Mysteries of the written word By Nasiru Suwald

I am an angry man and you can understand my anger two Sundays ago, when I chose to watch the Euro-2012 quarterfinal match between England and Italy, rather than witnessing the seasonal Presidential Media Chat.

I accept therefore that I did not witness the alleged transformation of President Jonathan, as some have claimed. For, to be sure, the famous lines that day were all about how Mr. Jonathan rose from the dead; how he answered back his critics, and his presumed comfortable performance like a charming spellbinder on the stage 

Yet anger, like adversity, has its own value. It made me confirm one of those scriptural adages that anger is one of the greatest routs to perdition. It makes us walk away from our senses, acting out irrational violence as a response, which, quite often, we end up regretting.

Indeed a perfect example here will be the dramatic last week proposal by Chief Femi Fani Kayode advocated genocide as a solution to the Boko Haram pestilence. He proceeded by actually praising the criminal destruction of Odi as a clever, clairvoyant and exemplary administrative genius, to tackle the debilitating issue of insecurity in the land.

To draw a quick analogy, it is such incoherent ramblings that landed a lot of Hutus into the dungeons of the International Criminal Court.  Such is the power of opinion, particularly in its written variant. For one, the written word or a blurted sentence is one of the most incontrovertible evidences that easily lead to a successful conviction in court. An opinion, we may remind ourselves, is like an individual’s personal signature, it represents his or her core ethical identity that is unique to them.

Returning to our opening narrative of the presidential media chat, having missed the epochal event, I had to make do with the transcripts of the discussion that, I must confess, truly mystified me. No kidding: the president actually communicated his vision of how to achieve greatness—by promoting, as he said, the fundamental tenets of good governance, patriotism and communal unity.

However, to my mind, it was on questions relating to the challenges affecting the nation that the president spectacularly faltered. His answers were at best pedestrian and at worse a dangerous threat to the very concept of democracy itself, which as we all know, thrives on accountability and openness of government.

Indeed the president found it hard to comprehend why a statutory requirement of the declaration of assets of a public officer, becomes a license for every inquisitive and nosy citizen to seek knowledge of the Head of State’s personal wealth.  In fact the president expressed fear that should he be stampeded into openly declaring his assets, it would only end up in setting a dangerous precedent, that would cause every other civil servant to unveil his or her legacy to Nigerians, and as the president averred: “I have nothing to hide, you don’t need to publicly declare your assets as a public officer; it is a matter of principle, I think it is just playing to the gallery. I am not going to declare because if I do, all public officers must do.” Indeed the president went on to state the irrelevance of such request: “It is not Jonathan’s declaration of assets that will stop Boko Haram; it is not declaration of assets that will improve the economy. If because Jonathan has not declared, they want to play politics with it, they should continue to play politics with it.”

From a mere look at the disingenuous presidential diktat, it easily fits into the logic of every motor park tout, and as Nigerians would wont to say; wetin concern Agbero with overload, what has the performance of the first citizen, got to do with the weight of his personal bank account.

As he duly stated later in the long awaited interview, the president said he has fulfilled requirements for the declaration of assets since becoming deputy governor of Bayelsa state. As far as he is concerned, the legal provision was not introduced to satisfy Nigerians, who need to know, but the officials and management of the Code of Conduct Bureau. Curiously, the chairman of the bureau Mr. Sam Saba diligently backed the president, when he cleverly heaped the blamed for the Nigerian leader’s inability to answer to the public on the National Assembly, as he stated that insofar as the parliament has not set guidelines for such a disclosure, any availing of the personal estate of a public servant constitutes irrational illegality.

Unfortunately for the Nigerian leadership and its coterie of supporters, with the extraordinary happenings within the polity, these are not ordinary times for the nation. This is a perilous period, akin to the dark ages, when the big, the mighty and the powerful take from the weak, the poor, and especially the orphans. Just as it happened in the shameful Malabu oil license scam, where presidential powers was used to commit blatant crimes, and also muscle out equally powerful rivals, in this case members of the late Sani Abacha’s family.

Thus, for the Indeed for the Jonathan presidency, salvation lies in an open declaration of assets, because that helps answer critics more robustly. This will not be like Dr. Reuben Abati’s ineffective rehash of defenses of the president’s incorruptibility. For a public declaration of assets easily confirms that the bank account and property ownership of the president was not enlarged with the loot of various corruption scandals currently being investigated in Nigeria.



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