The Guilty are Afraid, James Hadley Chase, the crime thriller great, would have dubbed it, being the title of one of his ever-racy novels.
But Hardball prefers Jonathan Agonistes — the agony of Jonathan — being the reported unease former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan feels, over reported plans to find where some US $2.1bn in oil money nestles.
The Nation, in its lead story of July 15, reported: “Jonathan kicks as Buhari plans US $2.1b oil cash probe” — with the accompanying rider: “Ex-President seeks protection”.
Protection — why? The story reported Jonathan to have made a save-my-soul (SMS) Abuja sortie; and literally plans a protest placard, to Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, chairman of the National Peace Committee, that did much to ease tension before, during and after the epochal March/April elections, after which President Jonathan and his ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost power.
The story said former President Jonathan craved “protection”, from the Abubakar committee, against any alleged “blackmail” from the new Muhammadu Buhari presidency, over possible missing money, from the ever-leaking oil purse.
Already, Edo Governor Adams Oshiomhole has gone radical, daring Jonathan and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, his economy czarina, to speak up on how US $1bn allegedly disappeared from the Excess Crude Account (ECA), with Oshiomhole alleging Okonjo-Iweala illegally withdrew the money to fund Jonathan’s electioneering.
The former president must have been unnerved that the hard-punching Oshiomhole was part of the quartet the National Economic Committee (NEC) set up to investigate how the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), they of opaque operations, spent N3.8 trillion in three years.
But a closer look at the quartet would reveal an intricate balancing, between the two major political parties: Oshiomhole and Nasir El-Rufai (APC), counter-balanced by Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom) and Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe). Alhaji Dankwambo, one of only two PDP governors from the North now; while Governor Emmanuel is a protégée of Godswill Akpabio, a rabid Jonathan supporter. So, opposing partisan bile should cancel themselves out.
So, why does Jonathan fear?
As for the appeal to the Abdulsalami Abubakar National Peace Committee, nothing on the surface is wrong with it. In a milieu that lays so much store by barking power, it is pleasing that quiet influence is weighing in. Besides, Dr. Jonathan should do everything logical, lawful and legitimate to protect his name — and legacy.
Where Hardball vigorously disagrees is the reported allusion to post-poll but seeming pre-concession agreement, which appeared to have formed the basis of Jonathan’s acceptance of electoral loss.
The Abubakar committee’s appeal to common sense and honour was laudable — even more so, as Jonathan bought into it; and accepted defeat in a poll he was clearly worsted. He, other things being equal, could not have done otherwise, anyway. With his defeat, his covenant with Nigerians, as president, had been shred.
So, while applauding Jonathan for choosing the honourable path, that concession cannot — and will not — be a basis for perpetual blackmail, against positive action, especially where there are legitimate questions on his government’s handling of the economy, which put most of our people in ruin, are begging for answers.
Jonathan should get his due honour. But that should not shield him from flak, arising from the rot his presidency left. And certainly, the Abubakar committee must not be party to any illicit cover-up. Every question must be put, and answer entered, in the public space.
Nigeria is no medieval enclave where a few potentates enter a redoubt, and emerge (that word again!) to pronounce everything settled, even when their subjects have serious doubts. It is rather a 21st century democracy, where the citizens must press their rights to know.