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Andygate: The burden of a scandal

Posted by By Semiu Okanlawon and Ihuoma Chiedozie on 2006/11/10 | Views: 645 |

Andygate: The burden of a scandal

The camp of the Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, was quick to ask to be left out of the controversy surrounding the latest sleaze in town, now being referred to as Andygate.

The camp of the Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, was quick to ask to be left out of the controversy surrounding the latest sleaze in town, now being referred to as Andygate.

Mr. Andy Uba, considered to be a very ubiquitous factor in the Presidency, was reported to have been caught in the United States with a District Court of Portland, Oregon ordering the seizure of the remainder of a $170,000 brought into the country by him.

He was said to have failed to declare the sum at the point of entry as dictated by the US laws.

Of much concern also is the fact that the controversial money was said to have been shipped into the country with the presidential jet.

Of course, the full import of this alone could not have been lost on the international community. That a questionable bundle of cash was shipped into the US with the instrument of the presidential jet was expected to whip up other sentiments.

State officials in recent past had been caught in foreign lands with questionable wealth. While some have been brought to book, some still have the Swords of Damocles hovering above their heads.

Former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, was caught in London. After his arraignment in a London court, he jumped bail. A similar circumstance is the incubus currently haunting the Plateau State Governor, Chief Joshua Dariye, after he was arrested in London on allegations of money laundering.

The raid on the US home of the vice-president last year over allegations of complicity in an allegedly fraudulent business deal with a US congressman, Mr. Williams Jefferson, has also gone down as one of the instances of allegations against highly placed state officials.

Most people would readily understand the position of the Atiku group especially within the Presidency with the breaking of the news on Uba.

The vice-president has been on the spot in the ongoing battle against graft. While he had been presented by his boss as being corrupt along with his aides, Abubakar has repeatedly said that those around the President are no saints. The controversy over the handling of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund under his supervision is a good instance.

While the Obasanjo camp has presented the vice-presidents camp as the only culprit, Abubakar and his men have maintained that not only did the Presidents men benefit from the fund, they also got the lions share from the funds.

With Ubas matter, the Atiku group seems to have a good point to hold on to. But as the controversy lingers, the Atiku group would obviously not want to be seen as if it is behind the disclosure that now puts Obasanjo and his men on the spot.

And yet, critics of the Obasanjo presidency and the current battle against graft have been saying that the fight is selective and discriminatory. Those who argue this way maintain that those whose arrests in foreign lands and alleged shady deeds at home have been amplified are those who seem to have moved against the President, especially over his bid to remain in power beyond next year.

With such accusations which seem to have diminished the achievements of the anti-graft war, Obasanjo and his aides had asked the critics to come up with evidence of sleaze against any pro-Obasanjo official and see if the anti-graft agencies will not move against such officials.

Indeed, that position is in line with what the Political Adviser to the President, Mr. Akin Osuntokun, told our correspondent on Thursday on the telephone. To the presidential aide, the Andy Uba matter remains a non-issue as long as it has not been investigated by either the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission or any other appropriate agency.

He said, As far as I am concerned, it is a non-issue. There is no substance in it. My own position is this: if there is any case to be investigated, let them refer it to the EFCC or the appropriate organ so that we can separate facts from fiction. If there is any case to be made, let them refer it to the EFCC and let them come out with the result of their investigations.”

Of particular interest is the fact that Uba was already being seen as the potential beneficiary of the ongoing drama in Anambra State where his brother, Chris, had held sway as the sole decider of the states political fortune for some years.

Of course, Osuntokun could be excused for his reaction. Even when he would prefer to refer the matter to the man in the centre of the drama, Uba, the ball seems to have been played into the court of the EFCC whose duty really it is to investigate.

When Alamieyeiseigha and Dariye were arrested in London, it was the EFCC, the local investigating agent, that took over the burden of unravelling the matter.

Critics of the conducts of the Presidency would be quick to demand for the reason behind the commissions silence on the Uba matter, days after it had broken.

Several telephone calls made to the spokesman for the commission, Mr. Osita Nwajah, on Thursday were not answered.

A lawyer and senatorial aspirant on the platform of the Action Congress in Ogun State, Mr. Bisi Adegbuyi, is one of those who had argued in the past that the battle against corruption, as ideal as it is, was being dwarfed by the seeming discriminatory garb it put on.

Of particular note to Adegbuyi was the fact that not only had Uba been accused of laundering money, his conducts had benefited the President in that part of the controversial fund was used to ship farming equipment into the country.

Adegbuyi said, To wage a successful war against corruption, government should be non-discriminatory. Corruption has set in every aspect of the society and it destroys liberty and makes certain virtues unattainable.

For us to get rid of this evil, people who are neck-deep in corrupt practices should be brought to book regardless of their connections at the highest level of governance.

It is a big moral burden for Mr. President to be closely associated with somebody whose credentials have been blemished. Mr. President has a responsibility not to be associated with any sacred cow in the fight against corruption.”

It was not difficult to gauge the impact of the unfolding drama on the Presidency as at Thursday.Although there were unconfirmed insinuations that Uba has been placed under investigation by the Presidency, staff in the Villa were unwilling to comment on the matter.

One of them, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, We are civil servants. We cant comment on political issues.”

Reasons for this cautious disposition among the staff might not be far-fetched. The embattled Uba was seen as a tin-god in the Villa during his long reign in charge of the Presidents domestic affairs.

However, informal discussions with some of the staff who pleaded anonymity suggested that Uba has been placed under investigations in a bid to get to the heart of the allegations, which also threaten to harm the image of the Presidency.

In the same vein, there were talks that Ubas ambition to occupy what is left of the vandalised Anambra State Governors Lodge in 2007 may be his current nemesis.

While there seems to be a consensus on this theory, there was a sharp disagreement on the identity of the architects of Ubas travails.

Some point in the direction of the impeached Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, and Ubas sibling, Chief Chris Uba.

There were claims that Obis camp moved to leak the damaging allegations to the press as a revenge for Ubas supposed role in the governors impeachment by a faction of the Anambra State House of Assembly.

In the same vein, it was also claimed that Chris was behind his brothers travails, following the bitter rivalry between the two over the gubernatorial race in 2007.

Ahead of the elections, Uba had moved to neutralise his sibling, who was hitherto considered to be a godfather” in the state.

While Obis impeachment was generally seen as a ploy to clear the grounds for Ubas success in the polls next year, the formers stronger base in the Presidency also gave him an edge over any other candidate, including his brother, Chris.

How the Presidency will wriggle out of the latest scandal is what many are waiting to see. Questions which hang and are begging for answers include: to what extent is the President aware of the fact that the money was taken to the US in the presidential plane; who ordered the purchase of the said farming equipment which were shipped into the Presidents farm; and how long will it take the EFCC to make a formal pronouncement on the matter?

Obviously, the Uba matter puts the President on the spot, especially against his earlier vow to spare no one in the battle against corruption.

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