FG'S DILEMMA: INHERITING FUTURE TRIALS FROM THE PAST
In the last week or so the challenges to the transformative credibility of the Federal Government headed by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan have become increasingly vocal. Several newspapers and websites have claimed in recent times that the Jonathan Administration is under pressure from both internal and external forces to remove the current Chairperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Mrs. Farida Waziri.
The reports that we have seen have however not accused her of any concrete misconduct. They have rather relied on innuendo and assumptions of a lack of confidence in her abilities on the part of certain persons who have set themselves up as her critics and monitors to presume that her continued presence on the seat will undermine the credibility of the Jonathan Administration's commitment to the fight against corruption. Such assumptions sound like nothing more than conspiratorial rumours being bandied about by those who fear that they might become victims of investigations being mounted by the Commission. The growing clamour of dissent surrounding the issues that are central to the Jonathan agenda are largely based on political calculations being generated by those who wish to maintain a status quo rather than by any concerted opposition based on reason.
For example the opposition to the suggestion that a single tenure should be established for Executive Governors and the President rather than continuing to grant them two short terms is emanating from loud-mouthed politicians rather than from a popular movement. It was particularly instructive to note that the major opponents have not even seen a document in which the arguments in favour of the proposal have been articulated and yet they have mounted vocal opposition to the idea.
Many critics of this Administration's actions so far tend to ignore empirical evidence that the President likes to promote caution and care rather than cosmetic excitement in government. They accuse him of hesitancy instead of acknowledging his consistency when he offers to listen to all sides before making a decision.
Then they accuse him of weakness when he suggests that he will modify his proposals based on consultation. It is also noteworthy that, quite probably against the wishes of some of his close associates who would have preferred him to take the easy road and avoid controversy by silencing some of his most sincere convictions, he has decided that he must let the people know his true feelings. While we were of the opinion that maybe he should have waited for a while before unveiling his single tenure proposal we have to acknowledge that this delay would not truly represent Jonathan's style.
When he grabs hold of an idea he has a tenacious habit of putting it in the public domain for consideration and debate. His penchant for staying in the background and allowing public discourse to build up before revealing his final decision on any matter that he has initiated is actually an impressive democratic tactic. Those who have found it profitable (or at least relevant) to challenge his viewpoints have however decided that this is one element of his character that they can take advantage of. For this reason they choose to oppose or criticise his decisions vehemently even before he takes them. Just a hint of action on his part provokes loud dissent on theirs in the hope that his stance of remaining silent in the background will create doubts in his mind. So far however what we have seen is that instead of doing so it only helps to consolidate his commitment to the ideas that he genuinely believes in.
It is quite clear that most of the serious issues that Dr. Jonathan's Government will confront over the next two years, especially in economic management and political transformation, will be inherited ones. The initiatives that he takes to overcome the consequences of previously established policies might eventually be regarded as legacies of his own mandate, but the results will be tested not by his own Administration but by his successors. While the decisions that he can consummate in the next four years should help to stabilise the polity and the social status of the nation's populace his task is to prepare a foundation for future growth rather than for immediate consolidation. It is a very difficult task for any leader to carry the political establishment along with him in such a venture.
Apart from the fact that most politicians tend to assume that their relevance and popularity depends on immediate gratification of their objectives, both personal and collective, the determination of Dr. Jonathan to serve out only his four-year tenure has set the bar for political transformation at its highest level. However the fact that he does not intend to benefit personally has pitted him against those who hope to continue to build their personal fortunes from political participation. As a consequence it is their future that they are protecting by resisting his transformation initiatives loudly without actually developing careful arguments for or against them based on a genuine study of the issues at stake.
This is a tradition that Nigerian democratic culture needs to overcome if it is to become a sustainable system. Dr. Jonathan's most difficult task might well be to create an enabling atmosphere for the transformation of this tradition. His calm and cautious deliberation needs to be applied to the handling of political debate and competitive discourse and his administration must be prepared to confront resistance constantly without losing focus.
It is in this light that the issues on which the Jonathan Administration is being taken to task by a plethora of media critics and faceless challengers must be generally observed. The efforts to encourage the Government to remove the EFCC Chairperson by claiming that international observers are unhappy with her performance, is a case in point.
The actual pursuit of cases and the investigative record of the Commission have set a new standard of probity in such operations. Those who are challenging the Commission's Chairperson care nothing about this. It is unlikely that they will be able to influence Dr. Jonathan on this score alone because the deliberate caution that is often stigmatised as hesitancy in him is also the basis for a stubborn adherence to propriety in his relationships with those who serve in government with him. Nevertheless an important element of growth in Nigerian democratic culture is the confrontational outpouring of dissent that has gradually become a characteristic of Nigerian political discourse in recent times. In the first place the tolerance and equanimity displayed by President Jonathan himself is a welcome sign.
In the past most Nigerian leaders were both combative and intolerant in their responses to critical commentary, and in some cases the consequences were deadly. The present trial of the former Chief Security Officer of Aso Villa Major Hamza Adullahi is underscoring the nature of that past. Dr. Jonathan's assertion that the trial and its revelations must continue without any state interference is simply a reiteration of his own oft-stated conviction that the duty of the Federal Government is to create a new order of concern and responsibility for the conduct of national affairs on behalf of the ordinary people.
This decision on his part places his government in a dilemma because he intends to use instruments of government created to serve an elite establishment in the past to fulfill the wishes of the masses in the future.