Yahaya Bello

Yahaya Bello

 Mojeed Olojede contends that those who claim that the former Kogi State governor is on the run are mischievous

Recently, there has been an unusual hype on the whereabouts of the immediate past governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello. Some publicists, including those working for globally discredited politicians, have been unrelenting in their fib of fantasy that Bello is on the run. They say the former governor has been hibernating in Kogi Government House to evade arrest by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

This raises many posers. Is Bello truly on the run or hiding somewhere in Kogi State? Why should he be hiding? Is it possible for a former governor or any other public figure of that stature to hide in Nigeria and not be fished out in a matter of days? Again, can a Bello who during the Ramadan hosted several Muslim faithful to Iftar in his Abuja home be said to be hiding? Can the same Bello who visited his homestead during the Eid holiday, moving from Agasa to Okene freely with boisterous crowd of admirers and party faithful, be the one tagged a man on-the-run? Even with a preponderance of video clips showing his rousing welcome by his people to his homeland, critics of Bello are still steeped in their make-believe yarn that the former governor is hiding. And you ask again, hiding for what, and from who?

But if Bello’s recent public appearances in Abuja and Kogi were not convincing enough for the anti-Bello gong-beaters to change their fictive narrative of a hiding ex-governor, what about Bello’s Eid visit and homage to President Bola Tinubu in Lagos? Making sorties from Abuja to Kogi and to Lagos in broad daylight cannot be the itinerary of a man hiding from anybody, including the EFCC or any other anti-crime agency. Pictures of Bello with the President are all over the public space. Yet, some hirelings, driven by desperation to tar the former governor in the vilest of coatings, would rather pretend the visit never happened. There must be a limit to mischief and toxic beef. Media vilification of a public officer, serving or retired, without facts but with imaginary, even delusional assumptions, is not great journalism. It is media trial which in itself is not only a negation of the fundamental ethics of the journalism profession, but a clear abuse of the rule of law which is antithetical to democratic principles.

The persistent churning out of obvious fibs by some writers is nothing but a crude attempt to bully the EFCC into jettisoning established order of protocol and the sacred nuggets of the rule of law to disgrace, disparage and bring to public ridicule the person of Bello. This is a banana peel that the present EFCC Chairman, Ola Olukoyede, must avoid. In times past, the EFCC was used as a tool of political vendetta and persecution by vested interests in the polity. The commission flouted court orders flagrantly. In some cases, the anti-crime commission played the roles of accuser and defendant depending on whose interest was involved. These were obvious flaws that attracted public outcry which Olukoyede vowed to stamp out from the psyche of the EFCC operatives when he assumed office. Olukoyede who is not a stranger to the modus operandi of the commission, was bold to admit flaws in the manner the EFCC discharged its duties before his appointment. He pledged to reform the operational processes of the commission to conform to ideal democratic creeds. He should do so in the case of Bello.

Any attempt to arrest Bello for whatever reason is tantamount to abuse of the rule of law and a clear violation of a court order that the EFCC is yet to vacate via a counter court order. The High Court, Lokoja Division, had given a restraining order on the EFCC to stay any action either to arrest, prosecute or persecute ex-governor Bello or any of his appointees pending the hearing and determination of the substantive originating motion for the enforcement of his fundamental human rights. This is an order by a court of competent jurisdiction. To go against this order, without vacating it, is impunity; a sad relapse into dictatorship. The EFCC, a body set up by law and governed by law, should not be seen to be affronting the order of a court.

The pendency of this order without a counter-order from a court of competent jurisdiction makes the action of EFCC to arrest, persecute and prosecute Bello and his appointees a perversion of the rule of law. This is also a form of corruption. Using a corrupted process to fight alleged corruption is the worst form of corruption. Olukoyede must avoid this pitfall especially under the Presidency of Tinubu, a man known for his stance of the purity of democracy and the rule of law.

The manner the EFCC has been handling the case of Bello and his appointees shows an inclination to desperation. Why would the EFCC be so desperate or perceived to be so? Is the commission succumbing to the spate of media bullying?

Early this year, the EFCC in an amended charge brought odium to itself and to the legal profession when it accused Bello of allegedly stealing over N80 billion belonging to Kogi State in September 2015, when Bello had not even become governor of Kogi State. Such voodoo legal presentation in court does not only advertise the shoddiness in EFCC’s investigative processes but also typifies an act of desperation marinated in mischief.

Truth be told, Bello is not on-the-run. Neither is he hiding anywhere, not even in Kogi government house. His home in Zone 4 area of Abuja has remained a beehive of socio-political activities including meetings of progressive politicians and Nigerian youths most of whom see in Bello a role model and beacon of hope.

The desperation of paid pipers to play fantasy tunes for the itchy ears of their paymasters is not new. As someone who has been involved in Nigerian politics including Kogi politics where there are three major parties, the APC, PDP and SDP, the attack on Bello does not come as a surprise. Bello was one of the frontline APC governors that worked for Muhammadu Buhari, Bola Tinubu and his party. He was very vocal in the defence of Buhari and campaign for Tinubu. His rising political profile therefore became a source of worry for the opposition. It’s only commonsensical that after leaving office, the vampires would come baying for his blood. Unfortunately, Bello’s blood is not available for sucking. But rather than go elsewhere to satiate their appetite for blood, they have resorted to media trial and bullying of EFCC in the hope that their mischievous desire will come to pass. They are wrong.

Bello, a dutiful and loyal party man, is not one to be cowed into submission. The former Kogi governor is doing what any responsible politician will do. He is taking a deserved rest after eight years in office as governor and after actively campaigning for his party at both national and sub-national levels and contributing to its victory. Even while resting, he has demonstrated patriotism by choosing to stay in the country as against the fad of jetting overseas for vacationing as some politicians do.

And for those still asking, where is Bello? He’s right in your face. Cast away your mischief and you will see him in flesh and blood, wondering, with a grin, at your depth of balefulness.

·       Olojede, political scientist and education entrepreneur, writes from Abuja

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