Politics Nigeria — February 16, 2010 at 2:40 PM

Aaondoakaa: Good riddance!

The saying that you reap what you sow couldn’t be truer for former Nigerian Attorney-General and Justice Minister, Michael Aondoakaa. In the months leading up to February 8, when the Nigerian Senate and House of Representative empowered the Vice President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to assume the position of Acting President, he had turned himself into a mess and a laughing stock. Aondoakaa turned himself into the “Okoko Ndem” for defending an indefensible position. Okoko Ndem was Biafra’s propagandist and spin doctor during the Nigerian civil war. So, when Dr. Jonathan demoted Aondoakaa in one of his first duties as Acting President, he did the right thing. Most Nigerians and world political observers welcome this decision.

Aondoakaa was the architect of his down-fall, and he knows it. It baffles me why he couldn’t correctly read the direction of the political wind of change in Nigeria. Or maybe he did but didn’t care. One of the qualities of a good dancer is to recognize when the music or drumbeat has changed and, consequently, make changes to his or her dance steps. Aondoakaa was in a political dance of his life but failed to recognize when the music changed from a slow jam to a fast tempo boogie. What an embarrassment.

The former Justice Minister may have failed to see the writing on the wall, but the decision to relieve him of his portfolio did not come as a surprise to most political observers. In fact, the rumour of his removal was so strong that it hung over the political cloud of Nigeria like a thick harmattan haze.

You see, the political demons that hunted Mr. Aondoakaa did not start with the Yar’Adua issue of not transmitting a letter to the Senate President and Speaker of the House. He had arrived the scene to assume his new job and take charge with a pall of suspicion over him. Nigerians just did not trust him. It got so bad that his opponents started calling for is head by the end of his twelfth months in office. It was also widely reported that in March of last year that Ishola Williams, the former head of Transparency International in Nigeria, openly called on President Yar’Adua to fire Aondoakaa for his role in compromising the prosecution of the Nigerians implicated in the Halliburton bribery scandal.

Also, in September 2009, the following organizations joined in the call for his resignation: Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), The Movement Against Corruption (MAC) and the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG). These organizations cited his attempts to stall local and international investigations into a scandal involving three former state governors as their reason for asking him to resign. As if this was not enough, another anti-corruption group, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) about a month later marched to the National Assembly to demand that Mr. Aondoakaa be fired.

Aondoakaa, from the inception, showed signs of intent to diminish the powers of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). He also had its Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu in his crosshair. For example, no sooner had he been appointed to the cabinet in July 2007 than he submitted a memo to the President asking “that all agencies involved in the prosecution of criminal offences such as the EFCC and ICPC should report and initiate criminal proceedings with the consent and approval of the Attorney-General of the Federation as specified in relevant sections of the Constitution.” The president granted the request but was forced to make a hasty about-face upon realizing that his agreement with Aondoakaa contradicted an earlier ruling of the Supreme Court.

Further, when the EFCC headed by Ribadu went after former Delta state governor, James Ibori, for prosecution of charges brought against him Aondoakaa, it seemed, went berserk with his penchant to have Ribadu removed from office. His war against Ribadu intensified, raging like a summer brush fire made worse by accelerants. Why would Aondoakaa be against the prosecution of Mr. Ibori? Because it is rumoured that he (Aondoakaa) and Ibori are friends and that it was Ibori that recommended him to President Yar’Adua for the Chief Justice and Attorney-General job.

Even after Ribadu was no longer the EFCC head, Aondoakaa still did not give up the fight. The duel had become an obsession for him, it seemed. For example, in February 2009, only weeks after Mr. Ribadu was dismissed from the Nigeria Police Force, Aondoakaa filed charges against him before the Code of Conduct Tribunal alleging that he (Ribadu) did not declare his assets upon assumption of duties as EFCC chief, as required by law.

The list goes on and on. There is not enough space here to treat all of Aondoakaa’s unsavory deeds as Chief Justice and Attorney-General. However, this commentary will not be complete without a mention of some of his recent escapades in the wake of President Yar’Adua’s controversial medical emergency trip. The man is like a magnet for controversy. He took the unpopular position of defending Yar’Adua’s refusal to transmit the purported letter. He saw no big deal with the fact that by Yar’Adua’s action Nigeria was in state of power vacuum for 78 days. Here him: “There is no evidence that (Mr. Yar’Adua) is not exercising his powers as President. He has his Vice President and his ministers whom he delegates power and functions to. He does not have to be in the country before he can exercise his power. He can do that anywhere. The President can delegate his power to anyone and he can even give instruction anywhere in the world, even on his sick bed.” Really! Did he actually mean that?  It beats me how a man of such status can say that. It sounds like something that would come out of the mouth of someone suffering from an epketeshi (local gin) hangover.

In another incidence while reacting to a call by Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, president of the Nigerian Bar Association, urging President Yar’Adua to resign on grounds of poor health, Aondoakaa reportedly said: “The statement of the NBA President is his personal opinion. The Federal Executive Council (FEC) is the only body recognized by the constitution to decide on the matter… We should not allow somebody’s ill-health to be politicized … We should not play politics with human health. The President’s health is improving everyday…”

Again, did he really mean that? How about his crazy utterances on the matter of empowering the Vice President to act as President in the absence Mr. Yar’Adua? Nigerians were anxious and did not know the whereabout of their President. Aondoakaa was insensitive to the matter. He vigorously opposed the move to make Dr. Jonathan Acting President. He was supposed to be on the side of the people but he choose rather to constitute himself into an embarrassment and obstructionist. He was supposed to be the country’s chief law enforcer, and the constitution is where he was supposed to get his authority from. Rather than abide by the tenets of his oath of office to uphold and defend the constitution, he choose to be against it.

The man, it seemed, was never short of ways and means to dismiss calls from anybody, institution or organization on the ailing President to hand over to the Vice President. At the end of the January 27 Federal Executive Council meeting, after more than two months of a vacuum in the highest office in the country, it was Aondoakaa who reportedly announced, on behalf of the Council, that the ailing President was “not incapable of discharging the functions of his office” and that there was no basis for seeking his removal from office. Aondoakaa was also reportedly the first person to oppose the move by his Federal Executive Council colleague, Dora Akunyili, Minister of Information and Communications, to present a memo to the Council urging it to compel the President to hand over to Dr. Jonathan.

If Aondoakaa has any self-worth he ought to resign and refuse the demotion handed to him. I support the Acting President’s decision to downgrade him to a lower office. Aondoakaa’s train has run its course. Hopefully he will take the cue and resign.

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