Between Atiku and Obasanjo: Beyond the rhetoric

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

In the street fight between the president and his “vice” truth is indeed very scarce to come by. Both camps have behaved as if they have the monopoly of truth. If it is not Shehu one day, it will be Osuntokun the next. Conflicting theories and sequence of events has emerged. Beneath the atrocities committed in the PTDF are the political intrigues: that of betrayal, backstabbing and vendetta all rolled in one. Beyond all of these scheming and missing in the frame of discussion is the severe harm that was done; the untold evil that both parties perpetrate and the unnecessary waste of public funds and valuable time to satiate the ego of the two main contenders in question- Messrs Obasanjo and Atiku.

There is no doubt that the victim in all of this is the Nigerian people. For as I have often repeated and will continue to repeat when the law of the land is undermined and the actors undermining it are given the protection of state in any form by virtue of office, immunity or by any chance legislative cover by omission or commission, it is the people of Nigeria that eventually suffer. This obviously makes no sense to the abused mentality of Nigerians who are now so used to being abused, beaten upon, dumped and insulted by her political class. Nigeria people need to get some respect, but they seem not to be demanding it.

OBJ says Atiku is a thief, Atiku says he is not. EFCC says Atiku placed money in a bank and got it loaned to two of his friends, Atiku denies it. The Senate panel said one not two of his friends benefited while Atiku insists he acted within norm and practice. Missing in the debate so far and very crucial questions that need be answered are: was the law broken? Are the actions of the dramatis persona above board? If not, should they be sanctioned? What sanctions are commensurate to the offences they have committed?

First let it be known that I do not intend to hold court for either party. Indeed, I make no pretence to being a neutral camp in this matter. I hold both parties (Obasanjo and Atiku) responsible for the rot we find ourselves in. I count Obasanjo and Atiku as very corrupt individuals for the simple reason that first they cannot give a credible account of their immense wealth; two, that they rigged the 2003 election hence committing the greatest act of corruption in Nigeria now known as election 4-19; three, that in between them to achieve the second, they know the murderers of the former Attorney General –Chief Bola Ige and are yet to own up to their heinous crime. Hence, in my mind it is a foregone conclusion that these two are criminals in charge of the strong room. They are more deserving of a cell in Kuje Prison than an office in the state house; if not for the moral relativism that prevail in our nation today they will be warming their feet in jail cells.

Reading the Senate Report what is clear are the following:

  1. The PTDF fund and how it runs depends on an established Act of the National Assembly by virtue of the 1999 Constitution that converted former military decree to their democratic equivalents- Acts of the legislature.
  2. Atiku was given the authority to manage the fund. As was customary (emphasis), he decided to place funds under his control in fixed deposit at preferred banks after clearance from the Accountant General of the Federation (a subordinate).
  3. In doing so, the Vice President got entangled in a conflict of interest relating to his friend- Otunba Fasawe who obtained loan from these banks at favorable rates.
  4. In managing the fund, the President have repeatedly approved projects beyond the scope envisaged; like the Vice President he got the approval of the FEC made up of his appointees (read subordinate)
  5. In approving payment of inflated 250 million naira to his personal lawyer for one of these projects, the President like his Vice got entangled in a conflict of Interest.

Indicting and Issues Arising

It is interesting to note that the Vice President Camp has always been using the cloak of what, if any money was lost. This is essentially beside the point. It is the greatest crime against the constitution for laws to be disobeyed by office holders and for monies to be spent outside the law and/or approval of the National Assembly. Any office holder that commits such crime has unwittingly undermined the very institutions and the constitution that brought them to office. It is a grievous crime. Likewise manner, the argument by the president’s camp that PTDF funds were illegally used for “laudable” projects is even more preposterous. Indeed, the statement from the Finance Minister on Thursday which confirmed what we already know that the President had contrary to the PTDF Act illegally limited the deductions from oil receipts flowing to the funds to $100m or 25% of gross: this confirms that the President indeed broke the law like his Vice President.

The Senate Must Do the Right Thing

Clearly, a grievous offense has been committed by both the President and his Vice which can be summarized as: 1. Abuse of office and powers; 2. Conflict of Interest; both against the code of conduct prescribed in the fifth schedule of the constitution 3. Misappropriation of public funds and spending beyond the appropriation mandates of the legislature and the law as prescribed by Sections 80-88 of the constitution. It is then up to the legislature to do the right thing. It is logical that given that the offences above are critically egregious- the appropriate punishment is outright impeachment. Hence, the Senate must do the right thing and impeach the PRESIDENT and his VICE.

Consequential Benefits of Impeachment

Indeed, there are consequential benefits of impeaching the President and his Vice. For one it will serve as a signal to all politicians that no one is above the law. Furthermore, it will strengthen the clout and influence of the legislature as the organ that control the purse strings. More so, it will be made clear that the law is the law regardless of the interpretation of the Executive who should leave such functions to the judiciary, or any amendment to the legislature. Hence, the cardinal principles of separation of powers will be re-emphasized by this action. Last but not the least, impeaching Obasanjo and Atiku will allow for the opening up of the political space. It will allow Nigeria focus on the next election without the unnecessary distraction of their bickering; it’ll allow room for more credible candidates and indeed ensure fairness since it is pretty well known that OBJ already has a favorite and is determined to tele-guide INEC to install him. With the coolheaded and calculating Nnamani at the driving sit for the next three months, we will have a more credible General Election. Join me on calling the National Assembly to do the right thing. Impeach Obasanjo and Atiku: save the last dance and save Nigeria.

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