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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

Babatunde Fowler: The zero sum game in political appointments, By Abubakar Ismail

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Let’s first look at the role of the media in politics. The media is supposed to be a medium where news and events is transmitted in its pure form to people. In Nigeria the media has become mediocre. It’s an avenue some pawkvy journalists and so called bloggers use to enrich themselves. It’s also an avenue for people to malign each other. Most news these days are sponsored and specifically targeted at opposition or someone perceived to be an enemy. They receive douceur to publish news these days, ofcourse there are a few trusted mediums.Even the president himself has been a victims of these bloggers/journalists. A story was written to say he’s a double called Jibrin, how can someone fabricate such a story and isn’t punished for his or her act. This is because the laws of our country regarding fake news and the media are lacking, government should ratiocinate putting a new law in place to curb this menace.
For democracies to work, politicians need to respect the difference between an enemy and an adversary.
An adversary is someone you want to defeat. An enemy is someone you have to destroy. With adversaries, compromise is honorable: Today’s adversary could be tomorrow’s ally. With enemies, on the other hand, compromise is appeasement.
Between adversaries, trust is possible. They will beat you if they can, but they will accept the verdict of a fair fight. This, and a willingness to play by the rules, is what good-faith democracy demands.
Between enemies, trust is impossible. They do not play by the rules (or if they do, only as a means to an end) and if they win, they will try to rewrite the rules, so that they can never be beaten again.
Adversaries can easily turn into enemies. If quality parties never let minority parties come away with half a loaf, the losers are bound to conclude they can only win through the utter destruction of the quality. Once adversaries think of democracy as a zero-sum game, the next step is to conceive of politics as war: no quarter given, no prisoners taken, no mercy shown.
This is the scenario currently being played out at the highest levels as the brilliantly acclaimed FIRS Executive Chairman Mr. Babatunde Fowler is witnessing an alarming character assassination attack on his person all in a bid to wreck his celebrated career. Let there be no mistake about it. The chairman honestly has a JOMO. Tunde Fowlers adversaries have declared war and surreptitiously worked behind the scenes under the vicious cover of social media to publish vile and unconscionable articles designed to sway public opinion on his person. No quarter given, no prisoners taken, no mercy shown. You can’t even pin point this wilder  pseudepigraphy. What do they stand to gain? They want his seat, Thats all. They have realized how juicy and important the position is. Mr Tunde Fowler raised the revenue generated to over 5 trillion naira last year and trying to achieve an estimated 8 trillion this year even in this trying times. Government is beginning to see that revenue from taxes can surpass revenue from crude oil sale, which was the main source of income for the country.
But we ask. Is this what high level lobbying in Nigeria has been reduced to? What happened to the days when the appointment or reappointment of top government assignments were adorned with competitive honor? When they were decorated with competence and brilliance and ultimately assigned or reassigned to the benefit of our great country? When the saying “may the best man win” was greeted with pride. Let there be no mistake about it. The industry and the corridors of power know the truth. They know that this accomplished academician and innovator of brilliant policies . Most times consummate professionals like Mr. Fowler are so engrossed in their work that they do not feel the need to address petty character assassination attempts on their person. But in this day and age. To remain silent  in the face of surreptitious social media mischief is seen to some as consent to the barrage of lies that are published on unverified on those poisonous social media handles who will kill the character of any man for a few shillings. At some point the Federal Government will get to the bottom of the peddlers of such falsehoods. However, in the meantime. All the lies in the world cannot change the accomplishments of the soft spoken brilliant advocate of fair taxation and ample representation of the people. To this we say, we salute you Mr. Fowler. Executive Chairman FIRS, Chairman African Tax Administration Forum, Board Member and First Vice Chairman United Nations Tax Committee of Experts On International Cooperation on Tax Matters.
It is with this in mind that we urgently seek to advise Nigerian Political Appointee seekers. As well meaning Nigerians whose primary responsibility it should be to deepen our young democracy. Try to respect the difference between an enemy and an adversary.
We also ask people to be camp and know that there’s always a reward for hard work. Pls say NO to FAKE NEWS.
– Abubakar Ismail is a public analyst and lives in Abuja.
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OPINION

9th Senate Presidency race: Why Danjuma Goje is the man to beat

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Senator Mohammed Danjuma Goje
By Sebastian Anuforo

At no time since 1999 has the race for the senate presidency been so competitive in a robustly healthy manner. Unlike in 2015 when some ambitious senators-elect ignored the ruling party’s zoning arrangement for the National Assembly, this time senators-elect are sticking with the party.

Barely a month before the inauguration of the 9th Senate, the race for the senate presidency is too close to call. Although the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, had zoned the seat to the North East and anointed Ahmed Lawan from Yobe State, returning and new senators are yet to officially endorse hm.

If the APC expect a coronation for Lawan when the next senate is inaugurated, it may be in for another shocker as it was in 2015. This is because whether the APC admits it or not, the emergence of Bukola Saraki as senate president in 2015 showed that legislators want to choose their own leaders and may not tolerate a third party doing that for them.

This is why in my opinion, despite the choice of Lawan by the party, forces in the National Assembly and outside of it have thrown up other candidates for the throne. Alli Ndume, the senator representing Borno Central was the first to challenge the choice of Lawan as soon as it became public knowledge after senators-elect met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Villa shortly after the general elections.

Ndume, as expected, boasted he was the most qualified person for the position and that he enjoined the support of his colleagues. But a few days after he declared interest, some senators and groups started calling on Danjuma Goje, a senator from Gombe, to declare interest in the senate presidency. These senators worked underground to sell the candidacy of Goje to all the senators-elect.

Goje was a two- term governor of Gombe State who transformed the infrastructure of the state. He put Gombe State in the national limelight with his aggressive performance as governor. His cool-headed, progressive leadership style endeared him to the electorate who fondly called him “Limamu Change” (leader of change).

Among leaders of the APC in the north, no one did more for the party than Goje. Despite the fact that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP,was in power in his state, he staked everything to ensure the people voted APC in the presidential election of 2015 and 2019. It is a mark of high he is in the estimation of his people that he has won re=election to the senate twice.

The fact that he is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation is a strong indication that his colleagues in the senate hold him in high esteem. Unlike Ndume who has remained a controversial member of the senate, Goje has remained focused on his legislative duties and keeps a clean record. It is incredibly admirable that Goje has also managed to avoid getting involved in any legislative scandal despite heading a critical committee.

This is why it is not surprising that he is the only senator from the north east that has been endorsed by different groups and individuals who are not in the national assembly. The support he has enjoyed from people and groups outside the national assembly clearly show that the people strongly believe he is the only one among the three contenders who could properly represent their interest in national affairs.

If the APC is smart, it should give Goje all the necessary support to ensure he becomes the senate president in June. The party should be thinking of 2023 and the leaders who could ensure victory for the party in all zones of the country. Clearly, none of the three contenders have the political clout of Goje in the north east zone. Given him the senate presidency would help APC consolidate when Buhari is no longer in the equation. This is what smart parties do to keep their party in power.

Several groups including the North East Consultative Forum (NESF) and five other groups in the geo-political zone, had endorsed Goje and asked him to declare his intention to contest for the office of the Senate president.

The groups including North East Elders Mobilization Forum, APC national youth caucus, Borno Discussion Circle, Gombe Political Associations and North East Youth Awareness for good governance, urged Goje to run.

The group followed up with a letter to the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole on their endorsement of Goje. In the letter, dated 17th April, titled: “North East stakeholders endorse Goje,” the conveners, Barrister Mustapha Saidu and Alhaji Bello Ambo, commended APC for zoning the Senate Presidency to the North East.

They said the zoning of the position to the geopolitical zone was a confirmation of the party’s commitment to reward hard work, following the zone’s contribution to the party’s victory in the just concluded general elections.

“Following very wide consultations among stakeholders, party members and North East Consultative Forum and after careful assessment of his contribution to the party and Muhammadu Buhari’s led administration, we hereby present to you, Senator Muhammad Danjuma Goje as the choice of the people of the North East for the Senate President of the 9th Assembly.”

Since that letter became public knowledge, no group or individuals in the north east has contradicted the claims contained in it.

Feelers from lobby groups in the national assembly show that Goje is the man to beat in the race for the senate leadership. More and more legislators are said to be jumping on the Goje train. His admirers are impressed that he has an unblemished administrative and legislative record after so many years in governance. Not many are able to pull this off.

Compared to Lawan or Ndume, Goje would undoubtedly bring prestige and integrity to the office of the senate president. These are the attributes the next senate president must bring to the office if the national assembly wants to be taken seriously by Nigerians and the world.

-Mr. Anufor writes from Abuja

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OPINION

Crisis in Ogun State over Agura of Gbagura stool

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Crisis is about to erupt in the gateway state of Ogun State as the Princes of Egiri Ruling House in Gbagura area of the state have denied Rtd. Justice Ademola Bakre-OON as the Head of Egiri Ruling House, and have asked him to stop parading himself as such.
The princes further distanced themselves from the alleged plan by Justice Bakre to instal Prince Saburi Babajide Bakre, who they  alleged was his nephew, as the next Agura of Gbagura.
The Princes insisted in a communique that was released to journalists at the end of a recent meeting, that Rtd. Justice Ademola Bakre-OON appointed himself as a member of the Regency Council before he was administratively relieved of his membership position, but that as a Royal Prince, Justice Bakre was not qualified to be a member of the Regency Council.
They stated that the authorities of Abeokuta North Local Government and the Ogun State Government has been informed of the development
The princes emphasized in the communique that Rtd. Justice Ademola Bakre-OON organized ritual consulation of Ifa Oracle with his “chosen Ifa Priests” and stationed men of the Nigerian Police at the Agura Palace to “effect his aberrant decision of selecting Prince Saburi Babajide Bakre, a nephew of his, being the son of his brother,” as the next Agura of Gbagura.
The communique contained resolutions reached at a meeting of the Princes held at Egiri Ruling House Chambers in Oke-Iddo, Gbagura, Abeokuta, Ogun State on Friday 3rd May, 2019.
Signatories to the communique included Prince Adeola Adeyemi (Ijaade Family), Prince Waheed Adeosun, Egiri Family Secretary (Adeosun Family) and Prince Sufian Soetan (Jamolu Family).
Others were Prince Adam Opeloyeru (Abolade Family) and Imam Prince Jamiu Ogunwoolu (Ijaade Family).
The princes used the communique to draw the attention of the Ogun State Government, the entire citizens of the state and the general public to the ongoing process of selection of the new Agura of Gbagura, Abeokuta following the demise of the late Agura of Gbagura, Oba Halidu Laloko Shobekun 11 leading to the vacancy of the stool.
It was suggested in the communique that the selection process had been “unduly subjected to procedural irregularities in the hands of Rtd. Justice Ademola Bakre OON, who had been elected as the Head of the Egiri Ruling House by his craftly initiated 12 man-committee at its meeting held on Thursday 25th April, 2019.”
The Princes alleged at the meeting that Rtd. Justice Ademola Bakre (OON) has been using his position as the elected Head of Egiri Ruling House to “stage-manage the selection process in all manner contrary to the laid down process.”
“That to foster his stage management antics, the Rtd. Justice Ademola Bakre OON had been parading himself as the Head of Egiri Ruling House even before he was cosmetically elected on Thursday 25th April, 2019, when he appeared on a television interview on OGTV-25 UHF earlier in the year, thereby leading to conflict of interest among the whole family.
“That the eventual cosmetic election of Rtd. Justice Ademola Bakre-OON was therefore a warranted decision meant to douse the tension generated by the conflict of interest within the family even amidst palpable suspicion against his ‘honourable’ character,” the communiqué read.
They insisted in the communique that Rtd. Justice Ademola Bakre OON had not only “lived up to the ugly manifestation of the palpable suspicion, he had demonstrated his stages management antics so fondly by upturning the ethics of the selection process for reasons best known to him, but which his unethical actions had later unfolded though to the detriment of the Royal interests of the Egiri Ruling House in particular, and the entire Gbagura Community in general.”
They stressed in the communique that Justice Bakre presided over a meeting and directed the Secretary to the Abeokuta North Local Government, Mr. Olagokr Kazeem, who they said was one of the Local Government/Local Council Development Area observers at the meeting, to coordinate the preparation of the minutes of the meeting for and on behalf of the Egiri Ruling House, which they stated is against the ethics of the selection process.
“This is because, according to the ethics, it is the Royal responsibility of the Egiri Ruling House to elect the Secretary to the Ruling House for the purpose of keeping the minutes of all the family meetings including other related records, while performing other secretariat functions.
“That the Rtd. Justice Ademola Bakre-OON had remained adamant at rocking the boat of the selection process, when following the tactical election of the Family Secretary, Prince Waheed Adeosun at the stage-managed Egiri Ruling House meeting of Thursday 25th April, 2019, he had chosen to undermine the Secretary’s official roles outrightly.
It was stated in the lettee that the Rtd. Justice Ademola Bakre-OON had been shelving family meetings and post-dating family members, while allegedly “cooking fake family decisions and issuing official correspondences for and on behalf of Egiri Ruling House without the official mandate of the concerned Royal families and the official involvement of the Family Secretary.”
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