By: Okanga Agila
Nigerians frequently abuse the liberties democracy confers on the citizenry, especially the freedom of expression. Hardly do people realize that their inalienable right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution of Nigeria, places on them the responsibility of truthful engagements of other Nigerians, which excludes and frowns at the brazen infringement of the rights of other citizens.
The media trial of public officials in the present dispensation over alleged corruption has gained currency in Nigeria. Very often, equally senseless and baseless civil societies blow empty trumpets, without facts to justify the sweeping allegations on personalities they desperately seek to defame.
And the group, the Civil Society Network Against Corruption, (CSNAC) strikes like an organization in blind search for prominence in overtly ethnic activism. It days back, submitted a petition to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami which contained trumped-up allegations of corruption against some top officials of President Muhammadu Buhari’s (PMB) administration.
The President had earlier directed the AGF to investigate allegations of corruption leveled against top officials of his government, promising to prosecute any official implicated in corrupt acts. It became the grounds for CSNAC to raise a fresh petition, listing names of certain Buhari’s appointees allegedly engaged in corrupt acts, claiming it was its contribution to the AGF’s assignment and the fight against corruption.
Among the high profile personalities the report mentioned, included, the President’s Chief of Staff , Abba Kyari; the minister of interior, Abdulrahman Dambazzau; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Engr. Babachir David Lawal and Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah among others.
The group noted: “Since President Muhammadu Buhari had already given a directive for your office to investigate all top government officials accused of corruption, as a mark of our contribution to this process, in addition to allegations against the Acting EFCC Chairman and Secretary to Government of the Federation, listed below are some of the reported allegations of corruption and some of our reported petitions against officials of this government bordering on corruption, for your appropriate investigation and necessary action.”
It is dumfounding that the CSNAC’s petition signed by its Executive Director, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, which labeled top public servants as corrupt is very amusing. It also smacks of the most debasing form of media trial, which first casts’ doubts on the integrity of the group and whoever licensed them to operate as such.
In some instances quite irritatingly, CSNAC only quoted media reports as evidence of their reason for alleging something as serious as corruption against the listed officials of government. There is nothing as disgraceful like this sort of outing by a group which is supposed to be the conscience of the society. So, an unsubstantiated media report has become the basis for singing to high heavens about the alleged corruption of senior government officials, without one single extra step to verify the veracity of the issues contained in the report before proclaiming them guilty.
That President Buhari has ordered the AGF to investigate public officials alleged to have engaged in corrupt acts is not any reason to give anyone sleepless nights because there appears to be an orchestrated campaign by the Yoruba elements in the southwest of Nigeria to discredit and discolour the administration of President Buhari using the media. No doubt, it is a covert war the Southwest has wedged against the North and it is their sworn determination to ensure, every personality from the North around Buhari is defamed and rubbished.
Abba Kyari for instance has been accused of abusing his office for personal gains. But the reasons advanced are as puerile and as shallow as the thoughts of the authors.
It stated, “He was alleged to have abused his membership of NNPC Board to influence the award of contract to a highly-indebted company, Valiant Offshore Contractors Limited, against the recommendation of AMCON and at the expense of the country. He was also accused of interfering in EFCC investigation of a fraud involving Sahara Energy…”
Antagonists of Buhari know that the office of the Chief of Staff is a very powerful one. Expressed differently, the occupant of the office wears the President’s shadows like perfume. He has the capacity to influence appointments’ or recommend sack of government appointees deemed to have fallen by the wayside.
Therefore, the occupant of such a powerful office by a Northerner appears to be the Southwest’s greatest dilemma and they have engaged in pranks to ensure he is sacked by Buhari . Or alternatively, his personality rubbished by nailing him on the cross of corruption to denigrate President Buhari’s unrelenting anti-corruption campaigns.
So, in the past few months, Abba Kyari has had to contend with a barrage of criticisms and mindboggling allegations of corruption against his person. They initially accused him of collecting N500 million bribe from MTN to help negotiate the over N1 trillion fine imposed on them by the federal government. Southwest politicians’ through the southern press celebrated this allegation like a feast in a manner one would easily be tempted to conclude a court of law has convicted him.
Betraying their motive, they also sponsored announcement of his sack by Buhari for corruption, when Abba Kyari had merely gone on leave. And Buhari injured their feelings the more, when he added another responsibility on the shoulders of Kyari by appointing him member of the NNPC Board.
Having lost the battle on all fronts, the opponents have resorted to new tricks. They are claiming Kyari used his position on the NNPC board to influence the award of contract to Valiant Offshore Contractors Limited, in violation of the recommendation of AMCON. But if Kyari could influence an NNPC contract to an incompetent company, it means the deal was done in collaboration with others in the NNPC management. But why is everybody silent about the complicity of others in the scam, but Kyari’s name keeps reverberating? It exposes this plot.
The same interests against the North or a Buhari presidency and personalities close to him also claim, Kyari shielded EFCC’s investigation of alleged fraud perpetrated by Sahara Energy. But when the Senate refused confirmation of EFCC Acting chairman, Ibrahim Magu, no one cited the compromise of his duties so as to confirm the involvement of Kyari in frustrating investigations. The EFCC is not answerable to Kyari and it is puzzling as to the extent of overbearing powers or influence he possesses to exert and blackmail the anti-graft agency for concessions in its assignments.
In effect, the discreet cold war the south has continued to launch on the North by the desperation to upstage Buhari has assumed a dimension that is very dangerous. They loud corruption allegations against northern appointees of government, as though Southwestern appointees are saints. But this too, like the Holy Scriptures say would ‘one day pass away’. It will certainly fade into oblivion.
But it should be understood that President Buhari cannot be blackmailed or cajoled into acting unjustifiably. And the opponents may thicken the war of attrition, but it doesn’t’ translate into substance.
It now behooves on banana civil societies like CSNAC, which offer themselves as platforms for the promotion of southern ethnic interests against the North to know that their illicit intent can no longer be concealed. With time God shall vindicate the innocent. And that time will come sooner than later.
Okanga writes from Agila, Benue State.