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Where is ex-President Goodluck Jonathan? – By Dele Momodu

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“If the  Buhari  government is  determined and  ready to take its pound of flesh… it would be difficult to jail  the messengers  and let the master who sent  them on irrational errands  go scot free.” – Quoted

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 t 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.

Dele Momodu


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