Memo To Doyin Okupe: What Is President Jonathan Hiding (2) By Chido Onumah

Chido Onumah
Columnist: 
Chido Onumah

After the first part of this piece appeared last week, I received a couple of emails accusing me of several wrongdoings, from “disgracefully cherry-picking your press statement” to “being an agent of the opposition”. One responder noted that “it is morally wrong to ignore all Okupe pointed out as regards progress in the fight against corruption. It is disgraceful to say the least. You don’t have to kick the president at every twist and turn, just because you hate him”.

Another intervener said matter-of-factly, “the President has complied with the law by declaring his assets, making it public is another thing entirely. There are many reasons it may not be desirable to make same public. One of the reasons is family pressure and the need to protect (his) investments”. I don’t know if the two responders above were speaking on your behalf, but one thing is clear: the issue of publicly declaring his asset is something President Jonathan can’t wish away as long as he lays claim to fighting corruption.

It is true that you said a lot of things during your press conference of Thursday, December 6, 2012. For example, you averred that “since the present administration under President Goodluck Jonathan took charge of the affairs of this country, it has worked assiduously not only to transform the lives of Nigerians but also enhance the image and prestige of the country abroad.

“A lot has been achieved in the intervening period with the transformation agenda of the administration. Despite these achievements, there is unbridled cynicism on the part of some individuals who have taken it upon themselves to mislead Nigerians by making unfounded and baseless allegations against this administration. The purpose of this campaign of misinformation and disinformation is to blind Nigerians to the sure and steady progress President Jonathan’s administration has made in the eighteen months that it has been in power, to improve the quality of governance and deliver on the promises it made to the people.

“We seem to be living in a socio-political atmosphere of cynicism where theatrical actions, showmanship and other grandstanding are misinterpreted to mean political will in addressing a situation. This government does not believe in just arresting people for the sake of drama or playing to the gallery nor does it harbour the idea of deploying the anti-corruption agencies as tools to witch hunt political opponents, which were undisputable familiar practices in the past.”

That was you waxing eloquent about President Jonathan’s anti-corruption effort. Now that I have captured the essence of your message, I can go ahead to critique it. I decided to dwell on the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) as referenced in your speech because, in my estimation, it provides a practical demonstration of the current government’s fight against corruption or the lack of it. And the reason is simple: it touches President Jonathan directly.

You noted, and rightly too, that “all over the world, governments seriously desirous of tackling the menace of corruption usually adopt a holistic strategy which encompasses some or all of the under-listed benchmark: Enacting enabling laws, which clearly define what corruption is and spell out punitive measures; creating by law, the enabling environment for whistle blowing (FOI)”.

It is on the strength of this that the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) should comply with the request by the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy and other organisations asking it to make available the asset declaration of the president. It is convenient for you to talk glibly about creating the enabling environment for whistle blowing, but nothing is more convincing than walking the talk. I am not being frivolous when I insist that the public needs to know what our transformative president is worth.

I have written about this before, but it is worth repeating. In 2007, President Jonathan, as vice president, declared his asset after much pressure from his boss, the late Umaru Musa Yar'Adua. In the intervening period (2007-2011), he did not do any other job (constitutionally, he is not allowed to) apart from being vice president, acting president, and president. So what could the president have acquired in four years that he doesn’t want Nigerians to know about? In a sentence, what is President Jonathan hiding? If the president doesn’t care enough about Nigerians to make his assets public, why would he care about steady power supply or good roads?

Of course, there is no law that says President Jonathan should declare his asset publicly. But for someone who preaches transparency and accountability, he has a moral obligation to do so. Beyond this, however, it is important to emphasize that there is a law that says those who want access to public information (including asset declarations of public officers) can request such information. It is called the FoIA. The president himself assented to it a year and half ago. On this issue, the CCB which is the custodian of asset declarations is under obligation to make available the president's asset declaration and those of other public officials on request. That is what the law says. There can’t be any excuses or exemption. Nigeria is what it is today because we think the law is only applicable to certain people.

As the president’s adviser, beyond laundering his image, it is also important that you give him genuine feedback and tell him the truth. The truth is that Nigerians (the much touted happiest people on earth) are not happy. When I say Nigerians are not happy, I know am speaking the mind of millions of ordinary people, not those who are queuing to take the president’s job or those you refer to as “cynics, ‘latter-day saints’ and emergency activists”. I am talking about the millions of Nigerians who are paying the price for the grand corruption and wanton pillage that have become the hallmark of the Jonathan administration; those Nigerians that do not have the luxury of going to die in India or Germany because of the comatose state of healthcare in Nigeria.
If it is unpardonable for President Jonathan to say he doesn’t “give a damn” about publicly declaring his asset, it is disingenuous for the CCB to say it is not in a position to act. It is equally contemptible for Labaran Maku, Minister of Information, to ask Nigerians, as he did recently during a workshop organised by the Federal Ministry of Information on the FoIA, “to examine the efficacy of the Freedom of Information Act in the fight against corruption by demanding for information on governance from public institutions”.

Nothing typifies the impunity in Nigeria than the CCB’s obfuscation on President Jonathan’s asset declaration. Sam Saba, chairman of the CCB, claims protection under the 1999 Constitution for his organisation’s refusal to  accede to public request for the asset declaration of President Jonathan. He argues that the FoIA conflicts with the Constitution and has requested “the National Assembly to enact an Act prescribing the terms and conditions under which the CCB could make assets declared by public officers available for inspection by Nigerians” as provided for in Section 3(c) of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution which empowers the CCB to "retain custody of such declarations and MAKE THEM AVAILABLE FOR INSPECTION BY ANY CITIZEN OF Nigeria ON SUCH TERMS AND CONDITIONS AS THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY MAY PRESCRIBE" (emphasis added).

I thought that was exactly what the National Assembly did when it passed the FoIA. What else does Mr. Saba want the legislature to do? Make another law specifically for the asset declaration of President Jonathan?  To think that it is the same CCB that wants the public to act as whistle blowers. I have spoken to some legal scholars on this issue and the consensus is that the aim of Mr. Saba and the CCB is precisely to subvert the objective of asset declaration.
Since the CCB that is legally bound to act won’t do so, it is important that we look to the president to lead by example. I know the president is a good man at heart and that he aspires to be the most liked president, as opposed to his current status as the most abused, when he leaves office. His likeability will, however, depend on how he deals with the cancer of corruption which has made any form of progress impossible. And that begins with him publicly declaring his asset.

Nothing you say or do will convince us to the contrary.

Concluded.

conumah@hotmail.com

Comments
17 comment(s)
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To Deri

This Deri fellow is a very interesting character, I have refrained from commenting on your stand as regards the issues of this country, but I really can't stomach it any more. Your stand as regards GEJ and PDP is pathetic, you are never objective, and you are always quick to come to the defence of the goons milking this country dry. Its time you see beyond religion or ethnicity, and wake up and smell the coffee. If Gej was your dad, and Nigeria your family, would you honestly be proud of your dad with the way he has handled the affairs of his family?

same old buhari errand boy from father to son

How would the global declaration of assets by Gej, change the dynamics of the anti corruption crusade by BUHARI? What happened after Yara Adua did his? was it able to stop his wife and friends from stealing? Have we been given the names of those who signed the budget on his behalf in Saudi Arabia during his ailment? There is no law in 9ja which states the president should declare his assets at the national stadium with tinubu and buhari in attendance-was it not the same anti corruption crusade buhari embarked on which resulted in his freeing alhaji alhaji and the son of dantata who was nabbed in the USA for smuggling drugs into that country? GEJ will never fall mugu to this lawless agent of buhari-let 9jas tell the ppl of the SS, who stole their 55 trillion or what it was used for by the tripod since 1958? B4 Jonah was the case between Awo and Zik-It turned out one of them paid only 5 naira as tax throughout his working life! What a shame

THE GHOST OF YARADUA

ONLY THIEVES, ROGUES, BARAWO BANZAS INVOKE USELESS LAWS TO HIDE THEIR STASH. STRAIGHTFORWARD PEOPLE LIVE THEIR LIVES OPENLY. YARADUA WAS A GREAT MAN, THE GREATEST PRESIDENT EVER, AND GEJ WILL ALWAYS BE PURSUED BY HIS GHOSTS WHENEVER HE SLEEPS

Would anyone take Doyin Okupe seriously?

It will be interesting to read Doyin Okupe's rationalization for GEJ administration permitting use of military equipment for private funerals when he provides one. Nigerians would've been oblivious this is happening if the crash did not claim the lives of TWO IMPORTANT NIGERIANS. Who are the other Nigerians that lost their lives in the crash? Is this an example of an administration that is claiming to be fighting corruption or what? Brother, keep up your good work; you have a following in millions of Nigerians. Kudos

Undeclare of asset of GEJ

Well, we should thank God of what is happenning now. Let him declare or not when God time reached he will declare as Abacha family are suffering for these kind of mistrust.

Undeclare of asset of GEJ

Well, we should thank God of what is happenning now. Let him declare or not when God time reached he will declare as Abacha family are suffering for these kind of mistrust.

Scary Realities!

A Skeleton is scary but in Jona's case, he is not scared of the Skeleton in his cupboard. He is only scared of what the reactions of his countrymen will be if the Skeleton is exposed.

THE CCB HAS GONE ROGUE IN ORDER TO SHIELD A ROGUISH SYSTEM

The Code of conduct Bureau has no alternative,it has taken the only option left for it,it has gone rogue to shield the shady dealings of a rogue system.The CCB has chosen to invent a legal obstacle which does not exist,all in a desperate bid to sustain the cloudy fiscal vandalism presently holding sway.
We all know that our PDP legislators will be the last people to clarify the issue of when the CCB can render the service of making available the Asset declaration of the President for two reasons:
a. The FOIA is clear,it has not forbidden such document from citizen's access.
b. The legislators are themselves heavily corrupt and may consider such clarification suicidal.
The whole issue of President Jonathan's asset declaration is now in a comatose state but by no means dead,it will forever stick to him like a leach,until he chooses to cut it off by coming clean.

Where is the transormation?

It's no doubt that you have always stated the obvious truth about the state of the country, Nigeria. Transformation in Nigeria is nothing more than government propaganda; there's no substance to it. Where's the fight against corruption taking place? In an imaginary planet? Mention that you are a Nigerian outside the country and see the look you will get. Just look at the people sorrounding the president? Is there anyone of them that has not been fingered with corruption and nothing happens? Corruption by Nigerian government officials knows no bound; it's everywhere around the world and no one is doing anything about it. What's so hard about declaring your assets publicly if you have nothing to hide? How do we know the president is a good man? By action or inaction? If by actions, what are the actions? Keep up the good job you are doing for your objectivity on issues affecting the Nigerian nation.

THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT IS BEING FLOUTED BY THIS REGIME

There is no law compelling the President to declare his assets to the public but there is no law restricting the public from accessing the President's asset declaration form,in fact the law on asset declaration specifically empowers the public to access this information via the Code of Conduct Bureau.There is an enormous amount of moral obligation to the electorate and citizenry of this nation at stake here,like Mr Onuma expressed above,the so called transparency in governance and fight against corruption has been fundamentally undermined and the quest of the public to know what exactly the President is hiding cannot be wished away even after he lives office.
Family pressure and protection of investments cannot out-weigh national intrest,Mr Jonathan has never been a business man,he made his wealth fom civil service,in fact since the death of Yar'adua,we can calculate his earnings without stress,SO WHAT IS HE HIDING?THIS QUESTION WILL STICK LIKE GLUE.

rule of law

i ask if law works in nig?? Of what use is d constitution no rule of law.... They all av foreign accts yet we know what d law says regarding public officer n such acts....

What i believe you have

What i believe you have written is a poorly disguised re-hatch of that old argument of moral responsibility to do something that has not been made mandatory by the law. Your hypocrisy is evident in that you choose to put a burden on the president which the law does not place on him and which both you and your pay masters are unwilling to bear. You are like the Biblical pharisees/hypocrites who try to put a burden not prescribed by God on the people, a burden you yourselves are unwilling to bear.

This president has demonstrated integrity, and a commitment to changing the face of the country for the better, but some of you will never see anything being done as long as your pay masters are not the ones at the elm of affairs.

DOOMSDAY PRESIDENT

Don't expect anything good from the clueless GEJ and his sycophants.

what is Johnathan hiding

The prevailing situation in leadership in Nigeria can not be better articulated than you have done my brother.
However, I would like to add this few facts. one is that Doyin Okupe has his anticidents and that he was hired purposefully for this kind of Job. Some of us have learnt to take his blabbing with a pinch of salt 'cos it comes with its usual recipe- fact mixed with a lot of lies and confusions. Having said this it is important to say that Jonathans waterloo is in his insincerity as a leader. It is either that you are bad or you are good, there is no half measure.
Secondly, NIgerian are too docile. AN extreme degree of aparthy is irulent amongs NIGERIAN. I think Fela put it right when he said that nobody wan die but they wan go heaven.
Please keep up the good work my brother.

anoda Awo and Zik case-does d law say-declare assets in public

How would the global asset declaration of Gej, change the dynamics of the anti corruption crusade by GEJ? What happened after Yara Adua did his? Did it stop the wife from stealing? Have we been told how much it cost the FGN to attend to his medical needs abroad? or who signed the budget on his behalf in Saudi Arabia during his ailment? There is no law in 9ja which states that the president should declare his assets at the national stadium with tinubu and buhari in attendance-was it not the same anti corruption crusade buhari embarked on which resulted in his freeing alhaji alhajai and the son of dantata who was nabbed in the USA for smuggling drugs into that country? GEJ will never fall mugu to this lawless rubbish-let 9jas tell the ppl of the SS, what the 55 trillion stolen from them by the tripod since 1958 was used for- or u bazz off-b4 Jona was the case between Awo and Zik-It turned out one of them paid only 5 naira as tax throughout his adult life! What a shame

Honesty and Jonathan are parallel

Forget Jonathan when it comes to honesty,transparency,good morals and trustworthiness

How bitter the truth is?

May God bless u beyond your expectations. People like you can only restore nigeria. Continue telling the truth whether they like it or not. Those that you talikng on their behalf are 100% with you. A warmed bravo my comrade.

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