Is President Goodluck Jonathan That Rich? By Uche Igwe



Uche IgweOn the 6th of September, a United States based organisation, richestlifestyle.com, published a list of African Presidents who are rich with presumably ill-gotten wealth. President Jonathan was ranked 6th on that list with an estimated net worth of about 100 million dollars. Others in the list include Presidents Theodoro Obiang Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, Paul Biya of Cameroun, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Idris Deby of Chad, among others. Many analysts have raised fascinating questions and even reproduced the said publication. It really went viral. Naturally the news rattled and angered the Nigerian Presidency and led the Presidential spokesperson, Dr Reuben Abati to send out a terse statement on behalf of his boss denying such enormous wealth and threatening litigation. I feel for the President of my country. He has every right to be angry. Especially now that he does not have the most impressive image globally. Just recently he came under considerable international pressure due to his poor handling of the insurgency and inability to rescue the young girls who were kidnapped in Chibok.
However I contend that our President is the architect of his own misfortune. President Jonathan had once publicly declared in a media chat that he does not give a damn about asset declaration. The belated argument of his spokesperson that his income has not considerably changed since 2011 is hogwash. If Dr Jonathan had declared his assets on assumption of office as President, that would have provided a basis for observers including richestlifestyles.com to get the facts he provided. However by keeping quiet at that crucial time, he left a window for speculation. The law specifies that a public officer should mandatorily declare his or her asset when elected, appointed or recruited. Furthermore, the law requires the spouse of the public officer and all his/her children who are above the age of 18 to also declare their assets. I know the Office of the President is a very powerful one and when the President is livid, he is capable of doing anything within the law to clear his name. But I also know that in this circumstance he may not pursue a litigation on this matter. He is simply trying to blowing to take away attention from the issues. If he dares go to court, he may open a Pandora box.
It is tragic that the President of Nigeria hardly understands the implication of the statement he makes in public. How can one defend the fact the President Jonathan tried to differentiate between corruption and mere stealing? Did he actually say that? Was he oblivious of the fact that such a statement could send a wrong signal to close watchers of events in Nigeria? One will quickly recall that the former Governor of Ogun State, Olusegun Osoba, defines corruption as any anti-social behaviour (including stealing) that confers improper benefits contrary to legal and moral norms that undermine the capacity of those in authority to secure the welfare of all citizens. Daniel Jordan Smith, a foremost anthropologist submits that the Nigerian notion of corruption encompasses everything from government bribery and graft, rigged elections, fraudulent business deals to cheating in school among others. Now let me come back to the core question of my article – is the President of Nigeria worth up to 100 million US dollars? When you talk about the worth of the President, I hope you include the net worth of his family including his wife Dame Patience Jonathan and all their covert and overt interests. I hope you are not merely referring to only monies in bank accounts registered to his name because with the advent of shell companies in many tax havens where resources can be held in trust, doing so is no longer fashionable.
When will the President provide explanation for the billions of dollars that was said to have disappeared by the Central Bank Governor? Nigerians were told by their Finance Minister that a forensic audit was ordered but when will the result be made public in order to lay that matter to rest? What is the state of the prosecution of those indicted in the fuel subsidy scam that ran into millions of dollars? How come some persons indicted are still walking freely in and out of the Presidential villa? How come some of these characters have transformed to outreach coordinators and promoters of the President’s political projects?
The Malabu Oil deal that involved the procurement of one of the richest Nigerian oil fields OPL 245 at about 1.1 billion US dollars happened during the lifetime of this administration and Reuters News Agency had reported that highly placed politicians who acted as intermediaries might have collected part of the sum as slush funds. The United Kingdom Crown Prosecution Service and some Italian Prosecutors are reportedly investigating about 533 million US dollars that might have been used to purchase luxury jets and armoured vehicles. Another report recently published by Berne Declaration, a Swiss based organisation known as Big Spenders, alleged risks of opaqueness in the sales of Nigeria’s crude worth 37 billion US dollars in three years of the Jonathan administration. Nigerians have taken the daily haemorrhage of public funds as a result of oil theft as part of our national dilemma. To add to these, one would be cautious in talking yet about millions of dollars allegedly belonging to Nigeria that was recently confiscated by South African authorities and the struggle by the Nigerian government to offer an explanation to a bewildered world. The confiscated jets bear alleged links to President Jonathan’s appointees and associates. What about the insinuations that millions of dollars have been appropriated to the fight against insurgency yet officers and men have taken to mutiny allegedly due to poor equipment and low motivation?
Many observers understand the enormous patronage capabilities of the President of the biggest oil producing country in Africa. We know that some of these networks existed before Dr. Jonathan took over the leadership of the country. We also know how these networks become very handy and almost indispensable in an election year especially when there are palpable issues of popularity deficit. I am not concluding here that President Goodluck Jonathan has used some of these capabilities to enrich himself but it is important to acknowledge that these channels do exist. Therefore any diligent analyst who understands the murky nature of politics and the patronage ecosystem in Nigeria will argue that the US Company grossly underestimated the value of our President. They might have actually insulted our dear President without knowing it. I am aware that the name and picture of President Jonathan has been taken down from the website. Temporarily? Could it be in response to the threat from his office? The richestlifestyles.com did a very shoddy job in my view. If they come a little closer they will realize this. Or do you mean that all these daily ruptures of grand corruption and ‘sharing’ have escaped the radar of Nigeria’s biggest man? Where then is his financial war chest for the forthcoming elections? What will a paltry 100 million US dollars do for him? My candid advice again to the President is that he should leave the issue of pursuing litigation at the level of threat. That will save him so underserved attention. If he ignores my counsel and goes any further on this, he may probably end up getting more surprises.
Uche Igwe is based at the University of Sussex. You may reach him on [email protected]

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