Moving beyond emptiness - By: Sonala Olumhense | Dailytrust

Moving beyond emptiness

By the time you read this, the contentious March 26 convention of Nigeria’s All Progressives Congress (APC), would have been held.  There promised to be as many winners as losers. 

Among the winners, going in, was Abdullahi Adamu, who—with the backing of President Muhammadu Buhari—was set to emerge as chairman of the party.

“We [APC governors] asked him,” Simon Lalong, the Plateau State governor, said of Buhari on Thursday, [if he had a preference of candidate].

“The president said he preferred the chairman should come from the north-central zone…Then we went back again after deliberations and we asked, ‘Do you have a preferred candidate in the north-central zone?’”

“He said, ‘yes, I will prefer if Abdullahi (Adamu)…’”

If that name is somewhat familiar to you, it should be.  Currently representing the Nasarawa West Senatorial District in a country where governors routinely use their position to claim a Senate seat, he was between 1999 and 2007 the governor of Nasarawa State.

But you probably know him better for being the first governor from the Olusegun Obasanjo years to be charged with corruption.  That was in March 2010, when the EFCC charged him, along with others, for embezzling 15 billion naira ($100m).

In May 2018, Premium Times cited him as one of several prominent senators who were either being prosecuted or being investigated.  Similarly, in September, The Punch identified him as one of eight politicians with a total of N232bn worth of corruption cases who were working for Buhari’s re-election.

Of Adamu, The Punch newspaper recalled: “The lawmaker is being prosecuted alongside 18 others for allegedly stealing N15bn from the treasury through contracts awarded when he was governor for eight years.”

Also in February 2018, the EFCC arraigned Nuraini Adamu, son the former governor, and one Felix Onyeabo Ojiako at the Kano State High Court on four charges of conspiracy, forgery and obtaining money by false pretence.  The two faced a different trial at the Federal High Court, also in Kano, on five counts of money laundering.

The older Adamu is the one that, last week, Buhari determined to be the poster boy of his dreams.  At first, it seemed to be a continuation of the consolidation of Buhari’s image as a man who has turned his back on himself, but on reflection, it became clear that apart from when Buhari reads a script given to him by others, he has always been the Adamu kind of man.

Think about this: just two weeks ago, on 8 March, Buhari asked APC governors to sack the Chairman Mai Buni, party’s Caretaker/Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), the Yobe State Governor who, like himself, was out of the country for medical reasons.

“The president held a meeting with [APC governors] and gave us a clear directive and responsibilities and went into his waiting chopper at the airport,” Nasir El-Rufai, the Kaduna State governor, recalled.

According to the governor, “no fewer than 19 governors of the party and one deputy governor ‘unanimously’ agreed to carry out the directive of the president.”

Among them was Abubakar Bello, the Niger State governor, who then swaggered into the party secretariat in an exorbitant convoy, deposed Buni, and began to fire instructions.

So empowered were El-Rufai and the 19 that he described as “fake news” the story that Buni had not been removed, and accused three naysaying governors of being responsible for it.

But just one week later, following a visit by Buni in London, Buhari put him back in charge.  In a signed letter.

Remember, there had been no letter deployed or a formal announcement made when the governors got the marching orders to hurl Buni head-first into the trash bin of history.  But there was the APC leader leaping off his sick bed in London to write to the party.

“The party has demonstrated its inability to proceed with the issue of effecting change in the leadership of its Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Committee (CECC), in a way that is inclusive, legal and respectful of the time limit set and required for giving the INEC sufficient notice of the time and venue for holding its convention,” he said.

Really?  Buni is in control, Buhari affirmed, telling the 19 governors to shut up and fall in line, including with those naysayers.

His letter was addressed to addressed to Atiku Bagudu, the Kebbi State governor and chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum.

Bagudu is also two other things: a key figure in Nigerian kleptocracy, and a friend of President Buhari.

In a remarkable report on the Pandora Papers, Premium Times detailed “How Governor Bagudu amassed dirty billions and how he is hiding it,” exploring in great depth “billions of dollars Mr Bagudu helped the Sani Abacha family to steal from Nigeria in the 1990s.”

Repatriating some $308m to Nigeria two years ago, the US stressed that it was part of billions that had been laundered by Bagudu for Abacha.

The US further warned Nigeria of serious consequences should the $308m repatriation be re-looted, and that the Buhari government would be required to replace the money should it be stolen.  Our once-proud Nigeria meekly agreed.

As part of the US investigations dating from the 90s, Bagudu had been held in federal detention in the US for six months, following which he was released on bond and repatriated to Nigeria.  But instead of prosecution back home, as had been agreed, he was—rather like one James Ibori—treated like a hero.

Only this month, the United States announced that it would resume legal proceedings to seize another $150 million allegedly laundered by the governor.

Buhari ignored that announcement, but at an official event on Friday, he remembered he had wanted to be a lion.

“I invite you all to fight corruption in all its ramifications and join us to entrench good governance values and integrity within all our systems. As I have often said, “If we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill us as a nation.”

It was the fake lion who had told Nigerians—and Chatham House—he would lead “from the front” and by “the force of personal example.”  Seven years later, it is clear Buhari can tell not the back from the front, or force from farce.

Perhaps Jonathan spokesman Reuben Abati was right, after all, and Aso Rock has what he called a “spiritual side…some form of witchcraft at work…something supernatural about power and closeness to it.”

“Every student of Aso Villa politics would readily admit that when people get in there, they actually become something else,” he wrote.  “They act like they are under a spell…In our days, a lot of people used to complain that the APC people were fighting us spiritually and that there was a witchcraft dimension to the governance process in Nigeria. But the APC folks now in power are dealing with the same demons…”

Perhaps nothing really changed in 2015.  Maybe the demons acquired political power and “PDP-power” became the demons?

It may be the only way to not explain the sheer chicanery or devilry Nigeria has been served.

  • This column welcomes rebuttals from interested government officials.


• @Sonala.Olumhense

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