By Stan Omole
The recent weeks have witnessed a rash of attacks on Mr. Kingsley Kuku, chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, who doubles as President Goodluck Jonathan’s Special Adviser on Niger Delta, over his comments on amnesty, its link to Jonathan’s stay in office after 2015, and the peace and stability of Nigeria.
Honouring a bilateral pact, Kuku had gone to the United States to brief the President Barack Obama administration on the great progress made since the proclamation of amnesty for warring Niger Delta militants. He told the Americans that there was now relative peace in the region and in Nigeria as a whole, engendering the restoration of the climate for increased oil production and the return of local and international investors who had fled the territory.
This, he argued, has ushered in a sort of social and economic renaissance: young men and women who were formally enemies of the state have been rehabilitated through a series of exposures to courses in formal and informal education and are now partnering the society in productive enterprises. In the same vein, Kuku declared, crude output and supply to the global market have more than trebled from their dismal pre-amnesty levels, thus, ensuring enormous income to support budget proposals.
Then he added what has since riled some Nigerians and given birth to a clique of critics: “Permit me to add that the peace that currently prevails in the zone (Niger Delta) is largely because Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who is from that same place, is the President of Nigeria. That is the truth. It is only a Jonathan Presidency that can guarantee continued peace and energy security in the Niger Delta.”
A simple interpretation of this is that since Jonathan is the pivot of peace and stability in the Niger Delta, in particular, and in Nigeria, in general, it follows that his removal or absence would lead to the removal and absence of peace and stability in the area. It is in the interest of Nigeria and the international community to ensure the constitutional continuation of his administration so he can consolidate the gains of amnesty.
But a league of opposition has arisen to confront Kuku over this logical truth. Garba Shehu, spokesman for ex-President Atiku Abubakar, has written a couple of newspaper articles lashing Kuku and describing the PAP boss as a campaigner for Jonathan’s bid for the 2015 presidential election. Then there is Vanguard newspaper columnist, Is’haq Modibbo Kawu. He says Kuku’s statement in Washington reveals Kuku with a “mindset” which “betrays the worst contempt for democracy”.
Lately, the National Assembly has jumped into the fray, with the lawmakers calling for the arrest of Kuku for alleged treasonable utterances! And recently some writers have claimed that Kuku’s presentation in Washington is partly to pave way for his bid for a senatorial sit in 2015.
Of course, none of these wild claims is true. The Kuku I know is made of much more virtuous and patriotic stuff than to fit into those roles.
We get a good glimpse of this from one of Kuku’s most recent interviews. Asked if he was eyeing the Senate in 2015, the PAP chairman said no. Rather he said the backlog of work in the amnesty office and the zeal to succeed on his job assigned to him by his boss wouldn’t allow him play politics in his home state, Ondo, in 2015. His words: “The national assignment given to me by my boss and president of this great country, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, in the amnesty office is more important than any elective position and I can’t afford failing on the job…The President won’t allow me abandoning the boat of success of the programme midway.”
To be sure, this reflects a citizen little concerned with a craving for vaunting selfish ambition. He is consumed with a passion to give his best to his motherland, even if it requires abandoning his personal aspirations in politics. It is quite possible for Kuku to exploit his position as a platform to grab a senatorial seat in Ondo State. As we all know, this is what most of our countrymen do when they find themselves in power. They shelve their primary responsibilities and then scheme to entrench themselves in office while executing their narrow selfish agenda.
This is responsible for the inertia and a host of crisis we witness everyday in Nigeria. Those in power relegate their duty to the nation and carry the can of narrow mindedness that leads to rancour in the polity. Invariably, this leads to destructive tendencies and acrimony that undermine security and peace in the society. Precious time, energy and financial resources that should go into developing the nation are diverted into addressing these challenges. With the likes of Kuku who are content simply with staying in the background to serve to the nation and the government of the day, the country and its citizens are saved the rancour, bitterness and division that attend such needless political ambitions.
The way to view such citizens is not to discourage them through a campaign of calumny and intimidation. We ought not to read mischief in what they say or do.
–– Omole is a commentator on public affairs in Lagos.