January 14, 2012

Atiku and corruption allegations: Fact or fiction?

By Titilope Kehinde

For a wide majority of Nigerians, the subject matter of corruption has been the bane of development in the country.

It is also true that almost every government in the country, especially since the return of democratic rule in 1999, has been mouthing anti-corruption initiatives as a policy of government.

It is in this direction, perhaps, that the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo created two institutional watchdogs in both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to keep corruption under checks in the country.

Atiku Abubakar

TBut as much commendable as the anti-corruption drive of the Obasanjo’s administration was, it fell short of credibility in the public space as it appeared that the president created both the EFCC and the ICPC for the purpose of political witchunt.

But if there is one individual who was falsely portrayed as corrupt during the Obasanjo’s presidency, that person is the former vice-president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

That President Obasanjo weilded all his might to push the former vice-president down on allegations of corruption and had him tried in several courts and legislature on several accounts is now history.

The whole nation was made to believe that Atiku had his hands everywhere in the national economy, especaily as regards sleaze in government business. From the sale of public enterprises by the Bureau Public Enterprises (BPE) to illegal withdrawals from the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) and the Commonwealth Games in 2004, the Obasanjo government painted the vice-president of that administration in a bad light and in a manner of calling the dog a bad name in order to hang it.

While the nation later got to know that the reason why the government pictured Atiku as being corrupt was to deny him the opportunity to contest the 2007 presidential election, no court or independent probe panel has ever found the former vice-president guilty of any corruption charge whatsoever.

Just recently, the Senate finalised its probe on the sale of some public enterprises by the BPE. And, curiously, at no where in the senate report was the name of Atiku mentioned as having done anything wrong with the sale of NITEL or the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Company or any other parastatal for that matter.

Since leaving office five years ago, the former vice-president has never been indicted by any probe panel, nor his name traced to any discovery of fraud.

It therefore appears to me that the perception of the former vice-president as being corrupt is more of a fiction than a fact. At least, that perception is yet to be supported by any emperical submission.

Titilope wrote in from the Federal Capital Territory.