Recently, President Goodluck Jonathan was in Otuoke to attend the dedication of the Anglican Church. Otuoke is Mr. President’s hometown. The church was built and reportedly donated “free” by an Italian company Gitto Construzioni Generali Nigeria Ltd. On the website of Gitto, it is reported that Gitto handles twenty-three contracts. Eighteen are in Nigeria and five are in Italy. It means the bulk of Gitto’s operations and income comes from Nigeria. So is Gitto a Nigerian company, an Italian company or a Nigerian-Italian company?
At the dedication of the church Mr. President was reported to have said: “the building was donated to him after he bemoaned the unbefitting status of the previous structure during a meeting with the managing director…”
The pertinent questions are: Did our president make these comments? Did our serving president meet with the managing director of a construction company handling government contracts? We need that categorical denial on record-otherwise we have good reasons to conclude that the presidency and the church are not saying the whole truth. And that is unfortunate for President Jonathan may be dragging the church, which often teaches children that they must not lie into lying.
An interesting defense is the one advanced by Mr. Reuben Abati and the PDP. I am aware that Mr. Abati once wrote that writers need to respect the presidency. However, I am not sure that if asking Mr. president and a church that teaches our children to say the truth to also say the truth will amount to disrespect for Mr. President. It is about public ethics. It is important that Mr. Abati say something about truth telling in the presidency. It is high time the presidency began to do this.
The defenders of the presidency have not said that Mr. president did not say what it was reported that the president said. Rather they reduce the issue to “attendance” and “public acknowledgement of the assistance of a corporate entity..”! They conclude that it was not wrong for Mr. President to “attend” a ceremony in his hometown and to make a “public acknowledgement” of assistance to his hometown.
The presidency’s defense is sickening because it is a deliberate equivocation. The issue is not “attendance” and “acknowledgement.” The issue is: Did Mr. president say what he was reported to have said? It is a question of civility and respect for the Nigerian public for Mr. Abati to respond to this.
Recently, we took zonal men, their ethics and politics to task on this platform. We concluded that the politics and ethics of the zonal men impoverish the ethical life of our country. And that this impoverishment returns us to a stone age where crude atavism and village ethics and mentality dominate us.
The zonal men got angry with us. Their claim is simple. President Jonathan is ruling on behalf of his zone. Previous presidents did the same thing. Therefore whatever President Jonathan does is correct. They added a finality. Nigeria has always been a “tribalist” country , and so shall it be , Amen. On hearing that I felt a sad sharp pinch. It seems to me that some people love the stone age so much they are ready to reduce the country’s ethics to a village morality.
Thus, when Mr. Reuben Abati wrote in defense of the president, it became clear that the presidency is ready to cover a mountain of stench with a finger. This is because the “gift” of a church building to the men and women of God in President Jonathan’s village by a government contractor is consistent with the ethics of zonal men. So why deny the reason zonal men have argued the president is in government and in power?
According to zonal men and their ethics, presidents govern on behalf of their zones. Gitto in accordance with the ethics of zonal men makes a gift to a village in President Jonathan’s zone? This is sound and valid within the framework of zonal men, their politics and ethics. Isn’t this the fruit of the struggle for self-determination, national liberation and all that? So why deny the outcome of a long drawn heroic struggle?
And more importantly if history is a reliable reference, the Otuoke Church gift is consistent with history of Gift giving and Gift taking in the presidency no matter how putrid that history is. The point is ex president Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo is a mentor of Mr. Jonathan. Mr. Obasanjo’s library was partly built using the Otuoke Church paradigm of “Gift” giving and “Gift” taking. So what is good for Mr. Obasanjo’s zone and village should also be good for Mr. Jonathan’s zone and village.
The sad thing for me is that this is Easter season where Jesus’ death on the cross is a prime example of the ultimate sacrifice by example. Mr. President and the church have just talked about the ethics of Easter and Jesus dying on the cross. Mr. president said Jesus’ resurrection is a triumph of light over darkness. Unfortunately, we have not seen such ethics in Otuoke church building and the Otuoke paradigm of “gift” giving and taking. The point is corruption is moral darkness. President Goodluck Jonathan must shine moral light into that moral darkness by prime moral example. Sadly, Mr. President has not been doing this, and has not done this in the Otuoke Church “gift”.
Adeolu Ademoyo, email@example.com,is of the Africana Studies Department, Cornell University, Ithaca New York.