I have read all sorts about you and I and it is necessary sometimes to put the records straight for the sake of doubting Thomases who can never see anything good in others. You were a Governor for eight years and I can’t remember ever meeting you one on one. The only time I believe we exchanged physical pleasantries would have been at the 70th birthday dinner hosted in honour of your mother-in-law, Erelu Ojuolape Ojora at The Eko Hotel and Suites in Lagos some years back. I remember seeing and greeting you and a few of the former and current Governors present including Olusegun Osoba, James Ibori, Babatunde Fashola and others.
I would later see one of the pictures I took at the party and read many years after that I was busy drinking champagne with James Ibori who was being wanted for several cases of corruption and so on. I could not believe my eyes because the picture showed clearly that I was chatting with Chief Olusegun Osoba while Ibori minding his business behind me but someone needed to rubbish me for reasons I could never fathom. Not just that, Ibori was still a Governor and would I run away from a function or refuse to greet people so as not to be accused of hobnobbing with corrupt leaders?
The next time I interfaced with you was after you employed Mr Bamikole Omishore who was my American campaign coordinator in Washington DC, when I joined the Presidential race from 2010-2011. I was happy that you got such a brilliant young man to manage your social media. But you and I got closer for only one reason in the past one year plus because we both campaigned vigorously for Major General Muhammadu Buhari and you and Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi were the best of pals and he has been my friend long before he became Governor of Rivers State. I loved the way you, Amaechi, Kwankwaso, Wamako, Tambuwal, Atiku Abubakar, and others took the bold decision that would change the course of Nigerian history for better or for worse when you abandoned PDP despite threats and harassments. I must have met you about twice in your Lagos home to strategise and was particularly impressed with your ability to rally the likes of Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola, Wale Tinubu and others who ordinarily would have felt a need to support the government in power. I was informed you were able to raise some stupendous amount of money during and after the APC primaries. We talked more on phone and you assured me constantly that everything was on course. The rest is history.
However trouble started as soon as victory came. I knew you had only one ambition and that was to become the Senate President. I thought that was a legitimate dream but did not envisage that it would turn out to be your albatross. Politics in Africa, and probably elsewhere, is a deadly game. You’ve fought several battles in your life but I doubt if you ever bargained for this one. It all started like a joke. Your party apparatchik was obviously opposed to your candidacy. You were equally determined to realise your life ambition. One of the rumours then was that you could not be trusted with power and that in the next four years you would have become unstoppable if you decide to go headlong for the Presidency. I’m not a member of your party so I could not understand what the hullabaloo was all about. The manner you emerged caught everyone unawares. The biggest problem was the fact that you sought and got the unequivocal support of members of the PDP in the Senate and even did a deal that made it possible for one of them to become your deputy. That was the hara-kiri you committed and your enemies would never forgive you for that.
One thing led to another, and things fell apart and the centre could no longer hold. You probably underestimated the resolve of your enemies to cut you down to size. The next we saw were allegations of impropriety levelled against you at the Code of Conduct Bureau. You were said to have been dodgy in your assets declaration forms. Anyway, it seemed you had touched the tiger by the tail and it remained to be seen how you would wriggle out of the monumental trouble you had inadvertently courted by your rebelliousness and bellicosity. I was personally irked that we were back to the Nuhu Ribadu days and I voiced my opinion openly. I was not defending you but defending the rights of man. I had thought naively that APC knew what it was getting into with an ill-assorted assemblage of different characters from varied backgrounds. I presumed there was an accord that all sinners became saints once they migrated and amalgamated with APC. The deluge of immigrants from PDP convinced me that President Buhari would have to sanctify the pollutants if any in the new party. Not once did I hear of any objection to the proliferation so I assumed all was well.
I never said you should not be prosecuted but that we should discourage a situation where every successive government uses anti-corruption camouflage to punish its enemies. This position was not meant to protect you but to discourage a perpetuation of such tradition. I wrote copiously against the harassment of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu when he went on similar trial. I had demonstrated publicly against the Yar’Adua cabal when they tried to stop Dr Goodluck Jonathan from assuming power when his boss was terminally ill. I remember also when I wrote an open letter to Mallam Nuhu Ribadu in 2007 and how I was viciously attacked by his supporters. But what happened after? Nuhu himself was forced into exile as a victim of impunity. Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and The Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi, formerly known as Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, became veritable victims of impunity and I was vehemently opposed to their ordeals.
I needed to state this background very well as a way of documenting my modest contribution to the discouragement of impunity as a former victim myself under the military regimes. Now that it seems many Nigerians are comfortable with setting fire to an entire village in order to catch some rats, I will not belabour the issue further. Please, permit me to now address the case at hand. I want you to know that no matter what you do henceforth, the case against you will go on. The earlier you resign yourself to fate the better. You have done all you can to prevent this from happening and the time has come for you to defend yourself as best as you can. I understand the psychological trauma you are under. You are in utter shock that a party you laboured with others to build and nurture has decided to treat you as a pariah. You are stupefied at the sudden turn of events.
But let me advise you, the Judiciary is still the best arbiter and if you’re truly innocent, you will be vindicated but if you are found guilty after exhausting all legal options available in the land you must take a bow and accept the judgment with equanimity. Even if the APC decides to sweep this under the carpet, someone may still bring it up tomorrow. It is in your best interest to face the bullet and hope for a miracle. I’m not one of those who have written off the Nigerian Judiciary. I will also not join those who have already convicted you in the court of public opinion. I’m a Christian and I know none of us can cast the first stone and we should be careful not to gloat over anyone’s misfortune.
Please, note that you must do nothing to pervert the course of justice by enacting hurriedly-packaged laws ostensibly meant to block your trial. It will further diminish you and make your sympathisers recoil in shame. To whom much is given, much is expected. God has been very kind to you and as a Muslim you must submit yourself only to the will of Allah, the only one who can forgive our sins. Who knows what the outcome may be at the end of the day?
I beg you in the name of God to take courage. Stand like a man and carry your heavy cross.