By Bisi Lawrence
These are interesting times, the type that the Chinese are said to wish their adversaries. We seem to be weighed down by distorted perceptions. The Ogbeni of Oshun State, who starved his teachers by withholding their salaries, but essayed to give their pupils free lunch to whet their intellectual fervour, has earned the title of Omoluwabi of Yorubaland. He has issues unresolved also with the doctors of the state hospitals, whom he is supposed to have sacked, but who refuse to be sacked, resolutely disputing his right, as proprietor, to “hire and fire” them.
Mr. Rauf Aregbesola is a delight to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, whose joy it is to see any functionary of the All Progressives Congress who, they believe, has fallen short of the celestial standards their own party claims for itself. They are consistently aided, inadvertently, by some arms of the government, particularly organs like the Economic And Financial Crimes Commission,
EFCC, which sometime stumble over the hurdle of fairness to all. For instance, the crime-busters recently failed to arraign someone described as “an associate” of President Muhammadu Buhari, unlike they did with several PDP members who had been accused of benefitting from the widely distributed largesse accruing from the 2.1 billion dollars of security funds, under the control of Colonel Sambo Dasuki, (Rtd.) erstwhile National Security Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The so-called “associate” to the President, Jafaru Isa, was a former Governor of Kaduna State. He spent no less than four days with the EFCC during which he admitted that he actually received 170 million naira from Dasuki. He thereafter returned 100 million naira and was released; the EFCC said he could still be prosecuted later, after he had coughed up the remaining 70 million naira. The Commission also suggested that Olisa Metuh, the PDP spokesman, who has also been in detention over his connection with the Dasuki arms scandal, could be released too if he would refund the money he had collected. His own share is said to come to some 400 million naira, one kobo out of which he has vowed not to return. So, although the cases are similar, they are not on all fours with each other. However, it is out of such that the PDP scratch up examples of “witch-hunting”. That is, unfortunately, assuming the sound of a mantra that will be difficult to sustain, especially as other witches still exist outside the immediate circle of the hunt on all sides.
A big, probably the biggest, “witch” so far left out of the hunt is former President Goodluck Jonathan. The situation is clarified by the explanation that the President gave the instruction to release the 5.1 million dollars in question for the purchase of arms for fighting against the Boko Haram insurrection. There is no record linking the gentleman with the way and manner in which the former National Security Adviser, Dasuki, chose to distribute the funds.
Jafaru Isah, who is, in fact, a former Military Administrator was also a good friend of Dasuki’s, and the 170 million naira he received might not be incriminating if he was not in the know as to the sources of the “cash”. (Please don’t quote me; I’m not a lawyer.) That actually is the position Chief Olu Falaye who deposes that he received no money from Dasuki. Rather, the money given to him was from Chief Tony Anenih who, as the Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, wanted a working agreement with the SDP, of which Falae was the Chairman, in the effort to win the presidency for Jonathan. The PDP has already dissociated itself from such alliances, including that with Metuh in particular. The PDP as a party, and the former president as a chief executive remain clean; Metuh and Dasuki are on their own.
It is well known, of course, that there are still other names involved. And please do not gasp when these figures jumping from millions to billions are mentioned. I was formerly inclined to do so earlier on when the scam had just broken out. It was then tagged “Dasukigate,” though now it has become “Armsgate”. But one gets used to these things as a Nigerian. Humongous sums of money in the swirl of corruption is now commonplace. Even then, it has to be admitted that we have never seen it, or heard it, so widespread. It even extended to Chief Olu Falae, a former Secretary to the Federal Government, a Minister of Finance and also a Presidential Candidate to boot, when he was defeated by Chief Segun Obasanjo.
He also confessed that he was given no more that 100 million naira which he said was transferred to the SDP, his political party, for the purpose of campaigning for Goodluck Jonathan in quest of the presidency which Obasanjo lost. The SDP has officially debunked that allegation, however, saying that not a kobo was received from Falaye. And that means that the fireworks may not be over in that direction. The EFCC we now have appears to be of a persistent type that will see every initiated move to the end.
The man with whom everything in the EFCC started, Nuhu Ribadu, even also came in for mention. But he was quick to ask to be included out. He was, as the first Chairman of the EFCC, a target of a variety of accusation, all indicting him of double standards as an Obasanjo man. He was thereafter trundled out of the Commission, but still came back into politics to receive the ready-made bashings of a marked man. He has been a candidate in one party and then in another, but seems still naïve enough to make the mistake of fresh politicians—a child-like belief in the party manifesto.
In the mean time, Buhari has issued fresh orders to the EFCC. It would appear the monies already recovered could be more clearly sorted out. This affects the recoveries under the former EFCC boss, Ibrahim Lamorde. This has not been presented as a direct accusation, or on the grounds of suspicion, but it would be in order to straighten out the records so as to wipe out any smile from the devil’s mouth—which appears when a thief steals from another thief.
But you might have heard that not all PDP chieftains are not in support of the Federal Government’s war against corruption. It is true, and that is what gives Nigeria its hope for a golden future. The State Governor of Cross River, Professor Ben Ayade, openly hails the anti-corruption efforts of the President. It takes courage, and more than a normal gift of honesty. The professor has been called all sorts of names already, and will be called more. Others too outside the political territory have been identifying themselves with the work of the EFCC. Those who still have the mantra of “witch- hunting” on their lips, however, may pause to consider that the misappropriated funds were meant for the purchase of arms for our soldiers who have been fighting to save our honour and our lives from the terrible onslaught of the Boko Haram. And the issue of lack of arms has wreaked havoc on our armed forces already.
It started when we began to suffer fearful losses at the war-front. It came out as an incredible war-front story. It speaks volumes about the discipline of our soldiers that it took a while for it to hold. In fact, it did not quite jell until a former Chief of General Staff implied that much in his farewell speech, leaving many Nigerians astounded at the fact it was true after all.
It had reduced the morale in the armed forces considerably. It had produced incidents that one could never have associated with the Nigerian army, in which troops were openly mutinous and officers became allegedly gutless. The damage which this Armsgate has done to the Nigerian army can hardly be fully estimated in mere cash, whether calculated in millions of naira or in billions of dollars. That injury should be repaired now. It never would but for the advent of the Buhari administration which has no shame to cover up in the whole affair. The PDP administration would have had to conceal their misdemeanour under the graves of hundreds of soldiers who had been sent to their death through the inadequate protection of the arms assigned to them at the war-front.
There have indeed been stories, affecting the living and the dead. There is the case of a high officer who was torn between saving a supply of ammunition and the lives of his men. He chose the latter option for which he was unfortunately cashiered. It has even been suggested that this brilliant officer might have been set up both with the incident and the trial.
An urgent damage control in this area would be another feather in the cap of Buhari’s redemptive administration.