Thursday, 02 May 2024 04:34

The only sin Yahaya Bello committed - Abimbola Adelakun

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Abimbola Adelakun Abimbola Adelakun

 

Anti-graft agency Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is taunting us with another emotional roller-coaster. They are asking us to join them in navel-gazing over another sensational case of thievery by a politician. We will do that for weeks (or months) and nothing else. Meanwhile, the said politician will be rehabilitated—probably appointed to a crucial position—in contempt of their ongoing case with the EFCC. One needs not be clairvoyant to say the latest graft case, involving ex-Kogi governor Yahaya Bello, is another ploy by the EFCC to titillate a public that still allows itself to be amused by jokes that lack a punchline. We have been here before (many times) and we know how this ruse ends: they will siphon emotion out of the public and eventually leave everyone hanging. No closure, nothing!

The most sensational of the allegations against Bello says he grifted almost a million dollars of public funds to pay his children’s school fees. Virtually every commentator has made this revelation the focus of their outrage. Bello, of course, stridently denies the accusation. What he failed to explain was how he managed to procure that much money and why he felt the urgency to pay for the length of his children’s school years. Who does that if not a man who wanted to exploit an unaccountable source of funds while he still had access to it?

Like other Nigerian politicians who dish out photos of their children graduating from schools abroad for poor Nigerians to gawk at, Bello also took his children out of the disaster zone called the Kogi State public schools and tucked them where the Nigerian decay has not touched. Despite claiming to be a poor herdsman with a mere 150 cows, former President Muhammadu Buhari too educated his children abroad. His mendacious yet witless aide, Femi Adesina, claimed Buhari sold his houses to afford the expense. Those children will grow up holding up their noses at the poor Nigerian masses, conveniently forgetting those were the same people their parasitic parents robbed to give them their lives.

That said, I struggled to understand the sensation around Bello’s case. Why did his case excite anyone, given that his actions are pretty standard? What is the difference between what he allegedly did and the “Bola Tinubu model” of using the state legislature to pass a bill that will pay an ex-governor humongous pension? Tinubu was the first governor who got the state legislature to grant him hefty amounts of money as pension, effectively tying the state’s destiny to his pockets. That model has been replicated by other greedy ex-governors without intentions of weaning themselves from the public purse. Bello too could have used the state Assembly to pass a bill paying his children’s school fees but he chose to be savage. The cynical part of me thinks that is the only sin he committed. If, after all these years, he did not learn to eat public funds with the finesse with which the old masters do it, he deserves to be disgraced.

The difference between Bello’s alleged crime and his ex-governor counterparts who granted themselves stupendous pension is the gap between eating oily yam with your fingers and using silverware. One makes you look primitive, while the other allows you the illusion of being civilised. I am sincerely confused by the morality of Tinubu’s supporters yelling at Bello. Would your opinion of him have been any different if he had instead set up a company called AlphaDelta Gamma and used it to achieve the same purpose? Sincerely, Bello’s only sin is his barbarity.

Despite the bold handwriting of ordinances written against him, the truth is that Bello is going nowhere. Not only does he know it, but even EFCC chairperson Ola Olukoyede must know it too. He cannot be so naïve to believe otherwise. During a recent press conference, Olukoyede grandiosely declared, ‘If I do not personally oversee the completion of the investigation regarding Yahaya Bello, I will tender my resignation as the EFCC Chairman.” Yinmu! He must think he is the first EFCC chairperson in history to spot a potential politician-thief. If Bello’s case is truly his dealbreaker, he had better resign right away because Yahaya is going nowhere. He might be disgraced for a while but that is the extent of what constitutes justice for corrupt politicians in Nigeria. No one goes to jail for corruption unless they fall out of reckoning with the powers that be. When you have passed your sell-by date and can no longer secure electoral victory, you will be conveniently discarded. That is when they sacrifice you to the EFCC.

Luckily for Bello, he helped the All Progressives Congress retain power in Kogi State. His peers in the Governor’s Forum who ran the same errand of “delivering” their constituency have been rewarded with “juicy” offices. The APC still needs him for the 2027 elections, so why sacrifice him now? Besides, he is also an APC member, the ruling party where virtually every single person within the ruling party has dirt on their hands. Jailing him for committing a popular sin will open the door to the possibility of other party members being similarly treated. That will ultimately demystify the party as a formidable redoubt for politicians. If that happens, the fraternal code of honour held by the thieves of public wealth will lose meaning, and the incentive for venal but powerful politicians to join the party will be lost.

There is no other reason people join a party in Nigeria than self-service. No party in Nigeria has a coherent ideology; nobody defects to them based on principles. It is to seek protection and access resources. Key Peoples Democratic Party members like Godswill Akpabio and Nyesom Wike had no qualms about joining the APC to be rebranded. Akpabio’s case with the EFCC has been momentarily forgotten and Wike’s own will never come up with the EFCC unless he costs APC the 2027 election. If Bello too waits this out, the EFCC will return to their original vocation of running after crossdressers, Bureau De Change operators, and money sprayers at Saturday afternoon owambes!

Olukoyede is not the first EFCC chairperson—nor will be the last—who thinks making noise in the media is akin to convicting an accused looter. His prosecutorial zeal notwithstanding, the court case will probably be botched by a lack of meticulousness. Here is why: Olukoyede alleged that Bello paid $720,000 out of the state coffers to the American International School for his child’s tuition before leaving office. In their response, the school disclosed that the sum was $845,852 and was paid in 2021 and for five children. Please note the wild difference between what the EFCC announced and what the school revealed. Good. Those discrepancies are why the EFCC’s case will eventually be thrown out of court based on some technicality.

Finally, the truth is also that there is a lack of will to pursue corruption. The present administration is aware (too acutely, in fact) of its own lack of moral legitimacy and can hardly confront graft without buckling under the weight of its own hypocrisies. Even under Buhari, the man who got into power by flexing anti-corruption muscles, two court convictions witnessed (Joshua Dayiye and Jolly Nyame) were reversed with presidential pardons. When they asked Buhari about ex-Kano governor Abdullahi Ganduje who was caught on video stashing his pockets with dollars, he pretended he had hearing problems. If Buhari who supposedly hated corruption could fail so grandly, is it Tinubu that will now muster the resolve? The person who recently announced he would fight corruption with technology? Why did “technology” not stop the lawmakers who approved his grand pension? The person who cedes to machines the duty that humans with a working conscience ought to confront cannot be taken seriously. Dey play!

 

Punch

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