Resurrection of Obasanjo’s Political EFCC

For the last three years, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under Farida Waziri has been virtually redundant.

All of a sudden, with the next general elections around the corner, it came to life and started investigating some state governors for allegedly misappropriating billions of naira. In this analysis, SHUAIB SHUAIB argues that the anti-graft body’s biggest task now is convincing the public that the investigations are not politically motivated, as was the case in the Obasanjo era.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, under Madam Farida Waziri has not been as assertive in its fight against corruption as it was under Nuhu Ribadu. However, in recent times, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between cases of financial crimes and those that are politically motivated. It is hard to imagine Waziri suddenly finding interest in investigating state governors for graft without the consent, or even the directives, of President Goodluck Jonathan. The fate of Jonathan’s presidential ambition no doubt lies in the hands of the governors the commission is investigating. If there is one thing Jonathan has learnt from Obasanjo, the president’s opponents say it appears to be how to deny his opponents the space to contest in a fair and credible election without the fear of intimidation, harassment and persecution.

Events leading to the 2007 presidential and governorship elections were not only the commission’s most controversial moments but seen as the anti-graft’s era of highest number of arrests within a short space of time. It was also the time, more than any other, that Nuhu Ribadu and Olusegun Obasanjo were accused of using the commission to settle political scores or to intimidate aspiring politicians out the presidential race. There is a long list of politicians who were arrested by the commission just because they were not in Obasanjo’s good book.

First, there were those (like Buba Marwa) who many felt were in the way of Obasanjo’s third term agenda. Afterwards, when Obasanjo had lost all hope of getting a third term, he turned on the governors who were not on his side or against his preferred candidates at both the presidential and governorship elections. Obasanjo is said to have played a big role in how Ribadu lost credibility and how Late President Yar’Adua felt he could do without him. He got the commission to turn the life of the then Governor of Adamawa State, Boni Haruna into hell. Obasanjo had used the commission to arrest lawmakers from Bayelsa State and coerced them into impeaching the state governor, Dipreye Alamieyeseigha. By the time of the elections, Obasanjo had perfected the art of coercion.

EFCC first arrested Abba Alero, the younger brother of the Kebbi State Governor, Adamu Alero, who also happened to be the brain behind many of the governor’s political strategies. The former governor was finally forced to negotiate with Obasanjo and his brother was not released until he agreed to decamp to the PDP from ANPP and support Obasanjo’s chosen presidential candidate.

He used a different tactic in Sokoto, waiting until one week before the election to arrest Umarun Kwabo, Attahiru Bafarawa’s strongman. That one arrest was enough to put Bafarawa’s political camp in disarray, paving the way for the PDP candidate to win the governorship election instead of the DPP candidate, Maigari Dingyadi, that Bafarawa wanted to succeed him.

EFCC was also used to intimidate some presidential aspirants ahead of the 2007 polls. Ribadu arrested and detained Ibrahim Babangida’s son for several hours as a way of forcing IBB out of the race. Peter Odili was also running a successful campaign when, on the day of the primaries, Ribadu brought out an indicting report against him to force him to step down. Obasanjo, who was very close to Odili, apparently could not look the Rivers State Governor to his face and tell him droop out from the race; so he sent Ribadu. At the end of the day, Obasanjo presided over the worst ever election in the country’s history, bringing consequences that the nation is still paying for. The election was condemned by the European Union, other international and local observers; and when Yar’Adua was finally inaugurated, he had a problem of legitimacy. U S President, Barack Obama, even went as far as boycotting Nigeria in his first trip to Africa and instead going to Ghana and praising it as a model for democracy.

Now, with recent interest of the EFCC on certain state governors, President Goodluck Jonathan is seen as wanting to use the anti-graft body to settle political scores with his adversaries, either because they believe in the principle of zoning or he just doesn’t get along with them. Either by accident or by design, almost all the state governors that EFCC is now investigating are in support of the presidency remaining in the North. Those that are not in support of zoning are known to have unsettled issues with Jonathan or his wife.

For instance, after Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State spoke in favour of zoning, EFCC stormed Dutse the state capital and arrested key officials in Lamido administration. But the governor was not deterred. At any given time, he can take you down memory lane and relate what he has done for democracy in Nigeria, the price he has paid and those that have worked on the opposite side. He has seen it all – persecution, imprisonment and, also, the rewards for what he believes to be right. Lamido was one of very few Northern politicians who openly campaigned against Gen Sani Abacha. He paid for it by spending a few years behind bars. Lamido could have easily campaigned for Abacha’s self-succession bid and, like other AGIP’s, be on the side the sitting government. Lamido who always claims to be on the side of the people or at least on the side of what he believes to be right. At all times, his stand on political issues was the most popularly held views and he has never been afraid to voice them even at his detriment. His view on zoning is regarded as what seems to have set the EFCC after him.

Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State is not new to persecution either. Unlike Lamido, he has not been persecuted for his views but for his success. He has had to flee the country in fear of his life when he was contesting his replacement as the PDP governorship candidate in the 2007 election by Obasanjo.

People like Amaechi say President Jonathan does not know what it is like to fight and make sacrifices for democracy. He is just lucky to be a beneficiary of the sweat of those that have fought tooth and nail for it; yet, he wants to pay them back by persecuting them and at the same time denying the nation the opportunity of free, fair and credible elections. Like Obasanjo, he is beginning to turn the EFCC into his personal tool of getting his party’s endorsement, regardless of the consequences.

For the last 3 years, EFCC, under Farida Waziri, has been virtually redundant. All of a sudden, with the next general election around the corner, it came to life and started investigating state governments for allegedly misappropriating billions of naira. Its biggest task now is convincing the public that the investigations are not politically motivated. Today, suspicion is not only on the motives of the commission to investigate cases with political under tones but stories have been going round about corruption in the commission itself. Within the commission, officers who insist on justice are reported to have been getting threats from their colleagues or superiors. If these allegations can be talked about publicly, it is hard to imagine what really goes on at the commission.

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