The Burden Of Holding Public Office In Nigeria

By Adewale Kupoluyi

A few days ago, Goodluck Jonathan expressed what could be described as the burden of holding public office in , saying that the fate awaiting him, his ministers and aides after May 29, would be unpleasant because he believed they would be persecuted.

Jonathan made this known during a thanksgiving and farewell service organised in his honour in Abuja. He alleged that the likely persecution would happen because of the “hard decisions” his administration took while in office.

The President told the congregation that he understood clearly that “hard decisions” had their own cost and he was, therefore, ready to pay any price for them. He added that experience had showed him that people would at a time desert anybody who took “hard decisions” like he did in office.

The President further stated that he had always believed that more of his friends would desert him after the handover. He recalled the story of the , , who was allegedly divorced by his wife for accepting to abolish minority rule in the country.

“That I have run the government this way that stabilised certain things, the electoral process and other things that brought stability to this country. They are very costly decisions which I must be ready to pay for. Some people come to me and say, this or that person, is he not your friend that benefited? Is it not your government that this person benefited from? But this is what the person is saying. But I used to say that worse statements will come. If you take certain decisions, you should know that those close to you will even abandon you at some point”, Jonathan had said.

Jonathan added that he was happy that ordinary appreciated what he did and that was most important to him, noting that it was not what the elite talked about or said about his administration that mattered to him but what the majority of the Nigerians felt about his actions and inactions.

He expressed delight that he came to with his family peacefully and was also leaving in peace. Jonathan reflected at what he called as benefits that came his way as a Nigerian, saying he was ready to pay the supreme price for the country.

No doubt, the concerns raised by Jonathan are typical of the fate that befalls many people that have occupied public positions in this part of the world. When some people find themselves in exalted offices they never expected, they get carried away such that they quickly forget about tomorrow.

Perhaps, due to the perks of office, they are simply cut off from reality and this vacuum often leads to a disconnect between the leader and the led. Or, why would any leader be afraid of the people after leaving office?

Two points could be raised here: the first is the fate that Jonathan was talking about, which is borne by public office holders as a result of the policies, actions and decisions of the government in providing good governance.

Those who are likely to be negatively affected include economic saboteurs, corrupt officials and those benefiting from ineptitude public administration that have hindered our development and provision of basic amenities for the people.

On the other hand, those who are vulnerable to the hostility of the common man are those who have truly let the people down and abused their positions. Under this category are government officials, appointees and public servants who chose to turn against the people by preventing them from enjoying their commonwealth.

These public servants and political appointees often prevent leaders from feeling the pulse of the people they are meant to serve. They do this by preventing their principals from getting to know how the citizens on the streets truly feel about the of affairs.

They often feed their bosses with half-truths that all is well when this is not so. At times, they may become casualties of the process for daring to tell the truth. Therefore, saying the truth could be dangerous for them as long as they wish to keep their plum jobs.

Those occupying top political positions are celebrated, adored and well-respected while in office. Many people do this, not necessarily because such top flight officials excelled in carrying out their responsibilities to the society, but simply because they can be of benefit to those currying one favour or the other while seeking for pecuniary gains.

The moment they are out of power, all those pleasantries and respect accorded them are thrown way. Oftentimes, they are persecuted and those close to them also suffer the same fate.

This singular reason could largely be responsible for why vacating political offices in Nigeria is problematic as public officers always strive to remain ever relevant in the scheme of things; whether needed or not.

But for those who have served meritoriously, any threat of persecution for doing the right thing while in office should no longer be allowed if committed persons are to be encouraged to serve in the public service.

For this class of committed people, I do not see any reason why they should be afraid of either being probed or investigated in the course of serving their fatherland. That is why the assurance given by the incoming administration, is instructive.

The All Progressives Congress had already disclosed that those who are guilty of crimes against the Nigerian people need to be afraid of the incoming administration. It assured Nigerians that the incoming Muhammadu administration would not persecute anyone.

According to the party, under the climate of change which Nigerians have ushered in the party with their votes, only the guilty needs to be afraid and that those with a guilty conscience, on account of their actions in the public sphere, must clear such so they can be at peace with themselves.

The party, however, wondered why the President chose a public forum to express his fears when he could have done so privately during his meetings with the President-elect.
Good governance will remain elusive until we imbibe the culture that promotes selfless service to the public life.

People who are passionate, credible and experienced should be encouraged to serve the nation without giving any room for them to regret at the end of the day. The trend of worshipping political office holders while in active service and only to crucify them after their tenure is bad and should no longer have a place in modern day politics.

Nevertheless, those who truly have a case to answer should be made to account for their stewardship, as transparency and accountability remain the .

Attesting to this fact is the report by the Centre for Constitutionalism and Demilitarisation, entitled, “Transparency and Accountability in Nigeria”, which reveals that “there is a symbiotic relationship between transparency and accountability.

Kupoluyi wrote in from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta,via

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