By Reuben Abati
The embattled Governor of Plateau state, Joshua Dariye decided to spill the beans on the internal workings of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party when he revealed that the missing N1.16 billion for which he is being hounded by the Financial Crimes Commission was in fact shared and used to finance the last elections to ensure the party's victory in Plateau state, the South West, the North East, and to assist certain politicians. What Dariye is saying in essence is that he is not the only thief within the party, he is not the only one that the EFCC should be looking at, in fact part of the money was used to fund the Presidential election.
He also added a threat: if he is pushed any further, if the EFCC does not desist from harassing him and his government and the Plateau State House of Assembly, he will be forced to expose other details about the PDP and the Obasanjo government. Dariye alleges that he is being blackmailed. His confession may be placed in the category of a counter-offensive, in his case, a more damaging form of blackmail and demagoguery. It is to be noted that nobody in the PDP has convincingly denied Dariye's allegations. Ibrahim Mantu, the Deputy Senate President, who Dariye is accusing of having collected N10 million and has asked to return his own share of the loot has said something to the effect that he did not collect any money, but Mantu would need to tell us how he financed his re-election in 2003, and provide concrete evidence.
Vice President Abubakar Atiku says the N100 million given to the Obasanjo/Atiku campaign organisation has since been returned to Plateau state and that the EFCC should look for it. Fidelis Tapgun who was also fingered by Dariye says "it is not true. Dariye is not telling the truth. It is a lie. Dariye is a sinking man trying to grab any straw that he can get." So what is the truth? Tapgun doesn't seem to know. Like him, other commentators and interested parties have spent more time abusing Joshua Dariye instead of responding to his accusations. They should address the issue.
There can be no doubt that Dariye is playing smart. He is being clever. Since he jumped bail in England where he was arrested for money laundering, Dariye who was suspended from office for six months due to the declaration of a state of emergency in Plateau state, has been in the Black Book of the Presidency. Every attempt to remove him from office so far has failed because he enjoys the solidarity and support of the Plateau lawmakers. Every possible missile has been thrown in Dariye's direction but he continues to show a capacity for politicking that Alamiyeseigha (Bayelsa) lacked and which Rashidi Ladoja (Oyo) could not even contemplate. Dariye has chosen to adopt the tactics of his tormentors. He is ready to pull down the roof.
He should be told however that his grandstanding does not make him any more popular with right-thinking members of the community. He has confessed with his own mouth that he took money meant for the development of Plateau state, the people's money, and following a formula ordered "from above", he shared the money as follows: PDP South West (N100 m); PDP North East (N100 m); Ibrahim Mantu (N10m); Presidential election (N66 m); and Plateau State PDP (N800 m). Dariye stands condemned! His confession alone is enough reason to impeach him without any further delay. Is he in Plateau as a Governor duly elected by the people, or as a party operative who will take instructions from above to loot the treasury and share the people's money within the party?
Dariye made his confession in the presence of Plateau leaders who had come to express support for him, the truth is that Dariye has merely confessed to the fact that he has betrayed the people of Plateau state. If he was ordered to share state funds, what could have stopped him from stealing part of the money for himself? Dariye's protest was obviously directed at President Obasanjo. He referred to the EFCC investigators as "Obasanjo's dogs". Then he declared: "Enough is enough for EFCC...I am from Mushere and we eat dogs, my brothers from Pankshin eat dogs also, likewise Anaguta and Berom; if these dogs come from Abuja again, we will eat them. When next they come, they might end up in our pot of soup."
Dariye is lucky he is in Nigeria where the people eat virtually anything including monkeys, cats and human beings, otherwise he would have had another problem on his hands with animal rights campaigners kicking against the official endorsement of cannibalism in Plateau state. He can get angry as much as he wants, but let him watch the kind of things he says. He was not really talking about eating dogs, he was threatening to eat human beings which could be interpreted literally or metaphorically to mean a declaration of violence and a resort to primitive tactics. Members of the PDP, from top to the lower ranks should learn to resolve conflicts in a civilised manner.
Dariye, with his confession has again re-affirmed that which we have always known about the PDP, namely that this is a party without moral scruples, a party of thieves and thugs. Dariye says public funds to the tune of N1.16 billion was taken from his state to finance the 2003 elections. He is singing like a canary because he feels that his co-conspirators are trying to sacrifice him. Only God knows how much other states under the control of the PDP were "ordered" to steal from the public purse on behalf of the party and its officials. President Obasanjo is fighting corruption. The biggest corruption that he has to deal with is how the PDP came to power in 2003. It is clear that his government is sitting on a foundation of corruption. The paradox is that the same government is pretending to offer that which it does not have. Orji Kalu the Governor of Abia state is on record as having said that the Presidency, and President Obasanjo in particular, is not in a position to talk about accountability, integrity and transparency.
When enemies of Chief Anthony Anenih, better known as "Mr Fix it" began to complain that the amount of money that was collected when he was Minister of Works is at variance with the amount of work that was done under his leadership, the incident was explained away on the grounds that money meant for road construction may have been used for the election. The late Chief Sunday Afolabi, former Minister of Internal Affairs was also accused of having stolen some money meant for the National Identity card scheme; his strongest defence before he took ill was that the money was used for the Presidential election! Obasanjo's Presidential election of 2003 must be the most expensive in human history! The PDP is obviously the most expensive political party that Nigeria has ever had. It is an issue that a future government should feel compelled to investigate.
If the PDP leaders of the moment know what is good for them, let them begin a process of self-audit, organised confession and expiation. All the groups and persons who took public funds and used same to finance their election or re-election in 2003 should start returning the money to the state otherwise in the near future, many of them may end up in jail and that may include those who have been there before. In other countries, political parties and candidates organise fund raising events to sponsor their election programmes. They may collect subvention from the state where such is available, but they do not capitalise on the fact they are the ruling party to mismanage public funds. The theft of public funds by the PDP to finance the 2003 elections simply shows that the election was not in any way free and fair. It destroys any claim to legitimacy by the PDP. Other political parties participating in that election were at a disadvantage.
The matter is so sordid it requires a special investigation by the National Assembly. The Senate has been talking about campaign finance reform; the challenge lies in ensuring a level playing field for all political parties. An independent commission of inquiry should also be set up to investigate how the PDP funded its elections in 2003. If Plateau state contributed N1.16 billion, how much did the other states contribute, who collected what, when, where, how and who authorized this? Dariye is not a baby; he knows what he is talking about, and although there have been denials, the Vice President, who should know, has confirmed that indeed, the party took money from Plateau state. It is difficult not to believe this. In both Oyo and Anambra, we had prior notification that the main business of the leaders of the PDP is the business of rent-collection. They collect unearned rent, and hide their guilt under a mountain of dubious analysis.
And to think that it is the ecological fund that has been so abused shows the crassness of the PDP ruling elite. Plateau state has serious ecological problems; N1. 16 billion could have made a lot of difference in the lives of the people. And this is the bigger issue. In all this, the people are the losers. The people continue to suffer because Nigerian leaders are busy stealing money that is meant for development, and using the same to pursue their own political ambitions, their love of power, their greed. Dariye has not shown any remorse; he presents his offence in a self-serving manner and expects sympathy. He is laying claim to a code of honour among thieves. Ordinary Nigerians do not want thieves in power; they want men and women of honour who will use public resources for the common good.
The EFCC is already threatening to expose Dariye, and present him to Nigerians in his true colours. This is perhaps a matter that goes beyond the EFCC. The truth is that the EFCC carries a moral burden of its own. In all cases of attempted or achieved/proposed impeachment of state Governors, the EFCC has shown up as a Presidential tool, as an "Obasanjo dog" to be used to intimidate and punish anyone who is not in the good books of the President. The effect is that a future government may see no need for the EFCC as it is presently organised, given its near-absolute and over-generalised powers.
The people of Plateau state should begin to speak up, those who did not collect any part of the money that was shared by the Plateau state PDP and government, should start asking questions. I expect the people to register their discontent, to reject the mortgaging of their common heritage, not to troop to Government House to massage the ego of Joshua Dariye who is just as guilty as those who give illegal "orders from above". The people in this regard are the ordinary people, not the political contractors who use public funds to get to power and then receive national honours later for "services rendered to the nation".
Finally, the muscle-flexing in Plateau state is about how this government has made short-shrift of the rule of law. Dariye sounds like a man who is ready to go down, but he is determined to take a few more persons along with him. We shall add Dariye's confession to the growing list of moral burdens, illegalities and shame-faced assault on all rules of decency, authored by the PDP and its governments.