With just a few days to the May 29th handover date, I was sorely tempted not to write this article –after all President Goodluck Jonathan will on that day handover the presidency baton to General Muhammadu Buhari. But the out-going President has been exhibiting some feudalistic tendencies of late; sacking top government officials and refusing to give the nation any compelling reasons. Whatever explanations from his spokesman, Mr. Reuben Abati, are worse that no reasons at all.
To announce to the nation again and again that Jonathan had sacked yet another top-ranking official just because he had the power to do so is like saying that a dog bit someone just because it had the sharp teeth to so do. Nothing more! But a dog is an animal, is an animal, is an animal.
Yes, the President of any modern state has the power to hire and fire those who constitutionally are under him. But there are things in a modern state that ensure that people are not sacked whimsically. Also, it is part of what makes a state modern that an elected official, such as the President owes the public a duty to know how he runs the government, and especially why people are removed from elevated positions. If not, people may be weeded out of lawful employment for refusing to carry out unconstitutional assignments.
Put differently, there must be something in a modern state that makes a high official who has been doing his duty impeccably to expect to haves some modicum of what may be called job security. And when an official is sacked, the public should be given some reasons for such drastic actions.
Instead, what Nigeria has witnessed since Jonathan lost the presidential election is the whimsical and erratic change of personnel in some areas of the nation’s public service. This is made most worrisome by the irrefutable fact that Jonathan has otherwise proved most lethargic in firing government appointees despite their most fundamental failures and despicable misapplications of office and devilish abuses of public trust and wanton corruption. So far, nobody involved in that scheme from hell that saw job applicants being asked to congregate in various stadia across the country for – wait for it- aptitude test, could attract the presidential hammer. The Minister of involved (that of the Interior) is still in office, for goodness sake.
The other Minister bought two cars for over two hundred thousand dollars and she was not asked to refund a dime. Now, she has been elected a Senator! Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation accounts are in tatters and Jonathan is not in any last-minute attempt to remedy it. So, with such lethargic track records in meting out discipline to appointees, the question must be provoked why Jonathan has suddenly discovered a penchant for swift disciplinary actions. And this discovery just hit him when he is left with only a few days to leave office. One may be tempted to reason that he is on a vengeance mission, to weed out officials who were found to be disloyal to him. As justifiable as that may seem, after all it is human that losing an election would hurt any so hard hit by fate, and he may be tempted to reward betrayers in kind. But Nigeria matters much more than Jonathan, he should be in a position to differentiate between private and state matters and should also spare a thought for the incoming administration.
Beyond all else, Jonathan must be told that it is in the age when the divine right of kings to rule, and to do so as capriciously as emotion moved them, that such a behavior may have been justified. That a President should fire people for no other reason than that he has the power to so do, is to lay claim to the right to misuse presidential powers. And no modern day President is imbued with such powers. The Nigerian Constitution does not grant the President such powers. Instead, it mandates that power should be used for the common good, responsibly and that such a President should be accountable to the people. But Jonathan behaves as though he is above being accountable to anyone. That is why he does not give cogent reasons for sacking top government officials. And this is, to say it lightly, feudalistic and totally primitive.
Could somebody please remind Jonathan of this invaluable saying: “if you have a fight in you, save it for the dragon, don’t waste it on a paper tiger”. So, it is stupid for someone who wants to prove that he is ready to exercise his presidential powers till the very last day of his presidency so as not to prove a veritable lame duck, to whimsically sack appointees. No, that is the path of least resistance. An active till the last day Jonathan should be told that a spectra of evils abound in the land owing to his inactions and bad actions. One of them is a chronic lack of petrol – all across the country. He should take on this challenge and provide petrol to his luckless nation that was unlucky enough to have elected him President. Boko Harm terrorists appear to be bouncing back from the verge of defeat, attacking and bombing Nigerians at will within the past two weeks and no sense of outrage has been gleaned from the Jonathan.
No, he should be angry enough and strive to see that after six years of being Nigeria’s President, his greatest achievement should not be that he conceded defeat to Buhari. And as he has thrown in the towel, conceding defeat also to the petrol importers, high foreign exchange rate, having five Inspector Generals of Police in six years with all the inherent shocks to the Police Force, owing N5 trillion in domestic debts (and so business is terribly dull now), having fluffed away the nation’s foreign reserves and excess crude oil revenue, etc, , he should learn to wait out the remainder of his days in office, with uncharacteristic and totally undeserved dignity.
Most of all, he should stop living in the past; Nigeria is not a savage feudal empire; it is a modern state where citizens deserve to know why high officials of state are fired or rewarded. Could somebody please remind Jonathan that he is not king but a President who so spectacularly failed that his people refused to re-elect him? He should act with due humility for goodness sake. [myad]