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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

Hammed Olamijuwon to youths: Vote wisely, shun violence and don’t sell your vote

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Young and dynamic, Hammed Solomon Olamijuwon has urged youths across the country to vote massively for young and vibrant candidates into respective position that would represent their interest in different level of government in the forthcoming general elections.

Olamijuwon in a statement issued at the weekend, implored Nigerian youths to be an active participants in the February 16 and March 2 elections.

His words: “In few days to this time, we shall be taking a major decision concerning our nation by electing leaders that will steer the affairs of this country. Our decision in the next few days will determine our next four years. The people we decide to elect to the position of power will determine a lot concerning you and I.

“I argue youths to go out and vote during the general election. If we all sit in our homes claiming that our votes won’t count, remember that some persons go out on that day and vote. If they vote-in the wrong people; we will have no choice than to be bound by their decisions over this nation for the next few years to come.

“If you have your PVC, kindly makes sure you go out to vote. Vote wisely. Vote credible and responsible candidates. Do not sell your vote. We must ensure that the right people are elected this time.”

Olamijuwon, a Real Estate developer and Managing Director of HSO Global Limited, while stressing the need for Nigerian youths to play active roles in the forthcoming elections, said the youth votes has the potential to be extremely influential in Nigeria.

“I believe the youth vote has the potential to be extremely influential in this country. Young voters notoriously neglect the importance of voting, but their voice is an important one on both sides of the aisle. Key issues in every election increasingly relate to the concerns of students and professionals between the ages of 18 and 35, making it essential for members within that age group to educate themselves on political issues and take to the polls,” he said.

On his political ambition; the Ijesha man who hail from Ilesa East Local Government Area of Osun State and founder of a Non-Governmental Organisation, HSO Foundation whose youthful political pedigree has endeared him to young and old in the town especially those in the grassroots, disclosed that: “I am taking my time and consulting political stakeholders across the country and my state to know the next step regarding my ambition of serving my people. By 2023 I believe the youth is taken over full time and I can assure my people I am ready to serve them.”

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OPINION

This is what next level means, By Tunde Ajose

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When the news hit the media that the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, gave a press release, calling the attention of the federal government to his fears towards the 2019 presidential election and beyond, it is not surprising that the media took a mere advice out of proportion.

Right to free speech is a fundamental human right and well recognised by the Nigerian constitution.

In the release, OBJ as he’s popularly called while stating his desire for a change of government, insisted that Nigerians must vote in his preferred candidate to replace the incumbent, President Mohammadu Buhari, and send the country back to the dark days better forgotten.

The question that one would have expected to be asked should have been whether this was because he loved Nigeria or there was a selfish motive behind it all. Why?

It is not coincidental that his preferred candidate happens to be the same person he once ruled the country with. This same preferred candidate is the one same OBJ had rubbished severally in the media as unreliable and even went to the extent of writing a book; dedicating substantial pages to why Alhaji Atiku Abubakar must never be allowed to smell power again.

I could remember an interview Chief Obasanjo gave a long time ago, when he was also faced with cries of non performance. He was asked why it was taking like forever to fix Nigeria based on his promise. Obasanjo answered, “As a farmer, I know where I can hit a storey building with a caterpillar and it would all collapse within few minutes. But it takes months to build the same without changing its specification.”

Obasanjo believed that many years of military misrule can’t just be undone with few years of democracy as it would take time.

This is the same belief of the Buhari led government. That 16years of the Peoples Democratic Party’s rule, where money meant for national projects were shared by the privileged few. The insurgency caused by Boko Haram which has been greatly decimated by our gallant men of armed forces would have been a thing of the past if PDP 16 year rule has not diverted the fund meant for standard arm procurement into few pockets.

President Mohammadu Buhari came into power with the believe that even though the corrupt elements had already done havoc to the national treasury, he could not comprehend extent of rot he eventually met.

So with the believe that you can’t build a solid house on a rotten foundation, Buhari, despite enormous expectations placed on him, decided to start rebuilding the foundation into a stronger institution for the country in his first term and hope to consolidate and erect a befitting edifice, where corrupt elements, insurgency, unemployment and many social vices would be things of the past.

And this is the next level.

 

– Ajose, wrote from Lagos, Nigeria.

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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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