By Tabia Princewill
CHILDISHNESS and contempt for Nigerians seem to be the hallmark of leadership in Nigeria. Former President Goodluck Jonathan was quoted as saying: “It is not the President declaring his assets that will end Boko Haram and whether I am criticised from head to toe I will not declare my assets publicly; it is not right.
“I did not even want to declare my assets as VP but was forced by the then President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. I declared under Yar’Adua because he did it, but it is not proper; it is not the President declaring assets that will change the country”.
Only in Nigeria would a President famously not “give a damn” about declaring his assets and continue to wonder what all the fuss is about, therefore, showing that he either does not know or understand the law and the rules of engagement for public officials. As for “changing the country”, Olusegun Obasanjo, as quoted in Segun Adeniyi’s much commented upon new book, Against The Run of Play, is particularly instructive.
Postponement of the elections
He says that he warned Jonathan against handing over such an important portfolio as the Petroleum Ministry to Diezani Allison-Madueke, and that Jonathan used the Boko Haram insurgency as an excuse to withdraw money, turning government into his ATM machine.
But of all the stories and anecdotes told, Jonathan’s prove perhaps the most interesting in their retelling of events. The former President blamed the US and other Western nations for his defeat. He claimed to have been sabotaged by anyone and everyone in Nigeria (the North, the media for highlighting stories of corruption, his own party, Attahiru Jega, the former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission) and beyond.
Why Jonathan imagined the media would be silent about the atrocities and corruption scandals which went on under his watch says a lot. Did he believe the media owed it to him to either lie or to keep mum?
Why should Jega have supported the postponement of the elections? It is his agency, which in its very name states “independent” which organises elections, not the Presidency.
Jonathan does not seem to realise his statements raise further questions and paint him in a most unflattering light. Is Jonathan saying this is how things obtained in the past and he is disappointed it didn’t work out for him in that way?
Do Presidents usually give INEC chairmen their marching orders and has the media colluded with politicians, in the past, to keep Nigerians in the dark? No matter how you look at Jonathan’s statements, nothing he says about the way Nigeria is, is truly the way things should be. One must truly be sad for Nigeria, a country where mediocrity is no longer recognised as such.
Besides the numerous stories about how the former President and his wife, Patience, alienated huge segments of the country and of their party (Segun Adeniyi tells of a phone call between Patience Jonathan and the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tambuwal, where she allegedly called him “you Hausa boy”, mirroring the “born throway” comments she made about Hausa children during the final leg of the campaign).
The book is rife with stories of economic mismanagement which match public reports of huge Customs waivers inexplicably granted to some preferred persons, robbing the state treasury of much income but the most shocking element perhaps is Jonathan’s denial that he dismissed corruption as mere “stealing” which he did on national television.
Perhaps, now that so many questions are being raised about financial misappropriation, those words have come back to haunt him. It is impossible to sweep away the attempts at bribing INEC officials, the N2.53 trillion subsidy scam, the oil swap swindle, the arms contract scandal and other affairs too many to mention, currently on trial or being investigated.
The claim that Boko Haram is only being defeated now because Buhari is a Muslim is cheap and offensive to the memories of the Christian and Muslim lives lost to Boko Haram, both in the army and the civilian population.
It also shows little worldliness and a poor understanding of religious extremism. ISIS, Al Qaeda and other such terror groups sponsored insurrection and revolt against majority Muslim politicians and governments.
Jonathan simply refuses to see or understand the complexity of the world beyond crass ethno-religious invectives. He has done himself a grave disservice through many if not all of the statements he made in Mr. Adeniyi’s book.
Had Nigeria been a country of swift trials and public enquiries, the book would be brilliantly used by some public defender to paint a picture of the former President’s character in court. In fact, if this were America, the victims of Boko Haram would have sued Jonathan and quoted excerpts of the book in front of the jury.
Mr. Adeniyi has done his job as a journalist which isn’t to paint people as we wish they were but as they are in reality. As we continue to ponder over the allegations and accounts of corruption one must wonder if Jonathan can continue to avoid answering all of these questions publicly and on record in front of a court of law?
Where is Aisha Buhari
#WHEREIsBuhari is trending online but the real question is: why does it seem like the President’s care has been taken away from Aisha Buhari? “The cabal”, as usually constituted in Nigeria, often features the President’s wife.
We all remember Turai Yar’Adua’s role during the intrigues surrounding former President Yar’Adua’s health matters.
Yet, in the reports surrounding President Buhari, his wife’s name is conspicuously absent. Why shouldn’t a wife be involved in her husband’s care? The rumour mill is active once again.
What matters most, however, is Nigeria. A President cannot work from home. Buhari must resist the cabal, for his own sake, if he truly needs to go back abroad for medical attention and shun their advice which is only based on their fear of losing influence.
If the President is unable to perform his duties, his Vice is more than capable. Nigeria cannot be held to ransom by a few selfish people. Not again.
Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi
HE is currently suspected of embezzlement, a common charge when one dares to speak out against the status quo in Nigeria. If the authorities knew or had evidence of misdeeds, why was nothing done before now? Is it that corruption is okay in Nigeria so long as none of the participants speak out against the abuses of another?
His detractors say the Emir uses palace funds for his own personal pleasure which is why in democracies, monarchs or rulers of any sort do not oversee a budget to be used for development, which is entirely the role and the exclusive responsibility of the state.
Queen Elizabeth’s role is purely ceremonial. She doesn’t dispose of funds to build boreholes, etc. and no one expects this of her because local governments in the UK are sufficiently empowered and funded to do so.
It is mixing genres in Nigeria which creates confusion and opportunities for potential mismanagement. Of course, the Emir denied all charges and claimed his Rolls Royce wasn’t bought with palace funds but was a gift from “friends”. We must establish what exactly constitutes a “gift” and make public the sum beyond which such gifts are unacceptable when one is either a government official or a traditional ruler because receiving such gifts is often done in the name of influence peddling in a country where traditional leaders have the ear of state officials.
The institution of traditional ‘rulership’ in Nigeria is too politicised, starting from the fact that a royal father’s emergence must be ratified by the state governor who also disburses the ruler’s budget leading to all sorts of potential abuses. Traditional rulers have colluded with government, since military rule, in favour of narrow anti-people interests. The whole system needs reform.
Tabia Princewill is a strategic communications consultant and public policy analyst. She is also the co-host and executive producer of a talk show, WALK THE TALK which airs on Channels TV.