By OBINNA EZUGWU
The crisis is the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, following its primaries has simply refused to go away. More than a month after its conduct, nothing seems to have been settled. Although winners and losers emerged, the situation has remained fluid that the table may still turn either way on both sides.
A major victim of the lingering crisis may be the chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, who is now on the rope, fighting for his political life. Fortnight ago he was quizzed by the DSS over sundry allegations, after which he was reported have fled abroad. In his absence his opponents who he described as few disgruntled governors have gone for his jugular.
When in 2015, the President Muhammadu Buhari led APC government came to power after a bitterly contested election, many Nigerians welcomed the new government with fanfare. It was to be a new beginning. A country many believed had been ripped apart by graft now had an opportunity to right the wrongs of many years. And who was better prepared to lead this new start than Buhari? A man packaged in the cloak of a Spartan, no nonsense individual; an embodiment of integrity with intense aversion for shady practices.
Corruption under former president Goodluck Jonathan had been elevated to monstrous proportions, and Buhari had ran a campaign hinged mainly on anti corruption and Nigerians had every reason to be expectant of corrupt free country under him.
But three and half years down the line, the mighty has fallen. The initial glamour which hounding of key members of Jonathan’s government provided has faded under the weight of worse allegations of corruption involving key members of the ruling party, not less the president’s very own trusted men. The party which came to fight corruption now swims in the menace. And for many, it is now business as usual, if not worse.
With each passing day comes revelation of one corruption case or the other, often of mind boggling proportions, and President Buhari appears to be either overwhelmed by its enormity or consumed by the sweet taste of its proceeds. He has simply lost the drive, if he ever had it.
“Corruption and corrupt people are embarrassingly being shielded under Buhari,” said Oladotun Hassan, founder and president, Yoruba Council of Youths. “Nigerians have lost faith in the much touted anti corruption fight.”
Be it the case of Kano state governor, Abdullahi Ganduje who was shown in series of videos collecting millions of dollars in bribes from a yet to be named contractor, or the allegations of NNPC failing to remit billions of dollars to the federation account, or indeed the national chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole who was alleged to have ripped off many aspirants of the party during the recently concluded primary elections of the party, the APC is now a political party more associated with corruption than even the ‘very corrupt’ PDP government it replaced.
“I can say, without fear of contraction, that this government is more corrupt than Jonathan’s government,” said Akogun Tola Adeniyi, convener, G9, a group of Southern and Middle Belt leaders of thought.
Oshiomhole was said to have been grilled by the DSS last week, after which he allegedly left the country. At least, an attempt has been made in his case, no matter how half hearted, but for others, it’s a free world.
Ganduje’s bribe videos is the latest blot on the party’s already discredited anti corruption stance. And like the cases of corruption involving members of the party before it, both the EFCC and the DSS have suddenly lost their voices. And even the presidency has maintained very loud silence.
Jafar Jafar, Publisher of Daily Nigerian, the online newspaper which released the videos, last week, appeared before the Kano State House of Assembly investigative panel where he maintained that the videos are real. The yet to be identified contractor who paid the bribes has also agreed to appear before the assembly panel to testify, provided that certain conditions are met, one of which is that the governor must also appear in person before the panel.
The governor who was scheduled to appear last week failed to do so and instead, sent his Commissioner for Information, Muhammad Garba who denied the allegation, claiming that the video was aimed at “tarnishing his image politically.”
But evidence contradicting the governor’s claims is weighty. And in spite of that, the APC government has shown embarrassing disinterest. There hasn’t been any condemnation from anyone of note in Abuja, and there is no sign of such happening.
As a sitting governor, Ganduje has immunity from prosecution. He cannot be arrested or tried. But there is a sense, one might argue, in the assertion that a government that poses as being opposed to graft should raise a voice in condemnation of such developments. It hasn’t happened, and may never do. Some say it’s already a pattern.
“So many people in the administration have been accused of corruption including the current Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, but none has been investigated,” said Alimi Sulaiman, Executive Chairman, Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice. “There were petitions against Rotimi Amaechi and Babatunde Fashola, but nothing happened.”
“From the very beginning, it was obvious that the anti corruption effort of Buhari is only sensational crusade. He is not ready to fight corruption; he uses the EFCC to intimidate people that are against him. All we are seeing is propaganda.”
Allegations are rife about the president being selective in his anti graft war, largely ignoring those he is favourably disposed to and those who funded or assisted his campaign in one form or the other.
Former People’s Democratic Party chairman, Adamu Mu’azu, was alleged to have benefited immensely from the infamous Dasuki Gate, and had also taken bribes running into huge sums of money from PDP aspirants in the run up to the 2015 election, with which he allegedly acquired properties in strategic locations in the country and beyond, but he was ignored by the EFCC and allowed to enjoy his wealth on peace. Reason? Many say he was one of those who acted as informants for the president’s campaign while in office as PDP chairman.
Meanwhile Col. Sambo Dasuki, former NSA who was alleged to have misappropriated $2.1billion arms money remains in detention even without trial, with several court orders for his release ignored, and all those associated with him – and are loyal to the opposition party – have had a day in court or a knock on their doors by either the EFCC or DSS.
On the other hand, those who remain loyal to the ruling party never had case to answer. The current Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai who was said to have been in charge of procurement during the Dasuki days, was confirmed to have acquired properties beyond his means in Dubai. He never had a case to answer.
Musiliu Obanikoro, another alleged beneficiary of the Dasuki windfall is effectively now a free man on account of joining the ruling party. So is former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Goodwill Akpabio said to have embezzled billions of naira when in office as governor.
In this category are others like the former military governor of Kaduna State, Jafaru Isa who was alleged to have received over N100million from Dasuki according to the EFCC. He was said to have returned the money and the case died away. He is a known close associate of Buhari, and some say the move against him was only a slap in the wrist.
Former Controller General of Nigerian Customs Service, Abdullahi Dikko was also alleged to have sponsored both Buhari and Jonathan’s campaigns, which some say is the reason his case has been allowed to die.
Yet, the administration had hit a low in the would be anti corruption fight when it was discovered last year, that the fugitive former Chairman of Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) Abdulrasheed Maina accused of misappropriating N195 billion pension funds and was dismissed by the Jonathan government, was reinstated into the public service and given promotion, a move said to have been engineered by the country’s Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami with active collaboration of Interior Minister, Abdulrahman Dambazau.
Yet, while the Maina saga trended, it was also discovered that a number of other individuals dismissed by the Umaru Yar’Adua/Jonathan government on corruption grounds had been reabsorbed by the anti corrupt APC administration.
Those identified included Dambazzau himself, who was said to have been fired as chief of Army Staff for corrupt practices in arms purchase; Mohammed Barkindo who was removed as NNPC MD by the late Umaru Yar’Adua for alleged corruption had been appointed as Nigeria’s Secretary General to OPEC by Buhari.
Also identified were ACP Zakari Bui who was said to have been accused and dismissed for “aiding” Boko Haram kingpin Kabiru Sokoto to escape from detention was reinstated and promoted by the administration, and Ahmed Gambo Saleh, Registrar of the Supreme Court, allegedly stole N2.2bn belonging to the Supreme court and was fired, but was later appointed the secretary of the committee monitoring corruption trials.
Another sticking point was the case of former Bayelsa governor, Timipre Sylva whose seized houses; over 46 houses seized on corruption grounds were returned.
But all the above pales into insignificance when one looks at the heavy allegations of corruption leveled against people in President Buhari’s own kitchen cabinet and those very close to him.
The president’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari first hit the headlines in 2016 when he was alleged to have collected N5000million from Telecom giants, MTN to help the company mitigate the fine imposed on it by the federal government. And despite President Buhari being shown enough evidence, nothing tangible was done.
The Chief of Staff few months ago was involved in another bribery scandal. A certain Bako Waziri Kyari who claimed to be the Chief of Staff’s cousin, said he collected some N29.9million from him with the promise to facilitate award of contract he said was worth N300million, but eventually failed to do so. Bako said neither the EFCC nor the DSS agreed to investigate the case, as according to them, they could not investigate the president’s aide.
Like the MTN case before, he emerged unscathed, defended by the presidency itself.
The Attorney General, Malami, was alleged to have hired two Nigerian lawyers: Oladapo Okpeseyi and Temitope Isaac Adebayo at the outrageous fee of N7billion to do a job already completed by two Swiss lawyers, Enrico Monfrini and Christian Luscher with respect to the recovery of $321million Abacha loot.
Maikanti Baru, Group Managing Director of NNPC, in alleged breach of due process, awarded $25 billion worth of contracts. The allegation was made by the Minister of State, Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu. Weighty as it was, the administration turned it into a sort of disagreement between Baru and Kachikwu for which it opted to settle.
Former SGF, Babachir Lawal who was said to have spent N250million to cut grasses at a Borno IDP camp, and who a senate panel indicted of awarding contracts worth N500m, through the Presidential Initiative on North-East, a rehabilitation programme under his office, to a company in which he had interests, was only suspended after intense pressure from Nigerians, and his cousin, Boss Mustapha appointed to replace him. He is yet to answer for his crimes, and may never do.
It’s been a similar case with the suspended Director General of NIA, Ambassador Ayo Oke who owned up to humongous cash in foreign currencies and naira notes to the tune of $43.4million, £27,800 and N23.2million uncovered at a residential building on the 7th floor of a four-bedroom apartment at Osborne Towers located at 16 Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.
But for some, these cases are not the worst form of corruption under the administration, as according to them, nepotism which has been the character of the Buhari government is much worse than stealing money.
“Nepotism is the worst form of corruption,” noted Akogun Adeniyi. “Where you have offices that you give to 50 people, and you give it to just your brothers, no corruption is bigger than that.
“Impunity that we had under Jonathan is about one thousand times bigger now under the Buhari administration; impunity is an advanced form of corruption, and that’s why (Maikanti) Baru or whatever he calls himself, will award contacts without clearing from the Minister of Petroleum and the president will give him a pat on the back.”