Many who view President Goodluck Jonathan as a meek and gentle soul will find it hard to reconcile that image with the news of his hectoring phone conversation with Lamido Sanusi, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The President was angry, but meek souls are permitted to fly even into rage. The President betrayed impatience, and meek souls have the occasional free rein to fly off their hinges. The President did not understand the law, and meek souls sometimes are forgiven their lack of familiarity with the law, even though it is no excuse.
If meek souls are permitted to infringe on all of these rules, can we allow a president of a republic that kind of latitude and attitude? That was the question I could not live with or live down as I contemplated the story, first carried by Thisday, about the exchange between the President and the boss of the nation’s financial holy of holies.
President Jonathan has a lot in his hands these days. When Rivers State is not stewing impetuously in his pot, he is at war with his party governors who want the head of the head of PDP. And if that is not enough, he is wrestling with the forces of conscience, who want him to fire his aviation dame, or basking or writhing from the after-waves of his letter slugfest with his former mentor Obasanjo. Some may excuse the President some irritability, except that he exercised that emotion without much charity.
How could a President ask a CBN boss to quit without first checking if the law gave him the right? We know the enormous powers of a president in a presidential system. Even then, it has its checks. Philosophers have shown that history has never thrown up an absolute monarch or dictator, from Caligula to Franco. Despots don’t hang in the air. They depend on certain individuals or stakeholders. The presidential system bows to the constitution. Did the President just wake up one morning and flew into a rage about the CBN boss and decided to fire him?
Presidents do not act that way. I like to think the President did not just jump into such an impulse. So, he must have deliberated over the matter with his advisers. He must have discussed with his coordinating minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. With all her pedigree about the interaction between finance and political authority, she could not have advised the President to do so. If she did, she was diabolical. His secretary to the government Anyim Pius Anyim was a senate helmsman, and he too knows that the law does not allow for such presidential arbitrariness. His attorney general Adoke is also knowledgeable in the matter and I expect that he gave no such advice.
Could it then be Gulak? I don’t know. If the president acted on the advice of these aides, then we must expect that they told him the proper thing. So, did the President know the truth and ignored advice and plunged precipitously into that phone conversation? It is either that the President was ill-advised in the sense that he did not seek advice or he was misadvised in the sense that his advisers gave him the wrong counsel. Either way, the President is to blame because, at his level, any advice he accepts becomes his wisdom or otherwise. He made that conversation and not any other person in government, and what a conversation it was.
Many might fantasize about the details of the exchange. What was the decibel of the president’s voice and the counter-decibel of the CBN boss’? What diction did they command, irate, gentlemanly, glum, aplomb? Did they interrupt each other? Did they spit out invectives involuntarily or deliberately? Did it cruise on perfidious calm? How did the conversation end? With a warning, threat or counter-threat?
How did the President feel later when he learned he acted beyond his powers when Sanusi told him he required two-third of the senate to oust him?
One is baffled at the quickness with which he decided to oust the CBN boss when he shillyshallied like a wishy-washy over other matters like the still smouldering matter over his aviation minister Stella Oduah who has also not responded to charges of certificate fraud. That matter has been on his table for several weeks, and he could not fire her. He does not need any senate or house input to fire his ministers but he wants to do same to CBN boss who is not under his control any longer. With Sanusi, does the reader not see the hint of the pharaoh that he forswore in the house of the Lord some time ago?
The issue at contention is the leaked letter Sanusi wrote him over $48.9 billion of crude oil sales he alleged was unaccounted for. Sanusi’s letter was a false alarm. He gave a mea culpa for that misleading missive.
It was a scandal that a CBN chief did not do his homework before writing such a letter, and it makes one wonder what other miscues happen on his watch. He admitted it was an error and, short of resigning, he apologised. We are compelled to accept his contrition since the senate would not fire him and he would not resign. The job of the vicar of our financial sanctuary should not be subjected to such calculations of errors or errors of calculations. He has a few months at the helm and he should sin no more. But he did the right thing to stand up to the President.
Nonetheless, he noted that $12 billion has not been accounted for, but Okonjo-Iweala said it was $10.8 billion. They made it look like it was only $10.8 billion. Newspapers have become addicted to writing in dollars rather than Naira, and sometimes the real sense of the amount is lost on the people. The sum of $10.8 billion is about N2 trillion. That amount of money could have funded the allocation nightmares of last year when the nation could not pay the states their due money.
Yet the NNPC says the money went to operational matters. The group managing director, Andrew Yakubu, said most of the money went to subsidy. That is $8.49 billion, and the balance to pipeline repairs and maintenance, crude oil losses and holding the strategic reserve. Is this not a scandal? I thought we were through with such disbursements on subsidy. The scandal is also that the NNPC has such discretion with our oil funds and can decide on its own how much to spend on what without checks.
No one saw the President’s alarm over that outrage. Yet, he has not relieved Oduah of her job over the car scandal, and was mute over the N2 billion oil minister Diezani Alison-Madueke spent on travels. The President clearly has a good reason to be angry over the leaked letter. However, he received the letter in September but did nothing in spite of its weighty allegations until December when he learnt it leaked.
What other grave matters are on the president’s table that we know little about? That is the real challenge of President Jonathan’s encounter with Lamido Sanusi, the most colourful eccentric to head the CBN.
The President should know our laws and Sanusi our figures. Neither did either. Sanusi reacted with penitence and Jonathan with impunity.
The opinion expressed is that of the writer(Sam Omatseye) and not that of amdegreat.wordpress.com