Agenda for President Jonathan
His words: “…In this regard our total commitment to Good Governance, Electoral Reform and the fight against Corruption would be pursued with greater vigor. As I had stated time and again, we must enshrine the best standards in our democratic practice. One of the true testes would be to ensure that all votes count and are counted in the upcoming General Elections. Similarly the effort at ensuring the sustenance of peace and development in the Niger Delta as well as the security of life and property around the entire country would be of top most priority in the remaining period of this administration.”
I had earlier observed that the totality of Nigerians most of whom have been improvised by the prolonged regimes of mis-governance, greed, avarice, and corruption on the part of political office holders, listened to the speech of the new president with unprecedented doubts and skepticism not necessarily because they have given up hope but surely because they have heard such promises and pledges from our political office holders who have ended up disappointing the generality of Nigerians. As good people who ordinarily do not want to rock the boat, Nigerians are ever ready to give the new president the benefit of the doubt in order to see if he will radically and fundamentally depart from the evil tradition by political office holders who have largely adopted the vicious lifestyle of doing exactly the opposites of their solemn pledges and promises.
Nigerians expect that as a man who has seen it all and has risen from the ranks to attain the position of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is aware that Nigeria although richly endowed with natural resources, has remained so backward in all spheres of life compared to other countries in the global community largely because of the unprecedented economic and political corruption in the country. It is therefore imperative that any agenda drawn by the president for execution without showing great determination to battle the hydra -headed monster of corruption in Nigeria will surely not meet the overriding public interest.
As the then acting president, Goodluck Jonathan unduly interfered in the activities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) at least at two different times. The current president as Acting President unduly manipulated the legal process at the Code of Conduct Tribunal using the office of the Federal Attorney General to scuttle an ongoing prosecution of erstwhile chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu when the federal Government abruptly ended a pending matter which alleged that the former accused person (Nuhu Ribadu) violated the provisions of the code of conduct for public officers when he allegedly failed to declare his assets before assuming office.
Government frantically sought to convince Nigerians that it ended Nuhu Ribadu’s prosecution in compliance with section 174(1) (c) of the 1999 constitution which provides that “the Attorney-General of the Federation shall have power to discontinue at any stage before judgment is delivered any such criminal proceedings instituted by any other authority or person”, but government has not sufficiently convinced Nigerians that the withdrawal met the international best practices and is in compliance with section 174(3)of the constitution which clearly tasked the Federal Attorney General to ensure that in exercising his power under this section he shall have regard to the public interest, the interest of Justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process.
Assuming without conceding that the withdrawal of the criminal charges against Mr. Ribadu was because the government discovered that it has no solid case against him, how do we explain the sharp coincidence that the withdrawal of the charges from the code of conduct Tribunal came about the same period that the then acting president visited the United States and held a high profile and widely celebrated meeting with Mr. Nuhu Ribadu. While I have absolutely nothing against Mr. Ribadu, the impression that has been created by this scenario is that you can get away with anything provided you have a friend in government. I ask: why did government spend millions of tax payers’ money to initiate a prosecution that it will inevitably withdraw?
Another case that has the potential of rubbishing any image left of the anti-graft agencies is that of the former minister of the Federal Capital Territory who recently returned from self imposed exile -Mr. Nassir El’Rufai. During his nearly two years’ stay abroad, he waged unrelenting public relations warfare against the Yar’adua/Jonathan federal administration, conversely, the anti-graft panel also filed a matter before the Federal High Court, Abuja division alleging diversion of several billions of tax payers’ money.
The hierarchy of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) headed by Farida Waziri spent millions of public funds traveling to the United States to wage counter public relations war-fare against the duo of Nasir El’Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu who cruised round the western world delivering lectures which rightly or wrongly painted the graphic picture that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under Farida Waziri was actually undermining the fight against corruption. After much noise, this accused person declared wanted by the anti-graft panel returned to Nigeria with pomp and pageantry but was not arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The former minister who was demonized and vilified during the life time of the late president Umaru Musa Yar’adua only a year ago, drove like a king to the premises of the anti-graft agency and dramatically drove home without arrest or arraignment. The impression this dramatic scene represents is that now that President Yar’adua is dead, Mr. Nasir El’Rufai is after all not a devil as the anti-graft panel made Nigerians to believe. Amid this emerging doubts on the sincerity of the anti-graft bodies to independently pursue their mandates because of undue and reckless interference from the executive arm of government, Nigerians are already expressing apprehensions and trepidations that corruption will take center stage since those who should fight it are deploying corrupt strategies to battle corruption. This is an irony.
Therefore, the good agenda for president Jonathan is for him to give unfettered independence to the anti-graft agencies to carry out their mandates, by appointing committed patriots to head the agencies and for him to use the few months left in the life of this administration to battle poverty, unemployment, crime rate and to give Nigerians regular electricity. He should play less partisan politics.
* Onwubiko is with Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria in Abuja.