Monday, 7 September 2015

AT LAST! Jonathan breaks silence, reacts to attacks on his administration

THREE months after leaving office and amid accusations of misdeeds by his government, former President Goodluck Jonathan has said he worked with a great team.

Jonathan’s appraisal of his cabinent was contained in separate congratulatory letters to the new President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina; and the Vice-President of the World Bank, Ms Arunma Oteh.

Akinwunmi served as agriculture minister under the Jonathan administration while Oteh served as the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Jonathan said Adesina’s appointment “attests to the fact that my administration had a good team that managed the affairs of the country.”

But the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, on Sunday, said it would have been disastrous for Nigeria if Jonathan had been re-elected in the March 28, 2015 presidential poll won by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Tinubu, in an article to mark Buhari’s 100 days in power, said Nigeria would have collapsed if Jonathan had won re-election.

In his letter to his former aides, Jonathan however celebrated his time in government.

To Adesina, he wrote, “Given your exemplary record of performance, while serving as the Honourable Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development in my cabinet, I have no doubt that you will deploy your energy and the bank’s resources to ensure that Africa experiences a new era of accelerated development.

“You were not only a critical voice in my economic team, you also walked the talk and earned the praise of our countrymen and women by ensuring that Nigeria’s quest for self-sufficiency in food production became achievable dream.”

The former President, in his letter to Oteh, praised the former SEC boss’ knowledge of capital markets.

He described her as being conversant with the challenges of the economies of emerging markets.

He stated, “I am delighted that you are going to your new job, fresh from the experience of having led the recovery and growth initiatives of the Nigerian Bourse in the wake of the decline, occasioned by recent global economic recession and financial crisis.

“This is a clear testimony to your capacity, high integrity, and tenacity of purpose. It is also a vindication of the decision of my administration to stand by you, believing in your abilities and competence, even when questions were being raised in some quarters over your choice.

“I am convinced that the experience you gathered as Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Nigeria gave you deep insights on how to tackle the peculiar challenges of a developing nation.

“The World Bank can draw from this to ensure that its future partnerships with emerging economies in Africa and other parts of the world are anchored on policies that will lead to sustained growth and development, which is a sine qua non for lifting millions of people in the developing world out of mass poverty.”

It will be recalled that the House of Representatives had in July 2012 asked the Federal Government to remove Oteh.

The lawmakers made the call in their adoption of the report of the House ad hoc committee, which probed the near-collapse of the capital market.

The report was debated and adopted barely 24 hours after the Federal Government recalled Oteh from the suspension slammed on her on June 12 by the Board of the SEC, which indicted her for mishandling the Project 50 of the commission.

The report faulted Oteh’s appointment as DG on the grounds that she was not qualified and that she lacked the competence to manage human and material resources.

But the Jonathan Presidency had said that the government’s decision to bring back Oteh was independent of the House decision and that due process was followed in her recall.

Tinubu, who is a former Governor of Lagos State, said the banking system and the entire economy would have collapsed due to the several acts of corruption perpetrated by Jonathan’s men.

He said, “Change means fighting corruption in all of its manifestations instead of consorting with it. No longer shall the public treasury, meant for the wellbeing of the many, be treated as the private reserve of the few. Nigeria is now 100 days into President Buhari’s leadership.

“I shudder to think where we might be had the prior administration been allowed to govern even 100 days more, let alone another four years.”

He said Jonathan’s refusal to intervene in the economic crisis in different states showed a lack of understanding of the economy.

He added, “By approving a package of emergency fiscal and financial relief, he (Buhari) has stopped the slide of numerous states into economic depression and imminent bankruptcy. By enabling the payment of back salaries to state government civil servants, he has saved millions of Nigerians from sinking into hunger and poverty.

“The former government should have taken these step months ago, even before the election. However, it let a bad situation fester into impending calamity. Had that government remained in office, it would have allowed the states to slide into bankruptcy, triggering a financial crisis that would have engulfed the banking system if not the entire economy.”

But the Peoples Democratic Party has supported Jonathan’s assessment of his administration, saying, “The former President has hit the nail on the head.”

National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Oliah Metuh, said that Jonathan’s assessment of his team and administration was based on evidence.

According to him, the international appointments given to members of the Jonathan team are pointers to the fact that those in the team are not only competent, but also capable.

He said that the achievements of the Jonathan administration were practical and could not be politicised and that they were evident in all sectors, including agriculture, economy and communications.

In his reaction, the Executive Secretary, Anti-Corruption Network , Ebenezer Oyetakin, said that Jonathan’s self-assessment was meant to achieve image redemption.

He said, “We should however appreciate Jonathan for conceding defeat. No doubt, someone like Adesina is an exceptional person among the former President Jonathan’s team. No doubt too, some others would be good persons in his team. The Jonathan’s letter to them, while we can see it as deserving and in good will to the duo, smacks of a desperate attempt at cheap image redemption.”

On his part, a United States-based activist, Smart Ajaja, described the assessment as an affront to Nigerians.

“Nigeria needs to be told the truth in very harsh and caustic language. This statement from ex-President Jonathan is an affront on the sensibility of Nigerians, taking cognizance of the crass corruption that dogged his presidency,” Ajaja said.

But Kayode Ajulo, a legal practitioner and Executive Director of the Egalitarian Mission Africa, said, Jonathan’s administration “paraded some of the best brains in the land as he also made some unfortunate appointments.”

“In fact, his team could be best described as a cacophony of personalities, an amalgamation of the good, the bad and the ugly appointees. Today, what should be of concern is the review of the gains and the mistakes of the administration and to use same to chart a new course for the Buhari’s new administration to ensure a better Nigeria,” he added.