As Agwai exits
PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan’s removal the other day of Lt. Gen. Martin Luther Agwai from his position as chairman of the interventionist agency, Subsidy Re-Investment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) portrays the president as being in a haste to dispense with the services of his appointee, for unstated reasons and in controversial circumstances. Undoubtedly, the President has the prerogative to hire and fire, but the manner of sacking of public officials leaves much to be desired about the temperament of the Presidency.
In Agwai’s case, as in a few others in the past, clearly, the President could have been more diplomatic. The retired General’s removal without precedents in infractions to the detriment of his office or the nation, may merely advertise the politician but not the statesman in the president.
In the usual official language, Agwai had to be eased out “in continuation of government’s efforts to continuously reposition the Federal Government’s agencies for optimal delivery,” a government statement offered. But the same principle has not always been applied in the conduct of state affairs.
In the absence of any reason for Agwai’s removal, speculations, naturally, have taken over. And understandably too.
Agwai, a former Chief of Army as well as Defence Staff, in the course of delivering the Olusegun Obasanjo birthday lecture a few days before his removal purportedly touched sore nerves when he said change in the nation’s leadership was inevitable and that the country’s leaders must accept this and move with it. “Integrity matters, doing what is good for the larger society and not just what you want to do for a narrow society to please yourself,” he reportedly told his select audience in a lecture titled, “Imperatives of a national security framework for the development and progress of Nigeria.”
For a man who once held the defence of the country in his hands, Agwai seemed to have spoken as a statesman, if somewhat unwisely. His use of the word ‘change’ (a mantra of the opposition party) delivered to a gathering at an event organised by an alleged sympathiser of the cause of the opposition, should have been expected to unsettle the government whose appointee he was.
A pertinent question then is whether he was cleared by the Presidency to attend the event. Otherwise he may be accused of breaking protocols.
Even at that, his case should have been better handled by the government. Unfortunately, President Jonathan appears to be unnecessarily edgy lately about any real or imagined association with the opposition. He seems to be responding to every political development on impulse.
The government should be able to accept positive criticisms, in good faith without drawing the sword. Attention to mundane issues as who said what against his government advertises a distraction of the president from more serious state matters. Of course, devotion of more time and energy to such matters would endear the president more to the people and would render any criticism by anyone a non-issue.
Citizens would always display a level of distrust for every action taken by government especially in a country where a culture of excellence in governance remains undeveloped.
Firing Agwai as was done can only deepen this cynicism.
In spite of his travails, Martin Luther Agwai takes away with him the attributes of frankness and fearlessness. His successor, Ishaya Akau would need a huge dose of those attributes to have a rewarding time in office in the hope that the nation’s best would not always be sacrificed on the altar of partisan politics.