Thursday last week, former Lagos State governor and the self-proclaimed national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, claimed that former President Goodluck Jonathan won a gold medal in corruption. Tinubu made the remark at the Banquet Hall of the State House while delivering the keynote address at the launch of a book titled, ‘Making Steady Sustainable Progress for Nigeria’s Peace and Prosperity,’ a mid-term scorecard of this administration, authored by the trio of Femi Adesina, Garba Shehu and Laolu Akande, the media aides in the presidency. I wonder what had been listed in the book as President Muhammadu Buhari’s achievements.
According to Tinubu, corruption was so rampant during the last administration that the nation’s institutions were not only inflicted with the menace but corruption became an institution. He stated further that the former government turned the national treasury into a charity box while corruption grew fat and developed wings, citing how a former minister and those he described as “her rogues gallery” looted the national treasury with impunity.
I don’t know whether Tinubu was under the influence when he delivered his address. Because I have heard that once you step into the precincts of the State House, certain invisible forces interfere with your normality. But I presume he was not. Maybe he had been away for too long and was not fully abreast of developments back home. It is also quite possible someone wrote that speech for him and he didn’t go through it until he delivered it.
Or perhaps he was playing true to form – a fitting character portrait of the master of subterfuge, propaganda and alternative facts. Permit me to also presume he was merely playing to the gallery and didn’t mean what was attributed to him in media reports. Otherwise I can see fire on the horizon. I can see a day of reckoning. I pray that someday, his gold-medal statement does not prove to be an act of political self-immolation. It was surreal reading such blistering remarks from Tinubu. My first reaction was to say c’mon!
There is a saying in the land of my fathers that if you point one of your fingers at a person in an accusatory manner, the remaining four fingers point directly back at you. I think there is a spiritual and physical reason why this is so. Jesus Christ more forcefully demonstrated the hypocrisy of man when he challenged the Scribes and Pharisees with the following: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” That simple but powerful statement saved a woman from certain death in the hands of some holier-than-thou custodians of societal values who had accused her of committing adultery.
First, the architect of change should have realised by now that the change he helped to berth in 2015 is nothing but a massive fraud. In just two and a half years of the APC in power, we have seen Nigeria in decay and decline on all fronts. Instead of being honest about the perilous fate of Nigeria under the APC-led government, Tinubu is in denial, finger-pointing to deflect attention and responsibility in the midst of the colossal damage done to the economy and sense of national unity by this government. Jonathan has become the stale and sour pear that carries the can for all others, and Buhari is the hero building a New Nigeria – an alternate universe and reality, where everything is working or seems to be working. Honestly, reading Tinubu’s diatribe almost made me throw a punch in the air.
Let me limit myself to corruption since it was the main focus of his reported diatribe as I address his follies with facts. Tinubu has probably never heard that Abdulrasheed Maina, former Chairman of the Presidential Pension Reform Task Team, was secretly brought back to the Civil Service, given double promotion and paid N22 million salary arrears. In case you have forgotten, Maina was declared wanted for alleged N2 billion fraud of pension funds during the Goodluck Jonathan presidency. We have since learnt of more frightening details, that contrary to the president’s directive for the immediate termination of Maina’s reinstatement and ordering of a probe when the scandal broke, he was well in the know of the entire plot and was even warned by Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, the Head of Service, of the implications of the reinstatement on the overall anti-corruption war that has turned out to be a vengeful, one-sided political war on both his real and perceived enemies.
And it came to light recently that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami travelled to Dubai and held a secret meeting with fugitive Maina, without telling the EFCC which declared him wanted. How does that sound to Tinubu?
Tinubu was obviously totally unaware of Babachir Lawal, the grass-cutting former SGF, who embezzled money meant for the victims of Boko Haram’s atrocities languishing in internally displaced people’s camps. Tinubu was also not aware or pretended not to know of the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachukwu’s damning letter to the president chronicling all the breaches and the lack of transparency in the state oil company, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The story was told in hush whispering tones for sometime until Kachikwu’s letter exploded Buhari’s much-hyped myth of integrity to smithereens. The allegation of ongoing humongous sleaze in all departments of government, especially at the NNPC, has been corroborated by Kachikwu’s letter. The minister listed major contracts awarded by the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Maikanti Baru, without the input of the NNPC board to include $10 billion crude term contracts; $5 billion direct sales direct purchase (DSDP) contracts; $3 billion AKK pipeline contract; financing allocation funding contracts worth $3 billion; and NPDC production service contracts valued at $3-$4 billion.
Now the joke is all on those who believed that Buhari represented change and would build the country of our dreams. The joke is on all those who alongside Tinubu, Professor Wole Soyinka, Professor Pat Utomi, Professor Charles Soludo, Professor Tam David West, etc. deluded themselves that Buhari had changed and therefore was the best person to move Nigeria forward. Collectively, they put a knife on the fragile things that hold us together and Nigeria is falling apart. It was the greed for power by Tinubu that has put Nigeria in this mess. Some of us who warned that Buhari had nothing to offer Nigeria other than division and bigotry were shouted down as sponsored by the state. All the danger signs including his record of ethno/religious bigotry were branded as “contrived handicaps” to make him look bad. Today, we all know better what was contrived and what was not.
A government that sold itself on anti-corruption, strict adherence to due process and transparency has been caught red-handed in a whopping $25 billion contract mess that breached all laid down legal and due processes. Shame on Buhari’s supporters who had pretended very well in the past two years that Buhari was cleaning the mess left behind by the last government. The holier-than-thou posture of this government has been shattered beyond redemption. The fact that Buhari got Kachikwu’s letter and sat on it for one whole month and did nothing about it is the clearest evidence yet that we cannot continue to exonerate him of plausible culpability of the monumental illegal award of contracts by the GMD of NNPC, Maikati Baru.
Look, nobody is talking about N25 billion. We are talking about a jaw-dropping $25 billion that breached all the laws and guidelines for awarding contracts. We are talking about a culture of impunity, nay, a “bravado management style”. We are talking about a corrupt and corrosive abuse of public trust. Particularly worrisome is that some of those contracts were awarded when the president was away in London on sick leave after he had transferred presidential power to the vice-president. The question is, how could he have signed those contracts after he had divested himself of executive powers? Was it a case of one nation, two presidents?
Tinubu sees nothing wrong in this record-setting malfeasance worthy of his gold medal? All the reforms supposedly embarked upon in the NNPC by this government to create the optics of transparency, it now appears were mere smokescreens to hoodwink Nigerians into believing that they meant well and that they are the good guys who came to clean up the mess left behind by the bad guys. If I may ask, have you heard anything about the reforms again? They painted others as corrupt, all contracts awarded by the previous government suddenly didn’t follow due process. Even Kachikwu joined in casting aspersions on every official of the previous government. He assumed office as the GMD of NNPC with extraordinary powers and started sacking everybody. But when the government’s methods and tactics were criticised, they had a ready-made response in their new mantra: “Corruption is fighting back.”
A friend mocked the government with this email to me following the leaked letter by the minister of state to the president: “Seriously, I think this Dr. Ibe Kachikwu’s letter is a product of ‘corruption fighting back’. If we trace very well, I am sure that the minister benefited from the Dasuki loot or was a part of the corrupt PDP. His letter had all the hallmarks of antics to prevent EFCC and DSS from going after him. In fact, this is ‘corruption fighting back’. But this government which I know will not be distracted by the antics of these corrupt people who looted ‘our common patrimony’ in the past administration. They will be brought to ‘justice’ soonest.
Does that not sound familiar? It is the typical response by officials of this government, the APC and their apologists to any criticism of the government’s war on corruption. With Kachikwu’s letter and the Mainagate, many believe the government has failed the smell test. Supporters have been unable to find a satisfactory explanation on any front, whether on the level of breach of due process, impunity or corruption.
That is the way the cookie crumbles. The angels of due process have been exposed as the biggest perpetrators of impunity in our history. There is even a darker dimension to Kachikwu’s treatise: In this government, you now have to prove you are not anti-North to be trusted and “accepted” in the cabinet of Muhammadu Buhari as Kachikwu’s painfully suggested; and who knows, probably in other departments of government. The minister grovelled and begged that he was not anti-North and went into how he was raised in Kano to prove his pro-North credentials. It is a pity and it’s regrettable that Nigeria has been reduced to a joke.
Again, only the appointees of this government were adjudged clean and well-meaning for Nigeria. These guys rode high in the public space and estimation. Some members of the academia even encouraged the government to suspend the rule of law, which is the backbone and foundation of our democracy, in order to fight corruption. In encouraging the government to suspend the rule of law, they forgot that every individual is entitled to the protection of due process and not subject to lynch mob and vigilante justice. As they abused due process and destroyed reputations, they were hailed as saints and cheered on as deliverers for exposing Diezani Alison-Madueke, Patience Jonathan and all other officials who served in the last government, while all those serving in this government that were later caught red-handed were protected.
Day after day, Ibrahim Magu’s EFCC regales the public with staggering discoveries of Alison-Madueke’s alleged loot. Massive real estates are traced daily to her all over the world. Magu told Nigerians repeatedly how the government was working hard to extradite her to face trial in Nigeria. What is now obvious to even a fool is that this government was never interested in bringing Alison-Madueke to face trial here but was merely using her alleged crimes to sell its anti-corruption propaganda. When the woman demanded that government should bring her back to face justice, behold, Magu and Malami’s extradition tale fell apart. Suddenly they came up with another tale that “oh she wants to escape trial in Britain” even though there has been no trial going on there in the last two and a half years. Now can anyone tell Nigerians why the government only suddenly realised that she wanted to escape trial in Britain when its officials had been lying to the public about working hard to extradite her?
If the authorities were so sure of their case against her which they had made many to believe, why did they suddenly get cold feet when she was willing to come to the country to face the consequences of her alleged crimes? However, this is by no means an endorsement of her alleged crimes. Punish Alison-Madueke for her infractions but please do it within the fair process of the rule of law. The EFCC should by all means treat everyone equally.
Now how does one explain that the same EFCC deliberately sabotaged the prosecution of former Bayelsa Governor Timiprye Sylva, a stalwart of the ruling APC, but has been so “efficient” with Alison-Madueke’s case? While Sylva was on trial for corruption, he was made the governorship standard-bearer of Tinubu’s APC. Just a few days to the governorship election, a court curiously quashed all the charges against Sylva. The EFCC did not appeal the judgment. The 48 houses the EFCC had seized from him were returned even though there was a nexus between the four years he spent in office as a governor and the time of acquisition of those properties. It is noteworthy that throughout the period of the trial, the EFCC never filed for a temporary or permanent forfeiture of those houses. Does that not smack of double standard? Can Tinubu claim not to be aware of this? Only a man with two senses of morality will not feel outraged by such glaring double standard. For some of us however, we can still differentiate between right and wrong. And know when the thumb is put on the scale of justice to protect some people.
His party of saints also fielded the now late Abubakar Audu of Kogi State who was standing trial on multiple charges of corruption brought against him by the EFCC as its candidate in the 2015 governorship election. If the APC has any scintilla of morality, it wouldn’t have picked these persons whose conduct in prior public offices gravely undermined the message of change as candidates for elective offices.
Allow me to refresh your memory. Tinubu in 2012 at a rally in Ondo, boasted that he spent millions of pounds sterling to enable former Ondo State governor Olusegun Mimiko retrieve his mandate, but Mimiko betrayed him. Millions of pounds sterling is not something you pick on the ground. Where did Tinubu get the millions of pounds he claimed to have given to Mimiko?
Now recall that in 2007, while answering questions from the Senate on the alleged corruption cases hanging over the heads of some governors, Nuhu Ribadu, the then-chairman of EFCC, had declared pointedly that Tinubu’s corruption case had an “international dimension”. The same Tinubu is now awarding gold medal to someone for corruption. So who is fooling who here?
Let me tell Tinubu now in case he does not know, it is the weakness of Jonathan (a poor student of power and politics), that made him (Tinubu) strong. That weakness gave him the political space to grow in stature and expand his influence by hook or by crook. So he should be grateful to Jonathan for that weakness. He is not the right person to be vilifying him.