Some of us Nigerians are a disingenuous lot. We are known to speak from both sides of our mouth. And when it comes to the fate of our country, we are wont to make decisions based on emotions, ethnicity, and for other pedestrian reasons. Yet, we expect Nigeria to achieve greatness. However, you don’t achieve greatness. You plan it.
Crowded out by the recent pump price imbroglio, the call by certain sections of the country on federal authorities not to arrest former President Goodluck Jonathan is emblematic of our duplicitous nature. Sometime last month, a certain Joseph Hayab, representing the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the Northern states warned that there will be trouble if Jonathan is arrested.
In his poorly-reasoned monosyllabic statement, Hayab, a member of the clergy said: “Let me warn that such a misadventure will set a wrong precedent and only open the door to mischievous people to throw this nation into confusion. What Nigerians need urgently is availability of fuel, electricity, prompt salary, security of lives and property, among other issues that are begging for urgent answers.
“If the purported plan to arrest him is to please the international community and prove to them that we are fighting corruption, then let us know that this same international community is busy celebrating him as a hero of democracy and even those who seriously wanted him to go for a change to happen are now singing a new song about him.
“Former President Jonathan is deservedly seen in Nigeria and beyond as a hero of democracy because of his actions before, during and after the 2015 elections. As such, it will be an ill-advice for the Muhammadu Buhari administration to initiate the arrest of such a statesman at this time and with the current realities.
“Our government must know that there are individuals serving today that are also being accused of corruption but since there are claims that nothing has been established against them, they are walking and speaking like saints. While ignoring all these, government wants to arrest a man of peace like Jonathan? CAN Northern States wishes to advise that such an action, if actualised, has the capacity to lead to serious confusion that will affect Nigeria economically and otherwise.
“We believe former President Jonathan deserves praise and should receive gratitude from those in power today and not scorn. We believe at this time and with the current realities that our former president must not be denigrated but honoured because honour must be given to whom is due”, Mr. Hayab stated.
Prior to Hayab’s cautionary tale, was the much more virulent rant of Udeng Eradiri, the President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), at a news conference to mark the burial of Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, the hopelessly corrupt former governor of Bayelsa State. In a foolhardy display of brinkmanship, Eradiri threatened that he and his cohorts will “make the nation ungovernable for the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari” if Nigeria’s anti-graft body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) dares to arrest former President Jonathan.
According to him: “They have arrested almost all our people. Azibola (Robert) was arrested by the EFCC and we are calling on the EFCC to stop persecuting him further and charge him to court if there are issues. They detained him for a long time, forcing him to make statements to indict former President Jonathan.
“We noticed that the same way they persecuted Alamieyeseigha has continued. After Goodluck Jonathan, our people who contributed to that administration, are being persecuted by this government. The recent one is the ploy to arrest Goodluck Jonathan, which is unfolding everyday. This must stop”, he warned.
On face value, both gentlemen came across as idiotic. First off, what gives them the audacity to think that former President Jonathan is above the law? For a man under whose watch the nation witnessed some of the worst cases of stealing of public funds ever in our history – the sort that has literally bankrupted Nigeria, he has a case to answer. And the heavens will not fall if Mr. Jonathan is arrested. Not even the pre-emptive acts of aggression and war against the state by emergent fringe groups in the Niger Delta basin with such fiendish names as Red Egbesu Water Lions and the more notorious Niger Delta Avengers will derail the momentum of the current anti-corruption campaign.
The other day while the pump price crisis lingered, we were told that Nigeria is broke. And that is a statement of fact. Only those who for political expediency, will question the broken state of our treasuries which had over time become the piggy-bank of politicians, party chieftains and emergency contractors who ran the show under Goodluck Jonathan.
Earlier this month, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo told a book launch audience in Ibadan that Nigeria lost about $15 billion to fraudulent and corrupt practices in security equipment spending during the last administration of Goodluck Jonathan. “When you look at the sheer amount of money that has been embezzled,” he lamented, “the sheer amount of money lost from any of these various cases of corruption, you will find that far too much has been lost.
“It was discovered a few days ago that the total amount of money lost to just corruption in part of and provision of security equipment in the military is closer to 15 billion US dollars.” He said the amount “is more than half of the current foreign reserves of the country”, currently at about $27 billion. I believe strongly that it is important to send a message that no public officer can steal the resources of this country and expect to escape”. So far, some of the peripheral characters in the looting orgy during the life of the last administration are currently being systematically and clinically ferreted out while the EFCC makes a case against them in court. All the hue and cry about the lop-sidedness of the campaign simply bespeaks the disingenuity of the usual suspects and their army of apologists. And as President Buhari had told CNN’s Christine Amanpour last July, his administration will not spare even his own party members in the current war against corruption. That is why we have since seen the President tactically distance himself from the trial of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.
On the charge that the Buhari administration’s fixation on the last government is a cop-out for its inability to deliver on its election promises, I think that such a position is as premature as it is unreasonable. Here is a government that inherited an empty treasury, with mounting debts and with reports of departing officials literally dismembering valuables, carting away government property like a retreating army and reluctantly handing over to incoming officials. In the process, it took the new administration months after the swearing-in ceremony to settle down to the business of the state.
From all indications, and as I had stated in an earlier piece, Jonathan had no choice than to concede defeat against the majority will of his coterie of supporters (remember the Godsday Orubebe outburst?) who had fantastically benefited from the filthy lucre of the era and hated to see the gravy train derailed. With the dire consequences of circumventing the electoral process staring him in the face, the former President knew better and wisely threw in the towel. That is why I believe that all the talk of Jonathan’s demonstration of statesmanship is over-rated. Believe me when I tell you that he had no choice. On its own merit, I think his election day gesture still remains commendable.
However, that Jonathan willingly handed over power to the victorious candidate should not in any case exculpate him from arrest and prosecution if the State establishes a case against him. With overwhelming evidences now pointing at him as the ultimate source of the hierarchical breakdown that led to the monumental squandering of the nation’s resources, I believe that Goodluck Jonathan should be arrested and charged accordingly.
To serve as a deterrent, Jonathan should join the likes of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva, Philipines Gloria Macapagal – Arroyo and such others in facing charges for stealing from their own people or to have been seen to have aided and abetted corrupt practices. Perish all these talk about reaching back in time to investigate and arrest others before Jonathan. That is only a call to mischief and anarchy. For now, we have to start somewhere. With someone. And that someone is Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the immediate past president of Nigeria.
Only there and then will Nigerians get the message – that never again will it be business as usual. And that we have entered an era when sacred cows must be slaughtered.
That is my story. And I stand by it.
Charles Anyiam is Editor-In-Chief, The African Times-USA.