By Dr. Kolawole Kayode
According to the French critic, journalist and novelist, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Carr, “plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose”, which means “The more things change, the more they stay the same”.
As recently as 2007, Nigerians elected as their President one Mallam Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who happened to be the former Governor of Katsina State from 1999 to 2007. Though his tenure was overshadowed by a terminal illness he was, by all accounts, a man of integrity.
Among several other principled positions he took on national issues, who can ever forget the uprecedented gesture of the late President Yar’Adua publishing, on Thursday 28th June 2007, his “duly and honestly completed” Assets Declaration Form? This singular action greatly endeared the late leader not only to the generality of Nigerians but indeed anti-corruption activists worldwide.
However, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s legacy will forever be tarnished by the larger-than-life influence of his alleged financier and political benefactor, namely former Delta State Governor, Mr. James Onanefe Ibori, who is currently serving a 13-year jail sentence in the United Kingdom, after pleading guilty to multiple money laundering counts in February 2012.
For those who are not conversant with Nigerian current affairs, Mr. Ibori is the serially convicted “petty thief” who manoeuvred himself into high office, eventually superintending the affairs of one of the nations’s highest revenue generating states.
Mr. Ibori was reportedly first convicted in the United Kingdom, in 1990 (together with his wife Theresa Nkoyo) for stealing goods in a Wickes DIY store, where he was then empoyed as a cashier. They both paid a fine of 300 pounds sterling .
Thereafter, in 1992, he was convicted for being “in possession of a stolen credit card, which had 1,000 pounds sterling spent on it. Again, Mr. Ibori was fined in a United Kingdom court.
Mr. Ibori’s third reported conviction was in 1995, by a Bwari Magistrate Court in Abuja, allegedly for stealing building materials.
Mr. Ibori later worked his way through the political ladder to become the chief executive of Delta State, from which coffers he amassed a colossal slush fund.
Among other nefarious schemes, the slush fund was reportedly tapped for 2 failed projects, namely the unsuccessful US$ 15 million bribery attempt targeted at the then Economic and Financial Crimes (EFCC) Chairman, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu; and former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s failed third term bid.
However, Mr. Ibori struck gold when his sizeable financial contributions to the late President Yar’Adua’s presidential campaign enabled the latter’s ascension to .
Regardless of Mr. Ibori’s alleged substantial financial backing, one wonders why the late President Yar’Adua allow Mr. Ibori such free rein in his presidency to the extent that Mr. Ibori reportedly personally appointed the late President Yar’Adua’s most strategic aides.
For instance, Delta State-born Mr. Mustapha Onoyiveta (then a Lieutenant Colonel), was appointed the late President Yar’Adua’s Aide-de-Camp (ADC) while the very critical office of Principal Secretary (to the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria) was assigned to David Edevbie (the Finance Commissioner who facilitated Mr. Ibori’s legendary looting of Delta State when the latter was Governor).
Mr. Ibori is also said to have infuenced the appointment of the two following, ethically-challenged public officials, namely Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Kaase Aoondoakaa and Nuhu Ribadu’s successor as EFCC Chairman – Mrs. Farida Waziri.
Who can forget how the otherwise morally upright late President Yar’Adua allowed himself to be teleguided to terminate the appointment of the then EFCC Chairman Nuhu Ribadu, when the latter insisted on proceeding with the prosecution of Mr. Ibori? Even then, the legal proceedings turned out to be a sham that denigrated Nigeria’s law enforcement estalishment.
Who can forget how, the Farida Waziri-led EFCC deceptively arraigned Mr. Ibori in December 2007 in, of all places, a Kaduna High Court. Of course, the matter was eventually dismissed, and rightly so. In a case brought by Mr. Ibori against his trial in Kaduna, an Appeal Court unanimously ruled that EFCC erred by prosecuting Mr. Ibori in Kaduna State rather than an appropriate court of proximate jurisdiction to Delta State, where the offences were allegedly committed.
Who can forget how, sequel to the above referred Kaduna Appeal Court decision, another deliberate scam then commenced which saw the creation of a Federal High Court division in Asaba, Delta State with funds provided by Delta State Government, then led by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, Mr. Ibori’s successor, protégé and alleged blood relative? The newly established High Court, expressly established to prosecute Mr. Ibori, eventually dismissed the entire 170 counts against him in December 2009.
Thereafter, Mr. Ibori’s ambition became so vaunting that, having discerned the apparently terminal nature of the late President Yar’Adua’s ailment, he reportedly pressured the late leader into agreeing to a clandestine plot that would have somehow resulted in the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan’s removal.
Thereby, Mr. Ibori sought to succeed Mr. Jonathan as Nigeria’s Vice President. One only wonders what the trajectory of history would have been if the sinister plan had been implemented before the late President Yar’Adua’s demise. The nation would have been contending with a James Ibori presidency, with the obvious tragic consequences.
So fast forward to present-day Nigeria and our newly minted President-elect, namely the venerable and incorruptible Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired).
A former military Head of State, General Buhari is also incidentally from Katsina State. It seems there are nutrients embedded in the soil of Katsina State that breed honest statesmen.
Anyway, just like the late President Yar’Adua, the rise of another seemingly righteous leader, General Buhari, has also been facilitated by – for want of a better phrase – proceeds of criminal activity engaged in by one Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the acclaimed Jagaban Borgu.
Mr. Tinubu, prior to his tenure from 1999 to 2007, as Governor of Lagos State, Nigeria’s largest economic entity, had no known claim to either any family inheritance or corporate financial fortune to support the largesse that he dispenses currently. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that Mr. Tinubu is cut from the same mould as Mr. Ibori, perhaps just more cunning to have escaped prosecution thus far.
Like Mr. Ibori, Mr. Tinubu is also reportedly mired in several scandals. The most notable are the alleged Chicago State University certificate forgery; and the multiple, prima facie but unprosecuted cases of money laundering, theft, conversion, etc reportedly still pending at EFCC.
The highly respected former EFCC Chairman, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu reportedly remarked, when the above referred incidents were still active, that the alleged infractions relating to Mr. Tinubu were “among the worst” Mr. Ribadu had ever come across. Unfortunately, political expediency has since caused Mr. Ribadu to tone down his earlier comments.
Furthermore, like the late President Yar’Adua, President-elect Buhari is now confronted by a desperate Mr. Tinubu, seeking to cash in on the latter’s reported overwhelming financial and political support to the recent, successful presidential campaign.
Accordingly, Mr. Tinubu’s wish list reportedly includes VIRTUALLY ALL key ministerial positions, such as the Petroleum Resources, Finance, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Works and Housing, etc.
Though I am not clairvoyant, my guess is that Mr. Tinubu also probably obtained from General Buhari a guarantee of immunity from criminal prosecution by the EFCC and/or other law enforcement agencies.
When you also consider that Mr. Tinubu, , like Mr. Ibori, also harbours an ultimate ambition for the Presidency through the path of the Vice Presidency, the circle is complete.
Having already conceded the Vice President slot to Mr. Bola Tinubu’s nominee, namely the erudite and highly admired cleric and Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), General Buhari ought not allow himself to entertain any undue pressure from Mr. Tinubu for additional executive offices.
The beginning of the end of President-elect Buhari’s romance with Nigerians will be the capitulation of the General to populate the key cabinet offices with political jobbers associated with Mr. Tinubu.
For the avoidance of doubt, I believe most Nigerians expect the Buhari Administration to assign key executive positions EXCLUSIVELY ONLY to renowned technocrats of unimpeachable integrity with acknowleged track record in their respective fields.
For instance, recent media reports have disseminated some names of Mr. Bola Tinubu’s associates as potential ministerial nominees. For Petroleum Resources Minister, his reported candidate is Mr. Omamofe (Mofe) Boyo, the Deputy Managing Director of Oando PLC, Nigeria’s largest private sector Oil and Gas conglomerate.
Incidentally, the controlling equity in Oando is reportedly beneficially owned by Mr. Bola Tinbu, his relative, Mr. Adewale (Wale) Tinubu and Mr. Boyo. Oando is the culmination of an ambitious consolidation program between 2000 and 2003, undertaken by an upstart company, Ocean and Oil Limited which, though fronted by Messrs Wale Tinubu and Mofe Boye, was backed by the enormous resources and assets of Lagos State Government and related investment vehicles.
For Finance Minister, Mr. Bola Tinubu is reportedly backing Mr. Wale Edun, the Commisioner of Finance when the former was Governor of Lagos State. Did I hear you ask, “Is this not James Ibori-President Yar’Adua, Phase 2.0?”
Given the foregoing, it is clear that Mr. Bola Tinubu is to President-elect Muhammadu Buhari effectively what Mr. James Ibori represented to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua – a “Trojan Horse” or “Achilles heel” that must be dealt with sooner, rather than later.
If President-elect Muhammadu Buhari would like to fulfill the divine mandate given to him on Saturday 28th March 2015, he is hereby advised not to fall into the same trap as the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua did.
General Buhari should affirm the decisive mandate according to the wishes of the majority of Nigerians and not pander to the narrow dictates of any so called “kingmaker”. Nigerians are General Buhari’s authentic kingmakers.
By Dr. Kolawole Kayode
April 20th 2015.