There is absolutely nothing new in the unrelenting altercations between the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) about whose government was/is ‘cleaner’ and serving the best interest of Nigeria. The narrative fits perfectly into the time-worn political pattern in which once an opposition party dethrones the incumbent, the conqueror deploys all weapons in its arsenal to demonise, degrade, and utterly destroy the conquered. Mission accomplished, the conqueror then dons a messianic garb.
In a winner-takes-all political ambience as Nigeria’s, the new champions would posture as a group sent by God to liberate His people from poverty, oppression and such other things that have stunted their growth. And they are legion. They range from visionlessness to ineptitude; to crass corruption.
Two years down the line, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has been deliberately blind to its own obvious inconsistencies. It has been very consistent in its self-righteousness, just as it has been unwavering in heaping the blame for all the ills that have plagued Nigeria in its recent past and now on the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its principals. If we indulge them, the APC crowd would have possibly stretched the hyperbole to post-independence. And no matter how loud the likes of Ayodele Fayose, Ekiti State governor, and Femi Fani-Kayode, former minister of Aviation, shout, even if they mount the tallest minaret to knock the bottom off their traducers’ claims, their efforts would have amounted to something like dropping a pebble into the ocean.
Their efforts have been miserably ineffective in distracting Lai Mohammed and the other czars of APC from hammering PDP as amoebic; as a party of an indefinable form and shape; a party incorporeal in character and vision; a cesspool of corruption. And who, in APC’s estimation, better symbolises these formlessness and drought of productivity than the man under whose watch the dream of PDP ruling Nigeria for 60 years came to ruins after only 16 years – Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the immediate past president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
With the interdiction of many governors and ministers of the Jonathan era of mega billion fraud, floods of condemnations have been surging at the former president, his government and party, like a tsunami. Even when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) did something amounting to ‘sharing blood’ by confiscating Dame Patience Jonathan’s ‘hard-earned’ $31.4 million and seized a N2 billion hotel and three other prime properties in Abuja traced to the former first lady, Broda Jona’s traducers never stopped pounding him and his erstwhile administration.
Even when cops guarding one of the ex-president’s properties in Abuja stripped it to the walls, claiming their share of the national cake, the antagonists remain unappeasable. They forget diais godu. They forget there is a God who helps the tail-less cow drive away stubborn flies.
Not to worry, Jonathan had his moment at the Eagles Square, Abuja, penultimate Saturday. It was at PDP’s non-elective convention, and a tumultuous crowd of the party faithful had gathered to regale themselves in their party’s achievements in ages past and kick-start the journey to 2019.
Now, the ex-president may not be an excellent political debater or a great orator. But in the 20 minutes he spent at the podium, he showed his stuff as an indefatigable leader of the ‘largest political party in Africa’. He shamed his detractors by doubling down (forgive my Americanese) on his claim that his government remains the most successful, the most transparent and the cleanest in Nigeria’s political history. Does that sound like a line from the endless list of President Donald Trump’s “truthful hyperboles”?
Whatever it is, please accept it in good faith in the meantime, and let’s recap the nuggets in Jonathan’s 25-paragraph speech. First, he acknowledged that it was not easy to lose power but enthused that the party had long overcome the aftershocks of its 2015 electoral defeat and was now set to “reclaim its prime position as the party to lead Nigeria to greatness.” And re-possess power come 2019?
This may not be a tall order, granting APC’s rapidly dwindling popularity among Nigerians; even among the 15.4 million people who voted it into power in 2015. The problem is compounded by the long absence from duty of President Muhammadu Buhari due to ill-health. He returned home only last Saturday after spending 103 days in London.
Second, despite its imperfections (and he admitted there was no perfect human system anywhere), Jonathan said there was ample evidence to prove that PDP had acquitted itself to be “a party of vision and accomplishments”. He cited, as evidence, the 2015 general elections in which his party was roundly defeated but still freely transferred power to APC. That singular act, the former president maintained, deepened Nigeria’s democracy and projected the nation as “one of the world’s stable democracies.”
This is true to a large extent because even though there was overwhelming evidence that he and his party had lost by a landslide, they could have decided to bring down the roof by disputing the results and hanging on to power. This would have triggered a crisis whose end would have been unpredictable. But Jonathan and his party chose the path of honour and saved Nigeria from unnecessary bloodshed.
Third, and on the economy, Jonathan claimed his administration provided “focused leadership, through institutional and sectoral reforms which impacted positively on the fundamentals for growth, especially in the last four years” of the administration. “The effect,” he continued, “was that we tamed inflation at a single digit, maintained price stability, grew the economy to become the largest in Africa with a GDP of over half a trillion US dollars, and the number one foreign direct investment destination on the continent.”
Again, this is largely correct except that experts, and time, have proved that the claim of Nigeria being the largest economy in Africa at the time was bogus and may have been sexed up to score some political points. To underpin the artificiality of the claim, many experts reasoned that there was sparse evidence in the day-to-day living of Nigeria’s toiling multitude.
Fourth, Jonathan recalled with nostalgia his administration’s agricultural transformation agenda, which he claimed “rapidly transformed key agricultural value chains, boosted local production, and created a new generation of young commercial farmers and agriculture entrepreneurs….”
The former president wasn’t done. He also named “one very remarkable achievement of the reforms” as the killing of decades of fertiliser racketeering and unspeakable corruption in the agricultural sector through the introduction and faithful implementation of the electronic wallet system. “Since then,” he enthused, “its success has continued to resonate outside our shores. The programme is not only being scaled up by the African Development Bank but is (also)…being replicated in close to 20 African countries.”
That, again, is 100 percent correct. In fact, the brainbox of that revolution, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the administration’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, went ahead to become president of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Asides the administration’s phenomenal success in agriculture, Jonathan also thumbed his government’s Youth Enterprises with Innovation (YouWin) programme which, he said, turned thousands of jobless youth to entrepreneurs and wealth creators.
The report, naturally, drew thunderous applause from delegates who hailed him on end. Well, it is the beginning of the silly season, as Dr. Olatunji Dare described the jostling for 2019; and dramatic moments as we saw that Saturday would not be in short supply. In the spirit of the season, politicians would spin anything and do everything to sell themselves or their acolytes. There was plenty of that at the PDP event.
Jonathan, however, poisoned his own party by admitting, on one hand, that his government never plugged the conduits in the system, leading to unbridled corruption (my words). On the other hand, he exonerated himself by declaring that no nation can kill corruption no matter how hard it tries. Knowing the kind of bizarre bazaar his administration turned government business to, a smarter debater would have avoided any serious conversation on corruption.
But two years since his administration was determined, Dr. Jonathan has made strenuous efforts at presenting that regime as the best and the cleanest thing to have happened to Nigeria.
Granting the manner of his ascendancy to power, that ought to have been the case. Sadly, it was not.
A little history should suffice to help put the matter in perspective. It is an incontrovertible fact that Dr. Jonathan is the luckiest leader this country has ever produced. Before plunging into politics in 1998, the former president, who holds a PhD in Zoology and had variously worked as education inspector, lecturer, and environmental-protection officer, became deputy governor of Bayelsa State on May 29, 1999, “without spending a kobo”.
Approximately six years later, precisely December 9, 2005, he succeeded Chief Diepreye Solomon Peter (DSP) Alamieyeseigha, his boss, as governor. Fate made Jonathan governor, again, “without spending a kobo”. Providence tossed that historic opportunity on his lap after his boss was impeached on jumping bail from the United Kingdom. DSP, who had been detained in London following the discovery of £1 million cash in his London home by the Metropolitan Police, reportedly escaped to Nigeria by disguising as a woman.
On July 26, 2007, a Nigerian court convicted him on a six-court charge and he was sentenced to two years in prison on each charge. Several of his asset were also forfeited to the Bayelsa State Government. Jonathan would later grant his former boss state pardon.
On May 29, 2007, Jonathan became vice president, and acting president on February 9, 2010, three months after seriously ill President Umar Musa Yar’Adua left Nigeria for Saudi Arabia for treatment. On May 6, 2010, a day after Yar’Adua’s death, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan became Nigeria’s 14th head of state. He got the highest office in the land, again, “without spending a kobo.”
Against this background, we can say, without any equivocation, that the Almighty has been extremely kind to Broda Jona. And what should a grateful mind have done? Give his best to Nigeria. Serve Nigerians as if it was the last thing he would do on earth.
Like others before him, Jonathan actually tried to leave his imprints on the sands of time on each occasion that history beckoned. As president, he did many good things, including sustaining the Amnesty Programme which he helped Yar’Adua midwife, and which calmed Niger Delta militants a great deal.
However, whatever President Jonathan achieved with his right hand, he frittered with his left by responding to the cancer of corruption with superb nonchalance.
Under Captain Jonathan, corruption, like a ferocious turbulence, buffeted Nigeria’s ship of state from all sides – starboard, port and bow. With water gushing into the hull, threatening to wreck the ship, Captain Jonathan appeared to be staring at the bridge (as the platform where a ship is controlled is called), hands akimbo, not knowing or pretending not to know which command to issue to save the titanic.
The first sign that Jonathan may not take the fight against graft seriously emerged very early in his days at the Villa. As vice president, he only declared his asset (then worth ₦295,304,420 or US$1,845,652) because his boss, President Yar’Adua insisted. That was in 2007. He admitted that much later.
In October 2009, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) successfully prosecuted Chief Olabode George, a chieftain of the then ruling PDP, and former chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for inflation of contracts and contracts splitting. He was tried with five others, including then NPA managing director, Architect Aminu Dabo. Justice Joseph Oyewole jailed George and the gang for 28 years without the option of fine.
This was under President Yar’Adua. And Nigerians had hoped that Jonathan, as president, would sustain the momentum. But did he?
Of some truth, Jonathan made an attempt to combat graft in public service. In July 2011, he announced his administration’s plan to kick-start its own anti-corruption war by ordering an all-inclusive scrutiny of the finances of all federal government ministries, departments and agencies, with effect from 2007. Did it happen? Maybe it did four years after the declaration.
A major test of President Jonathan’s resolve to fight corruption came in March 2014 when the administration uncovered a massive ghost workers scam that cut across government ministries, departments, and agencies. The fraudulent scheme, which occurred between 2007 and 2012, involved 46,639 ghost workers and gulped N118.9 billion of public funds. The colossal sum was pocketed by some reprobate officials. But long after the story broke, nothing happened.
The roguish officials were neither named nor shamed nor punished. Even when a Premium Times investigation revealed that Nigeria’s finance agencies, notably the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Budget Office of the Federation, topped the scam, nothing happened till Jonathan left office.
Push that aside. Consider Lamido Sanusi, then governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) now, emir of Kano. For months, the world class economist cried himself hoarse that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation did not remit $20 billion in oil revenue to the treasury.
Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, who was minister of Petroleum, rubbished the allegation. But Sanusi stuck to his gun, insisting that a massive fraud had been committed. Jonathan was unimpressed. The minister’s apologists thought Sanusi had seen a ghost. And they all had a good laugh.
On February 20, 2014, barely four months to the expiration of Sanusi’s tenure, Jonathan fired the CBN governor. As testified by some of the governors of that era, nobody dared Alison-Madueke and survived it. According to them, Diezani was the apple of Jonathan’s eyes and whoever touched her drew the wrath of the god on the rock. Sanusi dared and never survived the tsunami. But God elevated him to the throne of his forefathers.
Push Alison-Madueke aside for now. Consider the other devious officials and wheeler-dealers in the nation’s tower of power who bled the economy under Jonathan. The case of Sambo Dasuki, a retired Colonel and Jonathan’s National Security Adviser (NSA) is still fresh. He and others are currently facing charges for allegedly looting funds meant for the purchase of arms to prosecute the war against Boko Haram.
In the first case, the EFCC is prosecuting Dasuki and others on a 19-count charge of money laundering and criminal breach of trust totalling N13.57 billion. In the second, the ex-NSA and others are telling the court all they know in a 22-count charge of alleged diversion of N32 billion.
Despite the staggering sums involved in the Dasuki saga, the case pales into insignificance when compared to the allegations of monumental fraud levelled against Diezani Alison-Madueke. A few weeks ago, the EFCC announced that it had traced N47.2 billion and $487.5 million in cash and properties to the self-same ex-minister. On August 7, 2017, Justice Chuka Obiozor of the Federal High Court, Lagos, ordered the final forfeiture of a $37.5 million (N11.75 billion) 15-storey building in Banana Island, reportedly owned by the woman, to the federal government.
Only last Thursday, President Buhari signed a pact between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates, that has now cleared the coast for the federal government to confiscate some properties in Dubai traced to Mrs. Alison-Madueke and 21 other politically exposed persons. The persons include seven former governors, seven ex-ministers, four businessmen, a former first lady, a former PDP chieftain, and a former comptroller-general of Customs. Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, who has been indicted by the State Department as a beneficiary of a laundered $1.5 billion fund, is purported to account for two of the Dubai properties.
According to those who know him, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan is a good man. But they also claim that he was a very weak leader who was tossed back and forth by every lie told by manipulative officials. Truth, however, is that aside from dovish nature which made him easily malleable, he never had any strong resolve to tackle widespread corruption under his watch. He never really determined to fight the monster headlong ab initio.
Had he done his best to fight the madness, had he tried his best to rein his errant officials and guileful buddies, maybe we wouldn’t have been in this mess. Had he heeded the advice of his Finance minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, another world class economist, that his government should curb all prodigal excesses and save for the rainy day, maybe the economy wouldn’t have been lying comatose.
Rather than act decisively, Jonathan either slumbered or simply looked the other way as the stealing spree progressed. By his inaction, he lost the moral pedestal to talk about a clean government and corruption.
Like Dr. Myles Munroe said in his book, The Power of Character in Leadership, “Genuine leadership cannot be separated from the essence of the leader as a person.” Going by that, it is impossible to extricate the personal flaws of the former president from the stupendous heist that some folks perpetrated under him. As the man at the helm, the buck stopped at his table.
But he came, he saw and refused to conquer. That is why he should honourably accept the blame for the economic crimes committed by his men and women and forever keep his peace. That is why he should stop insulting Nigerians by his continuous claim that he ran one of the best administrations in our history.
That is why I will continue to support the anti-corruption campaign of the Buhari Administration, even if it is selective as some people allege. Half bread is better than none. Waging a selective war against corruption is by far preferable to standing aloof. Unlike President Jonathan, President Buhari has shown character. He has demonstrated genuine resolve to tame the monster. That is why all Nigerians must support his government’s efforts to kill corruption before it kills our country. God bless Nigeria.