A Tori News political correspondent and public affairs analyst has taken an interesting look at the controversial stray funds uncovered in the Ikoyi area of Lagos State by EFCC operatives.
President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari's warplanes attacking the camps of venal elements in the country on Wednesday - the 12th of April, 2017 might have accidentally hit the roof of his 'extended family house' with a big bomb just like the Rann mishap in Borno State where over 236 internally displaced people were consequently killed as result of an expensive military miscalculation.
The embattled Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu in an assumed thirsting bid to impress the Presidency to the dismay of the Nigerian Senate dramatically uncovered gargantuan amount of monies calculated to be N13 billion in a luxury apartment at the prestigious Osborne Towers in Ikoyi, Lagos. Operatives of the EFCC reportedly swung into action following a tip-off from a whistleblower. The anti-corruption boss - Magu who had earlier unearthed some stray monies – N49 million at the Kaduna airport, N449 million in an abandoned Bureau de Change building in Victoria Island, Lagos and another N250 million at the popular Balogun market in Lagos Sate must have seen the intelligence report as another avenue to excite the Presidency as well as the general public about his competency and tenacity; so he broke the news on social media straight away.
In fact, the news was backed with a video footage that afforded netizens the chance to watch hard currencies being painstakingly counted in a recessive period where money is as rare as pure gold. Magu was beginning to relish his hero moments before he later discovered that the whistle was blown in a sacred building indirectly connected to his principal’s camp.
Initially, I found it inconceivable that humongous sums of money specifically $43,449,947, £27,800 and N23, 218,000 will be seized in an apartment and the owner will be nowhere to be found. It was clear the powerful owner spent over 48hrs seeking soft landing from appropriate authorities. Even the EFCC left Sahara Reporters and other investigative news platforms to have a field day with erroneous reports linking the seeming illicit funds to prominent Nigerians like Esther Nnamdi Ogbue - the immediate-past managing director and chief executive officer of the downstream sector of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, former chairman of the People's Democratic Party - Adams Mu'azu, daughter of former PDP Board of Trustees chair - Tony Anenih, Senator representing Lagos West constituency – Solomon Olamilekan Adeola, Chief Executive Officer of Ebony Life TV - Mo Abudu, former Rivers State Governor & current Minister of Transport, Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and lately former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan before the ostensibly dormant National Intelligence Agency came to claim the funds with an official narrative that may never sway a mentally-retarded person.
Under normal circumstances, the EFCC will conventionally issue a press release concerning the feat through its Head of Media and Publicity, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren or simply through Facebook just like the similar saga of the former General Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Andrew Yakubu whose mini-bank in a Kaduna slum with a capital of N3.04 billion was exposed. But on the contrary, premier anti-graft agency has maintained a loud and embarrassing silence thereby giving us the impression that the culprit caught red-handed might metaphorically be the King's only son whose mark of royalty places him above the law.
As concerned Nigerians tried to fill in the blank spaces, PDP political warhorse of the South-south, Governor Nyesom Wike raised his hoarse voice to the highest pitch to claim the orphaned funds on behalf of Rivers State. According to him, the funds belong to his former ally turned sworn foe, Mr. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi who allegedly sold gas turbines during his tenure as governor of Rivers state to an oil company, Sahara Energy and then prodigally diverted the proceeds. A former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani Kayode who has seen more court rooms than a lawyer in recent times corroborated the weighty allegations of Wike who was also supported by a former deputy chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus.
Fiery legal practitioner and activist, Mike Ozekhome - a thorn in the flesh of the EFCC in the court room has also alleged that a minister serving under Buhari is the owner of the orphaned funds.
In the absence of an official statement by the EFCC as well as the Federal Government concerning the apparent slush funds, one could join the aforementioned public figures to presume that a politician who must have played strategic and pivotal roles in the emergence of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress at the centre owns the cash and all efforts are being made to secure his identity.
Concealing the face of this person is going to be herculean following the failure of the NIA to convince Nigerians that the funds were allocated for a ‘covert project’. Another brightly coloured red flag was the decision of the NIA to warehouse the funds in a private luxury apartment despite the proliferation of financial institutions in the 21st century coupled with improved means of electronic funds wiring. One also wonders what clandestine project would require such a volume of money that could be utilized to raise a private militia against the state.
Aside regarding the action as a potential case of money laundering, one could safely say it betrays the principle of accountability obtainable in a democracy as the usage of public funds of that magnitude remains undisclosed. This creates a safe haven for corruption to prosperously breed like a seedling planted by the river side.
President Buhari is currently in a close shave caused by the ambitious or overzealous nature of Magu. The old man rumoured to be struggling with his health again has decided to keep mom and let Nigerians have a field day wagging their tongues and making wild guesses. The brief response by the presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina has aggravated an already bizarre situation if we are to weigh his words on an intellectual scale. Adesina spoke from the two sides of his mouth when he told a Premium Times reporter that the NIA's involvement with the orphaned money is more of a 'security issue than a Presidency issue', hence he had no comments on the matter. That utterance if true could be regarded as an insensate play on words if one is to be blunt with him for a second.
Adesina should be reminded that a working Presidency will not shy away from security issues. The protection of the lives and properties of the citizens of the state is one of the primary responsibilities of the government. What if those funds were reserved for the financing of terrorism? It’s been over 8 years now we don’t know the financiers of the Boko Haram sect.
This saga confirms the public view that Buhari has been harbouring some sacred cows under his tent. In fact, some political analysts will tell you in affirmation that there is no difference between the ruling APC and the opposing PDP as both parties exchange members on a daily basis. Most of the political juggernauts flying the flag of the APC contributed immensely to the stinking rot in the PDP which plunged Nigeria into perpetual backwardness. APC seems to be where their redemption lies as they become saints the moment they cross-carpet under any guise.
This saga of the orphaned Osborne Tower billions gives credibility to the assertion that Buhari's highly-celebrated anti-corruption war is selective. As painted by the newspaper cartoons, when the rampaging angels of the war see ‘the broom’ – emblem of the APC on the roof of your house, they will pass over you.
The verbose governor of Ekiti and staunch critic of this present administration, Ayodele Peter Fayose has reiterated that Buhari's anti-corruption quest is a hole-and-corner plot to muzzle dissenting voices and potential political threats. He could be right because from the look of things, the 2019 presidential election might be a walk over for Buhari as the nakedness of potential PDP competitors have been duly exposed by the ill wind of anti-corruption.
The Osborne Tower saga will remain indelible in the history of Nigeria when the potency of Buhari's anti-graft war which is his selling point is being reviewed by political pundits. This is a litmus test for the level of transparency and impartiality of the anti-grant campaign which Buhari might not mind failing for political advantage. As a die-hard supporter of Buhari who has been deemed one of the few Nigerian leaders with integrity, I am not really appalled by his action or inaction concerning the scandal. I am more disappointed in the country as a whole. It burns my heart that there is little or no hope for the youths whose fathers, guardians, family members or friends are not connected to the ruling class as their future is being stashed in both foreign and local bank accounts, private buildings and other awkward places to avoid suspicions.
These money-grabbing politicians make up the governmental structure and they can't be questioned or else their challenger might work alone like the Borno-South senator, Ali Ndume or the House of Representatives member, Abdulmumin Jibrin who are both serving lengthy suspensions for debatable offences.
The real owner of the funds could be Buhari's political backbone and financier. The last thing a sane man will want to do is to start a fight in his house because he will pay for it dearly with his sleep. One of the reasons why Buhari spent 49 days on a medical vacation in London, United Kingdom without any major threat to his esteemed seat is because of the calibre of people on his side. These people make him and without them, his political influence and authority could begin to wane. He will reciprocate their loyalty by wielding his government powers to protect them from the looming consequences of their grave sins against humanity. It's a Cul-de-sac for Nigerians and Nigeria as a whole. The only panacea to the quagmire might be the Armageddon. Let's end it all and allow the Supreme Being in heaven – God to judge us all impartially on the final day according to the provisions of the Islamic/Christian faith.
On a closing note, I sincerely urge Nigerians not to lose faith in Buhari. This battle against graft is far from perfection but it’s sacrosanct at least for the future of the country. Anti-graft war is a very minacious and emotive battle capable of turning a hero into a villain due to quantum of resources available to the bad guys. In a country like Nigeria founded on lies and deceit, if the war is to be impartial, Saint Buhari might be forced to arrest himself before others due to the questionable and unclear sources of the APC election campaign funds.
I have always argued that the war against corruption can never be unprejudiced and non-partisan as far as politics is a game of numbers and defection of party members is rife as it is in Nigeria. The desperation of politicians to amass supporters at all costs towards winning the election creates future hassles for the political leaders. They end up embracing the potential enemies of the state and also accepting financial support from them to prosecute the election.
It was the fatal mistake PDP made with a former Borno State governor - Senator Ali Modu Sheriff according to Fani Kayode in his article titled "Who Has Bewitched the PDP?”
These high-profile miscreants constantly exploiting the polity for their elitist interests will end up forming the bulk of foundation supporters of the well-intentioned election winner. Fighting them might be morally correct but politically it is wrong and suicidal. Waging a war against them results into two major odds; it's either the fighter ends up walking alone exposed without supporters under the harsh political weather or he is dragged in the mud as they are like pigs.
This agrees with a popular Yoruba saying which goes thus: "Ti enu ba je, oju ma ti", in English language, it means someone that has been bribed or has benefitted from the proceeds of stealing will surely abstain from the truth.
It hurts to be Buhari right now, I am sure this issue would have been effortlessly swept under the carpet if Magu didn't go public about the funds without contacting the Presidency.
Osayimwen Osahon George writes from Festac Town, Lagos State.
He can be reached on Smile2georgex@yahoo.com