BY MAGNUS ONYIBE
A famous unlettered lbadan politician is associated with part of the title of this article when he famously pronounced the term Peculiar Mess as PENKELEMES.
But that parody is not the focus of this piece which is aimed at identifying and advising against allowing allegations and counter allegations of corruption against the APC and PDP presidential candidates seize the political atmosphere.
As the 2019 February 16 commencement date for the general election in Nigeria draws nearer, the political atmosphere has expectedly become very charged with political activities.
Unfortunately, the prevailing political tension which is fast approaching boiling point is not for the reason of superlative debates over the new strategies of how to pull the nation’s ailing economy out of the doldrums (there were flashes of that in the incumbent Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Vice Presidential candidate, Peter Obi debate), but other than that, it has been all about who is more corrupt between the main challenger for the presidency in 2019-former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari.
Ideally the talking points that should have been dominating public discussions between both presidential candidates and their supporters ought to be about who has the superior manifesto to lift the greater number of Nigerians out of their current misery as the Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping did about four decades ago resulting in China an erstwhile communist economy overtaking Japan as the world’s second largest economy through his Four Modernisations (development agenda) of focusing on agriculture, industry, national defence and science and technology; or as the iconic leader, Lee Kuan Yew did in Singapore by moving the small island country from third world to first world in one generation by introducing reform policies (that were unpopular but beneficial to the people) while enjoying support from them and better still; how Sheik Mohamed Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of UAE and ruler of Dubai, turned the hitherto quaint desert island whose mainstay was boat building only 40 years ago, into the Paris, London and New York wrapped into one in the Arab world.
But disappointingly, what has dominated the dialogue between President Muhammadu Buhari and his closest rival, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has been about who is more corrupt. Leveraging on some unsavory comments by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, OBJ against his deputy for eight years-Atiku Abubakar, during a nasty spat arising from the former president’s determination to ensure that his deputy does not succeed him as president in 2007, he stated that Abubakar was being investigated at that time for corruption in the USA owing to his association with Halliburton and Siemens oil/gas service firms, hence he decided not to support his bid for the presidency.
As to be expected, that character assassination or negative character testimony by OBJ in 2007 against Atiku Abubakar has become a powerful weapon that the ruling party, APC is currently cleverly wielding as a weapon to assail him about 11 years after.
Although the USA investigation has been concluded without indicting Atiku Abubakar, while Siemens (a co-accused firm) and William Jefferson a former USA congressman were held culpable, the ruling party, APC whose candidate, President Buhari, got catapulted into Aso Rock Villa in 2015 (on the strength of his purported uprightness) has been making a song and dance of the corruption slur against the PDP candidate by his former boss, OBJ.
That’s despite the fact that the corruption allegation is a phantom and has been resolved in favor of Atiku Abubakar.
The truth is that like a husband who felt betrayed by his wife, during a public quarrel and calls her a prostitute, the tagging of Atiku Abubakar with the toga of corruption, a little over 10 years ago by OBJ in the course of a public spat has remained like an albatross because APC keeps invoking it.
That’s clearly a case of mob justice whereby an enemy starts shouting thief, thief in a market square while pointing fingers at an enemy with the intention of getting a mob to lynch the victim without caring to know if the person is guilty or not.
The situation is even made worse because his accusers know the truth as the corruption allegation has proven to be a mere accusation made in a feat of anger by OBJ which has no factual value or basis in truth as no court of law in Nigeria or elsewhere in the world has ever convicted the PDP presidential candidate.
Latching on to that wicked and false allegation, APC National leader and erstwhile Atiku ally, Bola Tinubu as well as the chairman of the ruling party, Adams Oshiomhole have knowingly been leading the vanguard of those calling out the PDP presidential candidate for corruption, which they are aware is false but calculated to bring the PDP presidential candidate to disrepute in the eyes of the electorate. I wish more Nigerians would understand that it’s all politics and most politicians believe that in politics, blackmail is a legitimate weapon.
So invariably, the duo of APC national leader and chairman have been playing on the intelligence of some Nigerians who don’t have the ability or capacity to sift lies from the truth.
As such, like a re-enactment of the kindergarten fairy tale, Snow White in the story of the seven dwarfs whereby any time the evil queen is seeking a victim to slay, she stares into the wall mirror and exclaims “mirror mirror on the wall who is the fairest of them all”, the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar has been appearing like a fair game for APC to throw their wicked darts of false corruption allegation .
But recently, the Atiku Abubakar camp has countered by raking up muck to also besmear Buhari, the APC candidate and incumbent president who had been basking in the glory of being Mr Integrity.
It may also be recalled that the APC National leader, Tinubu, had been dragged in the mud on account of corruption. That’s when a television documentary allegedly sponsored by the PDP and titled the “Lion of Bourdillon” in which monumental fraud and corruption allegations were heaped against the former Lagos State governor (1999-2007), which he has denied.
Similarly, the current Chairman of the APC and immediate past Governor of Edo State has also been documented in a scandalous online video detailing assets which he allegedly acquired with proceeds of corruption perpetrated during his tenure as governor and for which he has been charged to court.
So labelling Atiku Abubakar as corrupt is tantamount to the pot calling the kettle black.
But most significantly, Atiku Abubakar has been cleared of corruption charges by both the highest level of Nigerian courts and American judicial system while his most vociferous critics are yet to discharge themselves of the allegations in any competent court of law.
What a demonstration of righteous indignation!
Arising from the above, where is the moral justification for those who are yet to be cleared by the courts of corruption charges to be tarnishing the image of the PDP presidential candidate who the courts have adjudged to be without blemish?
Remarkably, the current counter attack against the APC and President Buhari came via a former close ally of President Buhari, Buba Galadima, who was the secretary of CPC, Buhari’s political platform before the merger with ACN and four other political parties to form the APC.
Galadima, an insider who has fallen out with President Buhari has been literarily spilling the beans on his former ally in the bid to rubbish the Mr. Integrity myth.
In an explosive Channels Television interview, he stated that Daura, President Buhari’s home town which was rustic before he ascended the throne in Aso Rock Villa, now boasts of a skyline with fantastic real estate properties that would make a first time visitor feel like he/she was in Dubai. Continuing, Galadima revealed that the transformed landscape with magnificent buildings in Daura is courtesy of political patronage of the family and friends of President Buhari bordering on corruption.
Just as the dust raised by Galadima’s puncturing of President Buhari’s legendary integrity/ego was yet to settle, PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, himself made an allegation equivalent to a bombshell in a press statement accusing President Buhari of abuse of office.
This time, President Buhari and family are being directly accused of involvement and being beneficiaries in the sale and purchase of Keystone Bank and Etisalat telecommunications firm recently seized and sold by govt under his watch.
In order words, President Buhari has been alleged to have sold a bank and GSM firm to himself and family members.
If the weighty accusation is true, then the Mr. Integrity’s image has been badly dented and his cult like personality demystified as well as irreparably damaged. This is so because although there has been allegations of corruption swirling around present players in the inner circles of President Buhari’s cabal or kitchen cabinet , there had never been any accusation more directly linked to Mr. President.
Obviously, the whole world is holding their breath for a response from Aso Rock Villa as Mr. President rightly pointed out that the world was watching when he was recently heckled during his budget presentation to the National Assembly.
So President Buhari owes the nation and indeed the whole world the moral obligation to without equivocation clear the air to protect his oft advertised unblemished and superb integrity.
Given that President Buhari who flagged off his 2019 campaign in Uyo stadium recently must have been preoccupied, it is likely that his response would follow this week as such a grave allegation of corruption against a seating president whose number one item on a three point development agenda is war against corruption can not be ignored.
Dwelling on the issue of development, can Nigeria’s development agenda consisting of war against corruption, war against insurgency/terrorism and stabilisation of the economy be compared to the Chinese development agenda ‘The Four Modernisations’ – which are goals first set forth by Deng Xiaoping to strengthen the fields of agriculture, industry, national defense, and science and technology in China.
It is important to stress that it is ‘The Four Modernisation’ policy that has catapulted China into the enviable position of the second largest economy in the world in about three decades just as it is lack of dynamic vision that is the reason Nigeria has retrogressed progressively since independence and particularly in the past three and half years?
In plain language, the difference between the highly successful Chinese development agenda and Nigeria’s can be found in the setting of the correct and forward looking agenda by the former as opposed to dwelling on the past, by the latter.
I will be addressing the reason APC’s three point development agenda can only drag Nigeria into further economic abyss in a future intervention.
In the meantime, let’s shift focus back to the unfortunate situation of allowing corruption issues instead of how to harness the vast agricultural and solid minerals potentials of our great country, dominate the current political dialogue leading up to election 2019.
Somehow, the accusation of President Buhari selling a bank and telecoms firms bailed out by govt on account of their insolvency to himself, if proven to be true, would be a throw back to the sordid event of discovering that an underage son of late Tunde Idiagbon, the fearsome second-in-command to General Muhammadu Buhari in his first incarnation as military head of state (1983-85) attended hajj in Mecca when the rule was that under age children would not attend hajj.
It is also reminiscent of the scandalous allegation that HRH Mustafa Jokolo, the Emir of Gwandu, then Aide De Camp, ADC to the military head of state, General Buhari was caught with 53 suite cases of currencies being smuggled into Nigerian after the change of Nigerian currency-a drastic and dramatic measure taken during Buhari’s reign to stamp out currency smuggling and racketeering which was rife at that time.
To the chagrin and consternation of most Nigerians, it was appalling, and mendacious that while most of them lost their money when they failed to meet the switch over deadline, some 53 suit cases of the former currency was allowed to be brought into the country by no less a personality than the ADC to the military head of state, Buhari and thus validating the belief that his boss must have been privy to the transaction. If the allegation that incumbent president sold govt assets to himself is found to be true, would such attitude of double standard by President Buhari, first observed during his first tour of duty as head of state 1983-5, now repeating itself over 30 years after not indicate that our president may have a pattern of exhibiting and reinforcing the wily principle “Do as l say, not as l do”?
How about the allegedly missing $12m oil windfall when President Buhari held sway as commissioner in charge of petroleum during Olusegun Obasanjo’s watch as military head of state? That too has remained a mystery as it was never adjudicated upon in any court of law and therefore a blithe on President Buhari.
Ordinarily, another regressive issue that could have been dominating the headlines in this period of heightened political activities in our country, could have been the exploitation of the religious and ethnic differences between both candidates.
But thankfully, there is none to exploit as President Buhari and former Vice President Abubakar are Hausa/Fulani muslims.
As such both are sort of cut from the same cloth hence the atmosphere has not been polluted with ethno-religious sentiments and the sort that polarised Nigeria during the 2015 contest between then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan and Buhari.
As the trading of corruption charges between the two presidential candidates assume a dramatic proportion, members of the long suffering Nigerian electorate who are the victims of the misrule by Nigerian leaders are once again being denied the opportunity to ask the presidential candidates hard questions about their ability and capacity to deliver on promises to pull them out of hunger and starvation that are ravaging our country now.
Since President Buhari has spent nearly four years on the saddle (2015 till date)and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar had also occupied Aso Rock Villa corridor of power (1999-2007), there are a plethora of flaws and strengths in leadership that voters can adopt as basis for judging both of them.
But the potential benefit of interrogating the competency of those who want to rule us is about to elude the electorate, if the issue of who is more corrupt between the incumbent president and his challenger is allowed to persist and fester like a sore infested by gangrene.
In the light of the foregoing, unlike the alleged cloning of President Buhari by Jubril al Sudani, which took some time before the allegation was denied, President Buhari must respond swiftly to the accusation that he is two faced or hypocritical by literarily telling anybody that cared to listen that Nigerians are corrupt and his predecessors in Aso Rock are the reason Nigerian economy is in dire straights, while he has been superintending over what can be best described as one of the greatest heists in Nigeria, if indeed the accusation of selling Keystone Bank and Etisalat to himself and his family is proven to be true.
As the conventional wisdom goes, ‘He who seeks equity must come with clean hands’.
We the people of Nigeria demand the truth and nothing but the whole truth.
Since the ruling party, APC has made corruption showdown the focal point of 2019 election campaign, unraveling who is lying or telling the truth may determine which party or presidential candidate would be occupying Aso Rock Villa seat of power in Abuja, from May 29, 2019.
- Magnus Onyibe, a development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA and a former Commissioner in Delta State, sent this piece from Abuja.