-mortem offer of jobs to families of the deceased, and some of the injured, stemmed from kind intentions. But such a policy stands on a slippery slope. For birthing a course of action ostensibly from a position of goodwill after unsavoury events such as the Immigration recruitment deaths invites the discerning to put on their thinking caps.
To be clear, if commendation of any sort should be offered for any ameliorating presidential deeds in this matter, the major question that readily presents itself is: Why should condemnation not follow the non-dismissal of those responsible for the tragedy in the first place?
Moreover, is Mr President aware of the palpable anger in the land? Are his advisers relaying to him the nature of discontent across the country? Is anybody with close access to the President strategising on what sort of legacy he will point to as his first term in office enters its final stretch? These are more questions that readily spring to mind.
Sometimes it appears as if those who work with the President either as ministers or aides are hell-bent on retiring him prematurely from public service. If they are not engaging in alarming shenanigans, they are rocking the cradle of statecraft in less than comforting ways. And the President gives liberalism and leniency too much room when he should be cracking the big whip. The result is that everybody now has a theory or two about Mr President’s body language—none of which is complimentary.
The President’s body language towards the indefensible Abba Moro has been linked in virtually all circles to Senate President, David Mark. If indeed Mark is the guard standing at the door of Moro’s dismissal from the federal cabinet, then Mark should be told to advise the President to show Moro the door, for Moro’s culpability in the Immigration recruitment disaster is the sort of ingredient that sours the soup and leads to the whole pot being thrown away.
A straightforward fact that every discerning individual in this country can readily attest to is that the reign of President Jonathan has ushered in an unrestrained air of liberal public engagement and even outright antagonism without fear of repercussions. Some have argued that this air of almost unbridled freedom soars beyond physical evidences of work done—whether roads, reconstructed airports, or empowered farmers—as Jonathan’s greatest achievement. This may be so, but there might be a downside.
It is one thing for individuals, including governors, to take on the President in often very combative language. Perhaps it is even necessary that we never again allow any president to become a demi-god in this land by constantly reminding him that what voters give, voters can take away. But it is another thing for those in government, who should be working with Mr President, to turn around and embarrass him through their words, actions or inactions. For the sake of the institution of the presidency, that is a situation that must never be tolerated.
For the avoidance of doubt, those who have been appointed to serve at the President’s pleasure should either do so by furthering his programmess, or the President should show them the way out of his government. This is the standard across the globe and President Jonathan has no reason to deviate from this time-honoured practice.
As such, it is disheartening that more than a week after the Immigration recruitment disaster, Abba Moro is still in office. Whatever Jonathan’s reasons maybe for not kicking Moro to the curb—whether out of some sort of appeasement to Mark or not—he needs to remember that, as President, the buck stops at his table and if he does not take decisive action, the cost to him may be exactly what he ought to have done to Moro.
The time to act has since elapsed. What the President can do now is to sack Moro straightaway, have his involvement in the Immigration recruitment sham investigated, and allow the laws of the land to follow swiftly. Otherwise, come 2015, President Jonathan may find that this one issue is enough for voters, especially the teeming youth population, to take away from him what they gave him so massively in 2011. I pray it does not get to that, Mr President.
KAYODE OJO, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Lagos.