I have come to admire Nigerian columnists for their ingenuity and ability to mask motives, while posturing as promoters of the public good. No curious reader would miss the article by Garba Shehu, spokesman to Atiku Abubakar, former vice president, which appeared in the Nigerian Tribune newspapers of Wednesday, December 4, 2013, and also on the news portal, PREMIUM TIMES, with the tantalizing title, What Is Cooking In EFCC?
Hoping to feast on some hidden truths about the fight against corruption in Nigeria, I devoured the article with the voracious appetite of a man long starved of good news only to be left with a bitter after-taste. Honestly I felt thoroughly short-changed. The piece is nothing more than rabid amplification of received notions and beer parlour gossips that lack factual foundation. It is essentially a rehash of weather-beaten charge of selectivity and how the anti-graft agency is the attack dog of players in the power loop, specifically the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
You could say we have heard that before. Perceptive observers of Nigeria’s fight against corruption must be familiar with how corrupt members of the ruling elite that became victims of the war against corruption elevated these charges to the level of cliché. It became the only weapon in their unending battle to emasculate the Commission, as the public were hoodwinked into believing the lie.
The effort of the EFCC to give bite to the anti-graft campaign is the source of intense unease in certain quarters. And jobbers who had lost their voices suddenly regained their vocal chords and have started to hum a rhyme that will only be music in the ears of the corrupt.
Several things make this article a put off. First, it baffles me why so called columnists can’t see things from outside the narrow prism of politics and nepotism. Second, how the presidency and the PDP turned the EFCC into a machete that slit the throats of the opposition remains a mystery. Shehu was miserably not convincing in his attempt to tar the EFCC.
It is depressing to see senior journalists abuse their privilege to misinform the public by demonising an agency that is only doing its work. Hear Shehu, “if you acted politically correct, your file was rested on the shelves gathering dust. If you ran foul of the President, the EFCC dust it off and headed to the courts with charges upon charges”.
I looked through the entire article hoping to find the list of governors whose files were dusted from EFCC shelves because they had fallen out of favour with President Goodluck Jonathan but could not find any. The closest Shehu came to satisfying my curiosity was the mention of 5 PDP governors that recently decamped to the All Progressives Congress.
According to him, the five governors are now priority cases. How? The five governors are not ghosts. How many of them have come under the EFCC radar in the recent past? If my intuition is right, all Shehu set out to achieve in this piece was to fortify the constitutional immunity that the governors already enjoy by seeking to foreclose any EFCC investigation into their activities even where grounds exist for such. Should EFCC decide to open investigation tomorrow, the likes of Shehu will say, ‘didn’t we say so’? How cheap a crystal ball!
Had he ended here, he would have been forgiven, knowing where he is coming from. No. He would rather continue the game of ostrich by dabbling into matters for which he neither has the information or knowledge. His specious comment on supposed division within the EFCC promoted, according to him, by regime interest and which snowballed into a phantom violent confrontation between the Commission and its “subsidiary” exposes his scant knowledge of the EFCC. Shehu should be educated that the EFCC does not have a “subsidiary”, not to talk of one that goes by the name, Financial Crimes Centre.
Even if one was to ignore this infantile error of fact, how logical is the claim that “armed policemen attached to the Commission seized the office of the FCU (sic), ransacked the place and removed documents?” Does the Commission need armed policemen to ransack and seize the documents of its subsidiary?
Shehu has short-changed his readers and devalued the platform offered him by the Tribune and PREMIUM TIMES by serving a bouquet of lies garnished with school boy errors of fact (and sadly, grammar). A little research and better editing would have saved him the blushes. Aren’t the opinions of columnists supposed to be informed commentary? This one was a garble of misinformation.
My advice to Shehu is to stick to terrains that are familiar, such as defending his principal. If however, he now consults for Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, Shehu should arm himself with better information about the governor’s son, Aminu Lamido, who was tried and convicted on money laundering charges. He needs to get his client to also explain to him his side of the story regarding the ownership of ten companies that are alleged to be conduit pipes for cornering state resources.
Believe me, there are articles that a senior journalist should not write and this is one of them. I have searched and I cannot find anywhere it was ever reported that there were (according to Shehu) a “dozen or so bankers held in EFCC cells” as a result of the investigation into the application of the finances of Jigawa State. Suddenly (and all in one article), these unnamed, unknown bankers transformed into those being held “in respect of cases to do with the EFCC top brass” (haba, Shehu)!
I believe the interest of the nation is not served by articles such as this. The EFCC and its leadership should not be distracted in the delicate assignment of fighting financial crimes. Politicians who have emptied public treasuries should look elsewhere for rationalisation of their indiscretion. The charge of being targeted is well worn and will not impress any serious citizen. We are yet to see any corrupt person being investigated or prosecuted by the EFCC, who came out to say he knew nothing about the offence and marshals his defences. All we hear through their mouthpieces such as the respected Garba Shehu, is “I am being targeted because I belong in the opposition” or such refrain as, “Please, leave me alone; am I the only one?”
Should a thief be spared by the EFCC simply because he is a member of the opposition or because others have committed or are committing similar crimes?
Mr. Uwujaren heads the media and publicity unit of the EFCC.