By Dele Sobowale
Are you going to hang him anyhow – and try him afterwards? â€” Mark Twain, 1835-1910, in Innocents at Home.
Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny â€”William Shakespeare, 1564-1616. Vanguard Book of quotations, p 25).
NOW with the gauntlet thrown down by the accused, one would have expected the reporters and the editors of the newspapers which publish the â€œnewsâ€ to respond and bring proof. Instead what we have had is silence. Failing to provide proof, one would also have expected them as professionals to tender apologies for what has now been exposed as a rumour carried as news. Again, none has demonstrated such decency.
I will still like to talk to Asiwaju on this matter. Attah has since published his statement in several papers. He denies any conspiracy; and also denies that he has ever been questioned by the British Police. Since it takes at least two to engage in conspiracy, and the two have denied it, that leaves only one accused left. And despite Iboriâ€™s self-destructive statement about not wanting to speak to the press, my investigations reveal that he has probably not been charged on account of V-Mobile transactions either. His current travails in the British courts have arisen from another set of transactions. So what was the basis for the stories published which needlessly tarnished the persons named. Is journalism for this? If it is, I am glad not to be a journalist.
It is noticeable that instead of a case of conspiracy involving V-Mobile shares, what came up in London was a case about money laundering. While Iboriâ€™s name was on the charge sheet; Tinubu and Attahâ€™s were conspicuously absent. Then, the rumour mongers quietly retreated. Even, the noise about the attorney general shielding the three has changed. Yet truth is constant. In a profession in which facts are sacred, where for Godâ€™s sake are the facts? Are we now engaged in giving people bad names in order to convict them on the pages of newspapers and then turn around and accuse government of not prosecuting them based on our spurious charges?
One reader sent me a text message saying he hopes I will go and testify in London when Attah is charged. I replied that I will gladly do so and at my own expense if granted a visa. I will tell them a thing or two they donâ€™t know about the man Attah. Last week, in the first part of this two-part defence of former governors Bola Tinubu and Victor Attah, I berated my colleagues in the media for not doing their home work and publishing what amounts to rumours as facts – which as a non-journalist I know are supposed to be sacred.
As everybody would recall, Tinubu, Attah and Ibori were supposed to be standing trial for money laundering in a London court on account of V-Mobile shares conspiratorially sold. Shortly after, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu published an advert challenging the reporters and their editors to prove that he was involved in any conspiracy or was wanted in a London court.
A little bit over a week after Tinubu published his statement, Obong Victor Attah published his own statement, more or less stating the same thing and inviting those engaged in the campaign of calumny against them to prove their cases. So far, there has been silence. On an occasion like this silence is not golden. On the face of it, that should be the end of the matter.
But, one little thing remains to be settled, if not for anything but to remind my colleagues in the media that we should not join mindless â€œhanging partiesâ€ hell-bent on using the media for their own personal agenda. We should investigate all matters brought to the public which might tarnish people undeservedly.
Unlike, arm-chair reporters, I went out on my own, as usual, to find out what really happened. To me, it was vital that we knew whether the two ex-governors were guilty as charged or not because they could again re-surface in public posts as ministers, vice-presidents, etc. But we must agree that, even, an ex-governor must be presumed innocent until proved guilty by a court of law.
So what was the cause of this campaign of calumny against the two men (although Ibori was included, as I explained in the first part, I have no information on what happened to the proceeds of V-Mobile share sales in Delta State)? Like most such stories, when unraveled, the entire palaver started from a business deal in which someone felt played out.
â€œOur brotherâ€ (name withheld for legal reasons) from the Southwest, a big player in the capital market, had lost a board room battle for control. He, therefore, reported to the EFCC, then under Ribadu, that a deposit in Access Bank was laundered money resulting from the V-Mobile share sales. Ribadu, as usual, not only froze the account, but proceeded to charge the Akwa Ibom Investment and Industrial Promotions Council and the African Development Fund, Inc. on alleged conspiracy and money laundering.
Attahâ€™s and Tinubuâ€™s names were not on the charge sheet on March 2007. The only personal name was that of Clement Isiok. From March 2007 till January 2009, the EFCC failed to appear in court to press the case. This is important because Ribadu is a grand master at presenting half-truths and even sometimes absolute falsehood as evidence of â€œindictmentâ€ of people. I challenge any of the reporters and their editors to contradict that statement.
To be continuedâ€¦â€¦