Silencing of the Opposition




President Muhammadu Buhari’s fixation with the fight against
corruption is currently being interpreted as a subtle ploy to
decimate the opposition. But the correctness or otherwise of
this assertion has formed the basis of a new debate,
write Shola Oyeyipo and Segun James
President Muhammadu Buhari made it clear from inception.
The objectives of his government would be in three parts:
corruption, security and the economy. These, he reckoned,
were the crux of the nation’s challenges and was
determined to address them. But he appears to have a
‘thing’ for the fight against corruption. It was assumed the
strength of his brief but first coming as a military head of
state. And the force with which he has approached the
scourge of corruption is no less a surprise to those, who
know and appreciate his ‘disdain for corruption’.
Unfortunately, his current fight against graft is being seen
differently by different members of the public. Whilst there
are those who argue that the fight against corruption should
not wear a human face even if it means undermining the
constitution of the land and related extant legal provisions,
the prevailing argument now is that it is evidently selective.
Even more niggling is the assumption that Buhari’s current
fight against corruption is designed to decimate the
opposition and leave his party, the APC, the only force to
reckon with.
The swirling assumption, unfortunately, some reckon is
beginning to discredit Buhari’s war against graft, in addition
to his penchant for perceived sectionalism as evident in his
disposition to other parts of the country since assuming
office. It is yet to be seen, however, if there are conscious
efforts on the part of the government to disabuse the minds
of those who hold strongly, these assumptions against the
Buhari presidency.
Synopsis of the Allegations
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), whose members have
been most hit by current administration’s onslaught against
corruption has not only lamented that the anti-corruption
crusade is selective as it is not extended to members of the
ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), a majority of whom
have been identified as corrupt with a legion of petitions
against but also that it was principally targeted at
decimating opposition voices ahead of 2019.
The party in a recent communiqué signed by its Head,
Publicity Division, Chinwe Nnorom and issued after its 71st
National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, took a swipe
at the APC and President Buhari for allegedly using the
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to
silence the opposition.
Parts of the communique read: “NEC observed and
condemned in strong terms the arbitrary arrest and
detention of PDP members on account of party campaign
funds by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari
and urged Nigerians and the international community to
request the APC administration to investigate the campaign
funds of its party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) as
some accusations of misuse of public funds are also
leveled against some APC governors and stakeholders.”
The NEC further expressed disdain for what it tagged
selective probe of PDP members by the anti-graft agency
under the administration of the APC, describing it “as a
case of witch-hunt and unnecessary oppression aimed at
silencing members of the PDP.”
A youth wing of the opposition PDP, the Peoples
Democratic Party National Youth Frontier (PDPNYF), shares
the PDP NEC sentiment that the anti-graft efforts of the
administration is basically targeted at the vocal members
of the PDP and that it was being perpetrated in a rather
dictatorial manner.
The PDPNYF National Coordinator, Usman Okai, recently
stated that: “History is repeating itself again. President
Muhammadu Buhari is clearly manifesting the same
dictatorial tendencies he exhibited during his military regime
between 1983 and 1985, as presently being applied in the
polity in the attempt to discredit PDP members and weaken
our great party ahead of 2019.”
He queried the rationale behind the predicaments of the Ekiti
State Governor, Dr. Ayodele Fayose, asking: “How does one
explain the freezing of the personal account of Governor
Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State in Zenith Bank by the EFCC
just because he is a leading opposition voice speaking
against the ills of the Buhari presidency and the APC-led
government.”
In similar light, the travails of the Abia State Governor, Dr.
Okezie Ikpeazu is being linked to the plot to undermine the
opposition. Beyond the legal slant to the matter including
the allegation of forgery which is being dismissed as a
trumped up charge, the news making the round is that the
decision to descend on Ikpeazu was informed by the pursuit
of Buhari’s certificate scandal byNwokocha-Ahaiwe, who is
not only an indigene of the state but also on the employ of
the government, where he was said to be heading an
agency.
As a result, there is said to be the belief in the presidency
that should an employee of the government be seeking to
remove the president over the certificate scandal, then,
there is no way the governor could feign ignorance of the
case. It was at this point the plot to remove Ikpeazu was
allegedly hatched. Although intelligence was said to have
reached the governor, who according to sources,
immediately asked Nwokocha-Ahaiwe to withdraw the case
because of the likely consequences and which he did. But
the intervention appeared to have come late as those
alleged to be behind the removal plot had already swung
into action.
The Adegboruwa Example
While it was possible to conclude that members of the PDP
were in power in the last administration, mismanaged
money and are crying foul now that they are facing the
heat, the recent story of a fierce Lagos lawyer, Ebun
Adegboruwa, who has been very critical of the APC-led
government can help uphold the argument that the EFCC is
among other things, working to silence critical voices
against the government.
Without any prejudice or attempt to teach men of the EFCC
their jobs, not a few Nigerians can relate with the criminal
charges bordering on obtaining money under false pretence
filed against Adegboruwa by the EFCC as the consequence
of his decision to point out the errors of the administration.
Adegboruwa was brought before Justice Oluremi
Oguntoyinbo of a Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, by the
EFCC which accused him of fraud to the tune of N61
million.
He was alleged to have conspired with one Jonathan
Udeagbala in August 2013 to lease a property situated at
House 105, Nicon Town Estate, Lekki, Lagos to a company
named Shelf Drilling Nigeria Limited for that amount; that
the property is under an interim forfeiture order by Justice
Christopher Balogun of the Lagos State High Court; that the
money was credited to Adegboruwa’s Zenith Bank account,
an offence punishable under Section 32(1) of the EFCC Act
2004.
However, Adegboruwa has maintained that no genuine case
of fraud can be instituted against him. His vehement
position has been that the litigation was designed to silence
him as he has remained a vocal critic of the president.
According to him, he has been receiving unofficial
complaints from the EFCC about his opposition to the
Buhari administration and he is being threatened with the
case, which he considers as dead.
His media team had noted that “The threats became more
rampant upon his brief in the case of Chief Government
Ekpemupolo (alias Tompolo) and especially Mr. Azibaola
Robert, cousin of former President Goodluck Jonathan. On
May 4, 2016, our firm appeared in Tompolo’s case at the
Federal High Court, Lagos and May 4, 2016, our firm filed a
suit in court for the release of Jonathan’s cousin. On May
5, 2016, EFCC filed a case against Mr. Adegboruwa.
“He is being persecuted for speaking against the Buhari
regime. There is no way a criminal case can be maintained
against Mr. Adegboruwa as the criminal case upon which
the case is based has been dismissed.”
Either right or wrong, the belief is that the Buhari
administration stands to gain nothing except negative
publicity from issues such as Adegboruwa’s because he is
one lawyer, who has persistently called the government to
order. He made strong statement on the massacre of the
Shiite sect in Zaria, Kaduna State and the extrajudicial
killings of pro-Biafra agitators; government’s lackluster
attitude to Fulani herdsmen attacks that have led to the
deaths of several innocent citizens across Nigeria, the
perceived selective anti-corruption campaign and
government’s appointments that tend to favour the North,
amongst others.
Fayose in the Eye of the Tiger
Looking at what he considers the genesis of his problem
with President Buhari, his decision to retain his position as
the most vocal mouthpiece of the opposition PDP and
perceived clampdown on members of his party, Governor
Fayose, during a chat with journalists at his guest house in
Ado Ekiti, noted that though the president presides over the
entire nation as the leader, the people are not compelled to
support his governance style.
“We are all going to account for our leadership. President
Buhari is a Nigerian leader without doubt, but to everybody
in this country, as long as you are grown enough to choose
– it’s your choice. I am entitled to decide to support or not
to support him based on principles and perception of the
person.
“I was grown when President Buhari was president of this
country. I was grown enough to know what he represented
31 years ago because you must know who you are giving
your life to. You must know you are not taking your life to
Golgotha. I knew the total misrule of 1984 to 1985 – how
the military suffered Nigerians, how a lot of leaders were
clamped in chains using decree 2.
“The same thing President Buhari is doing was what he did
at that time. You will recall that even the late Chief Obafemi
Awolowo, Emir of Kano, Ooni of Ife; their passports were
taken away from them. Their rights were taken away. A
man that is grown cannot change, except you are born
again. So, President Buhari is living true to type if you look
at the way he is governing Nigeria today.”
“At some point, a lot of people will come to realise that we
have elected a monster. Most people, Buhari has cowed
them. Those people who brought Buhari are now taking the
backyard to pass. They are afraid that if a man can be
matching the cloth of a family member like this, he would
destroy the cloth of somebody else.
“Fighting corruption is a great thing but anything that does
not represent the truth is simply corruption. Those who
make peaceful change impossible make violent change
inevitable. You’re oppressing some people now either
because they are not from your region or because you had
issues with them before; it is revenge mission.
“The EFCC would harass people to submission, force people
to drop money; you want to go and arrest people and start
looking for evidence. That is oppression! You are supposed
to have concluded your investigation before you go and
arrest people!
“There is nothing personal between President Buhari and
me. There are instances that are so glaring now that people
in the APC are like saints. Look at my state, there are
documents – EFCC will not call somebody. The Universal
Basic Education, where the former governor went away with
N892m – in the letter they wrote they said: ‘This a criminal
issue’, but when you are in the APC you become an angel.
“Let us look at the APC, most of the people they were
bashing in those days but when they get to APC they
become saints. You can’t run a country like that! This is our
country, we cannot all be silent. Somebody has to talk. The
one that is useful, you take it and the one that is not useful,
you throw it away.
“In fact, opposition is the strength of democracy. It is where
the average man can get value for money. You are trying to
silence Femi Fani-Kayode; you are trying to silence Metuh
and others. My brothers, where in Nigeria have people
contested election, vied for office and not spend money?
“All the aircrafts carrying President Buhari during
campaigns, is it cows that were carrying him around –
those cows declared? Recently, they said somebody has
houses in Dubai, quickly there is a defence. When they were
talking about the wife of the president, defence came from
Nuhu Ribadu, even the former EFCC chairman, Larmode,
looking for way out of his problem, quickly too, said that
was not the person we were looking for.
“I want to make it clear that there is nothing personal
between myself and President Buhari. I want to make it
expressly clear again to you that what they are doing is not
in the interest of Nigeria to cow the people once opinion
differs from yours. This state was run by APC when
Jonathan was president. They had peace to run their
government. Today, if you want to call police they are
afraid. When you want to use the FRCN, they will say no.
The FRCN doesn’t carry PDP news. It is that bad! What kind
of life is that?
“So, what nation are we building? A nation built on sectional
and political interests? As much as you can call Jonathan’s
name, the man never took a political prisoner. In fact,
Jonathan should have been president in 50 years’ time
because the man is too civil”.
The Debate Rages
However, for different folks, it’s been different strokes as
far as the debate is concerned on the style of the president.
An APC stalwart in Kogi State, who was one time a House
Representatives member, who represented Kabba/Bunu/
Ijumu federal constituency in the state, Hon Duro Meseko,
shares the sentiment of those who feel that the anti-
corruption crusade is selective and possibly targeted at the
opposition members alone, which could ultimately mute the
PDP, as being envisaged by loyalists of the party.
“My take is that those who allude to the fact that the anti-
corruption war is selective, I’ll not blame them because if
you look at the way the EFCC is carrying out its works
lately, you will observe that some people close to the
president – even if they make allegations or petitions
against them – nothing is done about it.
“I am talking about former Governor of Rivers State, Mr.
Rotimi Amaechi. In fact, the Rivers State Governor, Mr.
Nyesome Wike, still mentioned it last week that petitions
have been written against the former governor and that
nothing has been done about them. Of course, in Ekiti State
too, the governor has being saying that petitions have been
written against former governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, and
that nothing has been done about it.
“When Buratai was alleged to possess two buildings in
Dubai, the presidency came out to defend him. They did not
even wait for him to defend himself. One would have
expected the presidency to say that they have not
investigated it and that they would investigate the matter.”
Asked why he was castigating his party’s anti-corruption
drive, the former lawmaker said, “Yes, I am an APC
chieftain but don’t forget that I have been a civil right
activist. I am not in politics because of my party alone; I
am in politics also because of my people, my constituency
and Nigerians at large. So, I should not say because I am a
member of a party, I should not castigate them. We should
make examples of some people in the party, so that we can
tell the world that we are sincere about our anti-corruption
crusade.”
One of the very prominent aspirants in the recent Edo State
APC governorship primaries, Mr. Kenneth Imasuagnon,
does not feel his party is by any means selective or
targeting the fight against corruption in Nigeria against any
selected group, because according to him, those who have
committed the heinous crime of corruption against the
people should be apprehended and brought to book,
irrespective of party affiliation.
“It is not true that the government is trying to silence the
opposition. Those who have looted the treasury must pay
for their crimes, whether they are in the APC or the PDP;
they should pay for the consequences of their crimes. It is
inhumane to appropriate our commonwealth for yourself.”
On whether or not the EFCC is not picking on APC
members, he said “The law empowers the EFCC to go after
anybody that has committed financial crime; it does not
specify those to be chased after. Anybody who has taken
our common patrimony should face the consequences of
the law.
“I don’t believe President Buhari is selective in the anti-
corruption fight. It is a gradual process. The anti-corruption
will not start and end with the Buhari-led administration. My
position is that Nigerians must support President Buhari for
standing against corruption this strongly against the
looters. I salute his courage. I am on the same page with
the president on fight against corruption.”
A Lagos-based retired naval officer, Mr. Olomi Fadile also
feels that the president would have required more force to
really purge Nigeria of the endemic corruption, which
perpetrators are aiming to escape because of the legal
system in Nigeria.
“There is nothing like that (selective anti-corruption war).
Those that have committed the crimes had committed the
crimes. They know what they have done. The painful part is
that President Buhari should have come with some military
powers at this critical time to genuinely address some of
the heinous crimes that some people have perpetrated
against Nigeria.”
On the issue of the perceived pampering of APC members,
he said: “Be it PDP or APC, the government should be able
to deal with those, who ruthlessly looted the Nigerian
treasury because we cannot say anyone is totally clean
among the elective office holders.
“It is, however, obvious that the PDP had perpetrated
greater embezzlements, which is clear to the world at large.
And it is because they held power for 16 years and had
unflinching access to the treasury; a period when there
were series of corruption allegations against the
government and its functionaries.”
Mrs. Oluwaseun Johnson, who claimed that she supported
Buhari initially, said the recent dictatorial tendencies of the
President have made her change her mind. She wondered if
it will augur well for the country if there is no effective
opposition from which the president benefited from.
Also sharing this sentiment is Mr. Johnson Kenechukwu, an
advocate of an independent Biafra state, who said Buhari
must be called to order immediately or he would lead the
country to a fratricidal war.
“Let us renegotiate our relationship peacefully. If not, we
shall do so on the battlefield. Buhari has given all the post
to his northern brothers, a situation that is setting the stage
for the Islamisation of the country. Some of us will not
allow it. We shall battle him. Let’s negotiate in peace or we
settle ourselves on the battlefield.”
But a politician belonging to the APC, who does not want to
be identified lamented that the problem is multifaceted. He
said the problems that the President is foisting on the
nation are that he believes only the people from the north
are capable of running the country.
“But look around, they are messing up. Yet the President is
alienating the other ethnic nationalities. By the time the
chicken comes home to roost, the mess is going to hit the
fan badly. The man is a tribalist to the core and an ethnic
jingoist.”
Another politician, who belongs to the PDP, urged the
president to respect the quota system, which has sustained
the unity of the country till now. He stressed that unless this
is done now, the country may divide under the regime of the
president
“See what is happening everywhere, there is agitation in the
east, the Niger Delta area is sabotaging the economy and
the insurgence in the north east has not subsided. The
President is playing with fire. Such tendencies led to his
removal in 1985.”
Nearly the same sentiments are shared by all the people
interviewed. To most of them, the only thing going for the
president right now is the war on corruption and this, they
insisted, would soon vanish as the people only hear about
multi-billion naira corruption scandal, yet there are no
changes in their living standard.

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