I would like to thank Bashorun Dele Momodu for publishing my rejoinder to his Pendulum column of July 17, 2021. It was an honourable thing to do.
To those who have not read it, please find it below:
Dear Egbon Dele Momodu,
In your Pendulum column of Saturday, July 17, 2021, you wrote as follows:
“Many people felt that they were tired of the reckless profligacy and incredible corruption that pervaded the land under the Jonathan administration.”
The above statement is a historical revision and is not supported by facts.
There was no “reckless profligacy and incredible corruption” under former President Jonathan.
The only international institution accepted by the world as an objective arbiter on measuring corruption is Transparency International.
You may recall that under then-President Jonathan, Nigeria made her best ever improvement on the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index till date, in 2014, moving from 144 the previous year, to 136, an 8 point improvement.
No other administration before then achieved that feat, and no other government afterwards has repeated it.
You may also recall that on February 1, 2021, Transparency International’s most recent Corruption Perception Index revealed that Nigeria is more corrupt today than it was under the previous administration, having moved 13 places backwards in the CPI, from 136 in 2014 to 149 in 2021 (our worst performance ever).
You will therefore agree with me that your assessment of the situation under former President Jonathan is faulty, especially when you take into effect that that administration eliminated the corruption in the fertiliser procurement regime, introduced the cashless policy and the Bank Verification Number to reduce opportunities for corruption, and eased out two ministers over conflict of interest, as well as probing the petroleum sector in a bid to rid it off the fraudulent subsidy regime.
Transparency International is a non-governmental organisation based in Germany and has no affiliation with either the government of former President Jonathan, nor his political party. It is therefore prudent to accept their findings as an unbiased and non partisan body.
I do hope you would publish this to give your readers a more accurate picture of the period of our national life in question.
Thank you and may God bless you.
In addition to that rejoinder, I decided to write a more in-depth piece to generally address this myth of Dr. Jonathan’s corruption. A myth, for those who do not know, is a narrative that is not founded on facts or grounded in reality.
The idea that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan ran a corrupt administration is a myth. Nigeria was already a country battling endemic corruption before Dr. Jonathan took office on May 6, 2010 as President. That is a notorious fact.
Now, it is in the political interest of political opponents of Dr. Jonathan to sustain this myth, but let us instead focus on what cannot lie-the facts.
Year after year, Transparency International has maintained that Nigeria’s corruption is concentrated in two critical sectors, namely the petroleum sector and the civil service procurement regime.
And those two areas were the focus of the Jonathan administration’s efforts to rid the system of opportunistic corruption.
What is opportunistic corruption?
Let us take the oil sector. When you have a subsidy regime that is overseen by civil servants and supervised by politicians, you have a system that provides a lot of opportunities for corruption. Civil servants can cook and were in fact cooking the books, and politicians were approving their figures because they were getting a cut.
The Nigerian system of fighting corruption has been to go after those civil servants and politicians not sympathetic to his government and party with a sledge hammer. We have seen from Nigeria’s abysmal Corruption Perception Index report that that method is not working.
The Jonathan approach was more cerebral. He first set up the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force, headed by Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, to expose corruption practices in the industry. Nobody appoints Nuhu Ribadu to probe a sector of his intention is to promote corruption. Nuhu Ribadu has an unshakable reputation as a straight arrow.
And after that Taskforce submitted their report on November 2, 2012, the President himself set up machinery in place to end the subsidy regime and completely privatise this sector rates as one of Nigeria’s most corrupt.
That singular act would have eliminated opportunities for corruption amongst civil servants, politicians and contractors.
But Nigerians misunderstood and felt that Jonathan wanted to benefit those who sponsored his election. If indeed that was the case, why would he want to end subsidy? The natural thing to do, if he wanted to reward people, would have been to sustain the policy.
It did not occur to Nigerians that if Dr. Jonathan wanted to pay back those who sponsored his election then the last thing he would want to do was end the subsidy regime.
As a result of the report of the Nuhu Ribadu led Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force, the President ordered the prosecution of Mahmud Tukur, the son of the then Chairman of the ruling party. Can that happen today? President Jonathan insisted that the High and mighty must be made an example of, and Abdullahi Alao, the son of another political elite (Arisekola Alao) was arrested and tried.
And lastly on this score, in 2012, then President Jonathan inaugurated a presidential committee, led by Access Bank Chief Executive Officer, Aigboje Aig Imoukhuede, to carry out a forensic audit to verify all subsidy claims before they could be paid. Anyone who knows Aigboje Aig Imoukhuede knows he is incorruptible. That is not the type of person to let things slide.
At the end of the day Nasir El-Rufai, Tunde Bakare and others rallied Nigerians and grounded the country.
Another attempt at fighting opportunistic corruption (this time successfully) was with the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS), which the Jonathan administration introduced in 2011, which required fingerprinting all civil servants as a prerequisite for salary payments.
This was to eliminate the corruption of ghost workers. Through IPPIS, Nigeria flushed out 50,000 ghost during the Jonathan administration’s pendency.
$800 million that would have been paid to them in annual salaries and entitlement was saved.
As a matter of fact, almost all the intellectual and scientific methods that Nigeria currently uses to fight corruption were initiated and implemented by the Jonathan government, including IPPIS, BVN, the cashless policy and the Treasury Single Account.
The TSA was a brainchild of President Goodluck Jonathan and Dr. Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; when they wanted to bring all the resources of the federal government of Nigeria under one account, and they wanted that account to be a single account so they could promote transparency.
However, because they knew that if we have this treasury single account, and we recall all the funds that the federal government has in banks and in different institutions, it is going to collapse the economy.
So they decided it was going to be done in phases. Maybe, five percent at given times of about six months.
The point I am trying to drive home here is that the Jonathan administration made immense progress in Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perception Index because that government was focused on preventing corruption by eliminating opportunities to be corrupt.
Some people mention Dasuki. This is now six years, and Colonel Sambo Dasuki (retired) is yet to be tried. He is ready. Like me, he is a meticulous record keeper. He had maintained that the charges are bogus and no $2.1 billion is missing.
We also had our faults. We were unaware of monies kept by Andrew Yakubu in his house. We were also not as forceful as we ought to have been in micromanaging some ministers that we now know were profligate. Nobody is perfect.
However, no administration has made the type of progress that we made in reducing Nigeria’s Corruption Perception Index ranking. And until anybody is able to beat us, with all due respect, they should give honour to whom it is due!
Gospeller. Deep Thinker. #1 Bestselling author of Facts Versus Fiction: The True Story of the Jonathan Years. Avid traveller. Hollywood Magazine Film Festival Humanitarian of the Year, 2019.