Mr President’s Steady Slide


 President Goodluck Jonathan may view himself as some sort of misunderstood philosopher, but after one year in office–marked by incautious decision to remove fuel subsidy, unfulfilled promises and reputational mishaps–his popularity is dipping sharply

At virtually all his presidential campaign rallies last year, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan got the crowds to see him as one of them. While not the most enchanting of speakers or a soundbite machine, his soft voice carried the warmth of a family doctor’s. His solemn face advertised him as one that does not belong in the sphere of the inordinately ambitious inhabited by most of the country’s politicians. Another weapon in his campaign arsenal was his first name: Goodluck. In many parts of the country, a name is thought to influence the entire life cyle of the bearer and things associated with him. For that, Goodluck was a winner; a fodder for headlines and pay-off to campaign messages. “Goodluck to you, Goodluck To Nigeria” and “Vote for Goodluck, reject bad luck” were two examples of the use to which the name was put by copywriters.

Jonathan would further boost his appeal as a candidate with the common touch by the now famous account of his immensely humble childhood, during which he had no shoes. “In my early days in school, I had no shoes, no school bags. I carried my books in my hands but never despaired; no car to take me to school but I never despaired. There were days I had only one meal, but I never despaired. I walked miles and crossed rivers to school every day, but I never despaired. Didn’t have power, didn’t have generators, studied with lanterns, but I never despaired. In spite of these, I finished secondary school, attended the University of Port Harcourt, and now hold a doctorate degree. Fellow Nigerians, if I could make it, you too can make it,” Jonathan said at his declaration for the presidential race.

Opposition politicians, especially from the North, who believed that Jonathan had gone against the Peoples Democratic Party’s zoning agreement, were unimpressed. Their response was that Nigerians should not vote for good fortune (thought to be inherent in Jonathan’s first name), but competence. However, with the sentiment already generated by the Jonathan campaign team, the opposition, especially General Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, were racing against a bullet train.

Jonathan made a raft of electoral promises, the theme of which was a new direction for the country and its pauperised populace. “Our country is at the threshold of a new era; an era that beckons for a new kind of leadership; a leadership that is uncontaminated by the prejudices of the past; a leadership committed to change; a leadership that reinvents government, to solve the everyday problems that confront the average Nigerian,” he promised. But these were virtually drowned by the hysteria sweeping through the voting population.

Jonathan won the election–though hotly disputed–in a way that reduced Buhari, his closest challenger, to something of an irrelevance were it not for the post-election violence that rocked some parts of the North. The celebration of the electoral victory had hardly abated when the first needle was stuck into the balloon of Jonathan’s popularity. On 26 May 2011, three days to his inauguration, Jonathan, perhaps unwittingly, stoked public suspicion. At the 2011 Presidential Inaugural Lecture, where he delivered a paper titled: “A transformational Agenda for Accelerated National Development”, Jonathan said the four-year tenure for those elected into executive positions, as currently stipulated by the constitution, “is too short” for the president and governors to implement any meaningful and sustainable agenda, as “it takes about one year and a half for the executive to settle into office with the right calibre of ministers and commissioners respectively”.

A few weeks after Jonathan took office, various news organs reported that the Presidency had concluded plans to send a bill to the National Assembly for a single term of seven years for governors and the president beginning from 2015. This was said to have been informed by the fact that political violence was always sparked by the desire of incumbent governors and presidents to seek a second tenure of office.

A week later, an amendment to that story also did the rounds. It had the proposed tenure shortened by a year to six years. Six or seven, Nigerians, notoriously sensitive to tenure extension issues, concluded that the nuts and bolts of an elongation design remained in place despite the amendment. The Presidency stated that Jonathan was not going to be a beneficiary. Despite that, what followed was akin to a crusade.

Opposition parties and civil society outfits led the way. The Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP, described the bill as the “unveiling of a grand delusion”. The Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, branded it as “nothing but tenure elongation by subterfuge”. Lai Mohammed, ACN National Publicity Secretary, said: “Despite the deceptive proviso that President Jonathan will not benefit from it, there is nothing in the constitution that bars him from seeking another term of office in 2015. In any case, he has not told anyone that he will not run again after his current tenure. This is nothing but tenure elongation by subterfuge, and it is worse than the third term misadventure of his godfather (Olusegun Obasanjo).” Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a lawyer and human rights activist, said the proposal was not necessary and was wrongly timed. “It is too early to be talking about tenure. Mr. President should be focusing on more immediate things such as power generation, food insecurity and security of lives and property. Issues of national development such as restructuring our federal system and managing the threat posed by the Boko Haram sect ought to occupy the mind of our leaders now,” he argued.

Public commentators also rounded on the President, arguing that a single term does not necessarily foreclose the possibility of violence, just as it does not induce more concentration on governance or quench the appetite for public funds. “Given a single term of six years, instead of two terms of four years, a thieving governor would simply cram into his single term all the looting he would have done in two four-year terms,” reasoned Okey Ndibe, a popular newspaper columnist, who also argued that a single term governor or president is unlikely to be disinterested in who his successor would be.

The proposal, however, had its supporters. Groups like The Patriots, Afenifere and Oodua People’s Congress, OPC, endorsed it, saying it could pave the way for good governance. Olisa Agbakoba, a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, also lauded the proposal, but added that the timing was inappropriate, given that it came when the President was yet to settle in office.

On the street, however, opponents of the proposal had more influence, as they succeeded in convincing the ordinary Nigerian that it was an attempt by Jonathan to extend his tenure on the sly. With criticisms growing in stridency, the Presidency ended its interest in the envisaged amendment. Jonathan would later say his motive was misunderstood. It did not erase the suspicion and Jonathan copped his first reputational injury. More injuries, arising from his campaign pledges and vaunted transformational agenda, would follow. Jonathan vowed to transform the economy within four years

The transformation envisaged, he said, would, in two years, deliver 1.5 million jobs. Jonathan pledged to raise power generation to about 4,747 megawatts by December 2011 and provide stable power supply by 2015 so that small and medium scale industries can thrive again. There were also promises to address unemployment through diversification of the nation’s economy to that of sustainable agricultural development, reduce production costs by inviting manufacturers of high demand commodities in the country to set up production factories in the country, revive ailing industries as well as, in four years, make Nigeria go beyond producing and exporting crude oil to exporting refined petroleum products.

He also promised financial prudence, a complete revamp of the nation’s security architecture to adequately confront the various security challenges, particularly terrorism; fight corruption with vigour, establish at least one federal university in each state of the federation by the end of 2012, improve teaching and learning processes in educational institutions and provide access to education for every Nigerian of school age.

By December 2011, the pledge of increased power supply went unfulfilled. Currently, the country is thought to generate between 3,000 and 3,400 megawatts, a state of affairs that continues to hamper small and medium scale enterprises as well as push up production costs in large scale industries. It also ensures that unemployment remains high. Officially, 14 million Nigerians are unemployed. The Jonathan administration’s Youth Enterprise With Innovation in Nigeria, YouWin, is touted as capable of delivering 110,000 jobs in the next four years.

But with the wretched state of the power sector and its effect on job creation, experts reckon that a few more millions would have been forced into the job market before YouWin delivers on its promise, which is considerably less than what Jonathan promised before election.

The financial prudence Jonathan promised to institute remains a mirage. Official figures show that as Acting President and then President, Jonathan drew down the Excess Crude Account, ECA, to less than $500 million from the over $6 billion left behind by his predecessor, Umaru Yar’Adua, in a matter of months. His government has continued to borrow, hugely raising the country’s domestic and external debts. According to the Debt Management Office, the country’s domestic debt rose from US$14 billion in 2007 to $21 billion by 2010 under Yar’Adua. Within a year, Jonathan ramped up domestic borrowing to US$32 billion, a borrowing of $11 billion in less than 12 months.

External debt also increased from $3.719 billion at the end of 2009 to $5.227 billion by March 2011. Yet, no new power station, seaport, rail network or interstate road was completed during the period, with some of those initiated by the previous administration stalling. The education and health sectors have shown no signs of improvement. School certificate examinations continue to be marked by stunningly high failure rates. Universities and polytechnics remain massively underfunded, with teachers trading grades and certificates for cash or sex in what one columnist described as “Sexually Transmitted Degrees”. Wealthy Nigerians, including officials of Jonathan’s government, send their children to top foreign institutions. The decrepit healthcare infrastucture has also ensured that rich Nigerians seek care in places like Britain, US, India and South Africa. Those outside of that loop opt for the neighbouring Niger Republic, while the rest patronise the shells that pass for hospitals at home or domestic miracle healers with dodgy records of success in management of ailments.

According to figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics, the number of Nigerians living on less than $1 per day or in absolute poverty has risen to over 100 million. Yemi Kale, the Statistician-General of the Federation, giving a statistical analysis of the general living standards of Nigerians at a press conference in Abuja in February, said the percentage of Nigerians living in absolute poverty rose to about 71.5 per cent as at the end of 2011, an increase of about 2.5 per cent above the 69 per cent rate recorded in 2010. The figures released by the NBS indicated that 112.52 million Nigerians, out of a population figure of 150 million, were living below poverty line during the period under review.

Kale said the 2010 statistical figures, analysed on geo-political zones basis, revealed that the North-West and North-East zones accounted for the highest poverty rates with 77.7 per cent and 76.3 per cent respectively. The situation would, no doubt, have deteriorated with the heightened terrorist activities of the Boko Haram sect.

But Jonathan’s advertised desire to revamp the security architecture of the country to adequately tackle terrorism and other violent eruptions has been exposed as something resembling a joke. Through the murderous campaign of the Boko Haram sect, many northern cities, particularly Kano, Kaduna, Damaturu, Maiduguri and even Abuja, have been exploding, one after the other, like firecracker on a string. The government’s failure to contain the Boko Haram insurgency has led to Jonathan being described as “clueless” and “spineless”.

After each attack, the President promises that the government will design an appropriate response to contain the group, only for a fresh and more dastardly attack to be launched. Jonathan’s critics gleefully seize upon this, especially on internet forums, to lay into him. The President has, in a way, assisted the public to perceive him as supine and disconnected from current realities.

While on a visit to St. Theresa’s Church, Madalla in Niger State, which was bombed by Boko Haram last Christmas, Jonathan’s utterance provoked vitriol in near-commercial quantities. After condoling families of the victims, the President said terrorism is a problem that is not exclusive to Nigeria and that he expects it to fizzle out with time. The fact that the Vatican and British authorities commented on the incident before Jonathan also angered many Nigerians, who accused him of insensitivity. A little over a week after the Madalla incident, which claimed over 40 lives, the President, again, attracted copius flak when said, somewhat ill-advisedly, that Boko Haram had infiltrated all arms of government as well as the armed forces, the police and other security agencies. To many, it was an admission of helplessness and impotence and prompted calls for his resignation. Jonathan, however, is convinced that his approach to the Boko Haram issue is methodical and frowns at suggestions that he is weak or indecisive.

Late in April, Jonathan was spectacularly embarassed by one of his most trusted aides, General Owoye Azazi (retd), the National Security Adviser, NSA. Speaking at the Second South-South Economic Summit in Asaba, the NSA accused the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, of being partly responsible for the escalation of the Boko Haram menace. The party’s strain of politics, especially the way it selects candidates for elections, he argued, was a crucial factor in the sect’s destruction of lives and property.

It was the least Jonathan expected from an aide at a time he was under relentless fire from political opponents and the general public, who sneer at his policies and style. The PDP, which got a generous slice of the embarrassment, described the NSA’s submission as “a grave error and a fatal diagnosis of the security challenges facing the nation.” Northern opposition politicians, who have been serially accused of using Boko Haram to push their political agenda, happily seized on Azazi’s comments. “The government was shocked by the comment of the NSA, which amounted to a vote of no confidence on the administration he is serving.

“By implication, Azazi is saying that the process through which Jonathan emerged as the presidential candidate of the PDP was fraudulent or not transparent,” said one of them.

Jonathan once defended his style, saying: “Some Nigerians still want the President of this country to be a lion or a tiger; somebody that has the kind of strength, force and agility to make things happen the way they think. I don’t need to be a lion, I don’t need to be Nebuchadnezzar, I don’t need to operate like the Pharaoh of Egypt, and I don’t need to be an army general. I can change this country without those traits.” To a justifiably impatient public, this suggested that the President was not in any rush to tackle the plethora of problems, especially insecurity, plaguing the country.

But the attributes Jonathan claimed not to possess have been demonstrated more than once. The removal of subsidy of petrol on 1 January sparked arguably the most organised public resistance in Nigerian history. The nationwide strike it provoked paralysed economic and social activities. The government’s rehash of old rationales for hiking the pump price of petrol from N65 to N141 directed public attention to the corruption of a few fuel importers and their enablers in government and sparked demands for their sanction. Jonathan continued to insist that the policy was the only solution to the country’s lack of development and promised a package of palliatives to the potentially debilitating effect of the policy. Savings from the subsidy withdrawal, he and his lieutenants repeatedly claimed, would free money for infrastructure, healthcare, stable power supply and well funded education among other benefits.

Anticipated revenue from the savings on subsidy, Jonathan said, was N1.134 trillion based on average crude oil price of US$90 per barrel. Of this, N478.49 billion would accrue to federal government, N411.03 billion to state governments, N203.23 billion to local councils, N9.86 billion to the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, and N31.37 billion would be devoted to to derivation and ecology, development of natural resources and stabilisation funds. For the management of the revenue, the President set up the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, SURE-P, headed by Dr. Christopher Kolade.

Nigerians were unconvinced. Jonathan’s response was to call out soldiers to break up the strike in Lagos, where public discontent was at its strongest. The image of placidity that Jonathan was trying to cultivate was shredded by his decision to call out soldiers. Strong criticisms followed. Literary great, Professor Wole Soyinka, was unsparing. “It’s pernicious and it’s a huge blot on Jonathan’s administration that he found it necessary (in a democratic setting, with legitimate demonstrations going on, rallies going on, peaceful, well controlled) to send the military to Lagos. It’s something which should never have happened,” said the Nobel laureate.

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While the strike was on, an ad-hoc committee of the House of Representatives was probing subsidy payments by the government. The probe yielded staggering revelations of infidelity in subsidy payments and astonishing profligacy in government spending. As a result, protesters were convinced that the grounds of contestation went far beyond the question of where to peg fuel subsidy. There were far more potent issues of the unsustainable cost of running the country’s democracy, how to uproot the entrenched culture of corruption as well as how to ensure that policies are informed by the voices and interests of the largest number of Nigerians. The protests drew attention to the 2012 Budget, which allocated N1billion for food in the Presidential Villa, nearly N17 billion for the purchase of yet another plane for the President, N11 billion for international travel, over N30 billion for “research and development”, over N20 billion for maintenance of vehicles, furniture and N5billion for stationery, magazines and newspapers.

In a broadcast to market the subsidy removal, Jonathan promised to reduce the size of reccurrent expenditure and increase capital spending, reduce the basic salaries of all political public office holders by 25 per cent and trim the bureaucracy by reviewing the number of committees, commissions and parastatals with overlapping functions.

The report of the probe of subsidy payments, which was submitted in April, showed that Nigerians were not wrong to challenge Jonathan’s hike in fuel price. The probe report details how a handful of officials at government agencies and businessmen feasted on N2 trillion. The committee, headed by Farouk Lawan, accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, of deliberately choosing not to keep “reliable information data base”.

In its executive summary, the committee identified stunning scale of corruption, inefficiency, sleaze and incompetence.

“It is therefore apparent,” wrote the committee, “that the insistence by top government officials that the subsidy figures were for products consumed was a clear attempt to mislead the Nigerian people.” Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minster of Finance; Dr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Governor of the Central Bank, and Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, Minister of Petroleum Resources, were the main members of the subsidy removal orchestra. The government claimed it spent N1.3 trillion as subsidy payments for last year. But the committee’s report indicated that there were discrepancies in figures submitted by different government agencies. Accountant-General of the Federation gave a figure of N1.6 trillion; the Central Bank calculated N1.7 trillion. By contrast, the committee found that the payments were in excess of N2.5 trillion as at December 2011, about 900 per cent over the originally budgeted sum of N245 billion. Alison-Madueke, under whose watch most of the regulatory lapses occurred, remains in her position. There is widespread suspicion that she and others mentioned as complicit in the report will not face any reprimand or prosecution, despite the government’s claim that it has directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to prosecute those indicted.

By the time the government reduced the price of petrol to N97 in January, Jonathan’s image had been severely wounded. His first name, Goodluck, became bad luck or gridlock on the lips of many Nigerians. On his Facebook page, the medium on which he announced his presidential ambition and successfully wooed many young people, he was savaged for fun. “You are a fool for doing this, forgetting the slum you came from and a maga doing this to those who can’t afford to buy fuel for that amount,” posted one of his many Facebook friends.

Another one wrote: “You promised us good life, but now you’ve given us stone to eat. You’re a failure, Mr. President. Posterity will hurt you forever. I regret voting you.” The stinging posts manifested by the second, as Nigerians expressed their disgust with the policy.

Not even his recent selection by TIME, the influential American magazine, as one of the world’s most influential people has been able to restore Jonathan’s rating to the level it was before election. A short piece written by Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf in the edition of the magazine that listed Jonathan among the world’s most influential people said: “…Jonathan, exemplifies the African political renaissance at a time when people of the continent are starting to reap the fruit of their resources and their hard work…Jonathan, 54, possesses the qualities needed at this moment of great challenges, having come to power at a crucial moment in the history of Nigeria….With leaders like President Jonathan, Africa is sure to move toward prosperity, freedom and dignity for all its people.”

Ellen-Sirleaf’s piece and the appearance of Jonathan on the list of influential figures attracted derision at home. SURE-P, the advertised anagelsic to pains of subsidy removal, has stalled. Jonathan argued that since it was an adjustment of pump price of petrol and not full deregulation that was achieved, there is a need to review promises based on the latter.

The man, who prefers to being seen as a lamb and not a tiger, deployed all his presidential muscle to prevent Mr. Timipre Sylva from returning as the governor of his home state of Bayelsa. Using the party machinery, Sylva was disqualified from contesting the Peoples Democratic Party’s governorship primaries, paving the way for the President’s candidate, Henry Seriake-Dickson.

But Jonathan’s assessment of himself is very flattering. On his achievements after six months in office, he claimed that the country’s democratic credentials were restored by the conduct of “free, fair and credible election in April of 2011”. The same year, he said, the Human Development Index, HDI, released by the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, established that the life expectancy of the average Nigerian had grown from 47.56 years in 2010 to 51.9 in 2011.

The President claimed that the rise affirmed his administration’s investment in the health sector, especially towards reducing maternal and infant mortality. Nigeria won a prize awarded by the International Social Security Association, ISSA, for the best intervention in reducing infant and maternal mortality in Africa in 2011.

Jonathan also paraded prudent management of scarce resources as one of his achievements, pointing to international attestation that came via the upward review of the country’s credit ratings by Fitch and Standard and Poors, two independent international ratings agency. The 2012 Budget, however, declines to support Jonathan’s claim of prudent management. Neither does his preference for running the government through committees, task forces and panels, which add to bureaucratic layers and add to the cost of governance. Also of concern to observers is Jonathan’s seeming unwillingness to implement the recommendations of such committees, raising questions on the sincerity and commitment of the government.

Over the last seven months, the country has witnessed a slew of committee appointments and inaugurations on various economic and social challenges. A Presidential Committee on Security Challenges (in response to the Boko Haram menace) and another for the review of past reports on the long-running crisis in Plateau State were also inaugurated. Similarly, Presidential Committee on Post-Election Violence and then Presidential Committee on Review of Outstanding Constitutional Issues were constituted.

Others are the Presidential Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission, Task Force for Passage of Petroleum Industry Bill, Alfa Belgore Committee (to negotiate with organised labour on fuel subsidy removal), Special Committee on Reorganisation of the Nigeria Police, Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force and National Refineries Special Task Force.

Prior to these were the Presidential Advisory Council, headed by General Theophilus Danjuma, which provided a compass for the country after the impasse that arose from the illness of former president Umaru Yar’Adua. The council, which has been wound up, recommended a cabinet reshuffle and disengagement of key Presidency functionaries among other things. These were implemented. However, its major recommendations, a drastic reduction in the size of government and special attention to energy and infrastructure, have largely been treated with indifference by Jonathan.

Contrary to the council’s recommendation, the 2011 Budget allocated 74.4 per cent of total spending to recurrent expenditure. A few months later, the President elected to contract out capital project implementation to foreign consultants, to be paid for in hard currency, a task that could have been undertaken, with appropriate ministerial supervision, by the Budget Office of the Federation and the Bureau of Public Procurement.

An Expenditure Review Committee, under the chairmanship of Professor Anya O. Anya, also criticised the cost of governance and prescribed rightsizing. As with the Danjuma-led council’s report, its recommendations were snubbed, given the 72.3 per cent allocation of total expenditure to recurrent in the 2012 Appropriation Bill. Also, a Presidential Projects Assessment Committee, headed by a former Federal Capital Territory Minister, Ibrahim Bunu, and a Presidential Task Force on Power, then headed by Minister of Power, Professor Barth Nnaji, have largely been treated like the others. The Bunu-led committee disclosed that about 11,886 projects were abandoned across the country and that about N7.78 trillion was required to complete them.

Instead of completing the projects as recommended, the government continues to commit resources towards starting more multi-billion naira projects at the weekly Federal Executive Council meetings, even as there is no guarantee that the new contracts would be satisfactorily executed.

Reuben Abati, spokesperson to Jonathan, in a recent interview, said the Jonathan administration has raised power supply and power distribution from a fixated 2000 megawatts range to 4000 megawatts.

Critics are of the view that the job of the President is too big for Jonathan. And in a statement construed to be inflected with a wish to be excused for sub-par performance, Jonathan said the country’s problems did not begin under him. Speaking in Enugu on 18 May, the President said: “Sometimes, when critics are lambasting the government, me as the President and the governors, sometimes I begin to think that ‘Yes, it is starting today.’ But what we promise Nigerians is that this country must change….I don’t think it is the two years that President Jonathan assumed the office that these problems came up. So, something must have gone wrong and all of us citizens of this country must reassess ourselves, our journey from independence till date, the areas that we have not done too well in order to effect a change.”

He sure did not create the problems, but is perceived to have added to them. The most recent is the dithering over the reinstatement of Justice Isa Ayo Salami, to his position as President of the Court of Appeal. Salami was controversially recommended for suspension last August by the National Judicial Council, NJC, over an altercation between him and Justice Alloysius Katsina-Alu, former Chief Justice of Nigeria.

Jonathan immediately approved the suspension, despite protestations that he was not acting within the laws. Nine months after, the NJC reversed itself when it recommended him to the President, on 11 May, for reinstatement. Salami’s suspension was widely believed to have had generous input from the President’s party, the PDP. Two former governors and members of the party, Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Segun Oni, lost their seats in Osun and Ekiti states respectively at electoral appeal panels constituted by Salami.

Last Tuesday, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, announced that the President could not act on the NJC resolution because a court process on the matter was also served on the government the same day. In what is widely seen as legal hoop-jumping, Adoke argued that no responsible government would recall Salami when a case against his reinstatement is pending in court.

“As it is today, the matter is subjudice. The matter is in court and no responsible government will try to overreach the court. This government will do the right thing as soon as the judiciary puts its act together,” Adoke said. His position drew furious rejoinders from parties, groups and lawyers, who countered that the Presidency was scouring the courts for injuctions that will restrain the NJC and the Presidency from recalling Justice Salami, who is due for retirement in October 2013.

An Abuja-based lawyer, Amobi Nzelu, representing one Wilfred Okoli, rushed to the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja asking the court to restrain the President from accepting the recommendations of the NJC because the “recommendations were not binding” on him. He also argued that while the NJC has powers to recommend the removal of the President of the Court of Appeal, it lacked power to recommend his reinstatement. Jiti Ogunye, a human rights lawyer, however, questioned the locus standi of Okoli, who was “neither a member of the NJC, the Senate nor the current acting President of the Court of Appeal”. Ogunye said the NJC merely corrected the mistake it made last year and argued that since Salami has not been medically certified as unfit for office and no trial records adjudged him as guilty of misconduct or in violation of his ethical code, Jonathan was collaborating with abusers of the the judiciary by approving the suspension in the first instance.

The ACN also said any delay in the reinstatement of Salami will send out wrong signals on the Jonathan administration’s adherence to the rule of law. A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. John Bayeshea, said that NJC’s advice or recommendation is sufficient for the President to reinstate Salami. “The decision of the NJC is the best it has made in recent years. And I commend the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, for this decision… The President should accept the recommendation of the NJC, especially when the weight of public opinion and justice of the matter weigh heavily in favour of Justice Salami. This matter is beyond politics and the President should rise above political sentiments,” Bayeshea said.

Will he? Not many are hopeful.

—Bamidele Johnson