The presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, has been implicated in yet another explosive graft scandal after a former aide, Michael Achimugu, released voice recordings of the former Vice-president bragging about his use of Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV) to divert and misappropriate public funds.
According to Achimugu, Atiku also siphoned N100 million from the N1.16 billion disbursed by the Ecological Fund Office, which he chaired at the time. This was in addition to several other cases of embezzlement that occurred between 1999 and 2007, with the knowledge of then president Olusegun Obasanjo.
In an unsurprising act of hypocrisy, the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) has seized on the revelations to make a stance against corruption, calling for the PDP presidential candidate to immediately withdraw from the presidential race and tender an unreserved apology to the Nigerian people. The spokesperson of the Tinubu Presidential Campaign, Festus Kenyans SAN, last Monday issued a 72-hour ultimatum to the Conduct of Conduct Bureau (CCB), the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to arrest Atiku and prosecute him. After the ultimatum elapsed without action from the security agencies, Kenyamo who also serves as the Minister of State for Labour and Employment went to court.
On Friday, he filed a suit with the High Court in Abuja, seeking a court order to compel Atiku to surrender himself to the security agencies for investigation and possible prosecution.
The APC has had seven and a half years to probe and prosecute the multiple cases of corruption from the Obasanjo administration, particularly that of Atiku where there are a lot of leads. It is despicable that they are now using it as a political plot to score political points.
The scandal which has now been tagged Atikugate has been trending all week.
The PDP, seemingly beset by crises from all angles, have been frantic to get to the other side of this scandal as election day draws close. It has deployed all arguments at the same time, with party surrogates simultaneously arguing that Michael Achimugubwas never an aide to Atiku(despite signed letters to the contrary), arguing that the voice recording is not Atiku’s voice, and even that no wrongdoing occurred. Atiku’s spokesperson, Daniel Bwala, argued that SPVs were not illegal, and so no crime was committed.
The PDP also alleged that Michael Achimugu was hired by the presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. In addition, it leveled counter allegations of corruption and treason against the APC presidential candidate, alleging that the formation of Tinubu’s “Jagaban Army” is a squad which the APC intends to use to “raid polling units”. The PDP also revived past accusations of money laundering and drug trafficking against Tinubu, citing his forfeiture of a $460,000 property in a drug case in the United States, as well as his use of his private company, Alpha-Beta, to misappropriate public funds belonging to Lagos State.
The political finger pointing demonstrates how much corruption has been so normalized by the ruling class that it is now nothing more than electoral missives used to score cheap points as part of election campaigns. The reality remains that these wide scale misappropriations are at the root of the poverty and immiseration of the Nigerian people. It is the cause of our infrastructure deficit, our underfunded education and healthcare systems characterized by constant worker strikes, our national borrowing to fund the budget, etc. These scandals might be to them just business as usual, standard practice that can be used in political attacks. But to the Nigerian people it is a grace violation that has forced millions to live in poverty while these same individuals are front runners in the race to be Nigeria’s next president, campaigns funded in large part by wealth built over the course of their muddied political careers. It is necessary that we organize against this political theater as it does nothing but reinforce our continued subjugation under them.
by Kayode Somtochukwu ANI