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OPINION

Bukola Saraki and the unending trail of graft, By Obi Nwagwugwu

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If there is an award for a politician with the most corruption cases around him, very few people will be in contention above Bukola Saraki, President of the Nigerian Senate.

Since he schemed his way to become the number three citizen of the country in a legislative coup that demonstrated how some Nigerian politicians put personal ambition above party and national interests, his past sins have continued to trail him.

Corruption and felony charges have dogged him and turned his tenure as senate president into the most uneventful in the history of Nigeria’s democracy. For almost three years of his tenure, he attended more court hearings than legislative plenary, dragging the senate unfortunately down with him into the gorge of infamy.

While he has used his questionable wealth to save himself from going to jail up till now, tales of graft have continued to trail him. Last Thursday, one of his aides, Gbenga Makanjuola was docked at the Federal High Court in Lagos over charges of N3.5 billion fraud.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had preferred an 11-count fraud charge against Makanjuola, a Deputy Chief of Staff to Saraki, Melrose General Services Ltd., Obiorah Amobi, (Operations Manager at Melrose), and Kolawole Shittu, (a cashier).

They were accused of conspiring to disguise the unlawful origin of the sum of N3.5 billion paid into the account of Melrose. In the charge, EFCC alleged that the accused persons committed the offences in December 2016. According to the prosecution, the accused took control of the sum which was transferred from the Nigeria Governors Forum’s account, into an Access Bank account operated by Melrose.

The prosecution said that the accused ought to have known that the sum represented proceeds of unlawful activities. The offences contravened the provisions of Sections 15, 15 (2), 15(3), 18, and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Amendment Act 2011. The accused were first arraigned on October 3, 2018, and had pleaded not guilty to charges, while the court had granted them bails in the sum of N250 million each, with sureties in like sums.

Saraki had expectedly ensured a formidable legal team for the accused led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Paul Erokoro.

Anyone can easily guess where the trail of the said N3-5 billion fraud would lead. That is why it is not just those mentioned in the charge sheets that are on trial. The ubiquitous schemer of Kwara certainly knows he’s the one on trial and would use all available legal maneuvers his lawyers can sell to him to escape justice again.
Therefore, the rule of law favours criminals and frustrates the crusaders. The law looks for evidence of crime and puts the burden of proof on the accuser. Thus, even when the accused knows he committed the crime, and in anticipation of the law smartly erases those proof, the court has no capacity to deliver justice.

Unlike in religious jurisprudence where verbal testimonies of some eye witnesses to crime are good enough to proof guilt of crime, our law is based on evidence. This is why politically exposed persons like Saraki are in love with our laws. That is why he and his colleagues have frustrated effort of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to have new legislations that would make prosecution of corruption cases faster and less cumbersome.

Those who admire personalities honed in self-preservation rather than collective progress have touted Saraki as an accomplished politician adversaries underrate at their own peril. Some even envied his “coup’ against his own party when he traded the deputy senate president seat in a deal with the opposition PDP to become senate president.

But there is a limit to the elasticity of even the most redoubtable political schemer. Sooner or later, he would reach breaking point, which is where Saraki has now found himself. He has boxed himself against a stone wall and the only option left for him is to fight back or wait until he’s crushed.
This is why Saraki jumped at the offer to become the Director General of the Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign a few days after coming third in the PDP presidential primary. He admitted this much in an audio recording that went viral recently when he addressed some of his loyalists in Ilorin. He revealed the 2019 election was a battle he was prepared to fight, even if he was alone.

Saraki sounded in the audio like a political godfather that had been humbled, and now had to resort to stirring empathy for himself because, in his own words, he is a victim of persecution.
But Saraki can no longer fool his supporters or the people of kwara who have become wiser after reading all the charges of graft against the “Leader”. This must have become obvious to him and his hangers-on in view of his travails in his home state of recent.

Everywhere he goes now in Kwara State, he is trailed by shouts of “ole” “ole”(thief thief) to the chagrin of his supporters. It is worse for him in Kwara South Senatorial District of the state where police have linked him with the unfortune robbery incident in Offa which led to the death of 33 persons, including police officers and pregnant women.
The robbers, who had been arrested and interrogated, allegedly confessed that they were political thugs of Saraki, and that he supplied them weapons. They further revealed that Saraki used them to rig elections in Kwara State. The case against Saraki is still in court.

Now with a fast retreating political base, and with his election-rigging machine now in police custody, Saraki is has suddenly become a pathetic underdog, a David fighting Goliath but lacking the righteousness of David. He has become a drowning man that will clutch at anything that feels like straw. Unfortunately for Saraki, he suffers the same fate with the products he has been asked to sell to Nigerians. His candidate is as bad a product as the chief marketer. That is why he has to employ lies and half-truths as marketing strategies.

But Nigerians have seen too much of him in the last three years to be bamboozled by his lies. They know that when the problems of this country in the last four years are listed in order of magnitude, Bukola Saraki’s name would not be outside the top five.

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OPINION

Atiku’s US Trip: So much ado about nothing, By Tunde Ajose

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For good watchers of the Nigerian politics, one thing has come to stay in our political experiment at getting it right in this country and that is the ability for smart politicians to easily sway the electorates with mundane issues.

The campaigns are no longer issue based but media sensationalism.

Latest of such was the sudden appearance of the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in the United States of America! Then one begins to wonder why the opposition would think such is the needed magic wand to win the election.

And the euphoria may not be unconnected with the report that Atiku was barred from entering the States because of his fraudulent nature but the question is, why would any serious opposition believes such action would immediately translate into winning the Aso Rock.

One would have wondered why Atiku has chosen to travel with the current senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki? Could it be that he actually traveled under the diplomatic immunity of Saraki’s official delegation?

Diplomatic immunity is a form of legal immunity that ensures diplomats are given safe passage and are considered not susceptible to lawsuit or prosecution under the host country’s laws, but they can still be expelled.

We need to be circumspect as we move forward as a nation and be more discerning. The current government of Nigeria is focused more than before in ensuring that Nigerians, regardless of the class or status has a befitting country they could fall back to and call a home.

It is quite obvious that while the opposition are playing to the gallery, the presidential campaign organisation of president Mohammad Buhari is busy rolling up its sleeves and getting down to fields where the real electorates are and connecting with them.

This past week especially has been full of activities for the president despite his age. Within a spate of two weeks, Buhari had sat down to two interviews in-between journeying from the length and breadth of the country in getting the message of hope down to the people.

The president does not rely on his privilege as an incumbent, but insisted on talking to his people and ensuring that Nigerians are united as they go to polls come February.

No one is in doubt that his message also resonates well with the citizens as they troop out en masse to welcome and listen to what he has to say. With the multitude of crowd recorded today as he presented the gubernatorial flagbearer of the party to the good people of Delta State and the ovation that greeted it, there is no doubt that Buhari is truly loved.

As we count down to the elections, Nigerians need to bear it in mind that the 2019 election is about building on a new foundation which the present government has been able to achieve in the first four years and giving the solid foundation out to the marauders to destroy along with the better forgotten 16years in power.

If Atiku is in the United States today, there is no way the intelligence agencies of the federal government of Nigeria would not know about it.

 

Tunde Ajose, a political commentator, writes from Lagos.

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OPINION

Red alert on Kogi 2019 elections, By Omahi Umar

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2019 Kogi elections may end up being the bloodiest and the most rigged election in the history of Nigeria. This is not a question of being an alarmist. It is rather because the incumbent governor, having failed woefully in governance has principally resorted to the use of security agents to rig and manipulate the outcome of the elections in favour of the ruling government.

A taste of what to expect in the elections in Kogi has started manifesting. In the Kogi Central Senatorial District where the governor hails from, members of the opposition are now harassed, harangued, maimed, killed and kidnapped on regular basis. The latest victim is one Enesi who was recently killed by armed men while several others went missing in recent night raids and hunts for men of the opposition parties in the Kogi Central.

In the same central, it is an open secret that the houses of Commissioner for Water Resources, the Commissioner for  Local Government and many of the local government administrators have now turned armouries where a huge number of sophisticated guns and ammunitions are off-loaded at nights purportedly by “men in uniform” unchallenged. It was being speculated that over 3000 assorted automatic weapons have been acquired by the governor and hidden in different locations across the state. The state local tabloids and social media have the news of the governor vowing that he was ready to kill anyone who stands on his way in the coming elections.

The Kogi East will definitely be a battleground of sorts too. It is the home of the all powerful Chief of Staff who has vowed to deliver his constituency to the governor at all costs. Recently in Idah, many vehicles belonging to Atai Idoko were destroyed by APC members while on campaign rallies. Pockets of violence from Kogi East are reported on daily basis and will be on the increase as we approach elections. The most troubling aspects of this violence is that they are often committed in the glaring eyes of security agents who choose to look the other way while these crimes are being perpetrated.

It has been rumoured that the Ogohi of Anyigba’s palace is the armoury for Eastern Kogi with brother, the administrator of Dekina Local Government, Alhaji Isiaka and Alhaji Ahmed, the Kogi East Zonal chairman of the APC as field commanders.

The Western Senatorial District appears calm as of today but we believe it is an uneasy and heavily pregnant calm.  This Senatorial District is the home place of Dino. The governor is betting it everywhere with his life that he would rather die than allow free and fair elections  that would produce Dino. Since Dino enjoys cult followership in these areas, the modus operandi here will be to scare away many people from voting units so as to allow for heavily falsified results against Dino and Atiku.

The number of militants in training in Kogi is becoming very scary, worrisome, alarming and really frightening. The men of the Vigilante Service are now being secretly trained on the use of sophisticated weapons. The first batch of about 1000 men and women have passed out. Currently at the Lokoja Stadium, there are over 700 vigilante men/women in camp undergoing military training for the elections. Police and military uniforms are smuggled into the state for use in the elections.

Apart from this number being trained in the state, reliable information is that over 1000 militants are currently undergoing training in Yobe State for Kogi elections. The whole stories are really very worrisome.

The intention is to kill and harass opposition members as much as possible. It is also intended that many strong opposition members would be kidnapped prior to the elections. Information is that many should be scared away from voting, especially in the opposition strongholds.

By and large, the elections in Kogi may witness tales of anguish and failures except urgent steps are taken to counter the devilish plans of the state governor. The goings on in Kogi State must be exposed to the whole world by all means possible. This is a situation where a stitch in time will save nine.

 

  • Umar wrote in from Lokoja, Kogi State
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OPINION

Wait! Before you vote Atiku, By Musa Mohammed

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While the clamour for change in government from president Mohammodu Buhari to Atiku Abubakar may have been something that has taken over the national discuss and rightly so as the elections draw near, it may be noteworthy to pause and reflect on the character of the prospected replacement.

The big question on our mind should be can we trust Atiku? What really is the new thing he is coming to offer bearing in mind he was once the number two citizen of this great nation for 8years? If we insist the position of a vice president is not as powerful as the president, haven’t the achievements of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo knocked out such narrative?

The Nigerian vice president has proven times without number that he is as useful as the president of Nigeria and records are there to show for it. Where are the achievements of Mr. Atiku?

If you ask Nigerians, most of what they would remember about his days in office would be the national assets he sold to his colleagues and the long running battle he had with his principal, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

Aside from the fact that there should be no vacancy in Aso Rock, Osinbajo is more presidential than Atiku. Don’t take my words for it, below were some of the things his then boss said and wrote about him chronologically.

2003 “I regret picking Atiku Abubakar as my vice”.

2004 “I can no longer work with Atiku, his integrity is in question “.

2005 “Atiku cannot be trusted “.

2006 “Atiku cannot escape justice over corruption cases ”

2007 “Do not vote Atiku he is corrupt”.

2008 “Atiku is a corrupt leader”.

2009 “Nigerians can never forgive Atiku”.

2010 “Atiku is not an option to leadership in Nigeria “.

2011 “I have never seen a leader as greedy as Atiku “.

2012 “Nigerians should pray for leaders imbued with integrity not Atiku “.

2013 “Atiku should apologize to Nigerians over his political sins”.

2014 No political party with the aspiration to assume leadership should think of Atiku”.

2015 “Nigeria has grown beyond a corrupt leader like Atiku”.

2016 “I will never reconcile with Atiku “.

2017 “I never knew Atiku was this corrupt ” “I can never be on the same page with Atiku. God forbid!”.

2018 January to August “God will not forgive me if I support Atiku “.

2018 August “Atiku has the capacity to save Nigeria’s economy from collapse”.

If such verdicts could come from Obasanjo who was his direct boss, what doubts should Nigerians have in rejecting such bad market and move on to the next level with the present administration bearing mind that Obasanjo once said, “As an engineer, I know a point I can use tractor to hit and a storey building would come down within few minutes, but it would take years to erect such.”

Nigeria is undergoing transformation. The administration of president Mohammodu Buhari has used his first term to lay a good foundation for him to start building on in 2019 and it only make sense to key in.

God bless Nigeria.

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