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Opinion: An Open Letter To Laolu Akande- Dele Momodu

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By Dele Momodu

My dear Pastor Laolu, let me start by saying I wonder what people eat or drink inside the Aso Rock Villa that makes some of those of your ilk, who we once admired, misbehave the way you did last night. I’ve known you for over two decades as a young, brilliant, respectful and likeable character and a dutiful, urbane journalist. And my affection for you and your good friends, including Adeolu Akande, Wale Adebanwi, Bode Opeseitan, and others, has never waned. When you travelled to America, your spirited journalistic work continued as you churned out good reports, especially in The Guardian newspaper of Nigeria. Anytime I was in the New York area or, indeed, any part of the United States, I kept in touch with you and your dear wife, as regularly as possible. We became a family.

About nine years ago, I called you from Maryland, USA, and told you I was attending the Nigerian Reunion Meet, an annual and biggest gathering of Nigerian youths in the US at any single event, at that time. You said you would like to meet me, and I was quite elated, as I have always been. When you came, we sat down over breakfast and you expressed the difficulties and vagaries of life you faced in America, and I said I understood perfectly well. I had faced similar experience in the United Kingdom during my exile years. So, we were partners-in-suffering. I told you that was why Ovation International was for me a matter of life and death.

On that visit, you expressed interest in becoming the North American Bureau Chief for Ovation International and I was glad to accept your proposal. I told our Editor to liaise with you and I moved on to deal with other issues. You got some events for coverage which we published in the magazine. At some point the Editor complained about the way you handled transactions and so on, but you and I never saw each other again after the day we met, till you got your appointment and returned to Nigeria as the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo’s spokesman. You never handed over to us at Ovation till this day. You simply abandoned a company that provided some modest income for you in America. But we never complained and made excuses for you that this was probably occasioned by the exigencies and circumstances of your appointment. On your return home, there was never the courtesy of “E ku ile…” I’m back home to any of us. Nevertheless, we were happy when your good news reached us.

We met for the first time, after your appointment, at the funeral service for Mama, Chief Mrs Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo, and I told you how unfortunate it was for you to be greeting me for the first time since your return to Nigeria. How would you have felt if someone treated you the way you treated us? No worries, I forgave your shortcomings, since none of us is perfect in life.

I have a policy of maintaining some distance from friends in power and accept whatever God has for me in other areas. I had volunteered and supported Major General Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, without being a member of APC. I campaigned to the best of my abilities without expecting anything in return but good governance. I am bemused whenever it is suggested that I have any ulterior motives in this regard. Let me tell you that if I set my heart on it, I would be offered government position of choice, but I prefer my independence and the opportunity to speak with candour even if what I say may be unpleasant to those I am addressing, at that moment.

Very early in the life of the government, I noticed and noted that many things were  going wrong and that we were working against the promises we made prior to the elections. I promptly wrote a memo to the President and was pleasantly surprised when I got an invitation to meet President Muhammadu Buhari. It remains a singular honour and privilege for me as I have a high personal regard and esteem for the President, even if I no longer agree with some of his politics and policies. I was alone with the President for enough time and the camaraderie between us was palpable. Many people, including Ministers, still wonder and ask how I got the President to relax and smile so much. I didn’t go to him for personal reasons but simply took the opportunity to tell him what the people of Nigeria expected of his government, the mistakes the Jonathan government made, and the need to learn from lessons of the past. The President seemed happy that someone was saying it as it should be. I never made any personal request since that was not my mission.

However, things went from bad to worse. Many started lamenting and complaining, including the wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari. What made matters worse was the ill-health of the President, but the Vice President, Prof Osinbajo worked assiduously, smartly and loyally, to ensure the government began to give prominence to those matters which had won victory for APC and the Presidential team, for which the Vice President was commended by so many people, including me.

Thereafter, when the President returned and things appeared to slide back to the inglorious state that they were before he left, I wrote several letters to the President offering my 10 kobo advice and still continued to report his activities “formally.” Even long after I gave up on his government ever changing its fumbling and wobbly style, I continued to fulfil all righteousness. I must note that my criticism of the Buhari administration never elicited insults directly from Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, both of who are highly respected and admired professionals, except that some overzealous people who felt the job of journalists is to praise leaders and governments, endlessly did so on their behalf, but without their knowledge at times.

On February 3, 2019, I had sent you a message of congratulations on the miracle of the Vice President and his entire team surviving the helicopter crash and suggested all of you should please see Doctors and you thanked me. “May God continue to protect you and Oga and all as you travel around. That was really shocking…” I prayed. Nothing else was expected of reasonable human beings particularly as I consider the Vice President a dear brother that I will continue to respect.

I have gone through this long preamble to prepare the ground for the shock and shocker I got from you last night. The next time I heard from you was on March 13, 2019, when you said you needed a “right of reply” to the Pendulum column I wrote last week, which was an open letter to your boss, the Vice President, a gentleman that I will continue to hold in high esteem and admiration, no matter the provocation from people like you. I instantly agreed to release that page, as is not only my personal approach, but also the Thisday tradition. I even messaged you, “Pls let me know if you need the entire space…” and you responded “Bob Dee Baba, I told them you will never block a right of reply…even if you give out the whole page. Will revert.” I immediately alerted the Editor, Yemi Adebowale, that Laolu Akande has requested for my page this week, and we both agreed that it should be given to you to respond as you wished. It was obvious from your message that there were some hawks and hounds baying for my blood, but such is life.

Pastor Laolu, as a journalist, I knew you should know about deadlines and respect it. I told you to, please, let us have your rejoinder on Thursday, March 14, 2019, and you said yes, in writing, but you never did. So, I went ahead to write a tribute to our departed colleague, Professor Pius Adesanmi. But, suddenly, you resurfaced at 15:47pm on Friday, March 15, 2019, in one word, “sent,” no apologies, just like that. Still, I immediately checked my mail but did not find your rejoinder. I called and you then sent a WhatsApp version, which I read. I always send virtually everything I write and any rejoinders to my good friend and Lawyer, Prince Adedamola Aderemi, and the only sentence we both singled out, separately, and without any consultation, was where you said “For good measure, Bob Dee, maybe we should just remind our readers that not only are you an active member of opposition, you also retain with top notchers of the PDP significant business relationships.” For us, you were entitled to your opinion and views on all other matters, just as I had expressed my views in my column, but this allegation was patently false.

I couldn’t believe those words emanated from a man who knew me well and knows my disdain for money politics. For the avoidance of doubt, I am not a member of the PDP whether card-carrying or otherwise. I have never attended any of its meetings or those of its members, and I have never been paid by the Party for any kind of work. If, by opposition you mean generally, then of course, I will admit to being a member of the National Conscience Party (NCP). As much as anyone who is my friend, you should understand how opposition politics, including supporting APC, has robbed me of the fabulous “free monies” that often litter the landscape of Nigerian politics. If, that was attractive to me, there was no way I would have ignored PDP to support APC in 2015, and there is no way I would not have continued to support APC, now. I called you and explained to you that your accusation was false and that this sentence should be expunged, and you said yes, you will do so immediately and resend. Just to delete one sentence, Pastor Laolu, I waited from around 17:01 pm till about 20:18, nothing came from you. At 20:21, you fired a message and said “No, I want to make substantial additions sir…that is why it is taking time. Wanted to proof (sic) every claim I make.” And I told you to feel free.

I sent messages to you till 21:28 but got no response, whatsoever, to say whether you still wanted the space or not. The Editor gave me a 10:00 pm deadline and I quickly got the Pius Adesanmi tribute ready for its original space. Unknown to me, you and whoever was misleading you, and goading you on, were very busy cooking more vituperative and irresponsible attacks on my person. You eventually sauntered back at 23:18 pm, for God’s sake, and you expected everyone to wait for you. The Editor had taken the decision to run Adesanmi’s tribute and run your rejoinder fully next week. But you insisted yours would be late by then and you returned my call at 00:02 am and informed me that you had been in touch with the Editor who said it was up to me.

Thereafter, you told me, verbally, that whether we use your rejoinder today or not, you will release it to other media houses and platforms. I then pointed out to you, that your new rejoinder was even far worse than the one I had complained about earlier. Obviously, your fake adviser or informant had convinced you that I was Saraki’s agent and that was eating and heating you up. You screamed Saraki’s name so much that I wondered what had suddenly possessed you. You were dripping with venom and so convinced Saraki was my Lord and saviour. Your previous reasonable and personable mien and disposition had vanished like a mirage. It was like you were pliantly succumbing to some sort of exorcism conducted by a manipulative demon. I promised to respond to this new Rejoinder, and you raised your voice against me that you will continue to respond to me. You asked if I was threatening you and I responded that it was not a threat, but my right to tell you, unequivocally, that I supported Atiku, voluntarily, the same way I supported Buhari without ever being a member of APC. Your voice was so harsh and vociferous that I was alarmed and worried about your personal health and safety, all because of power. You were rude to your older Brother and former boss.

The saddest part of your uniformed, ill-thought and ill-judged piece was when you wrote, in your opening paragraph, that I had dumped Saraki for Atiku. I would have thought you were taught logic in school. If Saraki lost the primaries and I supported Atiku, how did I dump Saraki? If Saraki that you said I dumped was the Director General of the Atiku Presidential Campaign, how can you claim I dumped Saraki for Atiku. So that your paymaster knows, I have never worked in Saraki’s office or been mandated to act for him as a spokesperson or mouthpiece. I simply loved the passion he put into the Buhari campaign in 2015 and the way he prevented Nigeria from becoming a one-party state. My admiration for him has not diminished with time or circumstances since then. That is my view, to which I am entitled. I was the first to salute Saraki’s courage after he conceded defeat, like all democrats do. My advice to Atiku urging him to congratulate President Buhari, notwithstanding his perceived displeasure and disappointment about the conduct and outcome of the elections, was an act of statesmanship. How can you translate my innocent, peaceful advice to mean I dumped Atiku? After I said so, many eminent Nigerians have echoed my sentiments and advised Atiku in exactly the same way and words.

The truth, which you acknowledged in your rejoinder, is that I still complained about the conduct of the elections. It is up to you to support your treatise with any manner of facts and views. The public and I know the truth which may not be palatable for you to hear. My aim is not to demean the victory of APC, but to ensure that lessons are indeed learnt. The same lessons that should have been learnt from 1983!

I pray you get your mind back, like many before you, whenever you return from the gilded cage. By God’s grace, I will be here waiting to receive you with open arms.

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On June 12 We Stand, by Reuben Abati

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It is ironic that it had to take a member of the military establishment now turned democrat, that is General, now President Muhammadu Buhari for June 12 to be accorded its pride of place in the socio-political calendar of the Federal Government of Nigeria. Before now, the recognition/celebration of June 12 as a watershed in Nigerian history had been observed majorly by the states of the South West of Nigeria, thus making its symbolism and significance a restricted and ethnic referent. But that has changed, thanks to President Buhari. His decision to declare June 12 a national holiday, his award of a post-humous honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic to Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola and the subsequent amendment of the Public Holidays Act to accommodate June 12 as a Federal holiday is a welcome development. President Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007) had pointedly ignored all entreaties for his administration to take the same step.
President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (2007 – 2010) did not address the June 12 issue. President Goodluck Jonathan (2010 – 2015) had taken steps to immortalize MKO Abiola when he decided to name the University of Lagos after the late icon of democracy, but the staff, students and the alumni of the University rejected this, as they insisted that the name University of Lagos must not be changed. The Jonathan administration would later recognize Chief MKO Abiola as one of the major Nigerians of the 20thcentury. That administration also considered giving Chief MKO Abiola a post-humous national award, but the then President was advised against doing so on the grounds that national honours in Nigeria are never given post-humously. Obviously, the controversy over the re-naming of the University of Lagos was so overwhelming, President Jonathan chose to listen to the Justice Alfa Belgore-led committee on national honours.
Whereas all other Presidents before him failed to make a statement with June 12, President Muhammadu Buhari has now chosen to do so. Tomorrow, all Nigerians will observe June 12 as a national holiday. It will be the first time that this will happen. This should lay to rest all the conspiracies and the revisionism involved in the attempt to reduce June 12 to a narrow, ethnic event, which it is not. The recognition of June 12 as a special national event would be one of those developments for which President Buhari will be positively remembered. It is again ironic that 26 years after, it took another member of the military elite to correct the problem caused by the military. It has taken President Buhari to correct the error committed by General Ibrahim Babangida and his group on June 23, 1993 when they chose to annul the Presidential election held in Nigeria on June 12, 1993. That unwise decision became General Babangida’s Achillee’s heel, and the ugly thing around his neck.
General Babangida or IBB as he is fondly known, could have ended up as one of Nigeria’s greats, given the performance of his government, but what is now remembered as his legacy, despite the best efforts of his biographers and PR managers, is that singular negative act, his violation of the people’s sovereignty.  President Buhari is now being lauded for the courageous manner in which he has taken Nigeria beyond the denial and conspiracy foisted on the people by both the military and a segment of the professional political class. We look forward to what President Muhammadu Buhari would say to Nigerians and the international community, tomorrow, June 12. His speech writers have a good opportunity to put words in his mouth that can reverberate like the claps of thunder. They must not waste that opportunity with their sleepy prose. President Buhari should have a word for those who have kept this country down by perpetually denying the truth and turning back the hands of the country’s clock. He should take credit appropriately for the wise decision that he has taken on the matter of June 12.
I remember June 12, 1993, as clearly as if it happened only yesterday. On that day, Nigerians trooped out en masse to make a choice between the Presidential candidates of two political parties, Bashorun MKO Abiola of the Social Democratic Party and Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention. General Ibrahim Babangida was military President, ruling the country with his Armed Forces Revolutionary Council and finally getting to the final stage of a slow-moving democratic transition programme. By 1993, Nigerians were already tired of military rule and particularly of the Babangida government which seemed to have mastered the art of deception.
The people wanted the military out of the way, to allow a return to civilian rule, which had been truncated by the military at regular intervals since independence in 1960. On that day, Nigerians voted massively for the Social Democratic Party and its candidate, Bashorun MKO Abiola (8, 341, 309 million votes – 58.36%). The NRC candidate, Bashir Tofa came second (5, 952, 087 million votes – 41.64%). This was an election in which neither religion nor ethnicity – two major dividing factors in Nigeria was an issue. MKO Abiola, a Southerner got as much support in the North as he did in the South, even beating his rival, Bashir Tofa in his home state of Kano. The National Electoral Commission (NEC) was headed by political science Professor, Humphrey Nwosu. As the results were collated, it was clear that MKO Abiola (SDP) was leading in 19 states, with Bashir Tofa (NRC) winning in 11 states. On June 16 however, NEC announced that it would no longer announce the results “until further notice”.  Civil society and pro-democracy protesters objected to this. It had been a free and fair election, the most peaceful that Nigeria had ever known. On June 23, 1993, the Babangida government annulled the election and suspended the Electoral Commission. The NEC Chairman, Humphrey Nwosu went underground and became incommunicado. Bashorun MKO Abiola claimed victory. The people demanded that their will as expressed on June 12, 1993 should be respected and that the results of the election should be declared.
The refusal of the military establishment brought it into direct collision with the people and the international community. June 12 became a catalyst for much that would happen to Nigeria. The crisis escalated so quickly,  General Ibrahim Babangida known then as the “evil genius” had to “step aside” as President of Nigeria. He put in place as he left, an Interim National Government led by UAC chief, Ernest Shonekan with General Sani Abacha as Defence Chief. That ING survived for only 83 days. General Sani Abacha, a veteran of military coups in Nigeria, pushed aside the ING and its Head and proclaimed himself Head of State. To put it as it was, hell broke loose. Civil society became tempestuous.
Concerned Professionals, Concerned Democrats, Progressives, voices of reason in Nigeria across all divides, the church, market women, every one with a voice, took to the streets to say: “Never Again to military rule.” The general consensus was that the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election was after all a subterfuge by the military to remain in power and that IBB had played a “Maradona” game against Nigerians. “On June 12 we stand”, the people proclaimed and they took to the barricades. The diplomatic community even joined the protests, with the likes of US Ambassador Walter Carrington, leading the charge on the diplomatic front.  The Abacha government was bound to fail. It died a-borning. It descended on Nigeria’s civil society and the progressive camp, and as Nigeria began to witness the worst form of dictatorship since 1960, the people fought back. And Abacha fought back. Not even newly born babies were spared. Journalists were special targets: those who were not hauled into prison, were made to flee abroad, or go underground. Those were the days of guerilla journalism in Nigeria. The people at home fought, those abroad set up a short wave radio, Radio Kudirat which reported Abacha to the world. In due course, Nigeria became a pariah nation.
Three major events made this happen: the first is the declaration by Chief MKO Abiola of his due right to the mandate that Nigerians gave him on June 12, 1993. On June 11, 1994, Chief MKO Abiola in the Epetedo area of Lagos declared himself the democratically elected President of Nigeria. That speech is now known as the Epetedo Declaration. It should be widely circulated tomorrow, June 12 and on every June 12 henceforth, for it has become one of the landmark speeches in the mapping of Nigerian history, and the trajectory of our country’s democratic evolution. I am tempted to quote from that eminently quotable speech but I recall that it was in that speech that the phrase “Enough is Enough” was first pronounced as a revolutionary call to action. Abiola said: “Today, I join you all in saying Enough is Enough! We have endured 24 years of military rule in our 34 years of independence.…Enough of military rule…” And he went on and on.…
The Epetedo Declaration became another catalyst for the Nigerian Spring! It was a call to action. The people responded. Abiola was arrested by the Abacha junta but the genie had left the bottle. The people of Nigeria heard Abiola: “Enough is Enough” and they too responded: “Never Again to military rule”. Second event: On November 10, 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa, a writer and internationally renowned environmental rights activist was hanged by the Abacha administration. Third event: On June 9, 1996, Abiola’s wife, Kudirat was assassinated by Abacha’s killer squad. There were attempts on the lives of key pro-democracy activists as well including Chief Alfred Rewane who was murdered, and Chief Abraham Adesanya who survived. Journalists were murdered. It was as if at the Epetedo Declaration,  Abiola had placed a curse on General Abacha. Nigeria suffered but the people wanted an end to it all. On June 8, 1998, General Sani Abacha died. There was dancing in the streets. But as it happened, Chief Abiola also died, in very suspicious circumstances, while still in detention, on July 7, 1998. By then, General Abdusalami Abubakar had succeeded General Abacha as military Head of State. Nigerians still didn’t give up. They wanted democracy. They wanted to be liberated from the shackles of military autocracy.  On May 29, 1999, their will prevailed. General Olusegun Obasanjo who had also been framed and jailed by the Abacha government became Nigeria’s civilian president after all the turmoil.
It is sad that those who have benefitted most from the June 12 debacle have been the most desperate in denying the value and symbolism of that date and what happened therein. June 12 was a turning point for Nigeria as the foregoing narrative indicates, and it became, in its trajectory, the catalyst for Nigeria’s second liberation, that is liberation from internal colonialists, but as things stand 26 years later, we may still need to construct a strategy for a third liberation: liberation from the rent collectors who seem to have resolved that Nigeria’s progress is a threat to their own interests. By declaring June 12 a national public holiday, President Buhari has given us all an opportunity to reflect, to think and to remember. In a country where memory is short, people don’t like to think, and state institutions are constructed to erase memory, the teaching of history was even at a point “outlawed”, now it is taught as an optional subject, it is a good thing that President Buhari in making June 12 a national holiday has given us all an opportunity to do what we do not like to do in this country: to think, reflect and remember.  June 12 is an idea that cannot be ignored. It is about national unity. On that day in 1993, we saw that it is possible for Nigerians, “though tongue and tribe may differ” to unite around an idea. June 12 is a philosophy, a way of thinking by a people who resolved at a critical moment in their lives to move forward. The evil agents in the military tried to block that and suppress the people’s sovereignty, but tomorrow, the point shall be made that the truth is indestructible! We hope that there will be celebration in every state of the Federation.
The story of June 12 has inspired a bibliography that should be promoted. Indeed, apart from the civil war, it is probably the most dramatic and telling incident in post-colonial Nigeria. I have been privileged to read many of the books, which I recommend to the reading public. They include, not necessarily in any order of importance, Abraham Oshoko,June12: The Struggle for Power in Nigeria, Abraham Oshoko, June 12: The Annulment; Frank Kokori,The Struggle for June 12,Omo Omoruyi,The Tale of June 12: The Betrayal of the Democratic Rights of Nigerians;Humphrey Nwosu, Laying the Foundations for Nigeria’s Democracy: My Account of June 12, 1993 Presidential election and its annulment;  Wale Oshun,Clapping With One Hand; Wale Oshun,Open Grave; and Wale Oshun, Kiss of Death; Kayode Fayemi,Out of the Shadows: Exile and the Struggle for Freedom and Democracy in Nigeria;Joe Igbokwe, Heroes of Democracy;  and Wole Soyinka,The Open Sore of a Continent. These works represent in varying degrees, the literature of resistance against military rule in Nigeria.
The revisionists led by General Ibrahim Babangida have tried to rewrite and revise the same story (there would have been a coup if the result was allowed (!), a cabal within the military didn’t want Abiola, it was an unfortunate incident… story…); see:  their narrative is not selling. On June 12 we stand! I have also heard some people express the view that the Buhari government should go a step further and formally announce the results of the June 12, 1993 election and thereafter declare Chief Abiola the rightful winner of that election. I disagree. The June 12, 1993 process having been inchoate and the beneficiary dead, such a declaration will have no probative value. For me, what has been done serves the purpose. It would all have been better though, if June 12 had been declared MKO Abiola’s Day. He was the symbol, the rallying point, the icon of Nigeria’s second liberation in whom is fully embodied the essence of the struggle from June 12,1993 to May 29, 1999. But have we learnt any lessons from June 12?  Sadly, I don’t think so.

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Magu Closes N5bn Case Against Sun Newspaper

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Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu, on Thursday closed his case in the N5 billion libel suit he filed against the publishers of the Sun newspaper, after presenting two witnesses, accorging to his counsel, Mr E. O. Omoijaede.

“This case was adjourned for continuation of trial. However, we will be applying that my lord closes the case for the claimant.

“We will be requesting for a date for the defendants to open their case,” Omoijaede said.

Mr Charles Ewelunta, counsel to the respondents, expressed dissatisfaction at the development.

“The claimant’s counsel should have closed the case instead of wasting everyone’s time. I am supposed to be out of town at an election petition tribunal.

“I have been sitting here just for them to say they are closing their case. I will be asking for a cost of N50,000,” Ewelunta said.

Responding, Omojiade said that the publishers of the Sun newspaper should save time by opening their case immediately.

“From our end, we are even helping the defendant by closing our case especially as they are in a hurry to open their case.

“We have already called two witnesses. If their own witnesses are in court, they should open their case,” he said.

Justice Doris Okuwobi, refused Omoijaede’s request for N50,000 cost against Magu’s legal team, saying that the suit which was filed in 2017, had not suffered any delay caused by the team.

“This case is adjourned till Sept. 17 for further hearing,” she said.

Newsmen report that Magu sued the publishers of the Sun, claiming N5 billion in damages over a publication that alleged that the Department of State Security uncovered two houses in Maitama, Abuja, which were traced to his wife.

The EFCC boss is also demanding that the newspaper should publish an apology and retract the alleged libelous publication.

Magu and Mr Usman Zakari, the Head of Intelligence and Special Operations Unit of the EFCC, gave evidence for the claimant.

While giving evidence on April 18, Zakari said that he had worked closely with Magu but started to view him from a different perspective after reading the allegedly damaging publication.

“I work with him closely, I know him very well. The claimant is an asset to the EFCC, he is a man of honour and integrity. Due to this publication, I don’t hold him in high regard as before.

“The claimant does not have any property out of the country. He has a house in Karo, a farmhouse in Karshi area of Abuja, and a family house in Maiduguri.

“I have visited those three property; he does not have any property outside Nigeria; that publication falsely mentioned he owned two property in the high brow area of Maitama, Abuja,” Zakari said.

In his evidence on Dec. 17, 2018, Magu denied owning two houses in Maitama, Abuja.

He said:“The publication is totally false. Even if I have the money, I wouldn’t buy houses in Maitama.

“They said the houses are located in the Darrubbe and Missouri, Maitama and that they belong to my wife.

“My wife, Fatima Yakaka Magu, is a civil servant and cannot afford to buy houses in Maitama.

“I am an international man and the publication has damaged my reputation. The name Magu does not end with me.

“The publication caused a whole lot of trauma.”

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WHO IS AFRAID OF ATIKU ABUBAKAR?….Dr. Femi Aribisala

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There are indications today’s APC government is not averse to using the Shugaba playbook on Atiku.

These are very interesting times in Nigeria. The APC government has reportedly won a major election, but it is finding it difficult, if not impossible, to celebrate and enjoy its victory. Before the champagne could be uncorked, Atiku Abubakar filed a case in court challenging the result, claiming it was fraudulent from start to finish.

But this was a challenge unlike any other that Nigeria has seen before. Out of the blue, Atiku produced another set of results different from the one declared by INEC showing that he had actually won the election. Except that this other result also came from INEC. As a matter of fact, it was retrieved from the INEC server and it was authenticated by serial numbers unique to INEC.

Since Atiku delivered this bombshell, both the APC government and INEC have been at a loss for words. With every excuse they tried to give, Atiku had an answer. With all the facts apparently at Atiku’s disposal, I daresay if he cannot overturn this presidential election at the courts, then no presidential election can be overturned in Nigeria.

In very short order, Atiku has become the worst nightmare of this government. The new government is supposed to be sworn in on May 29. But what is the point of swearing in a new government when it is not clear if it will survive the next few weeks. How can you invite a foreign president to your highfalutin inauguration in May when his ambassador in Abuja tells him you might be kicked out by August?

The question then before the APC is: “How do you get Atiku to go away?” How can you get him to disappear? You cannot write him a big fat cheque in the usual Nigerian way because Atiku is a man of means whose silence cannot be bought. One approach then is to attack his business interests in Nigeria.

In May 2019, the government decided to terminate the contract between the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Atiku’s Intels company in the handling of oil and gas cargoes in the country. The government suddenly discovered that the contract, which had been in operation for 17 years, was “illegal.”

Treasonable felony and conspiracy

How do you get rid of Atiku Abubakar? One APC playbook says: “Accuse him of treasonable felony and conspiracy.” Try him in a kangaroo court; lock him up and throw away the key.

Lai Mohammed accused Atiku of hiring a U.S. lobby firm to persuade the United States not to recognize Buhari’s re-election. Said Mohammed: “The hiring of US lobbyists has triggered questions about what Alhaji Abubakar is up to.”

What else could Atiku be up to beside trying to retrieve his stolen mandate? Although Atiku vigorously denied hiring such lobbyists, one wonders what law their hiring would have contravened. If the APC government is afraid that the U.S. government can be persuaded that Atiku’s challenge has merit, it must be because APC knows Atiku’s case is persuasive.

Mohammed continued: “There is no doubt that the PDP presidential candidate, out of desperation, is thinking of replicating the Venezuelan model right here in Nigeria.”

This is an unfortunate slip of tongue by the honorable minister. The Venezuelan model is one of a rigged election by the government followed by widespread international recognition of the opposition as the legitimate government. If the APC is afraid this can be replicated in Nigeria, it can only be because it knows the president’s re-election is invalid.

Mohammed then came up with the bogus claim that Atiku and the PDP are planning to foment trouble in Nigeria. He said: “Our interventions are based on credible evidence, and no government with the kind of evidence that we have, of plans to subvert the power of the state, attack the nation’s economic life wire, and generally unleash mayhem on the polity, will keep quiet.”

If this were true, then the government should simply arrest and prosecute the perpetrators. But instead, Mohammed merely cried wolf. He offered not a single shred of evidence to back up his fabricated allegations.

Fire and brimstone

How quickly they forget. The same Lai Mohammed falsely accusing Atiku of treason in 2019 is the same Lai Mohammed that threatened treasonable felony in 2014. As the then official spokesman for the APC, he said: “Let us remind the presidency, in case it has forgotten, that election fraud triggered a civil war in Algeria in the early 1990s, led to the killing of over 1,000 people in post-election riots in Kenya in 2007/2008 and fired a near revolution in Iran in 2009/2010.”

What then, we should ask the honourable minister, should election fraud in Nigeria in 2019 trigger? This is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Atiku’s mandate was blatantly stolen, nevertheless, he has not even mobilized any demonstrations. Compare that with Buhari’s stance in 2011. As the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Buhari told his supporters in Hausa: “First, you must register, come out and vote. You guard, protect, escort to the collation center and you wait until the result is counted. Anyone who stops you, kill them.”

When he lost that election, some one million people were killed in demonstrations in the North. In 2015, Buhari repeated the same threats of violence and mayhem. He said: “If what happened in 2011 should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood.’’

Coup plotters

How do you get rid of Atiku Abubakar? Another playbook says: “Accuse him of trying to instigate a coup d’etat by the military.

Going by the coup playbook, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), dissociated itself from a bogus document claimed to have been written by a faceless group calling for the overthrow of the Buhari government and the setting up of an interim government. The Department of State Services (DSS) also came out severely warning those it claimed are determined to truncate Nigerian democracy.

But the question needs to be asked: how can any group overthrow a government that has just won an election by landslide? What happened to the new and improved 4 million APC majority at the polls? Is that not more than sufficient as a safeguard against illegal overthrow?

The fact of the matter is that the nervousness of the government about the possibility of revolutionary overthrow on the very eve of a “famous” victory at the polls is eloquent testimony that the so-called victory is infamous and pure fiction. Only fools conduct coups against popular governments. If Nigerian the government is running scared, it is because it lacks popular support.

There is one curious example of this in Nigerian history. In 1983, President Shehu Shagari and the NPN won a so-called landslide victory at the polls. Everyone knew this landslide was fiction. Therefore, nobody complained when, just a few months afterwards, the government was overthrown in a military coup. Paradoxically, the leader of that coup was none other than Nigeria’s current president: General Muhammadu Buhari.

The past has a tendency to haunt our future.

Shugaba playbook

How do you get Atiku to go away? There is one other playbook that is original to Nigeria. This is the Shugaba approach.

Shugaba Darman was a popular charismatic politician who was a thorn in the flesh of the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) during Nigeria’s third republic. He attracted large crowds at political rallies where he criticized the NPN government. The answer of the government was to forcefully deport him to Chad on the bogus allegation that his father was a Chadian.

Although Shugaba fought his deportation in court and won every step of the way all the way to the Supreme Court, nevertheless, there are indications today’s APC government is not averse to employing the “Shugaba playbook” on Atiku. Out of nowhere, the government is now claiming that Atiku, who was Nigeria’s Deputy Director of Customs and the country’s vice president for 8 years, is not a Nigerian after all, but actually a Cameroonian. The next step, therefore, might be to Shugaba him back to Cameroon.

The Shugaba playbook might be combined with the Umaru Dikko playbook popularized by none other than President Buhari in his first coming as head-of-state. Like Dikko, Atiku could be kidnapped, drugged, put in a crate and flown out of the country in the dead of night; only to be dropped off near his “family house” in Yaounde.

But the problem with this approach is that Atiku is always one step ahead of the government. If they attempt this gambit, they may discover on getting to Yaounde, that the man in the crate is not Atiku but his double. Then they will get word that the real Atiku is somewhere nicely ensconced in Abuja, eating tuwo shinkafa with his lawyers.

Danger man

Why is this man Atiku so dangerous? Why is he so toxic to the health and welfare of this government?

The reason is simple. Atiku is a consummate political infighter. He won every court battle he fought when he was vice-president. He defeated attempts to remove him as vice-president, as well as attempts to disqualify him from running for president. Unlike many in the APC, Atiku pays great attention to detail. Moreover, he has the resources to fight this government into the ground and come up victorious.

He is not naïve. He knew the election would be rigged. Therefore, apart from extensively campaigning for votes, he equally set up an elaborate apparatus for challenging the expected false results. My guess is that Atiku organized his defense against the APC even before the election took place.

He must have had people manning every polling booth. He certainly had computers monitoring the INEC websites. He probably had eyes in the skies, even drones, trailing the movement of curious bullion vans. I will not be surprised if he even comes up with voice and video recordings of his opponents’ strategy sessions revealing how and where they switched the votes. No candidate, in the history of Nigeria, has ever mounted as comprehensive a challenge to a presidential election as Atiku has done.

As a result, Atiku’s presentations before the election petitions tribunal took the APC for a loop. They have been having sleepless nights ever since then. Moreover, they are convinced what they have seen up to now is only the tip of the iceberg. They are now asking themselves: “What will this man come up with next?” “How can we get this man to go away?”

No chance of that. In 2017, the presidential election in Kenya was overturned by the courts. In 2019, chances are the same thing will happen in Nigeria.

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