President Jonathan’s minders, often boil with rage when some public commentators point to the apparent lack of finesse in his conduct. The Presidential aides and other hangers on in the corridors of power often depict such comments as disrespectful, while also labeling the commentators as detractors of the President.
But nothing could be further from the truth. Or how else could anyone justify the President's recent gleeful show while commissioning what can best be described as a Greek Gift — a church to his hometown, Otuoke, Bayelsa state, by his "friends". The President reportedly said at the dedication of the 2,500-seat church on March 17, that the building was donated to him by Italian construction firm, Gitto Construzioni Generali Nigeria Limited (GCG). President Jonathan, according to media reports, said the Gitto chief executive pledged to rebuild the church for the Otuoke community after he (the President) had decried its aging structure.
It is an open secret in Nigeria that many contractors deploy several unethical means to bribe their ways to fat government contracts. Such 'gifts', solicited or unsolicited, are clearly what they are: illegal and corrupt. And thus, the President's action of soliciting, even if indirectly, and receiving such a 'donation', are not only objectionable but also condemnable. The President, as many other observers have pointed out, should be conversant with the code of conduct for public officers as enshrined in our Constitution.
Section 6 of the Code of Conduct for Public officers embodied in the First Schedule of the 1999 Constitution and the Code of Conduct and Tribunal Act (CAP C15) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, frown at such conduct as exhibited by the President. According to the law: “A public officer shall not ask for or accept any property or benefits of any kind for himself or any other person on account of anything done or omitted to be done by him in the discharge of his duties. For the purposes of subsection (1) of this subsection, the receipt by a public officer of any gifts or benefits from commercial firms, business enterprises or persons who have contracts with the Government shall be presumed to have been received in contravention… unless the contrary is proved.”
By his inappropriate action, therefore, the President has not only undermined the highest office in the Land, but also the nation's anti-corruption crusade. Already, many keen observers have noted with concern the loss of steam in the fight against corruption, which has been partly attributed to political interference. And now, unfortunately, the President has gone cap-in-hand to solicit for, and accept a 'gift' from a contruction firm. Worse still, many questions are being raised about the handling of some contracts by the company concerned-Gitto. In other climes, this action would have been enough to compel Mr. Jonathan to resign for accepting such a Greek Gift as it undermines his moral authority and aids corruption across the country.