By Randy Amuna & Abe Emmanuel
The revelations about how the money meant for buying weapons to combat Boko Haram terrorism ended up in personal pockets has perhaps remained the most repulsive of all the cases of corruption that was recorded under the administration of the former President Goodluck Jonathan.
In a development that angered even members of his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for its brazenness, the Office of the National Security Adviser, manned at that time by Mr Sambo Dasuki, became the ATM that doled out the stolen money to the cronies and associates of the then government in power.
Since the scandal and others similar to it first broke, Mr Dasuki has remained in custody after being arraigned for his involvement in the scam. Former PDP spokesperson, Olisah Metuh and the owner of Daar Communications Limited, Chief Raymond Dokpesi have been charged to court while former Minister of Aviation and outspoken critic of the current government, Femi Olukayode only recently got released from detention after being arraigned.
A former Minister of State for Finance, Senator Esther Nenadi Usman has voluntarily forfeited money and property after being linked to the arms money and being charged to court for same. Several others that have been linked to either the arms money or similar transactions are on trial and some have even indicated interest in plea bargaining to lessen what is coming to them.
There have been suggestions in some quarters that the seeming backlash against the trial of these persons indicted over the stolen funds, now known as armsgate, was being sponsored by those that do not want the corruption trials to be pursued to conclusion.
The scale, sophistication and persistence of the media coverage of opposition to these investigations and trials prove that the concept of “corruption fighting back” takes more than the deep pockets or setting aside a portion of the looted funds to fight the government of the day.
The pro-corruption and anti-prosecution movement have the sympathy of several media platforms to demonise the anti-corruption fight.
An editorial published in one of such media publications, owned by another of those indicted for pocketing the money for arms purchase, finally exposed how these media attacks on the war against corruption are being coordinated. Mr Nduka Obiagbena, who owns the publication, was named as not just a beneficiary but also a conduit to other media organisations, whom it turned out he misled into sharing from the tainted money.
It is therefore understandable that the said editorial tried its best to malign President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war by trying to create a tenuous link between its sincerity to combat corruption and a decision of various agencies to treat certain allegations within the limits prescribed in their enabling laws.
It must be acknowledged that the editorial was sincere enough to admit that “those who make damaging allegations against serving public officers have a duty to prove same”. To the extent that this has not been done then this publication has admitted that the anti-corruption fight cannot be dismissed simply because its owner is looking for an escape route from his sins against the land or because he wants a bargaining chip to stop any impending trial.
It is a curious coincidence that the editorial was published one day after Mr Obiagbena ended a one week stay in Abuja with an itinerary that included serial visits to the detention facility of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, where suspects close to the epicentre of the fraud are still housed. His Abuja stay also included visits to awaiting trials members of the country-wrecking-cartel and those that are moles in the present government.
How Mr Obiagbena spends his free time or what awaiting trial suspects he spends his time with is none of the nation’s business. How he coerces his unpaid staff to run his media platform is equally none of the government’s business. But the double standard that he is plying the country with through that editorial is a warning to the nation, President Buhari and the anti-corruption agencies not to offer indicted persons free pass simply because they are media owners.
This smirks of double standard since others who took from the same money as Mr Obiagbena are today on trial while he is allowed to run amok attempting to scuttle these trials with his efforts at casting aspersions on the anti-corruption war.
Much as the wisdom of not wrestling a pig holds true since one would become muddied and dirty like the pig, Mr Obiagbena is a disaster that has already happened and there is nothing to be gained by not charging him to court. The damage his clique did to the country, which include damages to media practice and ethics, must not be overlooked. If the federal government can marshal the political will to route corruption in the military it is only logical that the media, which is equally as powerful should not have sacred cows. This is the focus the anti-corruption fight needs to establish its sincerity.
Amuna and Abe are of the Media and Anti-Corruption Crusade Network. They wrote from Minna, Niger State.