With elections coming up in a year’s time and his sights firmly set on returning to Aso Rock presidential villa (though he has not said it), it is no surprise the man finally wants the world to know he is the one pulling the levers of power in Nigeria – the “giant of Africa”.
First, he changed the heads of the Nigerian military, replacing the head of the all powerful army (Chief of Army Staff), an Igbo man, with someone from a minority ethnic group in the South-south like himself that he could trust to keep the military reined in. Certainly, this is the hand of a president who is getting increasingly paranoid about power. He followed up the changes in the top hierarchy of the military with the surprise of his Chief of Staff, Mr. Mike Oghiadomhe. No official reason was given but it is believed that he was keen on running for an elective political office. A divided loyalty is loathsome to a president who wants to hold on to his office next year. So Oghiadomhe had to be sacrificed!
Then a fortnight ago, the president sent a dozen ministerial nominees to the Senate for confirmation. While the screening was on, Mr. President promptly fired four ministers, including his controversial
Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, who last year came under intense public criticism for unilaterally approving the purchase of N225 million worth of bulletproof vehicles for her office. Jonathan raised a panel to probe her, but even before publishing the report, the president removed her. She had become an electoral albatross.
That done, Mr. President turned his attention to his critics who say he has developed a tin ear on corruption. Last week, he used the occasion of the inauguration of the boards of some federal agencies to challenge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independence Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC), the two federal agencies fighting corruption in public life, to show Nigerians that indeed they are working. “I know that you’re working but not many Nigerians do,” he said. “I also know that you are not supposed to make noise about the work you do which is to jail people. It isn’t something to rejoice over. But you have to let Nigerians know that you are working”, he added.
It does appear we now have a “new improved” President Jonathan who is no longer impervious to public criticisms. It would indeed be a “breath of fresh air” if the transformation we are seeing were something genuine, not forced by the imperative of winning re-election – which regretatably is so.
We think the president is up to mischief here. Now, consider what he meant by “show Nigerians that you’re working”. It was not that the anti-corruption agencies must go for the big fishes in the corruption pond, but that they publish periodically the number of the small fries they have ‘successfully’ prosecuted.
The president should know that Nigerians know it is not the N2 million public thief that is draining the national economy but petro dollar crooks, some of them in his government. Those are the ones he should set the EFCC and ICPC on.
In a riposte to his critics who say that he has developed a tin ear on corruption, the president said such people are themselves more corrupt than those they point fingers at. We think he is avoiding the real issue here. There are thieves in his government, true or false? If true, let him get of them. That’s Nigerians are asking him to do, nothing less.