Nigeria · Opinion · Politics

GEJ: Between “Persecution” And “Prosecution”

By Muhammad Al-Ghazali

When the history of the presidency of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (PHD) is written, one of the most enduring legacies of his tenure will undoubtedly be the incredible liberties the man and his wife took in their choices and application of the English language. Another of such legacies will also be his frequent choice of the pulpit as the appropriate platform for the delivery of the often contentious statements which rocked the polity from time to time.

 

The president was in his full elements at the weekend and not surprisingly, the venue was the Anglican Church in the serene Life Camp adjacent to Jabi district in Abuja. When it was his turn to speak the president seized the opportunity to inform Nigerians that his Ministers should expect few favours from the incoming administration of the retired Major-General Muhammadu Buhari.

He advised them to be prepared to be invited to account for their actions in the most unpleasant circumstance because they will definitely be persecuted by the incoming administration! President Jonathan also hinted at betrayal, alluding at a point, to loneliness, because most of the friends he thought he had swiftly deserted him the moment he lost the election to Buhari.

The president did not give the names of the people, or groups, he felt had deserted him; but I am willing to wager that they will, almost certainly, include some of his most die-hard supporters such as the Ohanaeze-Ndigbo. And given the degree of their unqualified support for the president, it is their ‘betrayal’ which is likely to have hurt the most.

Only a few days before he made the statement, the members of the Caretaker Committee of the group led by Ralph Obioha accused Jonathan of deceiving the Ndigbo during their congratulatory visit to the president-elect General Buhari. Their view must have come as a rude shock to Mr. President.

 

But it is the issue of the alleged intention of the incoming administration of General Buhari to persecute President Jonathan and his Ministerial appointees that is of primary concern to me today. When I first shared what the President said with my friends it attracted a lot of sarcastic reactions. Could it be that the president confused or completely mixed up the words persecution and prosecution in this instance?

 

Giving the well-document profligacy of the first couple in the miss-use or miss-application of words and grammar, could it be an honest error on the part of our dear president? Are we to believe the view of so many of my friends who think President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (PHD) truly does not know the distinction of between the two words? Only the president is in a position to answer these questions, for sure, in the meantime, however, even a pedestrian interpretation of the two words will suffice.

 

For anyone to suffer from ‘persecution’, there is first, and foremost, a presumption of innocence on the part of the victim. The Holy Prophets Muhammad (SAW) and Jesus Christ- Prophet Isa (AS) to Muslims- are the most classical examples in this case. Adherents of our two most popular religions can easily relate with the fact that both were unquestionably, the most famous victims of persecution in history.

 

Both suffered persecution and unimaginable hardship in the hands of their traducers entirely on account of what they believed in, and certainly not for any known crimes they committed. They were reformers who battled to correct societal ills including corruption and social injustice. The late Nelson Mandela was also a reformer in that sense. To that club also belong Mahatma Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

But neither President Jonathan, nor his Ministers, belongs to this exclusive category for obvious reasons. And unless we subscribe to the libellous nonsense peddled by some of his minders in their moments of delusions of grandeur, President Jonathan has nothing in common with Lee Kwuan Yew or Nelson Mandela. Even the suggestion that he does is blasphemous in my view.

 

The latter-day versions of persecution, relate to what Adolf Hitler did to the Jews of Europe between 1939 and 1945. It is also evident in what the state of Israel is currently doing to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. In both instances, the only ‘crimes’ committed by the affected Jews and Arabs derived solely from their membership of the ethnic groups targeted for persecution.

 

In any case, with the passage of time, and the creation of the United Nations, along with its well-known statutes on the protection of human rights and dignity, persecution in whatever form has largely become the exclusive crime of non-state actors, and banana Republics like Nigeria under its present leadership! We shall return to this point in due course.

 

The only exception I see is the state of Israel, which employs the full benefits of the perpetual US veto at its disposal the UN to commit serial crimes against humanity. Perhaps it is not surprising that Jonathan enjoys such a chummy relationship with the Israeli President.

 

If it is any comfort to President Jonathan, ordinary states like Nigeria, cannot persecute anyone without incurring the wrath of the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was for that reason that his wife was swiftly reported to the ICC when she crossed the line in the days before the presidential election. Nigeria is a signatory to the ICC protocol just in case the president needs reminding.

 

What the president, and his Ministers, should be in mortal fear of is prosecution for their infractions in office. But prosecution itself does not occur in a vacuum less it becomes the persecution the president is in mortal fear of. Prosecution presupposes a formal indictment of persons for crimes perceived to have been committed in courts of competent jurisdiction.

 

Prosecution is often the last stage of a formal investigation for crimes committed against an individual or the state. Unless the president actually believes that his ministers have committed various crimes, I see no reason for him to express the fears credited to him. I strongly suspect that we have been drawn into this needless controversy because communication is not one of his fortes.

 

When a Minister is alleged to have imported bullet proof limousines, at more than three times their normal cost, and without appropriation or  recourse to due process, will it amount to persecution if the incoming administration decides to do that which the President has failed to do – which is to thoroughly investigate the allegation to bring all those guilty of any malfeasance to justice?

 

It will certainly also not be persecution if the incoming administration decides to investigate the very serious crime of election rigging in Ekiti state, or the attendant human rights abuses experienced by the whistle blower.

 

When  the Minister responsible the deaths of scores of innocent Nigerian youth – including pregnant women – who were stampeded to death as a direct consequence of the illegal recruitment exercise he directly supervised is hauled before a judge to account for his crimes, does that also amount to persecution?

 

Would it not amount to criminal dereliction of duty for any incoming administration to close its eyes to the grave allegations regarding the 20 billion dollars that was not fully accounted for by the NNPC? How will that also qualify for persecution?

 

Fact is, President Jonathan lived with these scandals for years and for inexplicable reasons chose to ignore them. He buried his head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich. He cannot expect his successor anyone that succeeds him, let alone General Buhari, to exhibit the same degree of ineptitude or irresponsibility.

 

The way I see it, it is actually President Jonathan who has been serially guilty of persecution. He hounded HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi out of office at the CBN when it seemed easier to honour the man with a national award for blowing the whistle on the NNPC. He humiliated and degraded the capacity of Rotimi Amaechi to govern Rivers state effectively for feuding with his wife. If all these do not qualify for persecution then nothing else qualifies for the word.

 

The same also applies to his allegation of desertion and betrayal. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has his own faults and they are legion. We may even place the blame for Jonathan’s incompetent stewardship firmly on his laps with sufficient justification. But no other Nigerian – dead or alive- did more to ensure Jonathan’s ascendance to the Presidency than Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. That hardly prevented Jonathan from unleashing his attack dogs to savage and openly denigrate Obasanjo when they fell apart. At a point even the former President’s daughter Iyabo, was lured to publicly humiliate her father. To add insult to injury, Obasanjo’s most mortal foes like the wanted drug felon Buruji Kashimu, and Ayodele Fayose, became Jonathan’s closest confidants. That is not only betrayal; it is also the most gratuitous form of ingratitude in my book.

 

President Jonathan should spare us the baloney. On March 28th 2015, Nigerians, in their greater majority, made the decisive choice to dismantle the Animal Farm he chose to foist on the nation. We are entitled to revel in the promise of the new egalitarian manor we chose in peace. He should vacate the scene quietly and must not forget to take the dame along.

 

It is not too much to ask for.

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