President Goodluck Jonathan stirred the hornets’ nest and incurred the wrath of a cross section of Nigerians last week. The bone of contention was the President’s response to a journalist’s question during a media parley on Sunday, June 29th, 2012. The press chat itself was hurriedly put together in a bid to mollify and assuage the wrath of Nigerians who had developed a sense of indignation on account of the President’s visit to a foreign country with his wife, the new-look Dame Patience. It was not the visit to Brazil on an official engagement that caused the massive indignation of the citizenry but rather the President decided to embark on such a foreign trip in spite of the vale of tears all over the country as a result of the serial suicide bombings of Christian worship centres in Kaduna, Jos and other places coupled with the revenge attacks that arose in the aftermath of the mayhem. At least three churches were bombed in Kaduna and Zaria thus leaving over a hundred people dead. In the same vein, a group of rampaging Christian youths carried out a revenge attack in which a number of people also died. It was in the midst of this national calamity and mourning that our President and the First Lady, Dame Patience, jetted off to Brazil for a summit with other world leaders. To most Nigerians, the president’s visit though official, was seen as a jamboree, a picnic and yet some extremists labelled it a belated honeymoon. Livid with rage as they wept inconsolably on the tragedy that had befallen the nation, a cross section of Nigerians had vowed to engage in a civil defiance to protest the president’s cavalier and perfunctory approach to a national disaster. Immediately he returned from the jamboree, the media networks announced that the President would be hosting a media chat with a select group of journalists. The news was a balm that soothed frayed nerves as people hoped that the president would seize the occasion to apologize profusely for his misdemeanor of playing the Emperor Nero who fiddled while Rome was in conflagration.
The press chat kicked off in an upbeat mood and the president exuded confidence, poise, and grace as he responded to the questions briskly and with alacrity. Then suddenly an inquisitive and naughty journalist posed a question which reads something like this: “Why have you not publicly declared your asset as was done by the Late President Musa Yar’Adua in 2007”? It was at this point that the cookies crumbled and our president lost his bearing and virtually descended to the market square to dance naked. Hear the President’s reply: “it is personal and I don’t give a damn about that. The law is clear about it and so making it public is no issue and I will not play into the hands of the people. I have nothing to hide. I declared under the President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua because he did it, but it is not proper. I could be investigated when I leave office. You don’t need to publicly declare it and it is a matter of principle. It is not the president declaring asset that will change the country”. Ordinarily, the question is harmless and simple because, in actuality, President Jonathan has satisfied the constitutional requirement in regard to asset declaration. There is no legal obligation on him to declare his asset publicly. So, he has not violated any section of the Constitution. All he needed do was to amplify this fact and perhaps state that since the constitutional amendment was ongoing the National Assembly may consider the mood of the electorate and, perhaps, provide a clause for public officers and politicians to declare their assets publicly; that would have ended the matter. After that encounter Nigerians who are victims of amnesia would never remember to ask the question again. He would have succeeded in passing the buck to the National Assembly and, of course, Nigerians know that a NASS that is full of “corrupt armed robbers” would never ever pass a Bill to legalize public declaration of assets. This is because if some of the members of NASS or the political class declare their assets publicly, there will be instant earth tremor which may catalyze a revolution in which most of them will perish. Another reason that made the President’s remark a shock is his academic antecedents. He holds a Ph.D. in Zoology, so, he is a scientist and on a good day the degree, even the first degree, attests that the holder is found worthy in character and learning. So, where is the character of a well educated President who descends to the arena to address his countrymen in the language of street urchins, guttersnipes and Almajiris. In this country where what is in vogue is the Queens English, most people of Jonathan’s class avoid the word “damn” like a plaque. It is often used in colloquial/informal discussions and completely avoided in serious/academic fora. If the President’s response had come from the like of Senator Bola Tinubu or Muhammadu Buhari, most Nigerians would not have bothered because these are men who are known as adepts in toxic and reckless use of words. But Nigerians have, in spite of real or perceived shortcomings and inadequacies, regarded President Goodluck Jonathan as a thoroughbred and disciplined academic who must of necessity guard his diction while making public utterances. They expect him to talk with caution and finesse, in spite of the odds against him. After his tetchy posture and the toxic comment on that media chat, the trust and dignity which Nigerians had on the him simply plummeted.
Since this statement was made by the President, a Tsunami of anger has swept through the nation. Nigerians are unable to come to terms with the emerging fact that their erstwhile perceived eaglet President who was alleged not to have big biceps has eventually developed big biceps, giant forearms and broad chest to boot. President Jonathan who told the nation that he did not need to be a General, a Hitler, or a Pharaoh to be a great President has finally become a Dracula, Hitler, Pharaoh and a Field Marshal rolled into one combative frame. In his present combative and militant mien, President Goodluck Jonathan has put the like of Professor David West to shame for describing him as incapable of ruling Nigeria because he did not have big biceps. Now that our erstwhile feeble and fragile President has become rugged enough to bare his fangs, we hope he can now perform such feats as getting the like of Buhari, Ciroma, Babangida, Lawal Kaita and several others who are the brains behind the ongoing Boko Haram menace arrested and incarcerated in Kirikiri maximum prison or Calabar Prisons where Chief Awolowo was incarcerated on the grounds that he engaged in subversive activities-the same offence which the Buhari and Babangida groups are committing now.
We also hope that our new Pharaoh who no longer gives a damn to anything should be courageous enough to suspend, if not entirely abrogating, the National Youth Service Corps Scheme (NYSC), an initiative that has outlived its usefulness of bonding the nation together. It is unconscionable to deploy the vulnerable youths from the south to an instant death chamber by asking them to serve the NYSC in Boko Haram enclaves in the North of Nigeria.
It is the height of cowardice and insensitivity to the mood of the nation that the Goodluck Jonathan-led government continues to deploy young graduates to do their national service in Boko Haram states, even when they((the Boko Harams) have sounded have said it loud and clear that “western education is evil”. The least we can say here is that the blood of any youth corper who perishes in this cotroversial exercise should be on the head of Goodluck and his generation of politicians. For the umpteenth time, it is my advice that President Jonathan should do himself a great favour by effecting critical amendments in the NYSC Act. Let those in the south serve there while those in the Boko Haram states serve there. Why should gold be given to those who don’t know the value? President Jonathan will be subjecting himself to grave danger if he turns a blind eye while the blood of defenceless young graduates are spilled in the streets by the Almajiris and Boko Harams of the North. There is not even one State in the North that is not volatile. A word is enough for the wise. I want to assure Jonathan that picking up the Buharis for interrogations on their role on the ongoing suicide bombing in the North will not make the heavens to fall.But pray,has this NYSC not outlived its perceived usefulness? In delivering her judgment on November 10, 1993 in which the Interim National Government of Ernest Shonekan was declared illegal and unconstitutional, Justice Dolapo Funlola Akinsanya, a then Lagos High Court Judge, deposed in Latin”Fiat Justitia ruat coelum” which in regular English means:”Let Justice be done, even though the heavens fall” and the heavens have never fallen. So, now that President Jonathan does “not give a damn”, he should be courageous enough to round up all those politicians who threatened to make governance impossible, should Goodluck Jonathan win the 2011 Presidential election. If he does that, the heavens will not fall and he should not “give a damn” to the consequences. His new found sense of intrepidity should be put to good use now. But why in spite of that epic judgment which was delivered by Justice Dolapo Akinsanya on November 10, 1993, Ernerst Shonekan still parades himself as a former Head of State and member Council of State? Was he ever a Head of State, more so, since his Interim National Government(ING) was declared illegal? I hope that President Goodluck Jonathan should take judicial notice of this observation and refer it to the Attorney General of the Federation for necessary action, more so, now that the Constitutional amendment is ongoing. Well, sorry for the digression, albeit a strong point
Perhaps, there is a need for President Jonathan to borrow a leaf from the former President Obasanjo’s tenacity of purpose in checkmating the malaise of impunity among the political appointees and even the national Assembly members. In spite of his (GEJ) riposte during the media chat that he does “not give a damn” about what people say, it is in his interest to know that the people of the South of this country are not satisfied with his inability to confront the bogey of Boko Harams of the North and the impunity of the like of Buhari, Babangida and even Bola Tinubu. The Christians are not happy that a President who does “not give a damn” is unable to declare a state of emergency in the whole of the NORTH of Nigeria. The State of emergency declared in a handful of Local government Areas in some states is laughable and only shows that the president is either acting out of fear or he is ignorant of the enormity of the crises in his country. The sacked National Security Adviser, General Patrick Aziza (retd), had persistently pointed fingers at Buhari as the architect of the ongoing pandemic of insecurity in the North and he advised that Buhari should be picked up for interrogations. Unfortunately, instead of carrying out the recommendation of General Aziza, he was sacked and replaced with a retired BOKO Haram General. Perhaps, there is a need to emphasize that the Boko Haram Group has the tacit support of the like of BUHARIS and Babangidas as well as some of the EMIRS of the North. Has President Jonathan forgotten that shortly before the upsurge of BOKO Haram activities, the Sultan of Sokoto had condemned the rising profile of Christian evangelism in the North and even called on Muslims to checkmate the perceived excesses of the Christian Groups in the North? This information is an open secret which is in the public domain. In Pakistan, the political and religious leaders there hid Osama Bin Laden who was notorious for the AL Qaeda/9/11 tragedy in U.S and pretended that they did not know of his whereabouts. But when U. S troops hunted him down in a highbrow area of Pakistan and battered him with bullets, it became clear in the end that it was not a cold, dank Afghan cave that sheltered the world’s most wanted man, Osama bin Laden. He was hidden in a huge million-dollar enclave in Abbottabad, Pakistan, with far too much security and 18-foot high walls for about 10 years So, by extrapolation, some of the emirs and Sheikhs of the Muslim North are aiding and abetting the present cankerworm of Boko Haram and the unprovoked attacks on the Christian Community in the North. Once again, the least President Jonathan can do now is to direct the NYSC leaders to post the Youth Corpers from the South to serve in the South while the Northern Corpers serve in the North. Anything short of this is an invitation to anarchy, mayhem and blood letting. It is a barefaced invitation of the ARAB Spring pandemonium in Nigeria. If however the Presidency remains recalcitrant, leaders of the South should order all the Youth Corpers from the South to withdraw from the programme. After all, the instinct of self preservation is the strongest instinct in man.
I t is pertinent to remind the reader that shortly after being sworn in as the Vice President together with President Musa Yar’Adua on May 29,2007,the then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan, reluctantly capitulated to public pressure and made public his asset declaration. President Musa Yar’Adua had earlier voluntarily made public his asset declaration to the Code of Conduct Bureau.
The assets which were made public by the senior Special Assistant to the Vice president on Media and Public Affairs, Ima Niboro, revealed that the value of the Vice president,Goodluck Jonathan’s total assets and cash in banks stands at N295,304,420. This is about N561, 148,472 less than the assets declared by President Umaru Yar’Adua who declared his total assets to be at the value of N856,452,892.
Mr. Iniboro said:”the vice president’s decision to make public his assets declaration was to show that there is nothing to hide”. He added that the vice president is ‘a firm believer in the rule of law and this has guided his conduct in office through the years. “It is this belief that also guided his position that having declared his assets for a total of seven times, there was no point in going further to publish the declaration”. The vice president’s aide regretted that “the position of the vice president not to make public his assets declaration had generated an unfortunate storm, which is not only distractive but also quite unnecessary”.
We are worried that some newspapers and citizens we hold in high esteem have joined in the fray.
This merely shows that in the affairs of man, there comes a time when even the law must take a second place and the public mood must define our actions. To The Vice president, this is such a time, hence the choice to send you a copy of his declaration for publication” he said.
After bowing to public pressure to make public his asset declaration to the Code of Conduct Bureau in 2007, one would have expected President Jonathan to have voluntarily made his asset declaration public after he was sworn in as President on May, 29, 2011. There is a need to clarify that President Jonathan declared his assets to the Code of Conduct Bureau in conformity with Constitutional requirements. However, what the public is asking him to do is to make the asset declaration public. The Constitution does not require him to make it public. While the President is free to keep his secret secret, he loses the moral integrity to ask any reasonable member of the electorate to cast a vote for him in any election soon. The only explanation for President Jonathan’s fear in declaring his assts openly is that he is even afraid of the assets he might have achieved since the last declaration.