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Osinbajo’s bluster and burden of proof

By Paul Onomuakpokpo
22 March 2018   |   3:55 am
Nations like individuals who have recorded giant strides in most spheres of life sometimes look backward. It is not to escape from the challenges of the present.

Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo

Nations like individuals who have recorded giant strides in most spheres of life sometimes look backward. It is not to escape from the challenges of the present. Rather, they appropriate vital lessons in such moments to turn their travails into opportunities for a stellar lot in life. In that case, they appreciate the place of history in their current march to progress. But we are trapped in a tragic situation when we think that such moments only serve as opportunities to gloatingly point to others the glitch in the wheel of a people’s quest for development.

Thus, we do not deny the necessity for the past to pay for its misdeeds. In this regard, the current government headed by President Muhammadu Buhari is free to hold its predecessor to account. But the danger the current government has not successfully negotiated is that of going to a ridiculous extent. Deluded by the notion that the past is complicit in its denial of a star rating, the Buhari government could unabashedly blame the Jonathan government for disrupting the president’s domestic felicity by inducing his wife to rail at his failings in private and public.

This blame game would not just go away . Buhari and his team have refused to outgrow it. This is simply because it has become a political strategy that holds inescapable seduction as it provides a bulwark against the justified outrage of the citizens. Whenever the public imagination is riled by the plethora of the failings of the Buhari government, it looks backward and blames the Jonathan government for its alleged mindboggling corruption. It distracts the citizens from the floundering of the incumbent government.

If Jonathan and his aides travestised the purpose of their being in office and misappropriated our commonwealth, they should not be spared their well-deserved comeuppance. They should be made to discharge themselves of the unceasing allegations of corruption against them. Such allegations have led to the continued detention of some key members of the Jonathan government. The list gets longer by the day. It includes a former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki and an erstwhile spokesman of the PDP, Olisa Metuh. After the former Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke , Jonathan’s wife Patience has become the poster girl of state larceny .

But either out of compromise or lack of evidence, the Buhari government has demurred at hurling Jonathan before the judges to account for his transition from being a shoeless boy to an owner of mansions with clothes and television sets suffering from desuetude . But there is now a direct challenge by Jonathan to the Buhari government to prove the latest allegation of fraud by the past government. The allegation was made by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Seventh Presidential Quarterly Business Forum for Private Sector stakeholders. To his shocked audience, Osinbajo declared: “In one single transaction a few weeks to the elections in 2015, N100 billion and $295 million were fretted away.” He continued: The Strategic Alliance Contract with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was another conduit pipe through which close to $3 billion was stolen. Hence for Osinbajo, we cannot talk of the nation’s current economic crisis without looking at the past that sired it .

These allegations of corruption have often been made to haunt Jonathan. And when they come, Jonathan chooses to keep silent, as though he were admitting his complicity. But if Osinbajo thought that Jonathan would keep quite in the face of the recent allegation, he has realised too late his mistake. Jonathan probably found the allegation too weighty to ignore and thus his vehement rebuttal . Now, he has asked Osinbajo to provide proof of the alleged heist perpetrated by his government against the state. We have thought that the Buhari government has been looking for an opportunity to punish Jonathan for his financial misdeeds. And now that the opportunity has been offered by Jonathan himself, we thought that the Buhari government would grab it. The PDP has challenged the government to prove its allegation. Jonathan has also thrown the challenge at the Buhari government. What could show a better resolve to prove his innocence than branding Osinbajo a serial liar? But the Buhari government officials have disappointed Nigerians. We have not seen the swagger of the sure-footed accuser that could have led to the invasion of the privacy of Jonathan that could have yielded dollars in their millions buried in septic tanks or in abandoned buildings in the bush at Otuoke. Rather, it is all quiet on the presidency’s front. They have failed to reel out the evidence of complicity against the Jonathan government.

What Osinbajo did tallies with the APC government’s trajectory of fraud allegations and arresting of suspects before searching for evidence to prosecute them. It is possible that after Osinbajo’s allegation, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) , the Department of State Service and other agencies have been mandated to hunt for evidence against Jonathan and his government. But Osinbajo cannot run away; he must provide the evidence.

He cannot use the allegation to distract the citizens from the corruption in his government. Nor would his position and that of the Chairman of APC John Odigie-Oyegun that corruption cannot be totally defeated vitiate the fact that their government is in the vice grip of corruption. It is a government that condones corruption as has been eloquently documented by no less a citizen than former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Indeed, what are the anti-corruption credentials of Osinbajo that make him rail at Jonathan and his former aides? Osinbajo cannot claim to loathe corruption so much and yet find it comfortable serving in the government of Buhari that luxuriates in an atmosphere of corruption. Can a fish leave its aquatic habitat to co-exist with a snake on terra firma ? Why has Osinbajo not considered it a betrayal of the integrity he cherishes when he realises that Buhari cannot be weaned off protecting his aides who have been accused of corruption?

Osinbajo cannot reconcile himself to his newfangled anti-corruption stance after pleading with Kano State Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje not to allow the state House of Assembly probe Emir of Kano Muhammad Sanusi for his alleged misappropriation of N6 billion. It is an invidious form of corruption that demands the prosecution of accused members of the opposition PDP while those who are associated with the Buhari government are shielded despite allegations of sleaze against them. Or is Osinbajo not aware that once anybody accused of corruption joins APC he or she is no longer considered corrupt? Is he not aware of how prosecution witnesses are said to have vanished after the accused joined the APC? Is he not aware that the seeming complicity of the Buhari government has led to Fulani herdsmen prowling and slaughtering innocent citizens in their hundreds ? Is this form of corruption that leaves on its trail tears, blood and mortal afflictions not more grievous than the alleged financial malfeasance of the Jonathan era ? As an anti-corruption czar, how does he find it comfortable being in that environment?

When Buhari was in London for his medical treatment, Osinbajo was in charge of government . The plaudits came for him for steering the ship of state in a manner that seemingly privileged the peace and unity of the country . But were we not enamoured of a shimmer because there had been utter darkness? Was the glimmer enough ? What has emerged since then is that Osinbajo was only draped in the garb of an iconic figure of enlightened governance in a nation that is denuded of true heroes.

Beyond blustering about the corruption of the Jonathan government that has hobbled the performance of the Buhari government and provoked the economic ruination of the nation and the citizens, Osinbajo has two major paths open to him to convince us that he loathes corruption. He should provide the evidence of egregious corruption demanded by the PDP and Jonathan. And he should quit the government of Buhari that reeks of corruption now. Or he should perpetually keep quiet and not flaunt his hollow anti-corruption credentials since he remains a part of a government that is oxygenised by sleaze and perfidy.