It is a well known fact that corruption and impunity are at the core of Nigeria’s political and socio-economic ills. The undesirable wholesome effects of corruption, no doubt, provoke damning condemnation of any person alleged of corruption even before such allegation is proven in the court of law. To this extent, ‘presumption of guilt’ has become a burden to which public officers accused of corruption must contend with. Indeed, while it is necessary to sustain the tempo of public resentment against the scourge of corruption in Nigeria, if that would truly serve the interest of justice at the end, it is increasingly becoming a source of concern that an accused may suffer grossly and unjustly before the conclusion of corruption trial.
Therefore, a man standing trial on corruption charges is expected to be a loner; deserted by friends and vilified by political enemies. But we cannot remain unperturbed by what now appears a muzzling agenda of a powerful political clique from the southwest region whose calculation is to ensure that Otunba Gbenga Daniel (OGD), former Governor of Ogun state is perpetually harassed and kept on his knees through unending investigations by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). At various times in March and April, 2013, the EFCC intensified harassment and intimidation of OGD’s political associates and business partners including domestic aides, all in the name of unending investigations even as the main target has been re-arraigned on 26 count charges after the court dismissed, on 2nd March 2012, an early 16 count charges, which the EFCC obviously could not provide sufficient grounds for prosecution. While we appreciate that it would not be in the best interest of the present and future generations to condone corruption under whatever guise, we also contend that it would not be in the best interest of justice and the country in the long run, if anti-corruption prosecution is deployed as potent weapon of political persecution and witch-hunting, if not a veritable tool for whipping political subjugation and cowardice.
This intervention is therefore NOT intended to undermine the ongoing trial involving OGD on corruption charges at an Abeokuta High Court. Indeed, we have no objection to trial of anyone whatsoever, provided it is within the ambit of the law. Unmindful of a subsisting trial by the EFCC therefore, we are left with no other option than to eagerly await the outcome, even as we again urge OGD to leave no stone unturned to prove his innocence as a true OMOLUABI we knew him before he ventured into the murky waters of Nigerian politics. It would be recalled that upon his arrest in November 2011, OGD was widely reported to be standing trial on allegations of embezzlement and misappropriation to the tune of over N58 billion while in office as Governor of Ogun state, whereas the charges presented before the court by the anti-graft agency was embarrassingly inconsistent with the figures hyped in the media. What however remains curious till date, is that the former Governor is alleged of official misconducts without any accomplice.
We have reasons to believe that OGD is undoubtedly the most investigated political office holder in Nigeria in recent time! The renewed investigation was said to be a
frantic effort by the EFCC to unravel misappropriation of security votes in Ogun state between 2003 and 2011. It is interesting that EFCC suddenly realise the need to probe into application of security votes almost two years after OGD left office. Is it not really interesting that OGD is the guinea pig of sudden hysteria over application of security votes under the present political dispensation? We are quite aware that investigations into OGD’s affairs as governor of Ogun state by the EFCC started way back in 2006 even before he was returned for a second term in office in 2007. It is well known in Nigeria today that EFCC’s investigation of OGD affairs in government and as a private businessman is about the most rigorous and all encompassing. No problem about that really! But we dare ask what really is EFCC looking for that has eluded its radar for almost 7 years? Unlike the cases involving other serving or past political office holders in Nigeria, it thus seems to us that OGD crime is more political than economic and financial!
For the sake of emphasis, we have nothing against EFCC performing its statutory duties under the law, but we are strongly of the conviction that anti-corruption body should no longer pretend that Nigerians are oblivious of its selective and politically instigated investigation. Indeed, it should not bother us much less than other well-meaning Nigerians that more damning and odious cases of corruption abounds with impunity in Nigeria today to which the EFCC merely gloss over. It is therefore important to wonder how much longer it would take the EFCC to conclude investigations on OGD and save his associates, relations and aides the trouble of needless interrogation and having to supply same information to the EFCC adnauseam.
Whereas political travail and persecution are not new in our clime, we however dare to assert that there is seeming connection between political persecution of OGD and the supposed anti-corruption prosecution by the EFCC. Recently, the US state department released a damning report on corruption under President Goodluck Jonathan administration, to which the vociferous circuit of dominant opposition political party responded jubilantly and with satisfactory ‘saintly’ applause. It is shocking however, that the supposed credible report on the state of corruption in Nigeria erroneously listed N58billion ongoing corruption charges against OGD as one of the highpoints of corruption cases not being properly prosecuted under the government of President Goodluck Jonathan. This singular; obviously politically motivated indicator peddled in the US report makes us wonder aloud who the original authors of the said report are.
For the avoidance of doubt, whereas the EFCC has denied ever filing such bogus; non-existing charges against OGD through its counsel during a session at the Abeokuta High court, OGD political opponents still find it convenient to leech on the bogey of N58billion corruption charges as a way of sustaining its media trail and to achieve the much-anticipated ‘demolition’ of OGD at all cost; by all means. But we insist that Nigerians and well-meaning people world over deserve to know the exact charges against OGD arising from his 8 years tenure as governor of Ogun state and the magnitude of alleged financial impropriety involved. We agree that OGD would still be guilty even if he is eventually found to have misappropriated N1, but we wonder as to the motive behind a fabulous N58billion corruption charges for which investigations now seem unending even when a trial is already underway? Nonetheless, that a US report also flew such misleading kite raises serious concern about politics of anti-corruption prosecution in Nigeria.
At this juncture, we painfully wish to draw the attention of the public to confusing and misleading official information emanating from the present government in Ogun state and the need for the EFCC to be wary of joining the fray of cut-throat politicking against OGD. It is recalled that at the inception of Governor Ibikunle Amosun government in Ogun state, OGD was severally accused of stealing or mismanaging over N50billion upon which political traducers sought and succeeded in goading the EFCC into ongoing onslaught. But what is not known to many is that the same government has in recent months contradicted this outrageous claim by insisting that OGD administration left a debt of almost the same amount. Alas, does it really bother anybody including the Nigerian media any longer that nothing is heard again about the so-called much-dreaded OGD’s killer squad for which a Truth Commission was set up by the Governor Amosun in Ogun state to unravel the much-talked about killings during OGD era? Why has the present government in Ogun state failed to accord the prosecution of suspected killers of Dipo Dina the expected seriousness in spite of the high level of self-serving politicking, which Amosun leadership deployed into the unfortunate assassination? With respect to OGD and Ogun politics, it is now crystal clear that politically motivated media smear is nothing more than time-serving evil agenda which can only be exorcised by conscientious interrogation with truth as revealed by facts and figures.
This is precisely why we are convinced that the unending investigation of OGD by the EFCC is an agenda of some interest groups in the South West. Those familiar with the footprints of OGD in his brief foray into politics would agree he had become a force to reckon with in forging viable alternative political movement in the South West. We know for a fact, even if those not conversant with political happenings in the southwest are oblivious of it, that OGD is dreaded as potential rally point for driving alternative movement, which is perceived as a threat by certain interests.
Lastly, we wish to again restate our unalloyed commitment to anti-corruption crusade in Nigeria. Indeed, if we had our ways, the fight against corruption should be a total and unsparing one. But in the meantime, we expect anti-corruption prosecution to be unselective and not to be deployed as tool for political vendetta and wilful intimidation.
- Dr. Fredrick Fasehun
National Leader, O’odua Peoples’ Congress (OPC)
2. Evangelist ‘Kunle Adesokan
President, Coalition for Yoruba Autonomy (COYA)
3. Kola Oluseye-Are
Secretary, Yoruba for Democratic Values (YDV)
4. Tunde Abioye
Organising Secretary, United Self Determination Platform of O’odua (USEPO)
5. Jubril Ogundimu
Vice President, O’odua Republican Front (ORF)
6. Dele Daramola
President, O’odua Liberation Movement (OLM)
7. Monday Atimiri
Secretary, Yoruba Transformation Alliance (YTA)
8. Yemi Ogunderu
Chairman, Ojo-ola Yoruba Initiative (OYI)