The comma in the middle of my headline converts it from a name to a remark or a sentence. As in prison sentence.For I predict that by this time next year, the best-known bearer of that name, Nigeria’s former leader Mr. Goodluck Jonathan, will be serving one.
In the closing weeks of 2015, what was sometimes conveniently dismissed by his supporters as heavy criticism of Mr. Jonathan has proved to be fair. That tragedy is that he did not run a government; he ran a no-rules and no-responsibility bazaar to ennoble, and enable, the shameless privatization of Nigeria’s resources.
A case in point (and the only envelope to be opened so far): what some people now call Dasukigate: an arms-purchase scandal anchored by the National Security Adviser (NSA) Sambo Dasuki through which federal funds meant for arms for the military were being distributed to the well-connected.
It is unclear when and how it became the business of the NSA to purchase military armament. Nigeria’s appropriation laws and practices do not reflect that.
Scandalous, but Mr. Jonathan superintended it.
To worsen the scandal, the star of Jonathan’s cabinet, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, confirmed early in December that she had also transferred into the hands of Dasuki previously-undisclosed “new Abacha funds of about $322 million” for “urgent security operations.” It is unclear where those funds came from.
Remember: In June 2014, Liechtenstein returned $227m to Nigeria, to which Jonathan responded with a committee of cabinet to determine how it was be used. Nothing was heard of the Liechtenstein funds thereafter, but Nigerians at least knew how much was involved, where it had come from, and when it arrived.
Three months earlier in March 2014, Switzerland repatriated $380 million, bringing that country’s total Abacha loot return to over $1billion.
The point here is that until circumstances this month compelled Okonjo-Iweala’s confession, nobody had ever declared the return of “about $322 million…with another $700 million still expected.”
In various commentaries over the years, I have argued that contrary to the tale being told by government officials—especially Okonjo-Iweala—Nigeria has recouped billions of Sani Abacha dollars, with no evidence they have been used for Nigeria. The casual, and illegal, transfer to NSA Dasuki of $322 million by the tag team of Jonathan and Okonjo-Iweala demonstrates the point.
With no legal authorization of any kind, in a democracy supposedly governed by specific structures and laws, the Finance Minister gave $322m to the NSA Minister. Read her statement closely and observe how she carefully tried to steer attention away from the quality of the crime with the promise of future riches: a forthcoming $700m that would presumably not be distributed among politicians, but “applied for development programmes as originally conceived.”
But these are not the things that Mr. Jonathan was saying in the United States a week or two earlier as he marketed his “Goodluck Jonathan Foundation” at the Presidential Precinct in Virginia.
The Precinct has the potential to do a lot of good work. Managing Director Neal Piper writes: “The Precinct offers an interactive and engaging learning experience that connects leaders – allowing them to share their expertise, collaborate, and build on ideas and lessons learned here and around the globe. Our goal is for participants to learn skills that they can apply in their home countries thereby helping them reach their goals and aspirations while transforming the economies and governance where they live. The Presidential Precinct allows them to make connections that will help build their personal futures.”
You read that convoluted construction carefully, and it is clear that the mission of the Precinct is muddled up between its obligations to former leaders such as Mr. Jonathan, from whom it obtains its limelight; and its nod to future leaders, for whom it seeks its political legitimacy.
Mr. Jonathan was the wrong client, and although The Precinct said it was helping him to hone the message of the GEJ Foundation, that plan is undermined by Mr. Jonathan’s political record.
The former Nigerian leader did not tell his audience about that first envelope: Dasukigate, let alone such forthcoming envelopes as the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Transformation Agenda, Sure-P, or the broad daylight rigging back into office in Ekiti State of Governor Ayo Fayose.
Instead, and here is the video of one of the public events, he told the curious story of how, when he was young, Africa was “considered the dark continent,” a misunderstood concept he wants to change through his foundation to make it “a light, a very bright continent.”
He tells the story of his economic triumphs and how he transformed Nigeria into the biggest economy in Africa within five years on account of his reforms. “We reformed the private sector.
So many sectors. We reformed our power sector. We reformed the agricultural sector. We reformed our oil and gas sector. Our industrial sector…
Watch the video: “We involved young men and women in the private sector. We mentored them, encouraged them to set up small businesses, macro and small and medium scale enterprises in terms of light manufacturing, processing…food items, and also the service sector and it worked wonderfully well…”
“[Mentoring]…Our philosophy was that every young person that is keying to our programme in five years should be able to employ two to five others but when we started that programme under two years some of them could employ up to ten, even more…”
It is true that in April 2014, Nigeria’s economy became Africa’s largest when it was rebased to include in her GDP industries such as telecoms, airlines, film production, information technology, and online sales. None of them had anything to do with Jonathan or his policies.
On the contrary, his government’s “reform” initiatives were often betrayed by his government. Unemployment soared; power supply worsened. Stealing received Mr. Jonathan’s official stamp of approval; merit declined as a currency; his government shared out money meant for combating the insurgency in the North. His was Nigeria’s most incoherent government since 1960.
When did Mr. Jonathan implement the policies he speaks about in the video? Where are the figures to back up his claims?
In what year or in what local council area did he encourage young graduates to go into farming—a programme he claims has been so successful that doctors, engineers and lawyers have switched into it?
In his mix of misinformation and disinformation, the former Nigeria probably imagined he was in Nollywood, where fiction has no consequences.
But this is the same mindset that ruined his years in the presidency, and for which he was rejected at the polls last March.
The envelopes, please. And oh, Goodluck, Mr. Jonathan.
• Twitter: @SonalaOlumhense