Nigerians suspect that a colossal amount was spent during the just concluded general elections but figuring out even a ballpark figure would have been anyone’s guess, that is until according to media reports, His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, revealed to the nation that he had “given” over N2.2tr to key figures within the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to be distributed to secure his re-election and he was now demanding some accountability from them since according to the reports, the monies were purportedly diverted resulting in the failure of his bid. Who will tell the President that such a statement, if true, amounts to an admission of complicity in the diversion of public funds since neither himself, nor the PDP, nor those raising funds for him was good for N2.2tr? Shall we tell the President he is now prime suspect in a case of “stealing”, his favourite euphemism for corruption? In case the President denies making such a statement, shall we tell him he has an obligation to disclose how much was spent since our curiosity has now been aroused?
Rumours were rife before elections that every high ranking official that crossed over to the PDP from the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) was blessed with $1m for doing so – if true, only God knows how many took up the offer (only to defect again?). Other rumours in the run up to the elections suggested that as much as $5bn was shared amongst the elite in the name of “arms purchases” in order to disguise the attempt to buy support, especially from Northern Nigeria. In the six week interregnum between February 14 when the Presidential elections were to hold and the new date of April 11 when it actually did, rumours went round that some $10bn changed hands again. At an exchange rate of N225 to the USD, this amounts to N2.25tr – could this be the sum in question? Prior to this revelation supposedly by Mr. President, (which his people now deny), the only real fact out there on funds raised for his campaign was that some “businessmen” had come together and raised N21bn for the race, a very far cry from N2.2tr.
Let us for a minute liken Nigeria to a Public Liability Company (PLC) and all it’s citizens to its shareholders. Imagine the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) hiving off N2.25tr of shareholder’s funds which he then distributes in order to influence the outcome of voting at an Annual General Meeting (AGM) in order to retain his job; what view do you think the law would take of such a fiduciary? Does such a CEO not deserve to be kicked out (and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law) given he holds a legal and ethical relationship of trust between himself and his principals – the shareholders? Does he not have a sacred responsibility to ensure the prudent management of such funds? Likewise, the President of Nigeria owes a duty to act solely in the best interests of the people of Nigeria, which does not include the self-interested application of public funds; so Nigerians as a matter of public interest need to know what the truth is. In fact, a fiduciary may not make a secret profit out of the position of trust he has accepted but has a duty to avoid all real and apparent conflicts of interest, so even if the conflict is only apparent, Mr. President is duty bound to clear himself now.
The gallant capitulation of Mr. President and by extension the PDP, in the timely acceptance of defeat at the Presidential polls and the palpable relief it ushered not only for Nigerians but all peoples across the world familiar with the country, cannot be commended enough. The president did the right thing in conceding and this has been noted the world over. However, should we as a nation accept the unspoken suggestions that in exchange for this peaceful transition an amnesty be given to corrupt actors in His Excellency’s administration? Given the magnitude of the sums bandied around, the level of public office implicated, and the damage done to Nigeria by corruption as well as the systemic implications of such acts, shall we tell the president he has not heard the last word on the need for his administration to be investigated for acts of corruption perpetrated in the period of his rule?
In January 2012 the country nearly tipped over into a “Nigerian Spring” following public outcry over his administrations lack of accountability over unprecedented sums spent on fuel subsidy payments to persons believed to be close to the administration amongst others. There is also great concern over the timing of release of funds in excess of N16bn by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to Eko and Ibadan Gencos, as well as other sums to certain Discos in the power reforms to persons believed to be closely linked to him. Nigerians are watching the incoming administration to see whether or not those considered by the public to be corrupt would be offered public office again and whether those obvious cases of “theft” of public funds will be investigated or treated with kid gloves. Who will tell Mr. President that there is a need to fasten his seat belt as there is great turbulence ahead for him and key figures within his administration.
Soji Apampa, the co-founder of The Integrity Organisation, can be reached at Twitter: @sojapa, and email: firstname.lastname@example.org.