by Akingbade Adesokan
ThisDay Online, Wednesday 17th March. 2009
Unarguably, this is not the best of the season for the political dynasty of the immediate past President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, as the man whom he literally imposed on the nation, President Umar Musa Yar’ Adua has turned the searchlight on him using the state machinery to deal with him.
Of the three arms of government, only the Judiciary could be said to be neutral on the undeclared war against the Ota farmer whose ‘holier than thou’ records have been shattered. Both the National Assembly and the Presidency have never found anything good in whatever left behind by Obasanjo administration as if most of them were not in the country during the “discredited era”.
To prevent Obasanjo from fighting back, his detractors turned the heat on his boys painting them the worst political office holders that invaded the polity while the eight years of their godfather lasted. Name them, Olabode Goerge, Femi Fani-Kayode, Nasir El-Rufai, Nuhu Ribadu and a host of others who have been uprooted from where their godfather had planted them.
But the celebrated ones are the trio of Fani-Kayode, El-Rufai and Ribadu who are passing from one nightmare to another, ironically, using the institutions they created while in power. A case study is the former Aviation Minister, Fani-Kayode who was investigated both by the Senate Committee on Aviation and the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) on the N19.5 billion aviation intervention fund but nothing directly links him with any misapplication of fund. However, those who are after him would not let go. While the Senate panel nailed him for allegedly flooding some agencies with his kinsmen and wanted him banned from holding public offices for five years, the EFCC wants him jailed for lodging over N230 million in his account while his era lasted.
His detractors seem to have gotten an upper hand over him and as expected, not a few commentators have taken him to the cleaners “for doing what no one has ever done”. But an article written by Captain Dan Omale, who played prominent roles in the investigation of Fani-Kayode by the Senate, being the Technical Consultant, published in LEADERSHIP last Friday edition raises some unanswered questions. And those who think the son of the former Deputy Premier of the old Western Region, Chief Remi Fani-Kayode deserved his on-going ordeal must read the piece, which was reproduced in the SUNDAY TRIBUNE of February 22, 2009.
According to the Kaduna based aviation expert, the ex-aviation chief’s problem began through an order given by an unnamed powerful man in the Presidency who was not satisfied that the young politician could be free after his brilliant testimony before the Senate panel. His words, ”during the N19.5 billion aviation intervention probe, simply on the order of a powerful politician in government, Fanikayode, despite being the whistle blower and, was virtually exonerated of any misappropriation himself, he was arrested and kept in custody of the EFCC for nearly 13 days along with those blamed for the mismanagement of the funds.
Shortly before Christmas last year, he was again arrested by the EFCC for some alleged lodging of funds of over N230M over a period of his stewardship as a minister in the past administration. He was detained throughout the Christmas period and only got bail shortly before the New-year”.
To those who think the panel indicted him on the intervention fund in its Report, Omale thinks otherwise, hear him; “Now, the senate committee on aviation has come out with its finding and recommendations on the N19.5 billion aviation intervention fund. Fanikayode, although has no case in the misappropriation, has been recommended for a ban from holding public office for the next five years for issues unrelated to the N19.5 billion”.
Omale goes to trace the root cause of the ordeals of Fani-Kayode by stating thus; “There are two schools of thought about Fanikayode’s travails: one school believes that he is loud-mouthed and highly opinionated. Like a pit bull, he would defend his master religiously to the detriment of his own life and public image. He would caste spell on any one, young or old that attempts to undermine his master. This attitude has exposed the former minister to the wrath of a lot of Nigerians and has stigmatized him as a highly disrespectful individual towards his elders.
The second school of thought states that, Fanikayode is being hunted a senator from his constituency, who, like Femi himself, wants to be the next governor of his home state of Osun. The competition has brought in a bitter rivalry between the two so much that, the senator wants Fanikayode implicated in any messy issue that could jeopardize his political future. The senator has invested heavily in diabolical plots, including using Fanikayode’s friends against him, all in the name of getting him disqualified for the 2011 gubernatorial contest”.
The writer seems impressed with the testimony of the former spokesman to President Obasanjo and he did not hide this. He disclosed that the politician” was frank and straight to all the points we raised and elaborated more clearly on those points that did not make sense to us. He owned up to his mistakes and refuted any untrue allegations”. Stating further, he said Femi “also confessed about his missteps in the past and how he had found solace in the lord. Whether he has found the lord or not, every sentence ended with thanking God”.
Hear Omale objective analyses of the three armor bearers of Obasanjo ; “My assessment of the former minister is that, he is very predictable, excessively vocal and aggressive in driving his point home. These attributes may not be wholly acceptable in a deranged society like Nigeria; therefore, he is one of the least favoured by the populace. It is very true that the trio of Ribadu, El-Rufai and Fanikayode over indulged in their respective offices during the Obasanjo administration and earned themselves the most apathetic hostility from the Nigerian public. Unfortunately, Nigerians are the most unforgiving people in the world, especially, now that everyone is scrambling to survive at the expense of the public office holders who have turned government jobs into viable money –making ventures.
For a moment, Ribadu, El-Rufai and Fanikayode forgot the transient and illusive nature of power and as humans, lived in a mirage virtual reality. The outcome of such negligence to the reality that life itself is timed is what they are experiencing today. Ribadu has more sympathy from the majority of Nigerians today than Fanikayode and El-Rufai, although, Ribadu like the two, publicly disrespected his elders, those who brought him to power”.
Omale does not believe the three OBJ boys should be hung for being “attack dogs” of their godfather instead he wants them to be forgiven. Hear how he succinctly put it; “By and large, whatever their sins, they deserve to be forgiven. They are humans and every human being has the erroneous capacity to forget himself when ordained with power and authority. According to the scriptures, when God gave man dominion over other creatures and only forbade him from eating the golden apple in the Garden of Eden, man failed. We must find in our hearts, some rooms to forgive Fanikayode and his fellow Obasanjo boys, for they did not know that time, the ultimate decider was coming some day.
Let us look at their performances and not their utterances while in office because, power intoxicates and everyone who has been at the corridor of power knows this, but fails the test when actually confronted with it. This is part of the nature of man’s susceptibility to fallibility”. He also has a message to those who think the former aviation minister did nothing while in office that aside from the fact that during the Fani-kayode’s tenure as the aviation minister, there was no single aircraft accident in Nigeria, “his tenure ushered in some of the most articulate professionals we have at the helms of affairs in most of the aviation agencies in Nigeria right now. He brought sanity to the system and the industry, and partly instilled fear in the minds of foreign airlines like British airways that was strangulating Nigerians”.
Omale washes his hands off the Senate Report by stating thus; “the recommendation that he should be banned from holding public office for the next five years is not only absurd but definitely senseless since he was not indicted in looting part of the N19.5 billion aviation intervention fund. It is very true that he flooded the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and other aviation agencies with his kinsmen, but every minister of aviation I have known in this country, except Felix Hyat and Isa Yuguda did the same while in office. This is a known political strategy of Nigerians and if we now consider it wrong, then, everyone should pay the price for it and not Femi alone”.
On his trial, the public analyst declared, “arresting him over mere N230M as an Ex minister in Nigeria is not only laughable, but a great sign of ridicule to a country whose popular culture is corruption. Fanikayode may have been careless to show his own money while his colleagues, with ten times that figure, openly display theirs, but at the same time handle and even cuddle their political opponents. He should have learned the game”.
He then commended Fani-Kayode for his loyalty to Obasanjo at the expense of his life and his political career. He reminded his readers that in Nigerian politics, “ there is no permanent loyalty to political godfathers anymore, especially, when the political god son has attained a level of authority and independence. This is visible everywhere in our polity and we should give Fanikayode a thumb up for still sticking to his godfather—the former president. Those who were groomed by the immediate past vice president deserted him shortly after securing lift to freedom. We are witnessing immense disloyalty between governors, who myopically appointed their business partners and political boys to succeed them. Across this nation, intense rivalry exists within the political sphere as personal and ideological differences erupt every day between masters and hitherto servants. His advice to Mr Fanikayode “is to fight back and not let the dreaded system swallow him” and to take a cue from the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar who recently visited Obasanjo in his bid to stage a come-back politically “by reaching out to his victims while in office and at the same time, keeping his mind on his newly found faith in God”.
Shortly after the Report of the Senate Aviation Committee on Aviation was out, I got a message on my phone asking some questions. Although, Omale has unconsciously answered some while the decision of the Senate to reject the five-year ban recommendation also answers at least one, yet Omale column has brought the message to the fore. Hear the sender; “is it true the report (of the panel) was part of a grand plan to scuttle FFK (Femi Fani-Kayode)’s gubernatorial dream by his detractors having failed to nail him on the N19.5 billion? Is it true that Femi left a whopping sum of N7.5 billion in the intervention fund account? Why does the panel recommend 5 years ban for a whistle blower for allegedly interference in the recruitment of staff but failed to do the same for the ex-minister who was asked to cough out N5b? why does the panel nail the ex-minister for the alleged crime committed by the FAAN management? Who originated the story published in two newspapers that Fani-Kayode was asked to refund N5b with Borishade and others (prior to the release of the report)? Is it true a Senator nursing gubernatorial ambition to rule Osun like Fani-Kayode is a member of the aviation panel? To some the indictment of FFK has more to do with politics than the misappropriation of the N19.5b. who among the panelists can come out to say he has never use any public office to assist his people?