By SAM NDA-ISAIAH
In the third quarter of 2012, Dr Olusegun Aganga, minister of trade and investment, wrote a letter to President Goodluck Jonathan over some missing $1.6 billion crude oil export. A copy of the letter was exclusively obtained by this newspaper and published on October 23, 2012. The minister’s letter was entitled “Investigation into the discovery of a forged crude oil and gas export clearance permit no. CO/28/Vol. VIII/09 purportedly issued by the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment to NNPC for the shipment of 24 million barrels of crude oil and gas in the third quarter (July to September 2012)”.
Aganga wrote: “May I humbly inform Mr President that on Thursday, 4th October 2012, my office was alerted of the existence of an export clearance permit no. CO/28/Vol. VIII/09 purportedly issued by my office to NNPC for the export of crude oil and gas from Nigeria for the period covering the 1st July 2012 to the 30th September 2012. On a closer examination, it was discovered that one of the permits was not, in fact, issued by my office and may have been forged as it did not bear the security features that we had built into the original permit forms to prevent such forgeries.”
The minister’s letter was very clear and straightforward. But he was wasting his time as the president doesn’t care about issues bordering on corruption and theft of the nation’s resources. Any president would have been outraged by the content of that letter, but not President Jonathan. It is now over a year and he has done absolutely nothing about it. If this is not the definition of cover-up, I wonder what would be. President Jonathan has obviously not protected the interest of the country and its people as he promised in his oath of office as president, and, in a democracy, this should have consequences. Similarly, Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State told a shocked nation a few weeks ago that he personally reported a serving minister who collected a $250 million bribe from an oil company to the president. Of course, he was wasting his time. Like all cover-ups that have come to define President Jonathan’s government, the president did nothing.
On President Jonathan’s watch, two years ago, almost N2 trillion was stolen in the name of fuel subsidy. The year before Jonathan became president, the fuel subsidy payments were less than N300 billion. Nigerians screamed and screamed and screamed. President Jonathan didn’t care and sided with those who desperately worked for a cover-up. The head of the ad-hoc committee that Speaker Aminu Tambuwal set up to investigate the fraud, Hon. Farouk Lawan, was made ineffective by the president’s friends and cronies when they successfully lured him into a crime. Till today, nothing has happened. The report has been abandoned midstream. Can anyone imagine what that amount could have done to the economy of this country? President Jonathan doesn’t give a hoot about that and would rather protect the interests of the thieves and their collaborators in his government than the Nigerian state and its people. That can only happen in a banana republic that the president himself helped to create and is gleefully presiding over.
It is only in Jonathan’s Nigeria that stealing billions of naira does not shock the people anymore. That is because stealing now involves trillions. That is why the over N100 billion stolen from the pension fund by a civil servant that the Senate insinuated enjoyed the protection of the president was considered chicken feed. Stella Oduah’s N255 million bulletproof car scandal is too minor in President Jonathan’s school of government to be considered a serious crime. That is just pick-pocketing. The president has since consigned the probe report that indicted Oduah into his lower drawer.
When crimes are not punished, they become bigger and bigger and bigger. That is the golden rule of statecraft everywhere in the world. The latest one is the non-remittance of N8 trillion by the NNPC into the nation’s coffers. Even by the Jonathan government standard, this is beyond the pale. If that accusation had not come directly from the CBN governor himself, there is no way anyone would have believed it. And those attempting to defend the petroleum minister suggest that the CBN governor does not know what he is talking about; they should be told to stop insulting the intelligence of the Nigerian people. Like someone once said, if they have nothing to say, they should not say it. The petroleum minister herself is not talking, and this has become her trademark. There have been tons and tons of allegations against the ministry she presides over and she has not bothered to respond to a single one herself. No petroleum minister in the history of this country has faced the kind of allegations that Diezani Alison-Madueke has, yet she says nothing. Instead, she has left the defence to NNPC line officials, most of whom were neither part of the crime nor were they at the crime scenes. That is totally unacceptable in any modern nation. To claim that part of the N8 trillion allegedly stolen is stuck in DPR or the FIRS and that the CBN governor might not have known this before writing his weighty letter to the president is the silliest thing anyone has ever said. And those NNPC officials and indeed all the aviation officials and Federal Ministry of Trade officials who are being instructed to lie on behalf of their bosses should know that there would be life after Jonathan’s tenure in Aso Rock and there will definitely come another era and another “king who didn’t know Joseph”.
Last week was of a different type for the president. Apart from Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s letter to him which the government must directly respond to, former president Olusegun Obasanjo also sent his own letter to the president. Obasanjo’s letter, which some people have characterised as a letter bomb, was the coup de grace for the president.
There have been varied responses to Obasanjo’s letter but most Nigerians – if not almost every Nigerian with the exception of Jonathan and those around him, of course — have been agog about it. Yes, Obasanjo is also guilty of most of the transgressions he accused Jonathan of. Obasanjo it was who at gunpoint forced Audu Ogbeh to resign as chairman of the PDP; it was Obasanjo’s allies – Chris Uba and co — that kidnapped a sitting governor and were rewarded for it. Yes, Obasanjo forged the electoral law as a sitting president, and Obasanjo shared bribes in attempts to remove House of Reps speaker and different Senate presidents. And not to talk about sharing bribes to get a third term. And we will also not forget that it was under Obasanjo’s presidency that Bola Ige was killed and everything was done, sometimes unintelligently, to cover up. It was under Obasanjo that Marshal Harry was killed for supporting Muhammadu Buhari’s presidential aspiration and the inspector-general of police, Tafa Balogun, was caught red-handed trying to cover up.
Yes, all these and many more are true but we should be more interested in the message than the messenger. The messenger may be flawed but that has nothing to do with the message. Obasanjo may be a crook who lacks credibility but no one can deny that he understands government and how governments are run. On that, he is certainly not on the same pedestal with Jonathan. Besides, if the pot calls the kettle black, that doesn’t mean the kettle is not black nonetheless.
There are so many allegations in Obasanjo’s letter that the president must answer willy-nilly. The former president must also be given credit because he is the only one of that calibre that has gone public about the reckless manner President Jonathan is running the country. Nigeria is on the precipice and headed for collapse as a result of President Jonathan’s very dangerous attitude towards governance and people of Obasanjo’s stature need to start crying out for whatever it will be worth. Everything Obasanjo said is what Nigerians have been discussing in their homes, offices, clubs, churches, mosques and even behind closed doors. Obasanjo is very popular among Nigerians today because he has gone public with what they have been saying behind the president’s back. That may be unfair popularity but that is the reality today. Sometimes, it pays to be shameless. The former president was able to do what he did, which was perfectly the right thing to do in spite of his own personal record in office, because he was shameless.
But President Jonathan must answer all the allegations. It will not be enough for the president’s men to rain insults on Obasanjo, calling him a hypocrite. He may well be one but President Jonathan must respond to all the allegations because Nigerians believe them. The president must answer the charges, especially the ones that border on crime. I don’t care about the accusation of Obasanjo that the president is running the PDP aground – that in fact is good for Nigeria and we must thank the president, Bamanga Tukur and Ahmed Gulak for that – but I give a damn about a former president accusing President Jonathan of training snipers to kill Nigerians. Who do they want to kill? Could that be what Mujahid Dokubo-Asari meant when he said he would kill all of us if we didn’t vote for Jonathan? Or supporting a drug baron to be the PDP leader in the south-west because it serves him well or placing 1,000 Nigerians on his watch list because of his desperation to be declared the winner of the 2015 election? A president must not be allowed to use state institutions for selfish/personal reasons. That is a classical impeachable offence. I don’t care if Jonathan honours his agreement with the PDP not to contest in 2015 – that is their business. What is new about thieves and election riggers breaking an agreement among themselves? As I have said several times on this page, Jonathan has a right to seek re-election. It’s when he rigs the election this time that he will learn firsthand the real meaning of the term “power failure”.
Reading Sanusi’s letter and Obasanjo’s letter to the president together, it is obvious that the Jonathan government has become too dangerous to the Nigerian state and its people. But the president has an opportunity to come clean on every issue in both letters. It will not be enough to simply declare that the allegations are not true as his aides are currently doing. He must convince Nigerians that the charges are indeed not true. The burden of proof is more on the president as, in Sanusi’s letter, he provided ample proof; and people generally believe the content of Obasanjo’s letter because they think, as a former president on the platform of the PDP, he should know. The president must also tackle the pension fund fraud, the nearly N2 trillion fuel subsidy scam and Stella Oduah’s probe report in the same vein. If the president thinks that these allegations will simply go away with the passage of time, then, he will soon understand that Nigeria is bigger than anybody even if that person is the president.
If the president does not address all these issues immediately, then, it will be in order for the National Assembly to commence impeachment proceedings against him. If the contents of both Sanusi and Obasanjo’s letters to Jonathan are even half true, and the president is not impeached, then we should brace ourselves for the worst-case scenario.