Beyond Jonathan’s N5.7 Billion Largesse ,By Uche Igwe

Jonathan-news 600Georges Clemenceau, the former Prime Minister and wartime leader of France once said: “ when you want to bury a problem, appoint a committee to investigate it.” That seems to me the regular pattern of the Jonathan administration. It has assumed an amusing and almost ridiculous dimension. Everything they want to do must be through a committee. Government appoints a committee. When they submit their findings, government appoints a white paper committee. At the submission of the white paper, government now appoints an implementation committee. By the time the latest committee begins to contemplate implementation, another drama would have taken over and many of us would have forgotten and another committee will be appointed to do the same work under another name. Pundits say that many reasons motivate government to set up committees but decisive action to solve the problems cannot be part of it. It is another instrument of patronage and advancement of their primitive distributional politics. It is called job for the boys.
However I must commend President Jonathan for the 5.7 billion naira released to the victims of the 2011 electoral violence. We were told that it was in partial fulfilment of the recommendations of the Sheik Lemu report. The beneficiaries are as follows: Bauchi State – 1,574,870,000, Sokoto – 55,888,506, Zamfara – 93,253,485, Niger – 433,375,875, Jigawa -208,667,634, Katsina – 1,973,209,440, Kano -944827, 000, Adamawa -420,089,840 and Akwa Ibom – 43,504,000.
As I look through these rather fascinating figures, several questions keep agitating my mind. I have chosen to ask only three of them. Who can we describe as the real victims of the violence? What are the other recommendations of the Sheik Lemu Report? Why has the President chosen to revisit the matter two years after? An online dictionary defines a victim as ‘someone who was harmed, injured, or killed as a result of crime, accident or the event or action’. Assuming that the intention is to channel these monies to the ‘real victims’, who are they referring to? Take it or leave it the amount of victims of that violence may never be known. Many of them are dead and forgotten and we are not good at keeping records in Nigeria. The first sets of targets were the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members. Then an uncountable number of churches were burnt just as many worshippers in these churches were killed. More than two hundred thousand people of Southern Nigeria extraction especially Ndigbo were forced to abandon their businesses and properties and run back home. Like in a typical war situation, they have been roaming around as refugees in their own country. Some of them could not even make it back to their home states alive. Others still live in churches and barracks as I write. Few properties belonging to a handful of politicians and traditional rulers in the North who were allegedly supportive of the President were also burnt but none of them were killed. What about victims in other states like Kaduna, Plateau and Nassarawa? Should we not exercise caution and take a holistic view in determining those who this compensation is (should be) meant for.
No one can question the prerogative of the President to implement any part of the Sheik Lemu Report that he deems fit. But, however, the report urged the security agencies to fish out the perpetrators of the violence for prosecution. It also recommended the establishment of Special Election Offences Tribunal. On the day of the submission of the report, the Chairman of the Committee specifically blamed General Mohammadu Buhari for allegedly making comments that triggered the violence. Gen Buhari was quoted as saying that his supporters must come out and ‘guard’ their votes. Apart from Buhari, Mallam Adamu Ciroma and Alhaji Lawal Kaita were quoted in the media as having said that the North will make Nigeria ‘ungovernable’ for Jonathan if he emerges from that election as the President of Nigeria. So what other evidence is the President waiting for? What about all the culprits who were arrested perpetrating various acts of destruction during the violence? Why have they not been charged to court or have they been surreptitiously released?
Now let us look at the timing and rationale. Why did it take government this length of time to look into a matter of such urgent national importance? The controversial member of House of Representatives from Plateau State Hon Bitrus Kaze was quoted as saying that the payment of compensation at this time appeared targeted at appeasing the North to support the Goodluck Jonathan Presidency project. True? Many people have argued that the electoral violence is not in any way related to the Boko Haram insurgency plaguing the North at the moment. How come the Presidency chose to release the money at the time when discussions are on-going to grant amnesty to the insurgents? Many Nigerians who died during the post-elections violence should be seen as having paid the supreme prize for the emergence of President Jonathan. It will not be right to play politics with their sacrifices. What about the rationale for who will get what? What indicator was used to determine the amount of money that will go to each state and why? For instance why will Katsina State get more – almost two billion Naira – and Zamfara get only 93 million Naira? Or were the allocations arbitrarily done to pacify some people as has been alleged?
On a final note, it is important to be reminded that beyond compensation, the most important aspect of the Sheik Lemu Report borders on establishing enabling structures that will prevent the recurrence of such ugly incidence in our national life. It was suggested that new Police formations and barracks be established in locations worst hit by the violence. What about civic education, job creation and empowerment programs for the young people who are ready tools in the hands of manipulative politicians. But as usual, and this has become its characteristic trademark, this government has chosen to implement the most simplistic aspect of the report, that aspect of the report that money can easily buy even though it provides no tangible societal value on the long run. This measure, in the now selective, hurried and clearly haphazard manner it is being implemented, can only translate to rewarding sections of society for violent conduct during and post-elections thereby making the beneficiaries look forward to the next election year of 2015 after which they will go smiling all the way to their banks once again. If this government is sincere to achieve peace and solve the recurring problem of electoral violence, it must implement the report holistically and not selectively as it is doing now. It must, as recommended mete out punishments alongside compensation and adopt those measures and enshrine those institutions that will not only deter but also pro-actively prevent a recurrence of the incidences in view. This is the right thing to do and this can only be the right path to follow. Furthermore, the Government must as a matter of urgency also implement the reports of the Babalakin Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Bauchi State Civil Disturbances, Karibi Whyte Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Kafanchan Disturbances, Niki Tobi Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Plateau State Disturbances, Justice Snakey Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Wase and Langtang Disturbances, Justice Disu Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Plateau State Disturbances, Proffessor Tamuno Panel of Inquiry on National Security. We cannot continue to live in a nation where people can freely express their anger by taking the life of others. This is an opportunity to deal with the matter once and for all. If we dare bury these problems or play politics with it, it will resurrect again to hunt us. There can be no sustainable peace without justice and justice is where legality, equity and fairness are all rolled into one.

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