2019 Elections: Freezing Obi’s Accounts, Raiding Atiku’s Sons’ Homes Et Al

Alhaji Atiku Abubakar

Recent media reports have it that federal anti-corruption agencies have raided the Abuja homes of some sons of the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) Presidential Candidate, Atiku Abubakar and also frozen the bank accounts of the opposition PDP Vice Presidential Candidate, Mr. Peter Obi.
Government spokespersons have either tried to explain these developments away or dismissed them as fake news, the latter reaction being the stock response and fashionable putdown to news that seem unfavourable to public officials in Nigeria and beyond now. However, for the objective or neutral arbiters in possession of facts available in the public domain, it is increasingly hard to believe this administration’s spin doctors like the Senior Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina and Senior Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, otherwise fine journalists and our senior colleagues in the media business.
For quite a while now as the nation moves towards the 2019 General Elections, the Nigerian media space appears to have seen an increase in reports of federal anti-corruption agencies going after former government officials, especially those linked with the last federal administration. This rise in tempo of the anti-graft activities of government and media support must count as good a development. However, we are concerned – as most objective Nigerians and friends of the country abroad are – that allegations of political vendetta aimed at crippling the opposition PDP have persistently appeared alongside these reports of government’s clampdown on corruption.
Questions are being asked, for instance, as to why the government is suddenly going after Atiku now when the same administration did nothing of the sort while he was on its side as a leading member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Tellingly, Mr. Obi finished his tour of duty as an elected public official about five years ago when he left office as governor of Anambra State, his tenure general commended as sterling in mainstream public discourses.
Of course there should be no statute of limitation to when official malfeasance could be investigated and prosecuted. Of course all Nigerians can be investigated and tried for graft at any time, save for the temporarily constitutionally immune like the President and governors. And of course there is no telling when an individual can take to corrupt acts against the State, in or out of office.
Nevertheless, President Muhammadu Buhari, his officials and all anti-graft agencies in his command must resist the strong gravitational allure to deploy State power against political opponents in order to destabilize them towards the 2019 General Elections.
Doing so would amount to an unconstitutional abuse of power, which would replenish the arsenal of those who have compartmentalize our dear nation among “shithole” countries whose citizens are fair game for dehumanized treatments.
It would also do irreparable damage to the President’s anti-corruption campaign, which appears to have already received several head-spinning body blows before these latest developments.
More gravely, as the campaigns for the 2019 elections hit top gear, attacking opposition candidates in the guise of official anti-corrupt activities has the potential to ignite pockets of flickering fires in sections of the country into a national conflagration that could consume us all.
We note that only days ago, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, was widely reported to have said that “we don’t know if there will be Nigeria after the 2019 General elections.” Many may have dismissed the governor’s statement as “mere political posturing” since he spoke in reaction to President Buhari’s recent decision to withhold assent to the amended electoral act. But those in tune with history – ancient or contemporary – are attuned to such red lines, even if they are “just political statements. This is because nations have been known to implode on the spur of the most feckless of speeches, actions or inactions. Therefore, President Buhari and all of us must not take things for granted.
While it is important to pursue the anti-graft campaign, we must all prioritize the unity of Nigeria and a peaceful, credible general election in 2019 and beyond.
A wiser course of action is for President Buhari to instruct the anti-corruption agencies – who all reports directly to him in the Presidency – to continue to investigate all politically-exposed persons surreptitiously, with a view to building fool-proof cases against them, which can them be instituted in court after the elections regardless of whether the President secures a second term mandate or not.
All anti-corruption agencies and other government institutions must stick to strict neutrality in the 2019 elections in recognition of the transitory nature of each elected administration and their own continuous existence cum credibility, and most importantly Nigeria’s permanence, beyond the next elections and 2019. To act otherwise is to play chaos roulette in which, unlike the Russian version, all chambers are loaded; a sure-bet cataclysm for Nigeria and all of us.

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