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Jonathan’s innocence

By   /  March 4, 2014  /  No Comments

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If the society today allows wrongs to go unchallenged, the impression is created that those wrongs have the approval of the majority – Barbara Jordan.

President Goodluck Jonathan has always been a façade, and he basks in it. That façade is innocence. In his gait and simper, he affects the persona of childhood, and whenever he wants Nigerians to perceive him, he wants us to think of him first as an innocent. A man, in his grey years of the fifties, in his full Niger Delta outfit complete with the hat, still conveys the diaper sentiment.

It is not for nothing that his only memorable quote is that he grew up without shoes. Or, to others, that he does not want to be called a pharaoh, etc, which also conveys the personality of the dove.

A few days ago, he failed in trying to do that, although he tried. He asked Lamido Sanusi, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor and vicar of our financial soul, to proceed on suspension. This followed an earlier conversation with Sanusi in which he asked the imperious heir to the Kano throne to resign. The man said he would not and the President needed the Senate to effect his designs.

The President bided his time, consulted his lawyers, and they told him he could suspend him. Since he had a few months left in the saddle, Sanusi could not return before June when his term expired. Practically, the suspension was a sack.

That would be sack through the back door, a serpentine ambush. That is innocence, Jonathan style. “All things truly wicked start from innocence,” crooned American novelist of precision, Ernest Hemmingway.

How to effect this? He would organise an investigation that neither the National Assembly nor the Nigerian public would be aware of. The result would be quickly documented, and the charges would become indictment. So they charged him with financial recklessness and misconduct. They said he was reckless for contributing hefty money to education, as if it was not part of the corporate responsibility to the society for a CBN that made an income of about N600 billion for the Federation Account under him. The CBN endowed chairs and contributed to some universities. The innocent man did not like that even though in his full term as president, no one university has advanced in any area and he has no significant track record. Yet, Sanusi erred for continuing a tradition that even his predecessor Charles Soludo participated in.

They charged him with spending more money, about N38 billion on Nigerian mint, than the budget for Nigerian mint company. They did not look at the figures well because it is not Nigerian Mint Company alone that prints our money but other countries around the world also do it for us. They forget that the man cut down the cost of printing in his tenure from close to N50 billion for the same purpose. They accuse him of spending money on Boko Haram victims, as though to indict him for spending institutional money on his kinsmen in the North. But check the record. Most of the beneficiaries were Christians from the South. The CBN contributed about half a billion to flood victims and he helped mobilise banks to give one billion for that purpose.

They said he spent money on Emirates Airlines to ship money within the country, and Emirates is an international company. But they were a little too excited or else they should have distinguished between Emirates Airlines and Emirate Touch, a local concern.

For a president who delights in making pilgrimages from church to church and attracting the image of a lamb to himself, he should have done a little homework, or asked his men to be a little thorough with his work.

He carried the game against Sanusi to a serpentine venom. It is in his style to act as though he did not act. He was only responding to the charges and so he sent the man on suspension, so the matter could be investigated.

Really? The former aviation minister’s case was being investigated while she clucked in office. She even travelled with him on a Christian pilgrimage to the land of our Lord. No one pressured him to rid the CBN of Sanusi, but he let him go. Pressures mounted relentlessly over Oduah. He merely said the report was on his table. Up till the time of writing, he has not acted on it. She is still innocent and the President knows a lot about that. She was removed from office not on the ground of her malfeasance but because, like other ministers, they had to pursue some other personal goals.

If you suspend after charges are levelled, why are the other two angels of Jonathan still in office? The one, is the minister of petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke, and the finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Sanusi charged that $20 billion cannot be accounted for. Three important officers are involved. The finance minister, oil minister and Andrew Yakubu, the group managing director of the NNPC. None of them has been asked to go on suspension. The money at stake is close to N5 trillion, and that is the budget for a whole year.

If N5 trillion is spent prudently in a year, most of our major roads will be in perfect shape, all our hospitals will not lack basic equipment, the schools up to the universities will be well funded and equipped and industries in full throttle and the jobs will be available for more than half of our restive youths today.

Yet, Sanusi’s only wrong seems to be that he wanted us to look into this money and he is being punished for it?

Sanusi’s style is the contrast to the president. He is direct, frank and has been accused of reckless volubility. That is true. He has been more than a little flamboyant for his sober position, and some of his utterances make him more of a gladiator than an accountant. He was hasty about the charge of $48.9 billion, which was cut down to $10.8 billion, amounting to N2 trillion. Yet, he was right to unveil the matter as he saw it. If he were quiet, we would not know of that hefty sum. He has said he did not leak the letter he wrote sounding the alarm of the missing money. Who knows? But the letter had reached the President about three months before it was leaked. Why the presidential tardiness or inaction?

Some have also said that after raising the alarm, he should have resigned. It is a matter of style. The argument is that he could not be in government and fight from within. They miss the point. The CBN governor is no staff of the President. The President enjoys the privilege to nominate him, and there is a reason why the same law denies him the right to fire him. After all, the CBN governor does not report to the President but the National Assembly.

The prerogative to appoint derives from the inability to confer that right on the lawmakers because of its rowdy potential, or the judiciary being the judge. You cannot be a judge in your own cause. Being the head of the executive branch the President can nominate him. But that is where it ends.

The CBN also plays a role to check and report the financials of the executive and that is why the President cannot show power over him once the Senate hires him. In fact, it is the Senate that hires the CBN governor. The President merely suggests subject to the wisdom of the Senate. If the office of the auditor general of the federation had not been crippled, it should be checkmating an executive on a financial frolic.

Therefore, the suspension was an act of serpentine impunity, a firing from the back door. He took liberties with his presidential powers and licensed himself to violate an institution over which he has no powers.

He knew he fired him, hence he promptly appointed a successor at the same time he appointed the acting governor.

Obviously the move was to divert attention from the $20 billion, so we can start saying “why is a corrupt Sanusi accusing Jonathan of corruption? Is it not a case of the pot calling the kettle black?” But if he was sure of his charges against Sanusi, why did he not bring it to the floor of the National Assembly so the nation can dig and know the truth about any footloose financing?

As lawyers say, the President went to equity but where are the clean hands!

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