By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor Dapo Akinrefon & Gbenga Oke
•Keyamo, Junaid Mohammed, Osuntokun differ
LAGOS—Sharp reactions, yesterday, trailed submissions by Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-corruption, Professor Itse Sagay, that former President Olusegun Obasanjo should be tried over alleged improprieties in the execution of the National Integrated Power Projects, NIPP, initiated by his administration to boost power supply.
The call was made upon claims by President Muhammadu Buhari that Obasanjo had himself claimed to have spent $16 billion on the projects without producing the power.
Obasanjo was, however, quick to rebut Buhari with pointers that the amount spent on the NIPP was a third of the amount attributed to him by Buhari.
The claim and counter-claims nonetheless, calls for a probe of the NIPP have recently escalated, especially following Obasanjo’s frontal submission that Buhari should not seek a second term based on what he claimed to be the President’s incompetence, clannishness, and failure to deliver on his promises.
Wading into the fray, Sagay had in an interview, said that heavens would not fall if Obasanjo was tried.
His position was backed by Festus Keyamo, SAN, spokesman of the Buhari Campaign Organisation. The two were, however, opposed by elder statesman, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, and Mr. Akin Oshuntokun, himself a political associate of ex-President Obasanjo.
Reasserting his claim in a telephone interview with Vanguard yesterday, Sagay said: “I did not say heaven won’t fall if Obasanjo is jailed; what I said was that heavens wouldn’t fall if Obasanjo is tried. I was asked whether it was possible for Obasanjo to be tried, I said yes. While the government is not willing, it is a matter for legal prosecution if it happens; heaven will not fall.
“It is the trial and not the jailing. He is not the only one to be tried, but that was the specific term I was asked because of his ‘I am very pure and better than everybody’ attitude. He pretends and behaves like a hypocrite, a person who puts himself up as something that he is not and then condemns all other people like what these Jewish Pharisees used to do. We cannot tolerate that sort of thing in this country.
Backing him, Keyamo said: “I agree with Prof. Sagay. I think that this entire attitude of treating past African leaders with kid gloves should stop. Many of them think that they have immunity and that they are demigods.
“I support it entirely that if any of them is found wanting, no witch-hunt, the person should be brought to book; not unnecessarily witch-hunt.
“If Obasanjo is found wanting, he should be brought to book, heavens will not fall, earth will not melt, and no single Nigerian will protest. Obasanjo has no political constituency.”
This is a scandal-mongering govt —Osuntokun
Deflating Sagay’s position, Mr. Akin Osuntokun, who served as Political Adviser in the Obasanjo government said: “He (Sagay) is a professor of law, and he should know that you don’t pick people on the basis of your imagination to try. As a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, he should know the process that leads to the trial of anybody.
“It is not just because the President made a statement which is not true, and that constitutes the basis of trying another Nigerian. We are not living in a fascist state. The way he said it does not make sense because he is saying it as if a case has been established. You have to investigate a case, conclude it and then take it to court.
“This is an indication of what the country is going through; it shows the government does not know what to do rather than engage in scandal-mongering all over the place.
“It is a sad commentary on the state of Nigeria that the whole Presidency of Buhari now seems to be focused on scandal-mongering of who should be tried and who should not be tried.
I find Sagay’s statement shocking — Mohammed
In his reaction, Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, said the statement credited to Sagay was shocking, saying it raised doubts about the professor’s integrity.
He said: “I believe all the aides and cronies of President Buhari are doing all they can to remain in power. Even among armed robbers, there is a code of conduct, and people are entitled to a fair hearing. Though I am not saying Obasanjo is a saint, but he is entitled to a fair hearing on the matter.
“I believe Obasanjo should be given a fair hearing, and the rule of law must play a role in this, but if they feel they can jail Obasanjo the way Abacha jailed him, it won’t happen because they will find it very tough.
“During the Abacha regime when Petroleum Trust Fund was created, a lot happened when Buhari was heading the agency. Buhari has not been able to tell us what transpired.
“So, if there is anyone who should also come clean, Buhari should, and if heavens fall, let it fall.
They should continue fighting—Fayose
In his reaction, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, who spoke through his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, said: I am happy that this is happening between Buhari and Obasanjo.
“Obasanjo brought this calamity on Nigeria; he foisted Buhari on Nigerians. In fact, the two of them should continue to fight so that Nigerians would know what transpired between them.”