Arms Deal Scandal: Where Was Jonathan?

THE Presidency is a prize with a heavy price. As a result, when things go wrong, to use the words of Hans Morgenthau,”the virtues of the politician can easily become vices when they are brought to bear upon the statesman’s task.” This is why the burden of national unity rests heaviest on the man who holds the le- vers of power-the authority. This is why by all accounts former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan must answer questions on what he knows or doesn’t know about the current astonishing and chilling revelations on the $2.1 billion arms procurement by the office of the former National Security Adviser, Col.Sambo Dasuki (retd) under his presidency. The tate-tales that are trailing the disbursement of the money and the characters involved, sums up an incredible putrid story of how Nigeria continues to rank in the top bracket of the World’s most corrupt countries.

The hefty amounts involved are mindblowing for which nothing should be left to chances, and no individual, no matter how big, should be spared, if found remotely or directly connected with the scam. This is a scandal from which box office movie can be made. It is a rip-off of unspeakable dimension. Already, as we all know, this is a running story for which Dasuki, the star at the heart of the scandal has been taken in by the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), after weeks of siege to his Abuja residence by the operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS). Also in EFCC custody over the same matter, are former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, former Minister of state for Finance, Bashir Yuguda, Chairman of Daar Communications, Raymond Dokpesi, ex-Defence Minister, Haliru Mohammed and others. Many more are likely to be in EFCC net in the days and weeks ahead. From the names already manipulated in the scam, and questioned by the EFCC operatives, as regards their role, is Dokpesi’s receipt of a hefty N2.1bn of the share. He didn’t deny it. And Bafarawa’s share is even bigger, N4.6bn.
That of Yuguda is put at N1.5bn from the office of the ex-NSA, for unstated purpose, and another N775m from the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, also for unspecified purpose. The former Defence minister’s son, Abba is also caught in the web, having allegedly received N600m in the name of Bam Properties Limited. But these are just few of the puzzling issues in this arms scandal. But, by far the gordian knots to untie are these questions: Is it true that former President Jonathan was in full knowledge of these transanctions of $2.1bn arms purchase, and indeed, approved them for Dasuki? Dasuki had earlier said that all approvals were made by Jonathan, put differently, did Dasuki apply and received $1bn on March 27, 2014, and $200m on May 2014 and another $200m same day, up from $250m which he reportedly requested for?.

It was also alleged that Dasuki in January this year received $100m. These monies, we are told, were sourced from outside the budgetary provisions for security, in addition to the $1bn loan that Jonathan administration had secured to fight insurgency in the North. Was it also true that the former President’s senior special assistant (Administration), Matt Aikhiobere wrote the covering letter conveying the presidential approval, contrary to ex-president’s denial last month from far away Washington DC, USA?

We recall that Jonathan had said that his government never awarded any contract in the range of US$2bn. He queried:, “where did the money come from? Repeatedly he said, “I did not award any contract of $2bn for arms procurement. But the 13-man panel set up by President Buhari had found that questionable deals took place, involving a revolving door of high-profile corruption. And that extra- budgetary spending was secured by Jonathan, amounting to N643.8bn, and additional foreign component of $2.2bn, all managed and super- vised by ex-NSA were used for the illicit deals.

Only last month, Dasuki was widely quoted to have said, “I have a lot to tell Nigerians”. Now, between Jonathan and Dasuki, who do we believe? Is it not rationally difficult to believe how one man, in this case, Dasuki could have disbursed such stupendous amount of money without the approval of the President and Commander in Chief? That’s why I ask: where was Jonathan when all these were happening?

If Jonathan was unaware while all of these took place under his watch as President, that casts a big question mark on his character as president. And the following questions will logically suffice: was Jonathan as President simple-minded and nai?ve? Was he, in local parlance a waka just pass President who never gave attention to important things happening around him? Or was he a ‘Unclad man’ with no real presidential power? Better still, was Jonathan a ‘pretender to the throne’, an apprentice to a master,in this case, Dasuki? Or was he hypnotized or afraid?

You see, Jonathan will be doing himself a lot of harm if he fails to speak up on everything he knew about this scandal. Even though many Political leaders in a democracy are not seen as leaders of creative thought, the best of them are those who respond prudently when things go wrong, but the worst, the most unsuccessful among them don’t care because they don’t trust their own guts, and end up leaving no worthy legacy.

Let’s go back in time: Those who voiced apprehension that Jonathan was not his own man, that he was indeed “clueless” would claim they have been vindicated in the present scandal swirling around his presidency. What we are witnessing now could well be a portrait of an ex-President who got power but never knew how to exercise it. From the look of things, the impression one gets from Jonathan presidency was that of a man who couldn’t measure up in the scale of power, neither was he influenced by it. He was sim- ply a prisoner in his own presidential palace. That’s a tragedy that will be better captured by historians when the time comes.

This is a lesson to those in power now. It’s important for a president to know when and how to use power and when to put it in check. The power to achieve results is always there for any prudent president to use. But that oxygen that sustains is not every president that knows how to get it. That’s why what works for one country doesn’t seem to work for the other.

Good leadership requires human qualities beyond the conventional notion of authority. Power brings responsibility. How Dasuki became “a clearing house” of financial matters, including disbursement of funds for election campaign expenses mirrors a failure of Jonathan as President. I say this because, as every political historian will tell you, the most important decision a President makes is what he wants to do with the office he has been elected into, and what range of issues he chooses to recognize. The question here is: Did Jonathan know exactly what he wanted to do with presidential power? I don’t think he knew.

The essence of presidential leadership is to recognise the challenge of the office and believe in your own gut even when you make mistakes. It’s better that way because there are always useful lessons in failure. By that time this whole arms deal scandal is over, we will know whether Jonathan was there or a puppet imprisoned by his own inadequacies.


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