Each time Nigerian youth come across a figure they feel they could look up to, the person's image gets soiled by the anti-graft agency or an international judicial institution. One of the most influential mentors of Nigerian youths, Femi Fani Kayode who is so vocal on social media is presently facing corruption trial. The CEO of Air Peace, Allen Onyema - a philanthropist that spent millions of naira evacuating stranded Nigerians in South Africa during the last major xenophobia crisis was later indicted by the United States Attorney’s Office for alleged corruption and money laundering in the range of over $20 million.
Just as Nigerians gradually recovered from that disappointment, someone who was fast-becoming a cult figure on Twitter, a former senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani was accused of very daring financial fraud and he is presently detained by the EFCC. Sani, a trenchant critic of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration even when he was still a member of the ruling party, APC has always been an objective man. He is well-informed in both local and international history. He loves to analyse political issues and share knowledge on social media. He is well-followed by the youth who look up to him as a father figure, teacher and mentor.
Shehu Sani before now seemed to frown at corruption as well as the politicized battle against it by the current administration. In 2015, he was one of the very few public officers to publicly declare assets. Comically, he added his two wives to the list of assets declared.
While in the Senate, he was the chairman of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North-East which exposed the grass-cutting scandal involving the then- Secretary to the Government of the Federation Babachir Lawal and he was subsequently removed from office. He was bold to accuse the Buhari administration of tolerating corruption within the Presidency.
In his words:
"When it comes to fighting corruption in the National Assembly and the Judiciary and in the larger Nigerian sectors, the President uses insecticide, but when it comes to fighting corruption within the Presidency, they use deodorants,”
Sani who also battled the diminutive governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El Rufai didn't just become an objective critic overnight. He was one of the leading forces against the military regime in Nigeria and he was sentenced to prison with the sole aim of silencing him. He later made it out and became royalty like Joseph the dreamer of the Holy Bible.
During his school days at Kaduna Polytechnic in 1984, he was a student union activist. He was Chairman, Central Mobilization Committee of PAN-African Student Organization and President African Democratic Youth Congress. From Kaduna Polytechnic, Sani plunged into national activism. He was introduced into the Campaign for Democracy (CD), Nigeria’s umbrella pro-democracy group by activists like Femi Falana and Beko Ransome-Kuti and thereafter served as the Northern Coordinator and National Vice-Chairman of the group.
He was first detained in July 1993 under the regime of General Babagida. His offence then was that he advocated for the revalidation of the result of the 12 June 1993 Presidential election polls won by the Late Chief M. K. O. Abiola. During the interim government of Chief Earnest Shonekan, Sani was arrested and detained for two weeks and later charged to court for sedition again.
During General Sani Abacha's regime, he was implicated in the 1995 phantom coup and subsequently jailed for life and later commuted to 15 years by the Patrick Aziza Special Military Tribunal.
In recent times, everything has gone upside down for Sani. He has successfully joined the long list of Nigerian leaders with colourful careers dealing with the EFCC.
The 52-year old is now being detained by investigators grilling him for allegedly extorting a businessman - Chairman of ASD Motors, Alhaji Sani Dauda of $30,000. According to reports, Sani had told a car dealer who was trying to evade justice that he could use his contacts to help get soft-landing. Sani reportedly obtained hordes of cash to bribe the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the stone-faced EFCC chairman Ibrahim Magu, other junior EFCC officials and judges. Even when people felt it was smoke that will quickly blow over and Sani would return to Twitter where he has been teased about operating as a blogger, the EFCC secured a court order to detain him for two extra weeks for the purpose of investigation. The commission revealed it had earlier invited Sani to its office for interrogation but he failed to cooperate. Suspiciously, Sani in the course of hurling out hundreds of tweets about national and international events never dropped hints about any interaction between him and the EFCC.
From the look of things, the EFCC appears to be gaining an upper-hand in the investigation. It claims to be in custody of the huge cash given to Sani as a bribe, it appears to also have hard evidence of WhatsApp conversations between Sani and the indicted businessman and to make matters worse, the businessman has become the major antagonist of Sani constantly reeling out accusations before his face. If he is charged to court tomorrow, the businessman will be a major witness of the EFCC. Just when Nigerians thought the case against Sani was losing momentum, the EFCC allegedly showed more seriousness by invading his two houses and office in Abuja in search of incriminating materials to prosecute him.
The radio silence of Sani's colleagues in politics and others in activism has been deafening. It almost seems they have assumed he might be guilty and they now regard him as too radioactive or infected to be touched even with a long stick. From observations, Sani will have his day in court and he will never remain the same again. The trolls on social media will always use his ordeal with the EFCC against him pending on the court ruling. And in Nigeria where people including the President has little or no faith in the judicial process, Sani's image might remain tainted for life even if the court finds him innocent.
In hindsight, it appears another good man in Nigeria has died again. Let's cover our bodies in dark sack clothes, sit on ashes and mourn him without consolation because it's a real tragic event that spells future doom.
Every success story in the country appears to have a 'but'. Scandals are always been hidden by image-makers paid by the concerned principal to control public perception. Nothing seems real, the more you look, the less you see. There is actually nobody to really look up to in the Nigerian society. When you meet a formerly poor man suddenly basking in opulence and make inquiries about his new source of wealth, he easily tells you 'its God oh' rather than share some brilliant business ideas with you. The truth is that there is actually no credible story to tell in most cases, it's all fraud.
Let's hope Sani survives this trying time and tells his part of the story one day. Another good man might have just fallen.
By Osayimwen Osahon George (PhD in view)
Email: [email protected]