President Jonathan Is Fighting A War Against Corruption? Ha! Ha! Ha!

Posted: May 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

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By Ogaga Ifowodo

Caught in a perfect “go-slow” traffic on the Third Mainland Bridge, two Lagos friends decide to let out steam through every Nigerian’s favourite pastime. “Hey, Raufu, have you heard? President Goodluck Jonathan is fighting a war against corruption.”

 

Ha! Ha! Ha!” bellows Raufu, thoroughly amused.

 

“Want to know what is even funnier?”

 

“What?” asks Raufu, who, as you might guess, is not only an angry man but also a hungry citizen, having to subsist on a dollar or N150 per day while said war-against-corruption president makes do with a paltry N235,000.

 

“According to his National Assembly liaison, Joy Emordi, Jonathan says he won’t spare any of the oil thieves that scammed the country to the tune of trillions of naira.”

 

“Well, obviously the president told his Attorney-General and Minister of Justice something else. No one will be prosecuted, the A-G said. Due process, you know. The Farouk Lawan probe panel had merely performed a ‘fact-finding’ mission. Further and necessary investigations will have to be conducted by ‘all relevant agencies of the government’ before charges can be filed.”

 

“But why does Jonathan insist that he is fighting a war against corruption? If so, he should begin the war against himself.”

 

“And start with his feeding allowance. Did you hear? He has cut it by N90 million. It is now down to only N857 million a year. I think we should ask him not to bother. His predecessor, Musa Yar’Adua, died in office of natural causes; we mustn’t let Jonathan die of starvation.”

 

Why does the president of a country paid the highest official salary need to be fed free of charge?  Those who may feed at public expense are the lowest income or no-income earners, the poorest of the poor. Which would mean about seventy percent of the population. The social and fiscal cost in health, petty crime and diminished production due to reduced quality of labour, justifies the expense, even if you don’t care for the moral point of it: no one should starve when there is enough for all. Of course the rich will always have choice fare but a full stomach for all irrespective of what fills it  —  caviar or cassava, grilled steak or guguru and groundnuts  —  is a moral obligation for any humane society.

 

Which is why Jonathan must stop feeding on the people, literally, if he knows what corruption is. He must remove the grilled leg of a cow in his mouth before he can point to the bits of tripe between anyone’s teeth. And just what manner of food does the fisherman’s son eat these days? Not even an elephant and a tonne of oysters a day—should he, his family and many guests have extraordinary tastes and appetites—would cost a billion naira a year.  Is his garri or semovita made of gold-dust? Does his own cassava bread, the new staple food he launched recently, come with a diamond crust? I mean, he has to be eating the very gems of food! And while we are at it, what law of the land that can stand constitutional scrutiny—if we leave the moral question aside for a moment—says that the president or other high political office holders have to be fed at public expense? If the law exists, then fairness and equity demand that every citizen be entitled to a food allowance. After all, it is their money!

 

Among the many reasons why Jonathan cannot fool anyone with a purported war against corruption is his absolute lack of moral authority. Some might say it is rather a lack of political will, but surely will is useless without the moral grounds on which to exercise it. It is moral authority that gives muscle to political will. When a leader is above board, he can act boldly without fear of blackmail. Then he can say that there will be no sacred cows, since the most sacred cow, the head of state himself, has sharpened his sword on the moral whetstone. This is why Yar’Adua could not proceed against the Ogidigborigbo of Her Majesty’s prison in Wandsworth, James Ibori. Much of the loot that bought Yar’Adua and the PDP the presidency in 2007 came from Ibori’s stolen billions. It is why General Obasanjo, who also mouthed the “no sacred cow” and “zero tolerance” slogans, would disregard the evidence already compiled by Pius Okigbo and demand proof that General Babangida is living above his legitimate means from the ordinary citizens insisting on accountability.

 

But it is not only the immoral fleecing of the people by way of an astounding food budget that corrupts and compromises Jonathan. When finally he was cajoled into declaring his assets, we learned that in the short period that he stopped being a university lecturer and became deputy governor, governor and vice president, he had amassed a N295 million fortune! Well, five years hence and now chief keeper of the nation’s purse, how much more has his fortune grown? And how clever and revealing the words of his A-G telling the named culprits of the greatest corruption scandal of the Jonathan era that they need not worry about a knock on their door by the knuckles of justice! Because prosecution of the corrupt has so often been inept, sabotaged from within many believe, he is choosing to move slowly. “Experience has shown that whenever our law enforcement agencies are stampeded to arraign suspects, the end result is usually the discharge of such suspects by the courts ostensibly for want of evidence,” says the A-G. Very “humbly,” he urges us to “patiently wait for the outcome of the investigations and subsequent prosecutions that may flow” from the probe already conducted by the House of Representatives and “the ongoing probe” by the Senate. The A-G has mastered the playbook of his predecessor, Michael Aondoakaa. He knows that time flies. So there will be one investigation panel after another, followed by a panel to review the reports and make recommendations to the president for immediate implementation, then the wait for the government’s white paper on the accepted findings and recommendations (as a rule, the least important ones), etc. Soon enough, a new scandal or the blood wars of another (s)election process would top the agenda. No thief will have been charged, or if charged, the government would fight very hard for victory: dismissal of charges for want of diligent prosecution! I will eat a Jonathan-size bowler hat if by the end of this government any oil subsidy thief, individual or corporate, has been tried and convicted through the A-G’s “due process.”

 

What was it that The Economist, which could not tire of praising Jonathan’s courage in deciding to end “oil subsidies,” said in its 3 December 2011 issue about the war on corruption? That what is needed are “dragon slayers,” not the mere sacking of Farida Waziri as head of EFCC. Though, by conservative estimates, $4 billion to $8 billion is stolen from the coffers every year, “not a single politician is serving a prison sentence for corruption or embezzlement.” It remains to be seen, the magazine continued, “whether  Mr Jonathan really wants to fight graft or will merely switch people around to keep his critics guessing.”  Four months later, the same magazine notes the “feeble attempts to clean up Nigerian politics.” No, Messrs Economist, we are not guessing at all. On the contrary, we know that His Excellency, Dr (none of that mister business here, please) Goodluck Jonathan, never meant to clean up our politics. Or fight graft, whatever that means.  And we are reminded of it by A-G Adoke’s choice of passive and conditional diction: “subsequent prosecutions that may flow from the fuel subsidy probe.” May, not will.

Moreover, we have looked closely and cannot see anything in Jonathan’s demeanour that speaks of a fire-breathing dragon out to chase corruption to its hiding holes. “When you know that there is a 99 percent chance you would be caught when you steal and 100 percent chance that you would go to jail, you won’t steal,” said Jonathan’s minister of National Planning, Shamsudeen Usman, before the oil subsidy sleaze. Nigeria’s jails are full of convicts, just no politician, contract-monger or oil subsidy scammer among them. Jonathan as the corruption dragon slayer? Ha! Ha! Ha!

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