I have watched carefully, with high expectation, but also with a tinge of regret, certain national developments since you were sworn-in as the democratically elected President of Nigeria on May 29, 2015. People have accused your government of lethargy.
Critics have pointed to a streak of favouritism, if not nepotism, in the precious few appointments you have so far managed. Some, even of your own political party – the All Progressives Congress (APC) – have openly expressed doubts as to whether the change promised to dawn with the inception of your administration is in any way remotely resembled to what is so far self-evident. None of these is of immediate concern to me here.
My interest, Mr. President, is more fundamental since it touches on the very soul of Nigerian democracy, which you solemnly promised to nurture and enhance.
It was former US President Harry S. Truman who often admonished that, “If you can’t stand the heat,get out of the kitchen.” His context was political, an arena in which blackmail, disinformation, excoriation and scaremongering aggregate as the common fare of partisanship.In that regard, any politician worth the name takes the cue and delivers as much as he receives, if not much more.
In my view, however, ournation’s fight against the cankerworm of corruption should, first and foremost, be a patriotic national service, not a schedule for partisan dogfights. Unfortunately, the indiscriminate and groundless invectives currently being spewed by your political apostles are in dissonance with the democratic ethos you promised Nigeria.They boil down to hysteria. And they are guaranteed to be counter-productive because they promote the fallacy that to be of service to one’s fatherland is mutually exclusive with malfeasance.
Please permit me, Mr. President, to quote a famous mantra of yours: “If Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.” The fight against corruption is many-pronged. But it does not include the demonisation of the innocent.
Unfortunately, some of your teammates have been on the rampage, leveling unwarranted and unsubstantiated charges against top functionaries of the administration you succeeded. For instance, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has been vitriolic in his attacks against a Minister in the Jonathan administration whose offence, so far, appears to be her agreement to serve her country of birth.
Does Oshiomhole not appreciate the possibility of the truly guilty escaping justice via the highway of distraction he is busily generating by his wild apportionment of guilt with neither concrete evidence nor rudimentary trial in a court of competent jurisdiction?
I raise for your consideration,and reversal, the interminable pillorying of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the immediate past Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance by, not the wayward social media, but GovernorOshiomhole and a few others associated with him. Nearly thirty years ago, the inappropriateness of lumping guilt and innocence in a single category of censure and penalty was roundly denounced in circumstances that can only remain vivid in your memory, dear Mr. President.
Thefollowing is apart of President Ibrahim Babangida’s inauguration speech of August 27, 1985, the day he toppled your military junta: “While this government recognises the bitterness created by the irresponsible excesses of the politicians, we consider it unfortunate that methods of such nature as to cause more bitterness were applied to deal with past misdeeds. We must never allow ourselves to lose our sense of natural justice.
The innocent cannot suffer the crimes of the guilty.”
How can we, in all sincerity, find ourselves again at the point of reminding Your Excellency that “We must never allow ourselves to lose our sense of natural justice”? Really, how can we, especially bearing in mind your solemn declaration at your inauguration on May 29, 2015, to wit: “Having just a few minutes ago sworn on the Holy Book, I intend to keep my oath and serve as President to all Nigerians. I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody.”
I crave your indulgence to briefly examine a religious aspect of the dreadful thing that is going on because, it is not at all certain that GovernorOshiomholeand his coterie have looked at all sides of everything. I am not a Muslim. I am a Christian (Catholic). But Islam is a religion I hold in high esteem. I understand that the basic principle of Sharia is that one’s testimony must be based on knowledge, clarity and trust.
The Noble Quran [43:86] says ”…But only those who testify to the truth [can benefit], and they know.” The Ninth Commandment of the Christian faith is a compelling injunction: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbour!”
Governor Oshiomhole’s smear campaign against the government of former President Jonathan may be down to personal grudge against some functionaries of that administration. His tenancy of the Edo State Government House expires in a year. When he vacates office, would the Comrade-Governor rather prefer a kind of treatment whereby, instead of examining his legacy with a sense of duty and balance, a band of critics would rise and drown out every other sound with incessant and mordant attacks on his name and person? The way things are going, it seems safe to suppose that the profession of faith is rampant among politicians who, nonetheless, consider the upholding of their religious tenets as the tiniest of concerns.
The penchant to heap every imaginable sin in the world on Dr. Okonjo-Iweala does not wash. Many Nigerians see this as unwarranted persecution. In so far as definitions go, Coordinating Minister does not mean Supervisory Minister. Ministers in the Jonathan administration did not report to Dr. Okonjo-Iweala. Why, then, is she being asked to account for all the Ministries in the last dispensation when all others who held down ministerial portfolios are alive and available? Anti-corruption fights often fail because people distract themselves chasing shadows. Mr. President, you should please prevent yourself from falling into this trap. The focus should be on priorities. Thank you, Mr. President, and may your administration represent a spell of God’s abundant blessings on Nigeria.
An educated and respectable lady, who claimed some presence around today’s corridors of power, averred that you recently said that yourpresidential tenure would be a loadstar and a legacy for the rest of African leaders to emulate. This moved me greatly, to the point that I offered an instant prayer for God to strengthen and direct your hand to the objective of meaningful and purposeful leadership. Now, Mr. President, you will not inhabit Aso Rock forever, even if you served multiple terms. The day will eventually come when you will become former President Muhammadu Buhari. How would it feel, if after you have done your bit and passed the baton, a rabble rises and scripts the lyrics of a scathing swansong for you that is antithetical to your presidential pedigree?
We pray, Mr. President, that commentators will not, in the ultimate, have cause to pronounce anathema on your administration. I am one of those persuaded that you mean well for Nigeria. For this, I recall again that the central platform of your campaign for the presidency is the fight against corruption.
Is this fight now being prosecuted by the virulent attacks on the personality and integrity of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, by Oshiomhole and company? Oshiomhole has, among many other indiscriminate charges, accused Dr. Okonjo-Iweala of spending $2.1 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) without authorization! How can it be said that there was expenditure without authorization, when the evidence is there that authorization is undeniable?
How are we sure that the attacks on this woman is not down to the fact that she published details of the Excess Crude monies paid to the Governors most of whom cannot now pay salaries of their civil servants, or show to what useful purpose they put the funds they readily collected? Isn’t it obvious that there are high costs to pay for shadow chasing – like when wild allegations are concentrated on the innocent, while an expressway is paved for the escape of those who may have some explaining to do?
In your inaugural address, you paid tribute to President Jonathan for his statesmanship in “graciously accepting defeat” at the presidential ballot. With the most profound respect, I urge you to keep to that path of rectitude.I put it to you, Mr. President, that the fight against corruption, which you are leading, can do with one imperative, namely, the putting of an immediate end to unwarranted and unsubstantiated accusations that can only divert attention from the real culprits of corruption, if any?
Mr. Chuks Iloegbunam, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.