When I challenged Chief E.K. Clark’s assertion that there was ”nothing wrong with placing soldiers on the streets of Lagos” last January during the oil subsidy crisis at a conference of the Political Summit Group in Lagos I knew that I was heading for trouble. I was given the floor to speak just a few minutes after the former Minister of Information and elderstatesman had stirred the audience with his words and to say that he was infuriated by not only what I said but also the thunderous applause that I received for daring to say it would be an understatement.
The old man screamed at me at the top of his voice from his chair even as I had the floor and spoke and he accused me of all manner of unspeakable things there and then simply for daring to disagree with him to his face. Naturally I continued with my speech and acted as if he wasn’t even there but I knew that he would take his time and eventually hit back at me and claim his pound of flesh. Yet even with that expectation nothing prepared me for the virulence and sheer ferociousness of his counter-attack. And that counter-attack was launched during a public lecture on August 1st 2012, when the elderstatesman, during the course of his lecture, passionately proclaimed that I was holding myself out as a ”moral icon” after ”embezzling funds” that were entrusted to me when I was Minister of Aviation that were meant to be used to ”stop planes from crashing and to reform the aviation sector”. This was on live television and it was being watched by millions of Nigerians from all over the world.
Chief Clark added many to his hit list that day from former Heads of States, former Presidents and Vice Presidents, former Governors and Federal Ministers and so many more. If he was not accusing the northern leaders and governors of being behind Boko Haram and claiming that the problem began under President Obasanjo’s watch, he was daring Generals Babangida and Buhari to come clean and condemn Boko Haram or stand the risk of being counted amongst those that were behind it. He also had very harsh words for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the northern Governors, the Governors Forum, Senator Joshua Dariye, Pastor Tunde Bakare, former Governors Alamesighya, Peter Odili, Orji Kalu, former Minister of Aviation Professor Babalola Borisade and so many others. This was quite a show and the elderstatesman was very much in his element. He was having a wonderful time kicking all his enemies in the pants without exercising any sense of restraint or decency. It was just slander all the way. There has probably never been a greater public display of defamation of character and the impugnment of the integrity of former public office holders that were not there to say a word in their own defence in the history of Nigeria.
Everyone that had ever been accused of a crime was pronounced guilty of that crime by Chief Clark on that day. That is anyone that is not part of the present administration and that is not part of the Jonathan cabal which our elderstatesman merrily presides over. It was quite a show with more than enough razzle dazzle, sensationalism and wondrous allegations to go around. I was a little surprised that my former colleague in the Obasanjo government Professor Jerry Gana was left out of the list of those that were being lampooned until I saw him grinning like a cheshire cat from and clapping so eagerly and with such enthusiasm as our elderstatesman was spitting fire and defaming those that he once worked with and worked for. Such loyalty. And of course the erstwhile gathering loved Clark’s performance and cheered him on passionately even though the organisers of the event went to the podium as he spoke and advised him to stop mentioning names and saying such things about people that were deemed innocent until proven guilty and that were not there to defend themselves. Yet Chief Clark, in his characteristically brazen manner, brushed their concerns aside and boldly proclaimed that he would continue his epistle regardless of all because he was ”already in the waiting room before leaving this life” and he didn’t care about the consequences of what he was saying. It was all very exciting and dramatic but, needless to say, his assertions were mostly completely false.
Though I have little doubt that the man hates me with the biblical ”perfect hatred” I still found it extraordinary that someone of his sheer standing, magnitude and gravitas would seek to pronounce guilt on me on a matter in which he clearly knows nothing about. It is a sad testimony to his exciteable nature and his penchant for making unsustainable and irascible assertions that he should, on this occasion, have turned himself into a prosecutor, a judge and a jury in a matter that is before a duly constituted court of law. Let it be on record that not only did I not embezzle any public funds but also that I was cleared of doing so by the Senate Aviation Committee who conducted a public hearing into the whole matter in 2008. Even the EFCC, after initially charging me in July of that same year, dropped those charges one month later for want of evidence. Contrary to Clark’s assertions, I was the one that actually investigated and exposed the embezzlement of 6.5 billion naira from the 19.5 billion Aviation Intervention Fund which had taken place just before I became Minister in 2006. I was the whistleblower in that matter, I was the one that wrote to President Obasanjo and reported it and it was after I did so that he referred it to the security agencies for further investigation. Yet after we left office and in a manner that is so typical of Nigeria when it comes to such matters, I was punished for doing so and I was later accused of committing the very crime that I had exposed. Is that not absurd? In their zeal to effect the orders of the late President Umaru Yar’adua and to ”get me at all costs” the Farida Waziri-led EFCC, without any prior investigation into the matter, detained me for 10 days in their custody and proceeded to charge me in an Abuja magistrate’s court for the supposed misappropriation of the said 6.5 billion naira. Yet one month later, after realising the futility of their cause and after establishing all the relevant facts, they withdrew those charges against me and instead prosecuted my predecessor in office for that same offence at the Abuja Federal High Court.
Chief Clark claimed that I ”embezzled the money” that I was given ”to use to stop the plane crashes” yet the truth is that not only did I not embezzle one kobo but also that not one plane crash took place under my watch. This is despite the fact that 5 crashes had taken place the year before I became Minister. The fact of the matter is that by God’s grace my team and I put an end to those crashes and saved lives. It was as a consequence of our hard work, our prayers, our dedication to duty and the solid reforms that we put in place that those crashes stopped and did not occur again for at least one year after we left office. Yet without knowing these facts, Chief Clark got up in a public forum on live television and not only made the most scurrilous, slanderous and outrageous allegations against me but he also pronounced me guilty of a crime that I did not commit. Is it a surprise that we are in such a mess in this nation when an elderstatesman behaves in this indecorous way. It is common knowledge that he is the Godfather-In-Chief of this administration but the question is whether he is making more friends or enemies for his son, President Goodluck Jonathan, when he behaves in this way and when he throws all caution to the wind and pontificates about issues that he knows nothing about? Perhaps I should point out the fact that the charges that were proffered against me by the EFCC in a Lagos High Court on December 2008, 6 months after the first set of charges had been withdrawn, had nothing to do with the 19.5 billion naira Aviation Intervention Fund. It was obvious from the outset that all those charges were malicious and politically-motivated yet for the last four years I have kept my cool, honoured the conditions of my bail and avoided discussing the issue publically for obvious reasons. I have resisted and fought those charges vigorously for all those years and the likes of Chief E.K Clark and all the others that have sworn to see my end can be rest assured that I will continue to do so as long as I have breath in me. In God’s time and in God’s way He will vindicate me. It is however most unfair for Chief Clark to pronounce me guilty in this matter and to label me as a criminal when a court of law has not done so.
This is especially so when our constitution confers on me the presumption of innocence unless and until I am proven guilty. On a final note let me end this write-up with a word about political persecution and the usage of politically-motivated charges to intimidate those that are perceived by the government of the day as being vocal and dangerous enemies that must be silenced at all costs. This is nothing new. And regardless of it’s success or otherwise it changes nothing when it comes to God’s purpose. When God’s hand is on a man for leadership or greatness you can lock him up in the deepest and darkest dungeon below the sea and throw the keys away but when the time is right God will spring him out again in order for him to fulfil destiny. The problem with people like Chief Clark and those that do not understand the power of God and the pull of destiny is that they refuse to learn from history. Let me give you some examples. Three of the greatest leaders that Nigeria ever had, namely Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello and President Olusegun Obasanjo all suffered persecution at one point or the other in their lives and every single one of them was convicted by a court of law and spent some time in jail. Awolowo was wrongly accused of treasonable felony and spent three years in jail, Obasanjo was wrongly accused of plotting a coup and spent three years in jail and Ahmadu Bello was wrongly accused of stealing public funds and spent some time in jail. All three of them were targeted by the powers that were at that time who thought that they had successfully silenced and discredited them forever by jailing them.
Yet when the time was right circumstances suddenly changed and God’s purpose spoke for all three of them. Awolowo was brought out of jail to become the de facto Prime Minister of Nigeria, Obasanjo was brought out of jail to become the President of our country and Bello went on appeal, won his case (Chief Bode Thomas of ”Thomas, Williams and Kayode” the first indigenous law firm in Nigeria who was the law partner of my late father Chief Remi Fani-Kayode and Chief Rotimi Williams represented him in court) was acquitted and freed and later went on to join politics and become the greatest leader that northern Nigeria has ever known. Destiny and the power of God spoke for all three of them and delivered them from the hands of their tormentors. Equally relevant is the bitter end and unspeakable sorrows that engulfed and ended up consuming those that persecuted them and that orchestrated their incarceration and terrible ordeals. As a matter of fact in at least two of those cases those that orchestrated the persecution and unjust incarceration of these great men were murdered in cold blood shortly before the release, pardon and vindication of their victims. My point is simple and clear- regardless of what the powers that be decide to subject us lesser mortals to, God alone rules in the affairs of men and determines the destiny of nations. Even though some that stalk the corridors of power today believe that they have the power over life, liberty and death and that they control everything, in reality they control and they have nothing. This is because the God of Heaven alone controls all that is. Any man that has been so intoxicated by power or by his access to the President to the extent that he is ready to play God at every given point in time ought to be pitied for his naivity rather than be the object of our anger. Chief E.K.Clark, the all-powerful former Minister of Information, the great leader and elder of the Ijaw nation and the political and spiritual father of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, in my view, ought to be viewed in such light.