There are growing concerns that President Goodluck Jonathan may have soft-pedalled on his anti-corruption crusades in the country to allow him and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) garner support amongst those currently facing trial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Although the president has yet to openly declare for the 2015 Presidential election, his body language has betrayed his intention to run.
Our investigations have shown that some prominent politicians, many of who are former governors, who have been facing corruption charges from the EFCC, are in recent times either left off the hook, or have their cases treated with levity to allow them seek election into various offices and/or work for entrenched interests.
Past leaders, especially former governors, who were charged to court by the anti-graft agency are being observed to be finding their ways back to prominent positions of leadership.
While some of them have been tried and convicted, others have yet to get their matters disposed of in the law courts, just as many others have had their cases quashed or withdrawn in curious circumstances.
For instance, the Ekiti state governor-elect, Ayo Fayose, has been facing trial over alleged financial malfeasance as the governor of the state between 2003 and 2006. Notwithstanding, the authorities turned a blind eye while he contested the governorship of the state on the platform of the president’s party. He won at the June 21, governorship election in Ekiti.
His victory, it appears, would confer on him immunity for the next four years thereby stultifying the progress of the case he had with the EFCC, for the duration of his fresh tenure of office.
Former Bayelsa state governor, Diepreye Alamieyesigha’s case has been, for millions of Nigerians, the most confounding. He was convicted for corruption but was granted state pardon by the federal government.
This, many watchers say, was an attempt to clear the way for the former governor who has been rumoured to be nurturing a Senatorial ambition by 2015,
Also, a similar gesture was extended to the son of late military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, Mohammed, when the government withdrew the charges of alleged N446 billion theft instituted against him, on the grounds that it (the government) discovered ‘fresh facts’ about the case.
This withdrawal becomes even suspicious following the widespread speculation that Mohammed may be eyeing the Kano state governorship seat on the platform of the ruling party in 2015.
Although the former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, has denied allegations by his erstwhile party, All Progressives Congress (APC), that he dumped it in order to seek a reprieve from the government over his current travails in the hands of the EFCC, not so many people were convinced. There were rumours that Mr. Fani-Kayode had found it “extremely difficult” to even pay defence fees to his lawyers, while he remained in the APC. He however dismissed such allegations as “outright mischief”.
Equally conspicuous among former governors who have been strategically “cleared” by the anti-graft agency, are the PDP National Chairman, Ahmadu Adamu Mu’azu and the Minister of Youth Affairs and Social Development, Boni Haruna. They were among prominent suspects being tried by the EFCC who now enjoy ‘VIP’ treatments nationally. Mu’azu had at certain point been declared wanted by the EFCC. As of today, there is deafening silence about his case; same also for Mr. Haruna.
Apart from all these, nothing much is being heard about the trial of other former governors, including Ibrahim Saminu Turaki of Jigawa state and Joshua Chibi Dariye of Plateau state. The latter is widely alleged to be making frantic efforts to return to the PDP as part of a speculated deal for him to be let off the hook. In Dariye’s case, his return to the PDP, along with former Plateau deputy governor, Pauline Tallen, is said to be behind the crisis currently rocking the ruling party in the state.
There are insinuations that these politicians, whose cases are still pending in the EFCC but are perceived to be “great political assets”, are being tactically left off the hook, ostensibly to work for the re-election bid of the president in 2015.
There is now, widespread speculation that the administration may exploit the prisoner swap deal it signed with the British government to let former Delta state governor, James Onanefe Ibori free, in return for his backing and active support for Jonathan’s 2015 candidacy.
Concerted efforts to get reaction of the new Presidential Adviser on Political Matters, Professor Ahmed Rufai Alkali to the allegations of deliberate whittling of the anti-graft war for political gains by his principal failed.
The political adviser had on Wednesday pledged to speak to one of our reporters yesterday on the matter. But several efforts to get him speak yesterday failed as he neither answered nor returned our reporter’s repeated calls.
However, when contacted for comments on the matter, EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwajaren, denied the insinuation that the anti-graft agency may have been weakened, insisting that the agency was still pursuing cases of corruption against those accused.
On Fayose, Uwajaren said until he assumes power as the state governor, the EFCC would continue to pursue its case against him in court.
He however pointed out that those other accused politicians with no immunity are still facing charges, and that the agency would not relent in their prosecution.
Meanwhile, the opposition APC, yesterday described as utterly callous and insensitive, the ongoing campaign by the GEJites, a pro-Jonathan group for the president’s re-election, right at the same spot where the ‘bring back our girls’ campaigners have been staging daily protests demanding the safe return of the over 200 school girls kidnapped in Chibok, Borno state by Boko Haram.
The APC, in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja by its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, said the message being conveyed to all Nigerians is that the re-election of President Jonathan takes priority in his re-election over anything else, including the security and welfare of citizens.
”Were this not to be so, no responsible group will choose this time, when over 200 school girls have been missing for over 80 days and the terror group Boko Haram is daily killing and maiming Nigerians, to launch a misguided re-election campaign for the President. If their daughters were among the missing school girls, will they be launching a political campaign for re-election rather than pushing for the girls’ release?
”To show their contempt for decency and as if they were intent on inflicting more pains on the parents and guardians of the missing girls, they decided to position their campaign instrument, wheel-mounted electronic billboards, right at the Unity Fountain in Abuja where committed and patriotic Nigerians have been holding their own daily campaign for the safe return of the girls”, it said.
APC said much as it may deny, it was clear that the Jonathan’s administration, that has surpassed itself in “sheer cluelessness” in providing purposeful leadership to stop the daily carnage in the country and ensuring the return of the missing girls, has apparently been secretly funding different groups to campaign for it.