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By Levi Obijiofor
Ever since Goodluck Jonathan lost the 2015 presidential election, he has spent the better part of his spare time defending himself and the government he led against numerous allegations of corruption, cronyism, nepotism, abuse of office, ethnic bias, and rapacious spending of the nation’s wealth. His political enemies never fail to make the point that it was Jonathan’s lack of willpower, his abdication of his responsibility to oversee the prudent management of the nation’s resources, and his lack of a sense of direction that paved the way for Muhammadu Buhari to emerge president.
While Jonathan had maintained his silence for two years in the face of all the allegations, he now seems ready to respond to every allegation of corruption directed at his government in public and private fora. Consider the following angry altercations between Jonathan and his critics. First to mount the podium was the controversial former chairperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs Farida Waziri. Last week, she accused Jonathan’s government of meddling in the agency’s anti-corruption campaign, particularly cases involving senior officials of the government. She alleged that Jonathan sacked her as EFCC boss because of her doggedness in investigating a corrupt senior government official whom she referred to as one of the key players in the notorious fuel subsidy scandal that has refused to go away.
In a statement released last Sunday by Femi Babafemi on her behalf, Mrs Waziri gave the impression that Jonathan shielded from EFCC probe some corrupt officials of his government. Mrs Waziri said: “My first strong premonition of what was ahead was when I began the probe of the monumental oil subsidy fraud going on then. I came to Lagos on a vital intelligence on the subsidy scam and as soon as I arrested a key culprit, I got a call from the Presidential Villa asking me to release the suspect, because, in their words, ‘he is our person.’ But I refused to let him off and some days later, I was removed from office.”
The allegation was too grave for Jonathan to let go. He responded angrily, challenging Mrs Wazirin to identify the alleged corrupt official that he (Jonathan) safeguarded from the EFCC scrutiny. He said: “If Farida is not telling lies, she should mention the person or company she was investigating and she was stopped… Crime has no statute bar. If she can’t, then she was simply hired to attack me.”
To provide a proper context to the argument between Mrs Waziri and Jonathan, you must keep in mind that Mrs Waziri was sacked by Jonathan in November 2011. She served as the head of the anti-corruption agency between May 2008 and November 2011. Jonathan’s response to Mrs Waziri’s allegation implied that Mrs Waziri was engaged in some kind of sour grapes because of the way he removed her as EFCC chairperson six years ago. Could her allegations be attributed to vengeance against the man who sacked her from the high profile position she occupied at the time? We will never know who is telling the truth.
It would seem, however, that Mrs Waziri has a fondness for swimming in a sea of controversies. Consider this. In September 2013, Mrs Waziri was involved in a controversy with former president Olusegun Obasanjo whom she warned to stop maligning her good name and her professional record. The warning came after Obasanjo made some remarks about Mrs Waziri’s integrity during the time she served as the EFCC boss.
In the confrontation between her and Obasanjo, Mrs Waziri threatened to wash Obasanjo’s dirty linen in public if Obasanjo continued to belittle her. In a rare display of anger, Mrs Waziri said: “I will like to warn that those who live in glass houses don’t throw stones and as such Obasanjo should not allow me open up on him. Respectable elder statesmen act and speak with decorum.”
Obasanjo angered Mrs Waziri further when he implied that she was a wrong choice to replace Nuhu Ribadu in 2008 as the chairperson of the EFCC. Obasanjo said the fight against corruption slowed irritatingly during Mrs Waziri’s tenure. That comment suggested that Mrs Waziri was not dedicated to the anti-corruption campaign because she lacked the qualifications and experience.
Within the same week that Jonathan was exchanging words with Mrs Waziri, he was also caught up in another allegation of corruption made against him by Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Tinubu had said in a speech at a book presentation that Jonathan’s government had turned corruption in Nigeria into a way of life. Jonathan was riled by that allegation and he hit back at Tinubu almost immediately.
In the exchanges, both Tinubu and Jonathan used the legendary sprinter Usain Bolt as a metaphor to drive home the charge and counter-charge about corruption. Tinubu said that during Jonathan’s administration, “so much money grew feet and ran away faster than Usain Bolt ever could”. He also said that Jonathan’s government snared a gold medal in corruption, Responding, Jonathan said that unvarnished truth and evidence had abandoned Tinubu much faster than Usain Bolt. Jonathan’s response came through his former assistant Reno Omokri.
Using the scandal surrounding the pension fund as a point of reference, Omokri said the ruling APC government illegally brought back, reinstated, and even promoted the former chairperson of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, a man who was dismissed by the Jonathan government and subsequently declared wanted.