Democracy, the world reigning god, makes only two major demands on its worshippers- respect for the will of the people and an abiding faith in the rule of law. Leaders who after swearing by its name betray these democratic ideals lose credibility. Tragically one thing that has been in short supply in successive PDP administrations since 1999 is credibility.
And of all the challenges facing the current Jonathan administration, credibility appears to be the most daunting. When President Jonathan therefore says we should be ready to auction our generating sets, or that ‘Nigeria will export cars soon’, or that ‘the presidency is not behind the unfolding anarchy in Rivers’ or even when his chief of Defence Staff says ‘We will end Boko Haram insurgency by April’, they are received by Nigerians with scepticism.
To be fair to the president, this credibility gap, as indicated above was inherited from 12 years of PDP periodic rigging of elections, disdain for the rule of law, and self-serving policy initiatives such as privatization, fuel subsidy, identity card projects and many others designed not for spreading dividends of democracy as claimed by the party, but for sharing the nation’s resources among members of the ruling elite.
It was perhaps on account of these baleful legacies, coupled with what some considered as Jonathan’s below average performance as acting president and noticeable flaws in his character that accounted for the call for caution by perceptive journalists and analysts of our national affairs such as Sonola Olumhense and Haruna Mohammed. The former had warned that going by President Jonathan’s antecedents, he would certainly sell what is left of Nigeria to PDP if voted in while the later advanced seven reasons why we should not trust Jonathan. But instead of the president proving his detractors wrong, he has not only gone ahead to confirm their fears, he has through his continued assault on the will of the people and rule of law undermined the credibility of his own administration.
For instance, those who in spite of PDP gave the president a landslide victory had expected an injection of young blood with fresh ideas as different from PDP buccaneers that had held the nation down for 12 years. But even where we had inspiring young people, they were recruited as square pegs in round holes to serve Jonathan and not Nigeria. For instance Dr. Reuben Abati who can at best be described as an adversarial cerebral journalist with popular following arising from his relentless attack on PDP and Obasanjo presidency for about 10 years would have been an asset to a government run by a Dr Olatunji Dare, his former boss at The Guardian or an administration headed by a Professor Pat Utomi his soul mate.
He has been busy selling the president transformation agenda which to the opposition and a sceptical public has remained a mere agenda. Even when he is saying the truth about President Jonathan ‘he knows’, his past haunts him. Doyin Okupe who felt insulted to be called an attack dog (the role he played under Obasanjo presidency) has continued to make more enemies for the president as analysts had predicted. Most of pronouncements of Okupe, who is viewed as part of contract-chasing PDP crowd, is not only received with a dose of scepticism by the public, but chips away a portion of whatever credibility Jonathan administration has left.
Not even the president’s commitment to free election sounds convincing anymore. The cynical public now believes the president’s concern is about his own election and those of his friends. We now know all the talk of providing level playing ground through the deployment of a large contingent of police and a battalion of soldiers to ensure the victory of opposition party candidates in Ondo, Edo and Anambra was not informed by a desire to deepen democracy. As the president’s godfather who should know better recently revealed, the president traded off the support for his own party candidates for future personal gains from those opposition but friendly governors.
Of course, the ongoing assault on the governor of Rivers State only calls the credibility of the presidency to question. The police watched as five thugs attempted to impeach a speaker in an assembly of 32 members. The police give protection to supervising minister of education who is in Rivers State capital nearly every week end to mobilize ex-militants, thugs and his local council supporters who swear by the president’s wife name while disrupting pro state government organized rallies. And in the midst of unfolding anarchy in the state, the presidency has ignored the National Assembly resolution that police commissioner Mbu Mathew Mbu who acts as de facto governor of Rivers be transferred out of the state.
The president’s war against corruption is received with cynicism not only by the Speaker of the Lower House who complained about the president body language or by ex-president Obasanjo who agonized over Jonathan’s lack of political will to fight corruption, but also by many Nigerians. Besides the president’s lack of discomfiture in the midst of alleged corrupt individuals, there is also the impunity with which those close to government engage in corrupt practices. It is unimaginable how officials of the pension unit in the office of Head of Service of the Federation (HOSF) would subject those who had served the nation meritoriously, some in their 90s to such hardship as asking them to queue up for verification every month just because the exercise provided an avenue to steal N400 million monthly.
Apart from Sani Teidi Shuaibu, former director in the pension office who has since received a slap in the wrist from the courts, little has been heard of his former deputy Ukamaka Chidi, and 30 others charged with a 134-count charge of conspiracy, fraud and corruption, stealing about N60 billion, an act the Senate President, David Mark, described as a “monumental fraud” and a national disgrace and embarrassment,”
Similarly the presidency has been silent on Abdulrasheed Maina, the chairman of Pension Task Force Team, (PTFT), and his committee members who were indicted by the Senate report for ‘fraud, embezzlement, misappropriation, misapplication, outright stealing of pension funds. etc. While Maina, according to Audu Ogbe, former PDP chairman, was cruising around protected by a contingent of police, the IG claimed Maina could not be found to face prosecution.
The public scepticism about the president’s management of the economy was not helped by the controversy surrounding the$10.8 billion that was not accounted for initially but which Bernard Otti, the NNPC’s Group executive director of finance and accounts, now said was spent on ‘pipeline repairs, fuel subsidies and reserve fuel’. But as Sanusi the outgoing CBN governor has said, “No one has the right to retain money that should have gone to the federation account” and as echoed by Obiageli Ezekwesili, the former “Due Process Minister”, NNPC and Ministry of Petroleum have no FISCAL MANAGEMENT mandate: They MUST end OFF-TREASURY spending of PUBLIC FUNDS”
If it appears President Jonathan only pays a lip service to fighting corruption, if his commitment to free and fair election is seen as self-serving, if his war against insurgency appears unwinnable, and if the national dialogue project like other government policy initiatives are received with cynicism, it is precisely because his government is haunted by crisis of credibility often associated with disrespect for the will of the people and disregard for the rule of law.