Recent comments coming from ex-president Goodluck Jonathan’s political circle show that they feel the arrest of the former president by the EFCC is imminent.
This fear seems to have intensified with the recent arrest of Jonathan’s cousin, Richard Azibaola, who is a government contractor. But the final determinant of whether Jonathan will be arrested or detained if he is arrested is the mindset of President Muhammadu Buhari towards such a step.
The constitution of Nigeria, which is modeled after the constitution of the United States grants the president the power to grant clemency. An example of when a US president used such powers was when President George Bush jr commuted the prison sentence of Lewis Scooter Libby who was the chief of staff to his Vice President, Dick Cheney. So, it is clear that
So, it is clear that constitutionally, the president can cover a political actor from being penalized by the law within reason. But how would President Buhari react if a document arrives at his desk one of these days seeking his authorization for the arrest of former president Jonathan by the EFCC?
When the results of the 2015 presidential elections began to trickle in last year, a highly placed sourced squealed that there was a telephone conversation between Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, in which Buhari is said to have asked Jonathan not to challenge the results of the election, and in return, he Buhari would use his considerable powers under the constitution (like amnesty) to make sure Jonathan was not harassed by security agencies after his tenure.
This is in spite of the fact that people in the Jonathan Administration were asking the then president to challenge the result of the 2015 elections and referring to photos of alleged underage voters in the North as evidence that Jonathan ‘won’ and should therefore stay put. there have been an unsettling amount of arrests of former Jonathan government officials over alleged corrupt
After President Buhari took over, and there were a number of arrests of former Jonathan government officials over alleged corrupt offenses, Buhari administration officials came out to say that the anti-corruption effort of the Buhari administration is not focused on Jonathan personally. In other words, Jonathan would not be touched.
But it seems something really happened when Jonathan’s cousin Richard Azibaola was detained by the EFCC. It is either he voluntarily made some confessional statements against his brother, or he made implicating statements against such statements under duress. Whatever happened has got pro-Jonathan elements unsettled, hence a number of warnings against any attempt to arrest Jonathan.
Some have referred to the said promise of Buhari not to prosecute Jonathan if he handed over to him voluntarily as a credible contract that can be trusted. But it is clear that promise or no promise, Buhari is not finding it funny that he met a depleted treasury after he became president, and he is blaming Jonathan for it as the one at whose feet the buck stopped; or at least he believes that Jonathan should call people that served under him who may have pocketed government cash to return it.
If the oil price was not as low as it was, Buhari would have moved on by now. But with Nigerians asking him to begin keeping his promises to them, and with the President seeing no cash to enable him do so, he has gotten desperate.
It is now a case of political survival; and 2019 comes to mind.
My advice to Jonathan is that he himself should privately investigate his officials and mount pressure on any office holder under him who is shown to have siphoned public cash to return it in return for a kind of amnesty. Buhari needs money badly, and unless he sees it, he may forget any promises he may have made to Jonathan.