Some former ministers that served under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration will meet the ex-president today (Sunday), SUNDAY PUNCH has learnt.
Barring last minute changes, it was learnt that ongoing investigations of the former President’s aides and calls for his own probe would form part of the discussion at the meeting.
It was gathered that many of the former ministers were not only disturbed, but also jittery by the concentration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-graft war on those who served under Jonathan.
Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, in a report on Friday had said Buhari should authorise the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to probe and prosecute Jonathan.
Ndume had said, “Nobody is supposed to be above the law. If Jonathan is a culprit, he should face the law. If there is evidence that the former President should face the law, then, he should. After all, he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
Also in his response to an enquiry from Saturday PUNCH on Friday, the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, had said, “The President does not tele-guide the EFCC in any way.”
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, had also said Buhari did not sign any pact with Jonathan or any past President to exempt him (Jonathan) from probe.
According to Shehu, Buhari, being an open person, would never go into a secret pact with anybody, especially on his administration’s ongoing anti-graft war.
A top member of the Peoples Democratic Party, who confided in SUNDAY PUNCH, said the pressure on Buhari to probe Jonathan would form part of the discussion when the ex-ministers meet the former President today (Sunday).
The PDP chieftain said, “Barring last minute changes, some former ministers would meet Jonathan tomorrow (Sunday) in Abuja. There is no way the issue of probes would not be discussed at such a meeting.”
Probing ex-President will be bad precedent — PDP
But some PDP leaders, on Saturday, called on Buhari not to succumb to pressure being mounted on him to probe Jonathan.
They said doing so would amount to laying a bad precedent.
A PDP Board of Trustees member, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, urged the Buhari-led Federal Government not to probe Jonathan, adding that doing so would humiliate the PDP leader.
Speaking in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Saturday, Babatope described those calling for the probe of Jonathan as enemies of the country.
He said the former president should not be probed unless “it becomes brazenly open that a lot of thefts are traced to him, but for now nothing has been traced to him.”
He added, “The late sage, Pa Obafemi Awolowo, said you must not humiliate your leadership. When you decide to humiliate your leadership, it is not Jonathan that you’re humiliating, it is your values that you are casting aspersions on.
“Those calling for the probe of Jonathan are enemies of this country. Whoever is spearheading the probe may be digging his political grave. Have they found him guilty?
“All the noise we have been hearing is about the security vote. Buhari embarked on such a probe during his first coming as a military leader when he threw all manner of Nigerian leaders into jail.”
When reminded that the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Olisa Metuh, and a former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall, Alex Badeh (retd.), said Jonathan approved the monies that they allegedly got, Babatope said the duo reserved the right to tender their positions in court.
When asked if he did not feel disturbed by the number of fraud cases being unearthed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Babatope said one of the solutions to corruption – as proffered by Awolowo – was equipping the Nigeria Police and giving them free rein to operate.
Responding to one of our correspondents’ comment on the allegation that $1m was found in Badeh’s house, Babatope said Badeh had denied that money was found in his house.
When our correspondent sent a text message to the phone ofanother PDP BoT member, Chief Shauib Oyedokun, seeking to know his opinion on the matter, he said, “Let’s wait till the ‘call’ is formal.”
Also speaking on the issue, a former Special Assistant to the former President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said there might be nothing wrong in Buhari asking Jonathan to account for his actions while in office, but that the President should be weary of setting a bad precedent.
Speaking with one of our correspondents on the telephone, Okupe said, “Every regime has the right to investigate and we are not going to talk on whether it is right or wrong to ask the former President to account for his stewards while in office or not.
“But in asking questions about the actions of his predecessor, we must ask whether such actions would be good precedent or not. However, whatever he does is at his discretion as the president and the commander-in- chief.”
A former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Bode George, also said there was nothing wrong in probing the activities of former President Goodluck Jonathan while in office.
He, however, said the probes being carried out by the EFCC must be holistic, adding that it would be proper for the national leader of the All Progressives Congress, AsiwajuBola Tinubu, who is also a former Governor of Lagos State, to be probed as well.
George told SUNDAY PUNCH that it was public knowledge that Tinubu had private jets and wondered why the EFCC never questioned him on his source of wealth.
George said, “I have been reading about all the monies that were stolen through the Office of the National Security Adviser and if the EFCC is probing all that with a view to recovering money, I have no problem with that.
“If they feel probing Jonathan is proper, they can go ahead but they must remember that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. There must be no sacred cow in this anti-corruption war. You cannot probe Jonathan and refuse to probe Bola Tinubu.”
George urged the EFCC to respect the office of the President when probing Jonathan.
A former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, however said the former President shouldn’t be arrested.
Fani-Kayode told SUNDAY PUNCH that Jonathan had done nothing to warrant being arrested and that those calling for his arrest and interrogation should understand the implications of doing so.
“For example, Senator Ndume called for Jonathan’s arrest. This is a shameful and unnecessary contribution and if Ndume feels that Jonathan has done anything wrong, he should present the evidence to the authorities and the public, rather than try to demonise the man.
“Even where mistakes have been made, I am a strong believer in loyalty and I will stand by the man that I campaigned for during the presidential election, who is also now the leader of our party. Jonathan should be treated with respect and dignity at all times and he should always be given the benefit of the doubt.”
Jonathan’s kinsmen kick
Jonathan’s kinsmen have expressed dissatisfaction over calls for the probe of the former President.
The spokesman for the Ijaw National Congress, Mr. Victor Burubo, told SUNDAY PUNCH that it was wrong for anybody to begin to plot the investigation of the former President.
Burubo argued that since some of the ministers who served under Jonathan were already being investigated, the Otuoke, Bayelsa-born politician should be allowed to enjoy his retirement.
“I don’t think he (Jonathan) should be probed. In every government, there are people responsible for various functions and when such people are found wanting, they are fished out and probed. It is not the head of the government that should be probed.
“In Buhari’s government, people padded the national budget. Would they now say that Buhari should be investigated? Nobody has said that Buhari should be investigated,” he said.
Describing Jonathan as a national icon who has been winning international awards since he left the seat of government, Burubo urged critics of the ex-President to show respect.
Also, the spokesperson of the Ijaw Youth Congress, Mr. Eric Omare, said in a telephone interview with SUNDAY PUNCH that the ongoing probe of Jonathan’s former aides could as well be termed as an investigation of the former President.
“Jonathan is already under probe. If you are probing those under the former President, you are as well investigating Jonathan,” Omare said.
Similarly, the National Coordinator of the Niger Delta Youth Parliament, Mr. ImohOkoko, rose in defence of the former President, saying he should not be probed.