Jonathan, Corruption and rule of law

PDP rallies are often swelled up with rented crowd. We have as authority the Ogun State-based PDP mobiliser for the last year Ekiti governorship election who after Fayose’s unexpected landslide victory told Channels Television that PDP should not be expected to invite people to their rallies without making provision for their protection from the vagaries of the weather. He was commenting on PDP policy of ‘stomach infrastructure’, which he admitted was targeted at PVC holders all over the state. It is unlikely the crowd paid any attention to lies dished out by cynical politicians who themselves have little faith either in the electorate or the ballot box. Long before President Jonathan’s combative flagging off of his campaign in Lagos and Enugu, Nigerians were already familiar with his exaggerated achievements in the economic sector, now the largest in Africa, roads rehabilitation, railways, power generation, agriculture and foreign investment all of which have been wildly celebrated by his transformation ambassadors. But I think what Nigerians were not prepared for was the president’s claim of being the champion of the war against corruption and a crusader for the rule of law.

Addressing a crowd of supporters at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu, Jonathan told the crowd of his success in the war against corruption in the last four years using modern technologies. According to him “There is no government that has fought corruption more than we have done.” The crowd did not bother about proof. But the president all the same went on to provide one. It turned out not to be in the number of corrupt people successfully prosecuted by his regime, but in the fact that  Buhari who the president claims cannot remember his telephone number is too old to understand the meaning of corruption. According to him, “Buhari believes that every wealthy Nigerian is corrupt”; and “If a Nigerian businessman has a private jet, then you are corrupt, if you have a good house, then you are corrupt, if you have a good car then you are corrupt”. The president didn’t need to ask Buhari for his definition of corruption. As a lucky shoeless boy fortuitously turned president and now surrounded by many wealthy friends, owners of big cars, private jets, palatial houses some of whom recently contributed a whopping N21 billion in a few hours towards his re-election bid, he knows better. The president’s only misfortune however is even if his crooked logic remains unassailable among the vulnerable 18 years old he has chosen to work with in order to move the nation forward, the group will not determine his fate on February 14 because they hardly vote.

Both in Lagos and Enugu, the president also positioned himself as the guardian of the rule of law. Again, the president did not tell his supporters what he has done to enhance rule of law over the last six years. Instead he resorted to Buhari bashing. He reminded them how back in 1984, without adding that Buhari was the head of a military junta, he jailed their fathers and uncles without following rule of law. And in Enugu, how Buhari jailed ‘some prominent Igbo politicians including former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme and former governor of old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo’. The president concluded saying: “I am not going to run the government based on my habits; I am going to run the government according to global best practices.”

But that has been the opportunity the president repeatedly bungled these past six years becoming in the process the greatest threat to the rule of law, first by his partisanship in the saga of Justice Ayo Salami who was eased out of office for having the courage to rule against PDP governors that stole their opponents’ victories in Edo, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun and later as an accessory in the undermining of the rule of law in Ogun in 2011, then Rivers, Edo and Ekiti in 2014.

Nigerians know that as an impeached former governor who was also standing trial over EFCC alleged financial fraud besides murder charges, Ayo Fayose was not constitutionally fit to run for governorship office. But he was the president’s favourite among about 15-odd candidates. He went on without a manifesto to mysteriously secure a landslide victory over a performing incumbent Governor Fayemi. Haunted by the demon that saw him out of office in 2006, even as governor elect, Fayose went with thugs to beat up a judge presiding over his eligibility case, shredded his robe and judgment sheets. The protectors of rule of law kept their peace. Then Fayose drove 19 opposition lawmakers out of town and with the help of 300 policemen, ferried seven PDP members in government bus to the assembly where they hilariously impeached the speaker and appointed one of their own as speaker. A few minutes later, the governor appeared on a national television telling Nigerians he has recognized the new Ekiti speaker. The President and his Attorney General, guardians of the rule of law kept their peace.

Before Ekiti was Ogun State. In the run up to the 2011 presidential election, President Jonathan was accompanied in his campaign tour of Ogun State by ex-Governor Gbenga Daniel who at the time was ruling his state as a sole administrator after shutting down the state assembly and driving the lawmakers out of town. The president pretended not to be aware of this in spite of strident calls to intervene in what was then a PDP intra party feud.

In the battle of supremacy between Governor Rotimi Amaechi and the President’s wife in Rivers State, about seven law makers who publicly swore by the name of the president and his wife threw the state into chaos as they tried to illegally remove the speaker and the governor. The state police commissioner became the de facto governor. It took the president over six months and the intervention of well-meaning Nigerians before a tepid statement was issued in his name calling “on all those who were remotely or directly involved in heightening political tension in Rivers State to put an immediate end to their actions which are capable of plunging Rivers State into public disorder and strive to settle their political differences without further recourse to barbaric acts of violence”.

In Edo State, about seven members of the House of Assembly consisting of suspended members of the ruling party and others barred by a court injunction from entering the assembly premises ignored court order and with the help of thugs took over the house after driving out the majority of members who have since relocated to the government house. The guardians of rule of law maintained their peace.

However, in the wake of a recent Abuja Federal High Court order to swear in  Bala Ngilari as the Adamawa governor, it took the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Bello Adoke, only a few hours after the ruling, to issue a statement directing the Chief Judge of Adamawa to immediately swear in Ngilari. Akpabio, who is the chairman of the PDP Governors’ and the president’s accomplice in many acts of impunity and politics of subterfuge, was to later tell state house correspondents that ‘President Goodluck Jonathan deserved commendation for his adherence to the Rule of Law and respect for the nation’s judiciary’. But since there is no perfect crime, as they say, Akpabio followed with a Freudian slip. “Ngilari is a PDP man; he is not in the opposition… the interesting aspect is that it is a family business for the PDP,” he said triumphantly.

As I watched the president dance with Ayo Fayose in Ekiti last week, just as I have over time observed his apparent support for the rape of the rule of law, confirmed corrupt elements and various acts of impunity, the more I am persuaded President Jonathan lacks the strength of character to sacrifice his private interest for the public good.

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