Mr. President, declare publicly now
IT is an axiom that integrity is the quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to moral principles. A lot has been said and written to affirm that President Buhari possesses a good dose of integrity.
Everything about him shows it. His lifestyle does. His speeches and promises do.
What we hear he tells his political associates when he discusses with them attest to it. Most Nigerians who voted for him and those who did not, think he is an embodiment of integrity and commitment towards the wellbeing of our dear country.
How about his political opponents especially those in the PDP? They too agree, even if clandestinely, that a messiah is now in the saddle. And that he will tackle corruption headlong. I totally agree that Buhari has a strong character. He is a good man. Doubtlessly, he is. But I am worried. And many are, about this faulty start – the non-public declaration of his assets.
So what really happened? What went wrong? Why did Buhari change his mind? How can our dear president start the fulfilment of his myriad of promises – the first, with reneging? Or did he forget that during the painstaking electioneering campaign, he said he was going to declare his assets publicly? Does he not appreciate the fact that, that singular pronouncement demonstrates how impeccably incorruptible he is? Does he not know that it showcases a remarkable moral edge he perceptibly has over his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan? Does he not know that not a few Nigerians voted for him for reason of this promise, voluntarily made?
Many have said there is no constitutional compulsion in public declaration of assets. That, I agree with. But not a few also think it is not just a constitutional matter but an amalgam of morality and constitutionality. And in this case, more of a moral issue because the president, without any pressure from even his political foes, promised so to do. No prompting from anybody.
Do we not remember that Yar’Adua did declare publicly and that Jonathan did not? And that Jonathan was lampooned with the strongest of languages especially by the media and then opposition parties?
What is baffling here is that the star-studded APC will allow the president to make this grave first-step mistake. Where are the Lai Mohammeds, the Tinubus, the Oyeguns et al? In fact Lai Mohammed, the National Publicity Secretary of APC, would have found the most not-too-decent grammatical constructs to describe this bungle, if Jonathan was at the centre of this discourse.
No columnist of a particular newspaper would have spared the former president. One would like to read their defence of President Buharis’s choice of action on this. But in whatever way anybody views it, the president will be creating an impression of a moral deficit, Nigerians are made to believe, he cannot be associated with, if not quickly corrected. I am sure Femi Adesina, the say-it-as-I-feel former Managing Director of the Sun Newspaper and now in Aso Rock, as presidential spokesman, must be uncomfortable with this development.
Or can he (Femi) not see that the president is beginning to go back on his words which we thought were his bonds? Can he not see that Before the Cock Crows, to use the title of his 15th May piece in the Sun, Buhari may be abandoning his promise faster than Jonathan’s friends are abandoning him, if not checked? Nigerians must fervently pray he does not go this undesired direction ultimately.
Mr. President should do the needful – declare publicly now. It is a promise waiting for full fulfilment! That alone will send shivers into the spine of would-be corrupt officers of his administration. So he must do it. Nothing else can suffice. After all, he has nothing to hide. He is sparklingly clean. If not reversed, this initial faltering may send negative signals into the inner recesses of Nigerians.
• Victor Asianah writes from Port Harcourt.