Political activities have shifted to the fields following the lift on the embargo on campaigns by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), but the corruption snag on some candidates cleared by their respective political parties still give anticorruption crusaders and those, who believe that the cankerworm of corruption must be purge for Nigeria to move forward, a cause for concern.
A cursory look at the list of standard bearers for the governorship positions of some political parties in the forthcoming elections shows that some of them have corruption baggage on their heads with a few already charged to courts over the issue.
Such characters cut across most political parties in the race. Senator Kashamu Buruji who emerged as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for Ogun state is having drugs related charges against him. Although a Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan has sacked Buruji Kashamu as the Ogun State governorship candidate of the party, Kashamu is holding on to the ticket and had boasted that despite the appellant court’s verdict, he remained the standard bearer of the party for the 2019 governorship election. Pundits had warned that it would be suicidal to wave Kashamu’s threat aside, arguing that despite the drug-related charges hanging on him, he had contested and won the senate seat on the platform of the party.
Also the ongoing court cases against candidates such as Alhaji Bala Bello Tinka, PDP, Gombe state, Senator Bala Mohammed, PDP, Bauchi; Alhaji Sani Abubakar Danladi, APC, Taraba; Nsima Ekere, APC , Akwa-Ibom; Tonye Cole, APC , Rivers; Uche Ogah, APC, Abia, Adebayo Adelabu, APC, Oyo; Abdulsalam Saleh Abdulkareem, Green Party, Kano and Umar Mohammed Nasko, PDP, Niger as well as others whose mandates were tainted by allegation of certificate forgeries are still undecided as the clock ticks towards the main race.
It is heart rendering that some of these candidates are allowed in the first place to survive the screening process at a time when tremendous success is been recorded in the war against corruption. It is even more saddening that these characters are embolden and shielded by the leadership of their respective political parties who also mouth the fight against corruption as one of the fundamental crusades to move the country on the path of development and growth as part of their campaign promises.
During the process leading to its presidential primary, the main opposition party, PDP through its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, was quoted as saying that the party will not choose its candidate on the basis of whether or not they have graft cases.
The PDP mouthpiece maintained that the party would be guided by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), as well as its rules in screening presidential aspirants, while reacting to reports that the party was planning to drop some of its presidential aspirants with cases of corruption with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and related agencies.
He said the Supreme Court had ruled in the past that anyone who has not been convicted in the court cannot be barred from participating in an election. Today some of its members with corruption cases are now candidates of the party through primaries where members with track record of integrity also contested.
It appears the anti-graft agency seems to aid the delay in the determination of some of these cases looking at the absence of its counsels at proceedings in some courts recently.
In Minna, Niger state for instance, a Federal High Court that is adjudicating in the corruption case against the PDP’s governorship candidate in the forthcoming election in the state had to adjourn following the failure of the EFCC counsel who was due to call more witnesses in the case to show appearance on Monday, December 10, 2018.
Nasko a former commissioner of environment is standing trial alongside his former principal and ex Governor of the state Dr Muazu Babaginda Aliyu on 8-count charge of criminal conspiracy and money laundering.
At the resume hearing however the EFCC counsel did not only failed to show appearance but couldn’t give notice on why the commission was absent from proceeding. The commission’s counsel also failed to show up the following Tuesday December 11 the case was adjourned to after the aborted session on Monday thereby forcing the presiding judge, Justice Yellim Bogoro to adjourn the case to March, 5th and 6th, 2019 respectively.
The court’s decision to adjourn the case to the dates in question has foreclose the possibility of speeding up the process before the commencement of the election as advocated by the Anti-Corruption Vanguard and other well-meaning Nigerians as the said elections would have already taken place then.
A look at the election timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) earlier shows that the Presidential and National Assembly elections was scheduled for Saturday, 16th February 2019, while the governorship and that of the State Houses of Assembly as well as the Federal Capital Territory Area Council will hold on Saturday 2nd March respectively.
Invariably therefore, by the adjourned date, if the election in question favours Nasko and others with ongoing cases in court, they would have become the Governors-elect by then and with such vantage position, it would be difficult to determine the case before the swearing in. Therefore the case remained stall as the accused persons enjoy the immunity their new status prescribes for the next four years.
This is the sad twist to this case and others currently ongoing in various courts. However, the EFCC and of course the Judiciary can still remedy the current delicate situation we find ourselves by accelerating the process by ensuring that justices are served before the handover date so that those who plundered our commonwealth should not receive protection for their acts through immunity.
Jato wrote this piece from Mararaba, Nasarawa State.