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A Presidency in murky waters

By Ochereome Nnanna

DURING the Second Republic, the Alhaji Shehu Shagari government was widely ill-reputed to be “corrupt”. But the man in the hot seat himself was also widely reputed to be “saintly”.

It was some of his ministers and party chiefs that were portrayed in the newspapers owned by opponents of the party in power, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) to be corrupt. His deputy, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, was also accused of donating money to the NPN from public coffers and to be enmeshed in sleazy contract mess throughout the 51 months the regime was in power.

Based on these perceptions, the military when they intervened herded the President into house arrest and his deputy, as well as ministers and top chiefs of political parties into Ikoyi and Kirikiri Prisons. Military tribunals were set up in all 19 states (then) and at the end, both the President and Vice President were found to be innocent of the charges, with Dr. Ekwueme, a multi-millionaire in 1978, cleared by the Justice Sampson Uwaifo Panel of all wrong doing and actually described as a saint since he left office poorer than he entered it.

Barely two years and four months after he was sworn into office as the President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the same picture is beginning to emerge of the Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua Presidency.

Nobody has as yet accused the person of President Yar’ Adua of involvement in any crooked dealings before or during his gubernatorial and presidential tours of duty.

But fingers are being pointed to some named and unnamed influential figures in the Presidency, his ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and even his family circles over alleged culpability for criminal and corrupt activities such as gun-running, sponsorship of militants in the Niger Delta, illegal oil bunkering, economic sabotage, money laundering, theft, forgery, smuggling, crippling bank indebtedness that runs into dozens of billions of Naira and so on.

Unlike during the Second Republic when some allegations were made based on mere perception, fabrication and mix-up of facts by opposition newspapers, the alleged culprits of the Yar’ Adua Presidency are being named on the pages of our newspapers and charges are being preferred against some of them in offshore jurisdictions and the Presidency is either looking the other way or flip-flopping about the true situation of their culpability.

A few examples include Mr. Government Ekpemupolo (alias Tompolo) the lord of the Camp Five manor, which was destroyed a few months ago by the Joint Military Task Force on the Niger Delta (JTF). Tompolo has boldly and openly challenged the Presidency to deny its knowledge of those who engage in gun-running, sponsorship of militants and oil bunkering.

He made bold to allege that some of the people President Yar’Adua surrounds himself with in Aso Villa are guilty, and that if he genuinely moves against the cabal that sabotages the economy of Nigeria, especially through the oil industry his government may not survive.

Tompolo himself, who was once a fugitive from the JTF, has resurfaced and exhibits the manner of boldness towards the regime that can only come from someone who knows he is untouchable as he is no guiltier than his accusers or pursuers.

A second example stems from the President’s growing nepotism; where he is not only giving most of the plum jobs to job seekers from the North but more particularly from Katsina and the two branches of the presidential family. The new Comptroller-General of Customs, Alhaji Abdullahi Inde Dikko, reportedly a relation of First Lady Turai, whose appointment raised eyebrows because careers had to be sacrificed to put him in that lucrative post, is enmeshed in what is known as “Dikko-gate”.

He is now involved in a certificate forgery scandal. A former cohort blew the whistle on him. Furthermore, one Alhaji Dahiru Mangal, said to be a close friend of the President, has been reported in the papers, magazines and online media as being “a notorious cross-border smuggler”, with some Yar’ Adua family members allegedly in the take.

And now, the President’s Private Principal Secretary, David Edevbie, has been named in a London court on charges of conspiracy to defraud, counterfeiting and money laundering over the sale of V-Mobile shares in which $37.8 million were allegedly stolen.

Almost everyday we hear new and troubling news of corrupt nature from around our Servant Leader, and little is being said from that quarter to put us in the proper picture.

Coming on the heels of the regime’s poor anti-graft record and apparent inability to release probe reports and deal with many corruption scandals such as Siemens, Halliburton and others, it would seem that the nation, which is being noisily “re-branded”, is sinking deeper into the murky waters of corruption.

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