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The Imperatives of Ex-Governor Orji kalu’s Conviction – By Prof. Phil Alalibo

By Prof. Phil Alalibo | NNP | December 6, 2019 – Orji Kalu, the former governor of Abia State, met his waterloo in the courtroom of Justice Mohammed Idris, who sentenced him to 12 years in prison for his role in defrauding his state while he was governor. The case of Kalu is typical of most Nigerian political elites who are blinded by power, greed and privilege to cloud all ethical dispositions. This greed is evident in political and business dealings and erodes ethical values that normally would discern right from wrong.

Kalu’s case is a textbook example of highly calibrated and systemic corruption that was endemic in the eight years (1999-2007) he was at the helm. He presided over a most chaotic case of official looting that involved family members freely dipping their hands into the state coffers. There was no delineation of what was state money and what was personal money. According to the charge sheet, kalu used his company, SLOK Holding, to bilk the state of billions of naira in fraudulent business transactions and bogus contracts. In essence, monthly allocations meant for the development of the state and upkeep of his citizens, were used to finance his personal business interests which itself was a conflict of interest.

As a public official, owning and operating a private enterprise undermine the public trust and pose a most daunting ethical challenge. Regrettably, Nigerian political elites are yet to understand this rudimentary fact of leadership. And this trend, as in the case of Kalu, would be their own waterloo.

While kalu’s sentencing is a welcome development, there is an interesting twist that is hard to ignore in an environment where political considerations are foremost in key decision-making. The generality of Nigerians know the political calculus that was factored into this decision. Seeing Kalu’s conviction from the political lens is thus inevitable as evidence abound.

First, Kalu was charged 12 years ago after leaving office. Does it take this long to get a conviction when the evidence is indisputable? He was convicted on all 39 counts which suggests that his guilt was glaring  and without ambivalence. Is there something to be said about the timing of this verdict being close to 2023? Kalu, being a former governor and now Senate Chief Whip was seen as a likely candidate for the presidency in 2023. The northern oligarchy that controls the levers of power, must have seen his popularity as a threat and sought to leverage his legal troubles to diminish his position.

It is worth questioning why the anti-corruption machinery only moves in one direction, targeting PDP politicians. Here are some facts to consider. Rev. Jolly Nyame, former governor of Taraba (PDP) was convicted of corruption, Joshua Dariye, former governor of Plateau (PDP) was convicted of corruption, James Bala Ngilari, former interim governor of Adamawa, was convicted of corruption and currently serving out a five-year sentence. Now, Orji kalu, former governor of Abia, has been added to the infamous list.

Additionally, the fight against corruption has targeted the following former PDP governors who have been going in and out of EFCC headquarters on one invitation after another. Some have gotten an injunction against arrest that is yet to be vacated by the courts. The governors are Peter Odili (Rivers), Jonah Jang (Plateau), Ibrahim Shetima (Katsina), Rashidi Ladoja (Oyo), and Mukhtar Yero (Kaduna).

The late Diepreye Alamieseigha of Bayelsa (PDP) who was said to have escaped his travails in London masked as a woman, served two years in prison for corruption. Another PDP governor, (Bayelsa), Timipre Sylva, was dragged through the courts upon leaving office on charges of corruption. Sylva’s case was a prototype of the political calculations that undermine the fight against corruption. With 48 houses linked to him, the EFCC was sure of a solid case against the former PDP governor. But Sylva had the joker in his pocket with a timely defection to APC where upon, the charges were controversially dismissed and the seized 48 houses returned to him. Buhari even made him chairman of his inauguration committee while charges were still pending.

After the dismissal, a frustrated EFCC stated on its official Twitter handle – … commission had in the past flouted court orders when handling cases involving politicians in the opposition parties but was treating politicians in the APC with kid gloves. Former First Lady, Patience, is in and out of court with the EFCC, forfeiting properties and losing cash-laden bank accounts.

It thus begs the question, are PDP governors the only ones beaten by the corruption bug to be so pursued by Buhari in his war on corruption? How about Tinubu whose wealth is ostensive? How about Akpabio who instituted a most outrageous pension plan worthy of investigation? How about ex governor Adam Oshiomole, shall we look into his stewardship of Edo’s treasury while in office? Worst of all, how about Rotimi Amaechi who allegedly used billions of state money to fund Buhari’s 2015 campaign? What exactly are we to make of the lack of APC governors/politicians on the corruption list? With this disposition, there could be only one conclusion, that Kalu’s conviction is more of the political variety than it is legal.

There is something to be said about Kalu’s erroneous political calculus that has gotten him in this legal trouble. While he defected to the APC in 2016, and was elected on its platform into the Senate, he did what I would call an “administrative” defection instead of a “political” defection. This has proven to be a very costly mistake. An “administrative” defection is simply filling out the party forms to change parties, while a “political” defection involves astute political gamesmanship, negotiating with the Tinubus, Oshiomoles and Buharis of the APC for dismissal of charges in exchange for garnering votes and bringing the southeast into the APC fold. Given his popularity that cuts across the region, this would have been a great selling point, one that the APC political brass would have accepted with both hands. But he missed an opportunity that has cost him his freedom.

 

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Posted by on Dec 6 2019. Filed under Abia, Articles, Columnists, Corruption Politics, Legislature, NNP Columnists, Raw Politics, Senate, State News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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