I sup­port Oby Ezek­we­sili for pres­i­dent

Sunday Trust - - FEVER PITCH -

To lis­ten to a cer­tain nar­ra­tive, next year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in Nige­ria is be­tween the in­cum­bent, Muham­madu Buhari of the All Pro­gres­sives Congress and Atiku Abubakar of the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party.

These are the hand­cuffs both men would like to clamp on the wrists of Nige­ri­ans, and what they want the me­dia to re­duce the con­test to. Any­one who has not re­signed him­self to hope­less­ness must look be­yond this fic­tion.

Since both can­di­dates are in the story, let me look at them.

First, Buhari, whom I sup­ported four years ago. Un­less you are a masochist or some­what starved of oxy­gen, he is the worst can­di­date on next year’s bal­lot.

Here is a man who in­ter­viewed for a job, his voice loud and strong, ar­riv­ing with big plans and a swag­ger.

He is that em­ployee who, four years after as­sum­ing the po­si­tion, has left his em­ploy­ees not just with dis­ap­point­ment, but em­bar­rass­ment.

But power he must have, it seems, and in the des­per­a­tion for it, he is cur­rently twist­ing and turn­ing in the wind, try­ing to prove he did at­tend sec­ondary school.

If this weren’t so sad, it would be hi­lar­i­ous. Four years later, it is clear Buhari does not­n­ever needed-a cer­tifi­cate but a sabi-ticate: the know-how, aka “sabi,”-the will­ing­ness and abil­ity-to get things done. You can’t buy it in the mar­ket, and WAEC nei­ther of­fers nor cer­ti­fies it.

What the Nige­ria leader has demon­strate­din­deed ex­posed-to the world in the past four years is mis­takes ad­ver­tis­ing for ca­pac­ity.

What is worse, he is not broad­minded enough to em­power truly trained and mo­ti­vated Nige­ri­ans into of­fice. It would re­ally be good to know the last time he read a book, and what that was.

On the ev­i­dence of the last four, only a fool would vote for him again. As for­mer Lon­don Week­end ed­i­tor David Hill put it, you can­not take a ham­mer to your thumb a sec­ond time in the hope it will not hurt as much.

Abubakar: Man to man, the for­mer Vi­cePres­i­dent claim to the pres­i­dency is su­pe­rior to Buhari’s for one rea­son: you can find el­e­ments of the doer in him.

But that only brings us to a nar­row philo­soph­i­cal pas­sage­way where we ex­am­ine two dam­aged ap­ples to de­ter­mine which is less so. But “rel­a­tively de­cent” ought not to de­scribe the leader of a na­tion the size and story of Nige­ria.

In clips of Abubakar from a con­tem­po­rary in­ter­view, it is sig­nif­i­cant-and deeply trou­bling-that he has dif­fi­culty iden­ti­fy­ing his pri­or­i­ties should he be elected.

I think I know why: There are three back­ground sto­ries that linger from his ten­ure as Vice-Pres­i­dent.

One: That in Septem­ber 2006, an EFCC in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­cluded that Abubakar took ad­van­tage of his su­per­vi­sion of the Pe­tro­leum Tech­nol­ogy De­vel­op­ment Fund to dis­burse money to pro­mote his and his friends’ busi­nesses and en­gaged in fraud­u­lent con­ver­sion of funds, cor­rupt prac­tices, and money laun­der­ing. In Fe­bru­ary 2007, an ad hoc Se­nate Com­mit­tee, in a fol­low-up of the EFCC re­port, also con­cluded that he di­verted $145 mil­lion in pub­lic funds.

To be fair: in his re­but­tal Abubakar as­serted that Pres­i­dent Obasanjo and those around him had ben­e­fit­ted from the var­i­ous ac­counts in­volved, de­spite the pres­i­dent try­ing to dis­so­ci­ate him­self.

Two: “Keep­ing For­eign Cor­rup­tion Out of The United States: Four Case His­to­ries,” a 2010 re­port by a sub-com­mit­tee of the United States Se­nate which dis­closed how, dur­ing Abubakar’s Vice-Pres­i­dency, he trans­ferred over $40 mil­lion in sus­pect funds into bank ac­counts be­long­ing to his fourth wife in the coun­try, a feat made pos­si­ble be­cause no­body knew that Jen­nifer Dou­glas-Atiku Abubakar was a Po­lit­i­cally Ex­posed Per­son.

“Mr. Abubakar and Ms. Dou­glas con­vinced U.S. banks, a U.S. law firm, and even a univer­sity to ac­cept mil­lions of dol­lars from un­fa­mil­iar off­shore cor­po­ra­tions to ad­vance their in­ter­ests,” the re­port con­cluded.

It is re­mark­able that Jen­nifer never re­ceived a penny of that money di­rectly from her hus­band, but con­firmed it came from him. One of those off­shore com­pa­nies, ac­cord­ing to the re­port, was Guernsey Trust Nige­ria Ltd.

When the wealthy Abubakar took Nige­ria’s vice-pres­i­dency, he did the right thing: he put his shares in In­tels in the Abubakar Blind Trust. But in a con­vo­luted se­ries of ma­noeu­vres, within a few years that trust be­came part owner of its own trustee, to be re­placed by Guernsey, a Nige­rian shell com­pany that, cu­ri­ously, had been formed only the day be­fore Abubakar be­came Vice-Pres­i­dent. The US Se­nate found Guernsey to be a reg­u­lar despatcher of large funds to Jen­nifer’s ac­counts.

Those funds in­cluded pay­ments of $2.8 mil­lion by the Ger­man com­pany Siemens in 2001 and 2002, as part of its scheme to bribe Nige­rian of­fi­cials, trans­fer­ring over $1.7 mil­lion to Jen­nifer’s ac­counts at Citibank. The com­pany paid over $1.6 bil­lion in fines. Dur­ing the pe­riod in re­view, Jen­nifer opened a to­tal of 30-re­peat, 30-bank ac­counts, and her daily rou­tine ap­peared to be to open bank ac­counts and ma­nip­u­late vast sums.

These and other il­le­gal­i­ties are re­spon­si­ble for Abubakar’s US travel trou­bles, and prob­a­bly Jen­nifer’s. Most of those funds were re­port­edly seized by US au­thor­i­ties.

Three: the pre­lim­i­nary re­port of the Okiro Panel Hal­libur­ton probe in May 2009, al­leged that Abubakar and Obasanjo-along with for­mer NNPC chief­tains Gaius Obaseki and Fun­sho Kupolokun-shared $74 mil­lion.

These-and oth­ers that will prob­a­bly emerge if Abubakar be­comes pres­i­dent-form the back­ground to his can­di­da­ture, and fore­tell a gov­ern­ment from hell. Un­less, of course, as can­di­date he of­fers to Nige­ri­ans a full con­fes­sion and makes repa­ra­tions.

Since he is un­likely to do that, there is no ba­sis for elec­toral cred­i­bil­ity, and any­one who chooses to vote for him runs the same risk as who­ever fol­lows Buhari. This has noth­ing to do with eth­nic­ity or re­li­gion: it is com­mon­sense.

The new chal­lenge then, is the same as the old: to find some­one who is cred­i­ble and un­afraid.

For me, that per­son is Oby Ezek­we­sili of the Al­lied Congress Party, a wo­man who did not want pol­i­tics but was left with no choice.

Oby car­ries none of the bag­gage of Buhari or Atiku. In “Why I Am Run­ning,” she has clearly laid out a com­pelling case.

In the past few years, this mother who be­came an ad­vo­cate who be­came a can­di­date has taken risks and suf­fered de­pri­va­tions in ad­vo­cat­ing the best in­ter­ests of the or­di­nary Nige­rian. She pro­vided a voice for the Chi­bok girls in Abuja, sym­bol­i­cally sit­ting in Ea­gle Square while oth­ers shared money in gov­ern­ment of­fices or sat at home.

I of­fer my sup­port be­cause of her char­ac­ter and com­mit­ment, and the fact that she has only one agenda. Per­haps most of all, her ab­so­lute clar­ity about the mis­sion or and her fear­less­ness about things that go bump in the day, com­mend her to me.

What Nige­ri­ans have to do, and this in­cludes the me­dia, is step out­side the APC and PDP fic­tion that they own the coun­try. They don’t. There are 170 mil­lion of us, who do not be­long to them, and who de­serve some­one who will lead with hon­our and dig­nity, and not put us and our chil­dren in debt from Day One.

I en­dorse Oby Ezek­we­sili. • son­ala.olumhense@gmail.com • Twit­ter: @Son­alaOlumhense

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