Fellow Nigerians, I’m surprised that no one has asked about the wellbeing, welfare and whereabouts of our dear former President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan. Are we so wicked and uncaring that we have forgotten the gentleman who brought us fresh air so soon? Do we truly suffer from “collective amnesia” (apologies Wole Soyinka) that no one is coming up in defence of the man who brought FaceBook to Africa’s biggest nation? Where are all those acolytes who were falling all over themselves this time last year during the Presidential campaigns? Where are the royal fathers from different parts of Nigeria who were decorating our President with all kinds of esoteric Chieftaincy titles?
Where are the experts who were churning out endless statistics about how God had blessed us with the greatest President Nigeria ever knew? What happened to all the economic magicians who claimed that former President Jonathan had propelled us to the pinnacle of the temple and proclaimed that in consequence we were Africa’s numero uno economy? Where are the priests, pastors, alfas, Imams, marabouts, traditional worshippers, and all manner of religious personages who trumpeted that Ebele Goodluck Jonathan was the anointed of God at the 2015 Presidential elections? Where are the 14 million farmers who were connected by mobile phones in our season of unprecedented Agricultural Revolution? Where are the plentiful loaves of cassava bread and the myriad of rice pyramids that we were told littered everywhere? Where are the ultra-modern air-conditioned trains that we were told travelled from Lagos to Kafanchan, to Kano and Enugu? Where is the second Niger Bridge; and the strategic East-West road?
I have too many questions begging for answers but I will limit myself to only that relating to former President Goodluck Jonathan. I’m just trying to imagine the state of his mind at this terrible moment. I’m not a psychologist but I can attempt to play the role of one by doing some psychoanalysis of the man who left power under one year ago only to witness that things have literally fallen apart with his legacy completely obliterated in the twinkle of an eye. In case you think I’m mucking around and mocking our former President, please perish the thought. I’m more of a sympathiser who would wish to draw sumptuous lessons from the tragedy that befell our former leader. From what I can see so far, President Jonathan as a person is a good man who was fortunate to have been able to effortlessly navigate and meander his way through the murky waters of Nigerian politics to arrive at the topmost position in Nigeria. He was obviously ill-prepared for power and governance and when it landed on his laps he hardly knew what to do with it. He was like a student who was too favoured and over-pampered by his lecturers until he had to write external exams and get exposed to the real world.
I’m certain, President Jonathan could not have bargained for the hurricane that has hit him. When he conceded and congratulated the then President-elect, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, he must have looked forward to a life of bliss in retirement. But what is happening now is the worst nightmare for a man who had been compared to Mahatma Ghandi, Lee Kuan Yew and Nelson Mandela.
I don’t know how this cacophony of allegations and babel of counter-allegations would end or subside but I am convinced President Goodluck Jonathan would have to speak up sooner than later. The reason is simple. I expect his embattled foot-soldiers to put all the blame on him as the one who authorised the disbursement of our common wealth by the most generous government in human history. As to the sharing of the bazaar, let’s be fair, how many people are there who would have been paid those stupendous sums and would reject the money or ask where it was coming from.
At the end of the day, the former President would have to bear his own cross and come out clean and accept the blame. As the saying goes the buck stops at number one! I’m not sure apologies would suffice at the stage things have reached especially if the Buhari government is determined and ready to take its pound of flesh. In my view, it would be difficult to jail the messengers and let the master who sent them on irrational errands go scot free. That is the dilemma President Buhari would have to grapple with in the not too distant future. Would Buhari in good conscience be able to jail a former Nigerian President if indeed there was an agreement not to probe and punish the man? Will he be able to ignore the fact that this was a man who, uncharacteristically, voluntarily relinquished power after losing an election and was heralded by the whole world as an apostle of peaceful and democratic change in Africa? It is a tough question that only President Buhari can answer.
The other poser is, how much of the wasted or looted funds can be recovered? I think from the experience of the past, it may not amount to much after all. The litigations are going to go on ad infinitum and some of the alleged culprits may actually escape punishment on technical and other grounds. The EFCC under the energetic and passionate Mallam Nuhu Ribadu was faced with such frustration. There is no other way to punish anyone under the law without going to court. That is the democratic way. It is the democratic way that former President Jonathan embraced, leading him to loosen his hold on power. And it is the democratic way that brought this our new President Buhari to power. There is thus no other way but to follow the judicial process and the principles of natural justice that flow therefrom. Those campaigning for extra-judicial prosecution and conviction may soon reach a cul-de-sac. You can keep the guys indefinitely in detention but how will that bring back the money. The truth is that the worst form of corruption is abuse of office and the impunity that it begets. That was the basis of the unbridled corruption that enveloped the Jonathan administration. If it remains unchecked, it will not be long before this present government also succumbs and becomes engulfed by the corruption it is professing to fight. Then we would have come full circle without anything to show for it, not even a wee part of our plundered wealth.
I think the biggest mistake of this government was the policy of saying people should not pay foreign currencies into their accounts. This has deprived the government of springing a surprise on those who would have kept their loot in Nigeria. It is now too late to expect those people to pay these foreign currencies into their accounts because of the policy reversal apparently foisted upon us by the visit of the IMF team. I am certain most of those monies have escaped our shores and no matter the anti- money laundering agreements we sign, those foreign countries are not likely to repatriate the funds at a time the world economy is almost comatose. This is another example of the need by all spheres of government to think through policies before they are announced. There have been too many policy somersaults by our apex financial regulatory bodies in recent time to augur well for our ailing economy. Negative signals have been sent by government to investors and citizens both at home and abroad and this has further increased the pain and burden of Nigerians.
My personal advice is for government to work harder at getting back most of the money that has been stolen or misappropriated, as a matter of top priority. President Buhari may have to enter into unpleasant compromises to achieve this, but such is life. There is no point wasting the little resources now available to us on prosecuting and jailing criminals without getting something substantial out of the exercise.
I pray and wish that President Goodluck Jonathan can redeem his erstwhile government a bit by appealing to his men and women and convincing them to return the atrocious sums of money which they stole without the fear of God. He should save Nigeria from this unnecessary ordeal of trying to compel refund of the filthy lucre and allow this government to settle down and concentrate on the serious business of governance.
I know this would come as a surprise to one of Nigeria’s most respected and respectable retired army Generals but I believe we must always show gratitude to those who touch our lives hoping that others would emulate such acts of selflessness. Let me go straight to my gist.
I had called Senator Mrs Daisy Danjuma sometime last year seeking an appointment with her husband, Lt. General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma. My mission was simple but not seemingly so easy to achieve. I wanted “General” as we all call him to write a foreword to my forthcoming book titled PENDULUM: A Book of Prophecies. “Aunty Daisy” as we call the amiable Senator told me the General was in Abuja but should be back the following day. I promised to drop one of the special draft copies for the General. Indeed, I had presented one copy to President Muhammadu Buhari when he invited me to the Presidential villa in Abuja.
I went to the Danjumas hoping to drop the book and run but Aunty Daisy said the General just returned from Abuja and would like to see me briefly before retiring upstairs. I entered the house and personally handed him my book. He told me it might take him a few months to read and then decide whether he would pen the foreword or not. The General has never been known to hide words under the tongue; he is very blunt and straight-forward. I told him I would wait patiently for his decision. He said he had many books to read and that he had just bought President Olusegun Obasanjo’s latest books to add to his reading list, that very day. I saw a man who relished knowledge and reading and I knew I had come to the right person.
I had good reason to choose the General. I had previously identified him as an intellectual and avid reader of my column. He had surprised me on one occasion when I attended his annual birthday celebration on December 9, in Victoria Island, Lagos. In the middle of the merriment, General pulled me aside and said: “I’m a great fan of your column because you write so well and logically… I think I missed the last two and I’ve just told my wife to make sure she gets it from you…” I was deeply touched by the compliment.
I have been a family friend of the Danjumas for about 15 years and Senator Danjuma has become my big sister to the extent that I am invited to and welcomed in their homes in Abuja, Lagos, Surrey and Marbella at any time. It has been a privilege knowing the man of few words who retired from the military with a glowing record and high esteem. Since then, he has taken to the boardroom with consummate ease and has remained one of the most astute financial players in Africa. What is more, the General has committed a substantial chunk of his immense fortune acquired from his numerous businesses to charity. He is a man of impeccable taste and academic nobility. He reads voraciously and his libraries are well-stocked. His selection, and collection, of world music is amazing. He carries himself with so much grace and panache.
My patience in relation to the foreword to my book eventually paid off two weeks ago when I suddenly got a call from Senator Daisy Danjuma after I had almost given up. She said the General would like to speak with me and put him on the line. The General told me that he had read the book and he had found it so “fantastic” that he had agreed to author the foreword. There was only one word he wants me to change.
I was very grateful and excited. I have since picked up the work from his Lagos home and, by the grace of God, the book should be ready for publication and circulation shortly. There are a few other books that are almost ready and we should celebrate a festival of books from me this year.
Exciting times are coming.