OPINION: Obasa Allegations Should Worry Buhari, Tinubu

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Tunde Odesola

A huge outrage is currently on stage in Minneapolis, USA, where Derek Chauvin, a chauvinist, rammed his knee down a throat and inflicted a large damage to America’s formidable image of a quintessential society resplendent in racial diversity. Chauvin didn’t kneel down in prayer. He, probably, was too profane to pray. He, absolutely, was blind to see that the colourful thread with which God knitted humanity was love.

In his chauvinism, Chauvin was arrogant. With his left hand in his trouser pocket, the hefty 44-year-old white American police officer, for several minutes, knelt on the neck of a 46-year-old black American father and grandfather, George Floyd, crushing his windpipe and sending him to an early grave.

Harmless, handcuffed, submissive, face-down and pinned to the ground like a rattlesnake in broad daylight, Floyd’s dying voice was heard in a viral video, pleading repeatedly: “I can’t breathe, please, please, I can’t breathe.” But Chauvin, along with three other white police officers, appeared irreversibly bent on committing a public execution.

Why was Floyd killed? He was killed for allegedly being in possession of a counterfeit $20 bill, the equivalent of N7,500. The whole of America has been on the boil while Minneapolis has been on fire since life was cruelly snuffed out of Floyd. President Donald Trump, his challenger in the upcoming November presidential election, Joe Biden, and former President Barack Obama, along with millions of Americans have condemned Floyd’s avoidable murder.

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If the City of Minneapolis can go up in flames and the whole of the US quakes in racial shame for the killing of one soul, Nigerian leadership should be ashamed and account for the numerous number of souls lost daily due to governments’ dereliction of duty in the areas of security, healthcare, transportation, unemployment etc.

Lethargy incubates poverty, the breeder of death, diseases, sicknesses and lack in Nigeria, a country whose unwritten public service mantra is “Chop-I-Chop.” Were it not so, the flood of corruption allegations against the Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Alhaji Mudashiru Obasa, should be a source of concern to the President and leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the National Chairman of the APC, Mr Adams Oshiomhole, and particularly, the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on whose mandate Obasa stands.

The dog of the king is the king of dogs, so they say. In Lagos, Tinubu is the king, whose unbelievable wealth and phenomenal power keep political lackeys baying at his table, day and night, in expectation of freebies. Lagos State has no anthem. But Tinubu does. Some call it Tinubu’s praise-worship. It’s entitled, “On Your Mandate We Shall Stand, Bola.” It is sung at public functions by elected APC members in Lagos. It’s the song of allegiance. To sing it, you must clear your throat, put your right hand on your heart, look towards heaven, lift your eyes in supplication, and your voice in worship.

I’m in nonstop fascination with the nature of man and birds. I love the bat – a nocturnal mammal that protects its fledglings from the distraught mother hen who tries to retrieve her day-old chick from the bloody beaks of bat-pups.

In a pretentious democracy, when you regularly hear subsequent Lagos governors, their cabinet members and the 40-member House of Assembly chorus, “On your mandate we shall stand, Bola…,” – 13 solid years after he left office as governor, you should know Tinubu has Lagos State delicately in the palm of his left hands. Unmoved by the tintinnabulation of politics, Tinubu’s gaze is perpetually fixed on political power as a means of personal reinvention on the road to social change.

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I love Tinubu. But I hate his politics. I prefer the politics of Obafemi Awolowo that shuns hero-worshipping and movement of money in bullion vans on election eve.

Agba kii wa loja, ki ori omo tuntun wo. This Yoruba proverb extols the corrective role of the elderly in society. Tinubu, the Governor Emeritus, shouldn’t be seen as speaking up only when his interests are threatened. I remember vividly that the political wizard took a former Accountant General of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, from nowhere and installed him governor the same way he installed Ambode’s predecessor, Babatunde Fashola, as governor twice. When it was time for Ambode to be shoved aside for the incumbent Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Tinubu spoke publicly. He said the party would decide who would be its candidate in the 2019 governorship election. And the party independently picked Sanwo-Olu without interference from the Jagaban Borgu!

The Architect of Modern Lagos, Tinubu, had deployed his wealth of experience, on numerous occasions, to settle rifts in the House of Assembly from 1999 till date. Particularly, he was instrumental to the emergence of Obasa as Speaker of the House. This is why the ominous silence of the APC and the EFCC over the allegations against Obasa is dangerous. It’s my bet Obasa’s corruption allegations will be some of the big talking points if Tinubu finally contests the 2023 presidential election.

The allegations against Obasa, who’s the Chairman, Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria, are frightening. They shouldn’t worry Tinubu, alone. They should also worry Buhari, whose administration has turned deaf ears despite giving Nigerians the whistle to blow on corruption. Since 2018, Nigerians have been blowing the whistle on Obasa’s alleged malfeasance, but the EFCC falcon refused to hear the falconers.

Some of the Obasa allegations involve operating 64 bank accounts, approval of N47.5m for quarterly media promotion, approval of N258m to print phantom invitation cards two months after the event took place, receiving N17m monthly allowance for maintenance of personal residence and guest house, receiving alongside 17 other lawmakers N80m as estacode for attending a five-day event, collection of N45m for a Christmas party that never held, among other sordid allegations.

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In countries where corruption isn’t on the rampage, Obasa, who is a fifth-term legislator, would have stepped aside and made himself available for investigation. It’s shocking that the EFCC never invited Obasa for questioning since 2018 when some of the allegations boiled over.

I reckon that the EFCC won’t want to investigate Obasa for a number of reasons – one of which is the suspicion that the weight of evidence in the allegations are not in the Speaker’s favor. The EFCC seems to be shielding Obasa because he’s a member of the ruling APC. Also, a public prosecution of Obasa would likely open bigger cans of worms that may tarnish the image of the APC in Lagos. It goes to say that the rumoured presidential ambition of Tinubu is going to suffer a setback if the Speaker of his state and his political grandson is convicted for corruption. Similarly, the trial and conviction of Obasa will put a question mark on the safety of public funds and the practicability of the financial autonomy recently granted to state legislatures by Buhari.

Buhari, his EFCC, Tinubu and the APC all need to grind out a convincing response to the Obasa cruncher. Otherwise, the party would totally become a laughing stock as it has become in Edo where Oshiomhole went back to his putrid vomit of four years, and lapped it all up, smiling and smacking his lips.

Oshiomhole’s endorsement of Osagie Ize-Iyamu as the Edo State factional APC candidate is the worst form of political recant coming second only to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s backtrack on former Vice-President Abubakar Atiku.

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If I publicly swore in God’s name and called someone a fat-headed thief, my family would offer to take me for a psychiatry test when I return home from the show of shame where I unsaid what I had said. Men with integrity have personal pride, they don’t prostrate to cows in order to eat meat.

Tunde Odesola is a seasoned journalist, writer, and a columnist with the Punch newspapers.

Email: tundeodes2003@yahoo.com

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