from The Guardian
Finally, Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan has yielded to the will of the people, and publicly declared his assets. Nigerians should be justly proud; Mr. Jonathan has proved he has some understanding of the nature of his position. I will return to Mr. Jonathan shortly.
Although asset declaration was never meant to be a turn-by-turn performance, it is time to remind Mr. David Mark, the President of the Senate, to step forward and publicly declare his assets.
On June 16, in this column, I published my preliminary comment on Mr. Mark. He is our nation’s third most powerful man, and I was glad to welcome him to his good fortune, reminding him that his new position comes with tremendous responsibility. One of his most significant challenges is that he must establish his credibility, beginning with a public declaration of his assets.
His is one of the most important of such declarations because he has often come across as an arrogant, unthinking and insensitive leader man who never left the military barracks. In no position has he failed to advertise his prejudice that only people with military training are fit to lead.
Perhaps nobody should hold this against him. After all, if a child has never tasted anyone else’s cooking he tends to regard his mother as Chef of the Year. Mr. Mark is not the only one who went to a military academy, but he has emerged as one of those who never could establish a balance between military school and the school of life.
He is in the school of life now. In this school, neither the President nor the Vice-President is a military man; the military have desecrated their own uniforms; and the Commander-In-Chief is what Mr. Mark would call a “bloody civilian.” In this school, telephones do belong to the poor, a relationship Mr. Mark once announced his contempt for. In this school, the leaders owe the people a debt of gratitude, beginning with a simple declaration of their economic worth, which the people will then examine with a strong microscope.
Here then, is where the problem lies, because unlike everyone who has declared his assets publicly, Mr. Mark has had a bad press, accused of heinous crimes against the people and the common weal. Several press reports have declared him to be a corrupt man who has allegedly enriched himself whenever he has had access to the public till.
There is no reason why he should not enjoy a life of limousines and private jets if it has come from his investments. There is no reason why he should not enjoy a life of multi-million dollar homes and private golf courses if it has come from his sweat and toil. There is no reason why he cannot own businesses around the world or send his children to school in any country, if the resources are his.
But Mr. Mark is now a servant of the people, and accountable to them. He must declare what he owns and where he owns them. And if he operates accounts in several cities of the world, as his accusers allege, the time has come to reconcile such information legally with his position as the President of the Senate. The law requires him to make such a declaration; the will of the people—as Vice-President Jonathan testifies—requires him to put that information in the hands of the people.
I know I am not saying anything that Mr. Mark does not already know. The exasperating thing is that people like him choose to resist the obvious. In a ball sport, when they pass the ball to you, you do the legal thing: pass it on. Legality, morality and the Vice-President have now passed the ball to Mr. Mark, and he ought not have waited for a reminder to do the right thing: pass or score.
More than any other position in high office today, Mr. Mark assumed office with a very bad image. His supporters allege that he is guilty only of a conspiracy against him. Mr. Mark now has the opportunity to put those “conspirators” to shame by publicly declaring his assets and proving that he is an honest and decent citizen worthy of one of the nation’s highest offices.
There is yet another alternative. Mr. Mark can simply step down as President of the Senate. That way, whatever allegations are being made against him, and whatever embarrassment is being put in his way, he will not have to answer them in such an exalted office. And he would be doing his nation such a favor too!
That brings me back to the Vice-President.
Mr. Jonathan has reported vast personal assets of nearly N300million, and now we know why he was trying to hide behind the law in the first place: this declaration lacks credibility. To begin with, it is full of holes, such as someone giving him a gift of a N15 million. What makes it right for a public office-holder to accept inducements? What else might he have accepted: houses, airplane tickets, or sexual favours? Furthermore, in an attempt to justify a declaration of nearly N300 million amassed in nine years in office, Mr. Jonathan alleges all kinds of “investments” and property. In a state of such deep poverty, did he spend his time serving his people, or himself?
What is equally interesting is that the man was sandwiched at work between a proven thief, his former boss Dipreye Alamieyeseigha, and at home by Patience Jonathan, his wife, a woman so conspicuous and carefree with money the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) last year seized $13.5 million from her. That is over N1.76 billion in one incident alone! Yet Mr. Jonathan’s declaration conveys the impression neither Mr. Alamieyeseigha’s nor his wife’s recklessness involved him in any way. Of his wife, he says with a straight face her assets are separate from his.
This is not good enough from the Vice-President. He has only published a declaration designed to quench the curiousity of the public in the gamble that if he does so, the clamour will stop. His so-called “declaration” is littered with question marks that the press and the people should refuse to ignore. In addition, his declaration is incomplete for as long as his wife’s declaration and financial history has not been made public. Ours is a country in which Chief Executives robbed their own people of everything using their wives as the principal conduit, before they moved on to girlfriends and sundry lovers of filth, and none of them should get the benefit of the doubt. No former Chief Executive ought to pronounce victory when the principal suspect has not been strip-searched. That includes Mr. Jonathan, and it is going to be interesting when his wife tells the police she found the $13.5 billion in a garbage heap or when she was walking past the bus stop.
The message here must be clear: it is not enough for anyone simply to publish a declaration. The substance of the document—including the implied philosophy of the declarant—must be justified. How Mr. Jonathan became so overwhelmingly rich so quickly has not been established in the slightest. Greed is not illegal, but it is a grievous sin, particularly when you are a political preacher of better conduct.
If Mr. Jonathan’s objective was to set the record straight, we appreciate his panic. But he must begin by getting his spouse to effect a quick declaration of her assets, and then he must prepare for a line-by-line examination of his “declaration.”
I hope Mr. Mark is listening.