In a story authored by Con Coughlin, the Defence Editor of the UK Telegraph, in the same newspaper on April 12, 2016, titled “Nigeria using UK aid to persecute president’s political foes rather to fight Boko Haram” it was reported that Nigeria’s president, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), is using foreign aid meant to fight Boko Haram insurgents to persecute his political opponents.
Since the report made it to the public domain, it has obviously unsettled Nigeria’s presidency. The Senior Special Assistant to the president on media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu has since put up a spirited but lame defence for the president.
No matter how the presidency sees Mr Coughlin’s report, a majority of Nigerians agree with him. In fact, there is nothing new in what he wrote except to say that he only emphasized what many already know. The fruitless attempt by Garba Shehu to debunk the facts of that piece is unnecessarily laborious and needless as the president’s media aide had himself also confirmed Coughlin’s report in the past.
In his article titled “#BuhariGate: As the Limit of Obstructionist Politics” that appeared in many newspapers including the Vanguard of December 27, 2015, Mallam Shehu had opened the essay and declared with impetuous alacrity thus: “As the war on corruption heightens, the political battle-line between the governing All Progressives Congress, APC and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has sharply been drawn”.
This is an eloquent testimony to the fact that the much mouthed war on corruption is nothing but a properly planned and well orchestrated ploy to not only silence the opposition and its members but to also intimidate, harass, hound and totally decimate all those that are perceived as Buhari’s political opponents so that the dictatorial and tyrannical tendencies of the president and members of his ruling party can continue unchecked.
Apart from this, it is also widely believed by discerning Nigerians that certain individuals have been particularly marked out for destruction using the pretentious instrument of fight against corruption to pursue a vengeful mission and vendetta against these individuals. Garba Shehu inferred this much in his article quoted earlier.
Nigerians, and indeed the world, are also very much aware of the fact that the anti-corruption war of the current administration is one-sided as basically only members of the opposition have so far been arrested and persecuted. One of Muhammadu Buhari’s close allies, Jafaru Isa, was let go after he reportedly refunded N100m which was from what was suspected to be slush funds. But up till now, Jafaru, who is said to be a very close associate of Buhari and a chieftain of the ruling APC, has not been arrested let alone face trial.
The only reason why the Senate President, Olubukola Saraki, who is also a member of APC, is being persecuted today is simply because he emerged senate president against the anointed candidate of the ruling party. Since then, the government has thrown in everything to see to his downfall using the Code of Conduct Tribunal as a willing horse to achieve a sinister and ulterior motive enrobed in a fabric of deceitful nobility.
Garba Shehu tried to confuse his readers by referring to the persecution being faced by Buhari’s victims as trial when in actual fact it is far from such. This is particularly where Mr Coughlin got it all right. A situation where the federal government uses its power and access to the media to convict corruption suspects in the court of public opinion and repeatedly deny them bails granted by courts of competent jurisdiction, held hostage in their homes by security agents and clamped into detention at the whims and caprices of the security agents, is not trial but persecution.
Can Garba Shehu count how many times the courts have granted members of the opposition bail, given judicial orders, and how many of such orders were obeyed by the executive just because such orders did not suit their despotic scripts?
In the course of Nnamdi Kanu’s case, Justice Ahmed Mohammed withdrew from the case against the leader of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) on the grounds that government had not obeyed previous court rulings made in the case. This was after Kanu himself had said he preferred to remain in detention than subject himself to a trial which outcome would not be obeyed by government as previous rulings had either been abused or neglected by the executive.
The list of government persecution of individuals seen to oppose the president is nearly endless. And rather than put up a lame fight for the president, Garba Shehu should be thankful to people like Con Coughlin of the UK Telegraph for drawing the attention of our government to its journey of national catastrophe and self-destruct before it is too late.
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