by Duro Onabule
The proof was the Senate probe of the Petroleum Training Development Fund (PTDF) during the Obasanjo administration. Headed by Senator Ndoma Egba (currently still serving), the panel discovered that the huge sum of two hundred and fifty million naira was paid from the agency as legal fees for Obasanjo.
Worse than that, we condone in others what we later turn round to condemn in less fortunate ones, with the main determinants being ethnicity or religious inclination. Added to these is national and natural amnesia, which encourages repeat of shortcomings.
Goodluck Jonathan knelt before the leader of a Christian religious group, Enoch Adeboye, for his blessings before the 2011 presidential elections. Much as there might be nothing wrong in Jonathan’s belief in his religious faith, his supporters, mainly Southerners of all ethnic groups, are malicious critics of General Muhammadu Buhari on the baseless and convenient charge of being a Muslim fundamentalist. Is Jonathan Christian fundamentalist?
On the other hand, Northerners today accuse President Jonathan of not honouring an agreement of 2011 to serve only one term, ending in 2015. But the same Northerners could not force a showdown with (the then) President Olusegun Obasanjo for similarly breaching a 2009 agreement to serve only one term, ending in 2003. That, by the way, is their domestic problem in the Peoples Democratic Party. But it was a dangerous precedent, the reverberating consequences of which will hunt the party for a long time.
The controversy over the purchase of two armoured vehicles from public funds at a total of two hundred and fifty million naira for the use of Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, must be seen in the same context.
We have to be clear about certain points. Except for recklessness, it is difficult to understand a minister’s preference or value for an amoured vehicle of anyway, such an astronomical cost. As a private citizen and whatever the threat to her life or family, she would not have spent so much on vehicles from her personal purse. It would be worse if she requested for the vehicles in her official capacity. If on the other hand, without soliciting for the vehicles, government officials sucked up to her by purchasing the vehicles (which happens in government circles), Aviation Minister Stella Oduah should have politely and ethically rejected the offer.
It is, of course, debatable how many Nigerians (not yet in public office, including critical journalists) could have turned down such offer.
There is also this rebuke for the cultural organisation, Aka Ikenga, which, as is always the case of such groups in similar rows, has stepped in to defend the minister. Stella Oduah is not on trial on grounds of her ethnic/cultural identity but as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, what the minister needs is public rather than ethnic sympathy, especially the right to be fairly treated.
This becomes imperative in view of the seeming mob approach in prejudice of a guilty verdict, even before the necessary procedure. Fortunately, Jonathan has taken the right step of setting up a panel to investigate every aspect. The report may be distasteful and may likely propel public and media pressure on Jonathan to remove the aviation minister.
Such mere populism will, therefore, compel President Jonathan to go the whole hog by investigating all the ministers, serving him. No minister, repeat no minister is likely to escape. The standard practice is that ministers induce agencies under their ministries to gratify them (ministers) with furnishing of their accommodation or purchase of tickets for overseas travel for them or members of their families. Despite the fact that ministers are paid in lieu of their accommodation and official journey to and from office, ministers still induce parastatals under them to provide accommodation and official vehicles.
It is a practice inherited by the Jonathan administration and he will be shocked by the findings of such a probe. The proof was the Senate probe of the Petroleum Training Development Fund (PTDF) during the Obasanjo administration. Headed by Senator Ndoma Egba (currently still serving), the panel discovered that the huge sum of two hundred and fifty million naira was paid from the agency as legal fees for Obasanjo.
Senator Ndoma Egba recommended neither impeachment of Obasanjo nor Obasanjo’s to be surcharged. Instead, all the panel recommended was that the PTDF should henceforth comply with its rules of expenditure. If a serving Nigerian President could do that, what is the rabble-rousing about on a Minister?
Nigerians have forgotten everything about the PTDF probe and the findings. That is always the case. On the face of it, Stella Oduah must suffer the consequences if faulted. But if those similarly faulted before her had been made to suffer the consequences, not the least those involved in the misappropriation of the PTDF how fair will it be to particularise a Minister? We cannot have double standard.
The difference between two hundred and fifty-five million naira for armored vehicles and two hundred and fifty million naira for personal legal fees is the names, different statutes of those involved and a whopping five million naira.
Obviously with its poor handling of the PTDF probe last time still in its mind, the Senate has been noticeably self-restrained on the controversy over the two hundred and fifty five million naira armored vehicle row.
One aspect of public interest should be for whom the vehicles were purchased – for Stella Oduah in her official capacity, as aviation minister or for her in her personal capacity? If the vehicles were bought for her in her personal capacity, President Jonathan must recover the vehicles into government pool. If on the other hand, the vehicles were bought for the minister in her official capacity, the vehicles should be deemed government property for future use.
The raging controversy over the two hundred and fifty-five million amoured vehicles is a reminder of a similar row in the early days of Ghanaian independence under Kwame Nkrumah. It is always the lot of controversial public figures to be pounced upon by the mob, at the slightest opportunity.
As Interior Minister, Krobo Edusei became famous (notorious among his foreign critics) all over the world for instantly re-acting to any seeming assault on Ghana’s sovereignty. Obviously implementing Kwame Nkrumah’s policy, Krobo Edusei always gave twenty-four hour-ultimatum (sometimes less) for any foreigner involved to leave Ghana. Those affected were usually Western diplomats.
Somehow, Krobo Edusei was exposed in British press for purchasing a bed for three thousand pounds, at a time Nigeria’s Prime Minister was on a salary of seven thousand five hundred pounds yearly. The controversy attracted world headlines, mostly in the Western world all against Nkrumali’s aggressive foreign policy.
Well aware of the antics of his political enemies in the Western world, Kwame Nkrunah retained Krobo Edusei in the cabinet and ordered the minister to return the bed.
Public office holders in Nigeria must, meanwhile, cultivate the personal discipline not to indulge in any affluence they could not attain before or sustain after leaving office. It is a lesson not just for Stella Oduah but also all her colleagues.
Specifically, President Jonathan should note the following for his instant action: Whatever other criticisms against him, ex-President Obasanjo set a standard when he issued stern directive to all ministers and heads of parastatals NEVER to spend a kobo of public funds to congratulate him or his administration on any celebration, especially Independence anniversary. According to Obasanjo, any violation of his directive would warrant instant surcharge and dismissal of whoever might be concerned.
It was a measure nobody ever violated. But as soon as Obasanjo left office, sycophants resumed business as usual at federal and state levels. Jonathan should stop ministries from such misappropriation and waste of public funds.
Oshiomhole’s stern warning
Police must also perform their function. The idea of shooting dead suspected kidnappers is not tenable. Mostly, it is face-saving for the incompetence of our supposed detectives. Real kidnappers should be arrested live, tried in law courts and be hanged.
That is how to deter the crime of kidnappers. These criminals must not take Oshiomhole for other weak state governors, or try him and see.
Read this article in the Sun Newspapers
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija