The Intriguing Case of President Yar'Adua's Godfather
© Ogaga Ifowodo
With every twist and turn in the unending saga of Mr James Onanefe "Here's-one-who-brings-wealth" Ibori, ex-governor of Delta State, it becomes clearer that the evil of "godfatherism" remains well and alive in our tattered polity. In short, we can now say that it never enjoyed greater favour in the eyes of a sitting head of state. Godfatherism, a pillar of the Obasanjo government, has slowly but surely emerged as the lodestone of Yar'Adua's Aso Rock. True, no right-thinking Nigerian thought that with the death of the fearsome Lamidi Adedibu political gangsters had finally run out of luck. Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali, publicity secretary of the greatest and richest political party ever formed on earth, may have been moved by his distress to declare that the sudden death of Adedibu "created a very big vacuum in the politics of Oyo State and indeed Nigeria." In so expressing the PDP's heartbreak over Adedibu's death, Rufai made an involuntary confession: that the party, whether under Yar'Adua's or Obasanjo's titular leadership, always saw Oyo State as a laboratory of dirty power. Whatever worked in Adedibu's fiefdom was to become a model for "capturing" power in any state where passable opposition to the PDP's totalitarian ambitions existed. It was in this sense that Anambra became another test-tube state. The PDP's outpouring of grief against the general sigh of relief and jubilation said simply, "What will become of our party if godfatherism is buried with Adedibu?"
In order to fill the vacuum and prevent this calamity, the PDP has now announced, by deed, the consecration of Ibori as President Yar'Adua's godfather. On Tuesday, 15 September 2009, Ibori "presided" over a meeting called to discuss the proposed
N10 billion national secretariat of the PDP, a planned monument to profligacy. Ibori is known to be the PDP's "main financier. All the reason why Yar'Adua, through the tireless efforts of his Attorney-General, Michael Aondoakaa, has shielded the embattled ex-governor from every charge of embezzlement and money laundering, both at home and abroad. At the meeting, according to the NEXT account the following day, were high-powered government officials, including Remi Babalola, Minister of State in Finance, and Shamsudeen Uthman, Minister for National Economic Planning. Since the meeting's sole agenda was how to raise the needed billions for the PDP's tower of greed, it is safe to assume that Ibori, believed to be the party's deepest purse, was the actual presiding officer. The deliberations were at Yar'Adua's behest and are to be reviewed by him.
Ibori couldn't have demanded a better gesture to call the bluff of the British government over their most recent attempt to try him and his coterie of male and female partners in crime for money-laundering. Earlier in the year when the astonishingly wealthy ex-governor's case with the London Metropolitan Police made torrid headlines and the Halliburton bribe scandal was blown open in the United States, I had begun a piece entitled "The Anti-Corruption Game," published in The Guardian of 27 April 2009, as follows: "If President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has not already done so, then he must now consider telling the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America to please, henceforth, mind their own business. Clearly, the greatest embarrassments Yar'Adua has suffered regarding his willingness to combat the gloating evil of official corruption have come from these two countries. ... That Yar'Adua has yet to openly declare a turf war must be due, I suspect, to the little matter of the appropriate diplomatese for doing so. In what decipherable language can a president confess to the world that it isn't his country's staggering corruption that gives him sleepless nights but, rather, how to keep the scandals secret?"
I had wrongly presumed that the president would squirm to appear insincere. But that came out of a momentary fog over reason, caused, I now know, by the ruse of his voluntary asset declaration a thousand moons ago. Now, of course, Yar'Adua has told the busybody British and American governments in unmistakable terms to mind their own business. After all, the era of slavery and colonialism is over and there is a surfeit of corrupt politicians in London and Washington, DC as well. And now Yar'Adua's justice minister, the ultra-patriotic Aondoakaa, has declared that he will not, repeat, will not, hand over any citizen of our beloved country, not the least, James Ibori and his henchman in Aso Rock, David Edevbie, to a foreign authority for trial. No matter the number and magnitude of crimes for which said citizen may stand indicted in a court of law, even in our own court. Having instructed - or, at any rate, condoned - Aondoakaa's unilateral verdict of Not Guilty, Yar'Adua next invited the innocent and much maligned main financier of his party to the seat of power for serious matters of state. Never mind that Ibori financed the president's party, and, so, his purloined mandate, with stolen money. That is how godfathers are made, as Adedibu's war with Governor Ladoja who would not hand over the Oyo State coffers to him showed us. But receiving stolen goods, as we know, is a crime that taints the receiver as much as the thief. And herein lies Yar'Adua's moral debacle and credibility problem: how to disavow electoral theft financed with embezzled public funds at the same time that he is the beneficiary of the priciest presidency money ever bought. What to do? Turn against his chief benefactor, in this case Ibori, and bite the very finger that put the delicious power plum in his mouth? There was only one honourable course for him: denounce the electoral fraud of 2007 and insist on a free and fair election. Having failed his moral test, he is condemned now to be Ibori's protector, and so his political godson, money trumping age as in all matters of power and lucre. And, so, reminded of the irrevocable bond that existed between Obasanjo and Adedibu by Yar'Adua's cant, we can do worse than repeat the wisdom of that old saying to the president: "Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are."
For against any protestation to the contrary, Yar'Adua has now given Ibori an iron-cast guarantee of non-prosecution during the tenure of his government, thereby making him almost as untouchable as the king of them all, Ibrahim Babangida. Surely, those who call for Aondoakaa's sack miss the point, though the AG, the best friend that thieving politicians have ever had in that office, ought not to stay a single day longer. Yet, by inviting Ibori to Aso Rock, Yar'Adua not only boasted his godfather to the whole world but also carried out a far worse act of money laundering than what the British police and the EFCC have alleged. Mercifully, the president has finally ended all pretensions of a war against corruption. It was about time!
· Ifowodo teaches poetry and literature at Texas State University, San Marcos, in the United States, and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.