By Philip Agbese
It is not the best of times to be from Kogi state. Kogi, like dozens of other states in Nigeria are in the throes of an economic meltdown that has shown no signs of abating. Coupled with successive years of misrule by previous administrations, the current governor, Mr Yahaya Bello, like many of his colleagues has not been able to pay salaries so the hunger in that state is understandable.
This has not been helped in anyway by the fact that the unexpected development that threw up Bello as the incumbent governor also caused massive dislocation in the “settlement system” that had ensured government handouts trickle down through cronies to street urchins, and arrangement that had ensured hangers on are well fed in a state that is only now trying to have the semblance of an economy. Yahaya Bello’s emergence was hotly contested before the Kogi State Election Petition Tribunal upheld his election.
The desperation of those who lost out under the current configuration in the state is therefore understandable in view of the biting economic reality, not just in that state or in Nigeria but also worldwide. One can stretch one’s tolerance to understand that hallucination is a possibility with intense hunger but in this case seeing and hearing things that are not there should be limited to images of food and phantom aromas. The hallucination should not extend beyond things that pertain to the state lest it be interpreted as madness.
Claims by some groups, obviously sponsored, that the wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari brokered a deal worth the whole of N1.5billion in bribes to the judges on the Kogi State Election Petition Tribunal to give a favourable ruling has therefore gone beyond the realm of hallucination to become something else. Those behind the allegations and their mouth pieces that delivered the message must have succumbed to hunger on an unprecedented scale to conjure up images of what never was and can never be. They even claimed that the supposed bribe paid to the judges was the cause of the salaries being owed workers from the time of the immediate past administration.
Mrs Aisha Buhari happens not to be an indigene of Kogi state. To the best of my knowledge, she has stayed out of the politics of that state and I even commended her for maintaining neutrality at the height of the intense politics that produced the incumbent governor. This gives me a sense that those who floated that story have more than the politics of Kogi state at heart and her possibly bitter to the point of attempting to torpedo her blissful marriage to our number one citizen. What they stand to gain from that is yet to be seen.
Secondly, the story of the N1.5billion equally aimed for the judiciary, which could offer a clue that there is a calculated attempt to discredit this arm of government as the war on graft picks pace. We have repeatedly seen how suspects charged with corruption often delay their trial and possible conviction by praying judges to recluse themselves from cases on the strength of trumped up accusations like this. I will leave the legal expert to make the call as to what those making baseless accusations like this against judges should be charged with but I think members of the Kogi State Election Petition Tribunal shouldn’t have been dragged into the puddle that is Kogi politics.
It is even more sickening when I reckoned that the groups bandying this allegation around are themselves aware they have no fact. If they do, they should have by now been knocking on the doors of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with the evidence they have gathered. They can even use ICPC or the National Judicial Council (NJC). The point here is that they should have filled a formal complaint or petition by now and not be threatening to report judges to the NJC if they truly have facts, except of course they are only tying to blackmail the judges, Kogi state governor or the President’s wife with the fraudulent allegations.
The accusation did not come until a few hours to when the tribunal was to deliver its ruling. Had the verdict done the other way, would those making this wicked allegations had accepted that they bribed the judges to secure a favourable ruling? To me, another dimension to the bribery allegation is that some people thought up an excuse to justify their failings since they had no case before the tribunal in the first place.
What I sense is that this is about the petty politics of the Kogi state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), whose gladiators think there is something to be gained by dragging Mrs Buhari into their crisis. The minions running the smear campaign adequately exposed their hands to reveal their instructions came not from inside Kogi state but from somewhere in the south-west of the country.
Unfortunately, dragging the woman into the fight will not be of any use to them but will instead hurt the anti-corruption fight. It will also portray Kogi as state that lacks the capacity to solve its internal political issues without recourse to smearing highly placed persons from other states.
My advice is that Kogi state and its people should stop the blame game and focus on the real issues plaguing them – economic viability, ethno-religious tolerance, political plurality, employment creation, education and enlightenment are a few of the crucial things that should be uppermost in their minds instead of blaming others for things they failed to do right.
Agbese is National Coordinator of the U.K. Based Civil Rights movement called Stand Up Nigeria and contributed this piece from London.