By Inyali Peter
About four months ago, the cyberspace was inundated with reports about the purported sack of Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, the Chairman, Special Presidential Investigation Panel on Recovery of Public Assets (SPIP), by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo for allegedly disobeying his directives.
The story, as many others against Chief Obono-Obla appeared sponsored just to smear his Character for daring to touch some untouchables who have looted this country dry. His guts, courage and brevity in putting his life in the line to save this country from corruption which is undoubtedly the single bane to Nigeria’s development has never been appreciated by the Prof. Osibanjo led cabal in the Presidency.
One of the porous and funny offences listed against Obono-Obla which informed his alleged sack according to the report was his refusal to remove “Presidential” from the panel’s letterhead. Whatever that means, only Osibanjo and his deputy Chief of Staff who is doing the hatchet job for the cabal can explain how a panel which is established by law with the name clearly defined by the constitution as well as reflected in the letter of appointment given to members ought to carry different name.
They also claimed in the report that the Chairman failed to reply some letters from the office of the Vice President. Although, the panel is not under any obligation to report to the office of the Vice President, an independent investigation revealed that there’s no single letter from the office that the panel’s Chairman failed to reply.
All the absonant directives like asking the panel to drop some high profile cases because the people involved are friends of the government without equivocation have been appropriately responded to even if not directly, but indirectly. For instance, by refusing to undermine the corruption war by dropping some cases is also a respond. Martin Luther King Jr one said that the best answer to a stupid order is disobeying the order.
If a panel was set up to recover government assets and some people because of some interest are directing the same panel to be selective then the best way to respond to such barbaric and unpopular order is to disobey it and that in itself is a satisfactory respond.
Having failed in all attempts to cag the panel or reduce it to the whims and caprices of some powerful forces, they have resorted to using the Police to intimidate and blackmail the panel from during it constitutional job. The story which has been making the rounds online that Police sealed off the panel’s Chairman’s office is not just laughable but a direct affront on the anticorruption war of the current administration.
There’s no gain saying that corruption has been constitutionalized in Nigeria as such with what Obla’s panel has done, it’s not surprising that those who should ordinarily support, encourage and commend the Chairman are the people leading the campaign to crucify him for doing the right thing because maybe, they’re either products of the corrupt order or beneficiaries.
There are many agencies fighting corruption in this country today. Why so much interest in the panel? Lest I forget, the Vice President needs to be reminded that he inaugurated the Panel as Acting President and not as Vice President therefore trying to usurp the powers of the President by wanting the panel to work at his dictates is not only an insult to President Muhammadu Buhari but a serious attempt to mutiny and undermine him. In fact, it’s gross insubordination which is akin to what former President Olusegun Obasanjo suffered in the hands of his estranged Vice, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
What is really Obla’s crime? Why was his office sealed off on a non-working day? If truly as reported, he’s set to be relieved of his duties, must his office which contains some sensitive classified materials be sealed? When the former DSS DG was removed, did the Police sealed off the DG’s office before he was removed? When the former SGF was removed, was his office sealed off?
Why always Obono-Obla? Ibrahim Magu, the Acting Chairman of EFCC who has done great job in the fight against corruption at some point was targeted just like Obono-Obla is today. Corruption allegations were labelled against him just like the new report claimed. But was there anytime that his office was closed? Is it because Obono-Obla is seen as coming from the minority and may not have someone at the top to defend him as others?
Within the about two years lifespan of this panel, Obono-Obla has led it to recover billions of naira, million of dollars and properties worth billions for the Federal Government. The opposition PDP are now more afraid of the panel than even EFCC and ICPC up to the point that the minority Leader, Sen. Abaribe even exercised his fear in the floor of the Senate during the Ministerial screening.
It’s very painful and highly regrettable that instead of commendation, Obono-Obla has been constantly targeted not only by those he’s fighting and opposition but some highly placed public officers who should ordinarily drum support for the enormous work he’s doing.
Clearly, President Buhari’s war against corruption is under serious threat because of the activities of those around him who have become a plague to the success of one of the major policies of his administration; reducing corruption in public service in Nigeria.
Perhaps, President Buhari’s culture of silence has not helped. The President needs to speak out in defence of Obono-Obla who is one of the few persons who have fought stoutly, sincerely and supported him to restore sanity to the public service. Where the incessant witch hunting is allowed to continue unabated as it is now or possible removal, the success recorded so far in the corruption war would become a mirage and complete aberration.
This may just be a litmus test on President Buhari’s sincerity, integrity and seriousness in the fight against corruption. He must not fail the 15 million Nigerians who believe in him and renewed his mandate in the last election to continue among others the anticraft war.