Tunde Bakare and Jonathan’s $50,000 ‘Bribe’

There are many issues that warrant commentary. However, writing once a week, as dictated by newspaper space allocation for any column, forces me to select only one of those that would allow a long commentary while the rest are allowed to pass without a word from my big mouth.

I think it will not be a bad idea especially on the Internet to write more than once a week to cover additional issues that I find very tempting to comment on either in addition to the discourse topic of the week or in its stead. I call such titles Trivial, if you do not mind, not because the issue discussed is necessarily trivial but because it is rendered briefly. There could be many a week. Each Trivial will consist of a short discussion on one or more current issues mostly related to governance in Nigeria. This issue is the first. It covers the $50,000 Jonathan/Bakare scandal. Please endeavor to leave a comment behind at the bottom such that we can drink from the fountain of your wisdom. If you have a better word for the titles, better than Trivial, please help me with it. God bless.

Pastor Tunde Bakare and Jonathan’s $50,000

Tunde Bakare is one of the assets of this country. He is for good governance, fearless and does not care if he is swimming against the tide, a Pastor, unlike many others Pastors. His Save Nigeria Group (SNG) visited President Goodluck Jonathan. The group was among those which saved Jonathan from the grip of Turai when Yar’adua (May God have mercy on him) was on his death bed. It, along with many of us who supported Jonathan then, thought we were saving Nigeria especially when the vacuum created by the President’s illness began to have disastrous effect on national security. Bakare and his group must have now realized, as many of us have too, that it only saved Jonathan but Jonathan is not ready to save Nigeria. The SNG decided to pay him a political visit last week.

They saw him one night in the Villa. Jonathan started his political rhetoric that we are now accustomed to: he is not a sectional leader, that he is for Nigeria’s future, bla bla. However, The SNG delgates nailed the present to specific issues of governance that portray their displeasure over his style of leadership. The meeting ended without a consensus. Baram baram. It was time to leave. As the delegation was about to leave the parking lot a presidency staff dashed to offer them $50,000 in crisp $100 denomination. They declined but the staff persisted. Not desirous to create a scene in the villa at that time of the night, the Pastor and his group collected the money, reached his hotel and, next day, called the President’s man who sent the money to say they are returning the money through his agent. They did and confirmed that it reached him.

Perhaps sensing that Bakare will reveal the story of the ‘gift’ to the press, and now with no love lost between the President and the group, the Presidency preempted him by leaking the story to the media. Saharareporters got in touch with the Pastor who confirmed that they indeed paid a visit to the President and, yes, $50,000 was offered, as bribe, but was made ‘back to sender’. Saharareporters published the story on the Web and it occupied the minds of many Nigerians as well as the Presidency for some days.

Naturally, the presidency refuted giving any money. Bakare and members of the group insisted that it did. Commentators were divided on the issue, each to his own, with the Pastor and people inclined to good governance on the one hand, and the Presidency and its beneficiaries on the other. In the end, the first group won. Presidency did give the money, it is now generally believed even by supporters of the President. The debate then shifted to the nomenclature of the money: was it a gift or passages money as the Presidency claims or was it a bribe as our noble Pastor alleged? Su’alun! Tambaya.

I believe it was neither this nor that. It was not a bribe, certainly. But it was not a gift either. It was a PR. The presidency should compensate me for this ingenious discovery. You see, a person of Bakare’s standing cannot be bought with a mere N7.5m. Haba. I doubt if the Presidency is foolish enough to think otherwise. Let us be fair. The Presidency, by its standard practice, would have thought of plenty millions, choice plots in Abuja and Lagos or oil blocks, if it wanted to bribe the group.

However, due to two or more reasons, I do not agree that it was to cover the delegation’s return tickets from Lagos and a night at Abuja: why was it in dollars if it were for passages? Was not there any Naira in the volts of the Presidency? And why was it up to N7.5million, an amount that would cover the expenses of 75 people from Lagos who would lodging at NICON? Bakare’s delegation even by the best of estimates were not up to 24. Also, it could not be for passages because SNG initiated the meeting. So we expect it to handle its own expenses. There is a motive to induce, even if only to court appreciation, when you give more than enough from pubic coffers. Also, why money, instead of clothing, wristwatches and other items which we know governments in the country give to guests of governors and presidents? I do not think it was ordinary gift either.

The presidency must have given it as a PR just to induce mutual understanding and cooperation with SNG especially with regard to 2011. A bribe, on the other hand, is an inducement but to do something that contravenes the law, which is not the case here.

But people have missed the point all together. From where did Jonathan got these dollars? Were they from pubic coffers or from his personal account? Just before the visit, he told Nigerians that he does not have a foreign account. So the dollars must have come from our treasury. But if it is ours, still, why was the transaction in foreign currency? Also, has the President turned the Villa into his campaign office? Then comes the moral question: why is the savior of Nigeria inducing a man of God, Tunde Bakare for that matter, with money? If he could do this to such a man of God, you can just imagine how many millions of dollars are dolled out to ordinary laities everyday in the Villa by this messiah. I can now understand why some people could go as far as saying that Jonathan was God-sent. We can as well conclude that he is here not to save Nigeria but to sink it further into the ocean of corruption.

Like father, like son.
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

2 December, 2010

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