Thursday, September 14, 2006

Atiku's Bundle

In developed societies where the rule of law, order and decorum prevail, the right thing for any public office holder indicted in acts of impropriety or abuse of office is to resign. Over and over again we have seen this happen in the USA and Britain. Only last week, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair announced that he would be leaving office next May because his party has lost confidence in his leadership. The US defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has tendered his resignation several times in the last couple of years because of popular criticism of his handling of the US invasion of Iraq, only to be turned down by President Bush. Even though the cases leveled against these two men are not gross acts of corruption, Blair and Rumsfeld understand the import of loss of confidence in a public officer by the populace.

Atiku has been accused not only of complicity in misuse of power but the outright abuse of power and perpetration of acts of gross corruption by the systematic manner in which the Petroleum Development Trust Fund (PDTF) under his control was used to fund various shady deals ranging from the iGate/NDTV deal to the Marine Float and Globacom deals. The fall out of these is still unraveling. Only on Friday, September 8, 2006 the head of iGate, Mr. Vernon Jackson a Kentucky, USA businessman, was sentenced to an 87 months jail term, plus 2 years probation upon completion of the jail term by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis in Alexandria, Virginia. William Jefferson, the US congressman linked in the iGate bribery scheme with Atiku is under FBI investigation. Mr. Mike Adenuga, the conduit through whom Atiku is alleged to have purchased shares in Globacom with PDTF funds expropriated by Atiku for that purpose, has fled Nigeria for Ghana en-route to England to join his twenty-something year old sons, executive officers in Globacom and who also had earlier fled Nigeria to escape investigation by the EFCC.

These charges are serious and not to be taken lightly. In what appears to be a bold-faced attempt of self preservation, Atiku has gone to court to seek an injunction to stop the report of the findings of investigations of these allegations from being tabled before the National Assembly. In addition, he has gone further to claim that the monies paid into the accounts of his company, Marine Float Limited, was under the joint control of him and President Obasanjo as the monies were meant to be used for the Obasanjo/Atiku reelection campaign. If indeed this was the intended use of the monies how come they were not held in an appropriately named account? Why was the account not under the control of the PDP? What does the paper trail as regards the outflow of monies from the account reveal? Were expenses incurred for the Obasanjo/Atiku reelection campaign paid out from the account or was the account used to fund private projects of Atiku’s or Obasanjo’s? These are questions to which answers can be easily obtained through forensic accounting.

Atiku acknowledges that 100 million naira was paid by the Plateau state governor, Joshua Dariye to Marine Float towards the Obasanjo/Atiku reelection in August 2001, two years before the 2003 reelection. The question that arises here is: - Is there any legal grounds on which a state governor is permitted to make such a contribution from the coffers of his state to the presidential campaign? None exists the last time I checked. On this ground alone, the Vice President is liable, along with the governor of Plateau state, who as we know, is a fugitive of the British justice system, having jumped bail in 2004 in London to escape charges of money laundering. For all we know Dariye and Atiku may have been in cahoots in looting the coffers of the state and the 100 million naira was Atiku’s share. Or perhaps Atiku used the Marine Float account to fraudulently obtain monies from donors by intimidation using the Obasanjo/Atiku reelection as a cover. Either way, Atiku is clearly at abeyance with the law with the Marine Float Limited affair.

Undoubtedly, Atiku and Babangida played pivotal roles in the 1999 election of Obasanjo as president. It is unlikely that Obasanjo could have mustered the resources and support he enjoyed in the campaign leading up to his nomination as the PDP candidate and his eventual election as president without the roles played by these two individuals. That however does not render them untouchable or immune to investigation to the extent that there are questions about their conducts in business and as high level officers of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The world over and throughout history, people in public leadership positions are expected to conduct their affairs beyond reproach. As William Shakespeare put it, “Ceaser’s wife must be above suspicion.” But you don’t automatically attain this just by virtue of your leadership position, it is something that is earned through personal conduct and actions, and which can be easily cross-referenced in its transparency. If indeed they are beyond reproach, Atiku, his supporters and business partners (Adenuga in particular) should be forthwith with the truth and allow for the proper proceedings to take its course rather than cry wolf and make accusatory statements and recriminations to garner undeserved ill-willed sentiments against the investigators, the Federal Executive Council and President Obasanjo.

It is hoped that when the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters finally comes out with its guidelines on procedures on the deliberation of the report which has been tabled before it with a letter from the president that the senators dispatch their duties without bias and partisanship.

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