Eventually, President Goodluck Jonathan directed the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Isa Bello Sali, to take disciplinary action against Abdulrasheed Maina, Chairman of the disbanded Pension Reform Task Team, empowered to trace stolen pension fund. Jonathan’s latest wield of stick is a dramatic change of stand.
Hitherto, in response to the demand of the Senate that he should dismiss the Pension Reform Task boss, Jonathan claimed (and some would agree with him) that he has no such power, adding that only the Head of Service can do that.
The Senate should not gloat. Jonathan, even now, has not necessarily met the demand for Maina’s dismissal for his (Maina’s) contempt for the Senate. Instead, Maina is being disciplined for absenting himself from duty without lawful authority, a punishment very circumstantial only because of Maina’s (advised?) escape from the country.
He has gone with the money he was accused of failing to account. That is the end. Escaping from the country in such circumstances is part of the Nigerian system. When the late President Umar Yar’Adua assumed office and tried to prosecute some of his erstwhile colleagues by the EFCC, they similarly escaped abroad and returned only after Yar’Adua’s death, and with another former colleague at Aso Rock, the fugitives of those days are today holding federal government appointments.
What happened to the EFCC’s charges against them under Yar’Adua? Abdulrasheed Maina will return and still be appointed to government post. When, therefore, Jonathan directed the discipline against Maina, he (Jonathan) either contradicted himself or suddenly usurped the very power he earlier claimed not to have.
Nothing stopped Jonathan from directing the same Head of Service in the first place to discipline Maina for not honouring the summons or even the warrant of arrest, both issued by the Senate. At least, that could be documented as giving Maina the right of fair hearing guaranteed for every Nigerian under the constitution.
On his part, did the Head of Service, Isa Bello Sali, have to wait for the make-believe threatened showdown between the Senate and Jonathan, or eventually the directive from Jonathan before disciplining any officer for absence from duty without authority? Government’s rules and regulations (still known as General Orders of the colonial days?) are quite clear on such disciplinary matters.
Surely, Maina created minefield for a showdown by the Senate and Aso Rock. But nobody should have been deceived that there would ever have been a zero hour.
The tension created is usually for public consumption aimed at an unimpressive self-assertion by both sides. However, in a way, Jonathan deserves some sympathy in view of the danger posed by the national assembly in what is becoming gradual usurpation of the constitutional power of the Presidency by the Legislature.
National Assembly is to legislate while the Presidency is to administer, including sole authority to appoint and discipline/remove public office holders and public officers. On such matters, there might be co-operation or even concession from the Presidency.
But in the past few months, the National Assembly seemed to have usurped the power to dictate to Jonathan especially those he should not allow around him in administering the country.
There was the case of Ms. Bolanle Onagoruwa of Bureau of Public Enterprises. The Senate, rightly or wrongly, insisted on her removal. She was removed and nothing today can be done on her matter.
While the matter was still on, the same National Assembly demanded the dismissal of the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Ms. Aruma Oteh, for some contrived allegations to attain a desired end, not the least, vindictiveness for discharging her official obligation on the Stock Exchange. Still in pursuance of that vendetta, the National Assembly arrogantly claimed it did not approve any kobo for SEC and would have nothing to do with Aruma Oteh unless and until Jonathan removed her. And then the National Assembly would pick for Jonathan, their candidate for a new Director-General of Securities and Exchange Commission?
The prevailing situation was, therefore, such that Jonathan had to assert himself. Otherwise, unless checked, the National Assembly, in its obsession with power to remove public officers, might sooner than later direct Jonathan to remove his wife, Patience, from Aso Rock, on the ground that after all, Patience Jonathan is not a nominal federal permanent secretary but a nominal permanent secretary in Bayelsa State Government.
Unfortunately for Jonathan, Maina was a wrong and indeed hopeless case on which to stand and fight, even if the same Jonathan had to make his point against usurpation of his constitutional authority by the National Assembly.
Both Jonathan and National Assembly were merely excercising in sabre- rattling. What could the Senate do if Jonathan refused to discipline Maina? Nothing. All Jonathan would suffer was a further dent on his regime in public perception of corruption.
By the way, at a stage, there was the deceit that the National Assembly was after President Jonathan himself rather than Maina. Traditional rulers must also avoid the role of advocates for rogue civil servants.
The situation was not helped by a careless and perhaps an indolent media which, in highlighting Jonathan’s initial inaction on the threatened Senate showdown, drew analogy between Securities and Exchange Commission boss, Aruma Oteh and Abdulrasheed Maina, the disgraced head of the Pension Reform Task team.
One is a fugitive from justice who fled abroad while the other is at her desk at Securities and Exchange Commission. One was driven by guilty conscience to abscond while the other flaunted her integrity as unassailed to retain her job.
One shunned a Senate probe into his (own) probe of Pension Fund and later treated with contempt a summons to appear before the Senate to answer questions, while the other attended a House of Representatives probe into her official activities and when, on a day, she couldn’t attend because of another official engagement at Aso Rock, she wrote the House of Representatives panel in advance to that effect.
Even for this courtesy, the House of Representatives panel unnecessarily harassed her with threat of arrest. A warrant of arrest was issued by the Senate against one who was also consequently declared wanted by Nigeria Police, while the other was even cleared by a probe set up by higher authorities at Securities and Exchange Commission.
Little wonder the Federal Government retained her on her job. Even the Senate lately recoiled ever threatening to deny the Securities and Exchange Commission the necessary allocation in the 2013 budget. Suppose Jonathan had acceded to Senate’s insistence to dismiss the innocent lady? Where then is the analogy between Aruma Oteh and Abdulrasheed Maina?
Just as the media were wrong in likening one to the other, the national leadership of Nigerian Union of Journalists, on its part, today stands discredited for giving a clean bill of clearance to Maina, the fugitive from justice. Jonathan and the Senate both cleverly avoided the minefield prepared for them by Maina.
All clear for Kenyan voters
A high court in Nairobi, Kenya, last week, dismissed a suit aimed at disqualifying one of the candidates, contesting next week’s presidential elections, Uhuru Kenyatta. He is the son of the country’s great nationalist and first elected president, Jomo Kenyatta.
Much as that status is an advantage for Uhuru Kenyatta, his political standing today is also the outcome of personal effort since his father died over 30 years ago. The court ruling was that there was no legal or constitutional basis to disqualify Uhuru Kenyatta from contesting the elections.
That ruling was delivered on the very day Kenyatta’s right to contest the election was upheld in this column.
The suit against Kenyatta was instituted against him by desperate rival candidates to scuttle his chances as about the front-runner. Kenyatta’s eligibility to contest was faulted (by his rivals) on the ground that he was to face a criminal charge at International Criminal Court, Hague for alleged crimes against humanity during disturbances that followed the last elections.
The court’s ruling would surely disappoint outgoing Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, who would have reaped the electoral advantage if Kenyatta had been disqualified. Unfortunately, the pungency of the court’s landmark ruling was diminished by the revelation of Kenyan Chief Justice that while the suit was being tried, politicians were sending letters of threat to judges if Kenyatta were disqualified.
The Chief Justice further revealed that he was even stopped from traveling out, presumably on official duties.
These are very serious allegations whose only value, if any, may discredit the judicial and electoral verdicts. Away from the local scene in Kenya, the court’s ruling carries significant potential implications for any charges Kenyatta might be facing at the International Criminal Court.
Apart from deciding Kenya’s next president, the elections, in the light of the court’s ruling, might have been turned into a referendum, not in the least expected by Uhuru Kenyatta or even planned by Raila Odinga and other rival candidates. Victory for Uhuru Kenyatta will amount to a vote of confidence in him by majority of Kenyans.
As yet, there is no proof of Kenyatta’s guilt since the trial is still to commence. But victory for him will put into question the continued validity of the charges at the ICC since he would have been exonerated by Kenyans, the very same people against whom he was alleged to have committed crimes against humanity.
Notably, Kenyatta, even as deputy prime minister (to substantive prime minister Raila Odinga) is not conducting the elections.
His chances of rigging are therefore minimal. Kenyatta’s case is completely different from that of Sudanese President Omar Bashir, who as an incumbent was placed on warrant of arrest by the ICC for alleged crimes against humanity in the conduct of the country’s civil war against the south. The conduct of the civil war alarmed the outside world, which, through the United Nations, opted for referendum by Southern Sudanese to determine their future.
As a result, Southern Sudan voted for secession from the north, and is today, a sovereign state. With the ICC charges of crimes against humanity hanging on him, Uhuru Kenyatta’s aspiration to his country’s presidency, is virtually seeking his people’s vote of confidence. And if he wins, a legal point may arise on who are the complainants, the very people whose mandate he would have just secured?
There lies the worldwide interest in the Kenyan presidential elections.
Comeback Italy’s King Berlusconi?
It could not be brighter for former Italian prime minister and owner AC Milan football club, Sylvio Berlusconi. About a year ago, he left the office of prime minister in disgraceful circumstances. Since then, he had had to face criminal charges on tax matters.
But the man couldn’t have a suitable successor. In a country notorious for unstable governments, it was to Berlusconi’s credit that he was able provide political stability for Italy with a regime for almost five years Italians are electing a new government on Sunday and Berlusconi is once again leading in the polls.
What is more, against all odds, Berlusconi’s football club, AC Milan on Wednesday, defeated Barcelona 2-0 in the first leg of a knockout stage of the current European Champions League competition. What a rehearsal for his expected celebration of another election victory on Sunday!