by Dare Lawal
Knowing that he came into power through a flawed election, Nigeria’s late former president Umaru Yaradua, started his tenure by doing things to win the confidence of his people. The president was widely hailed when he publicly declared his assets in a show of populism. The then vice president Goodluck Jonathan followed suit and declared his own assets as well.
Their action was not widely emulated however. State governors in their states did not feel the need to follow suit as the law only demands that assets be declared, irrespective of whether it is done privately or publicly.
One governor who however followed in the footsteps of Yaradua by declaring his assets when he held sway was the ex-governor of Ekiti, Kayode Fayemi.
Since Fayemi was kicked out of office when he lost reelection this year, his successor, the PDP’s Ayo Fayose, has lampooned him in the media over the way he ran the state.
Now the party of the former governor, the APC, is asking Gov. Fayose to emulate his predecessor and publicly declare his assets. But will he do it?
It might help to note that even Pres. Jonathan who declared his assets when he was Yaradua’s vice president, refused to do so again when he won election as president in 2011. He claimed that he did it the first time because he did not want trouble with his former boss. He said asset declaration is like playing to the gallery and he does not “give a damn” even if he is criticised “from heaven” over it.
Hear the president during his third presidential media chat on the issue:
“The issue of public asset declaration is a matter of personal principle. That is the way I see it, and I don’t give a damn about it, even if you criticise me from heaven. When I was the Vice President , that matter came up, and I told the former President (late Musa Yar’adua) let’s not start something that would make us play into the hands of people and create an anomalous situation in the country.
“The law is clear. A public officer should declare his assets, and if there are issues, then the relevant agencies would have a basis to assess whether you have amassed wealth or not. When it is said that people should declare their assets in public, it is not only the President or the vice President, it includes everybody, incluidng Ministers.
“When I was a governor in Bayelsa state for about a year before becoming vice president, I was investigated thoroughly. I have nothing to hide. But, because I was under somebody and it was becoming an issue, because of the media, and because my boss had declared, it was said that the vice President must. I declared, not because I wanted to.
“Initially I said they can talk about it from morning to night, I will not. I said it is a matter of principle. It is not proper. If one amends the law to say that only the President and the Vice should declare assets publicly, fine. But, presently everybody who is holding political office is expected to do, and I say it is not right. Those who made the law knew why they put the law that way. I could be investigated when I leave office.
“You don’t need to declare assets publicly, otherwise you are playing to the gallery.You don’t need to publicly declare assets. That’s a matter of principle. If I have to declare publicly, it means every polictical office holder will have to declare publicly. And it is not the right thing to do. That is my believe.
“It is not the President’s declaration of assets that would change the economy. There are challenges security, power and revolutionising agriculture. These are areas we should be interested in . Whether Mr. Jonathan publicly declares his assets or not is not the issue.”
The APC Chairman in Ekiti, Jide Awe, is however demanding that Fayose should emulate Fayemi and Yaradua, and not Goodluck Jonathan.
The chairman said: “He who must come to equity must come with clean hands. The governor of a state must declare his assets. In fact, it is a constitutional provision. He (Fayose) must declare his assets and let people know what he was, what he is and what he will be by the time he is leaving office.
“It is part of the code of conduct provisions of the constitution. He ought to have declared his assets. His predecessor and the former deputy governor did it. He should declare his assets; he has no moral right at all not to do so.”
The PDP has since replied saying the governor does not have to do it. Ultimately though, it is the governor’s prerogative – what do you think he will do?