Money Launderers, Gun-Runners and the Presidency, By Sabella Abidde

One of the many failings of President Goodluck Jonathan is his need to be seen with our so-called men of God – or as some would say, “Anointed men of God.” To that extent, he is a one-man groupie. His sense of compassion and forgiveness and Christ-like lifestyle seem suspect; but he very much enjoy being in the company of the clergy. Perhaps he thinks holiness is transferable. Or that being associated with such men makes him adequate and politically clean. Unfortunately, many of the clerics he is seen with are not what or who they appear to be.

As many Swahili speakers know: “There is no incense strong enough to hide a bad smell.” Many of his political and religious friends stink to high heaven. One of his many friends is the ritzy-glitzy Pastor Ayodele Oritsegbubemi Oritsejafor – President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria.

Sabella Abibidde; img: FaceBook
Sabella Abidde; img: FaceBook

On September 15, 2014, several media houses reported that a private jet impounded in South Africa, with three crew members and about $9.3m in tow, belonged to Oritsejafor. According to a more recent media report, the money belonged to the Federal Government, and was to be used for the purchase of arms and armaments in South Africa and or Cyprus. Now, who own the private jet seems not to be in doubt.

I cannot think of a country where money laundering is not a crime. In countries like China, Germany, Australia, the United States, France and South Africa – anyone found guilty of these and similar offences may spend upward of two decades in prison. China is known to execute those found guilty of such offences. But not so in Nigeria where criminal masterminds may end up being best friends with state governors and even the President.

You commit prosecutable crimes but instead of being investigated and if necessary, arrested and prosecuted by competent law enforcement and judicial authorities, you get invited to the presidential villa. Instead of the National Assembly calling for investigation – and actually constituting a panel to investigate the matter – it looks the other way. Those entrusted with upholding the laws of the land acted as if noting egregious happened.

It is understandable if the judicial arm of government is silent on this gun-running and money laundering scandal; what excuse does the National Assembly and the Office of the President have in being silent on this matter. It’s already been established that Oritsejafor owns the plane. So, the second question is this: who owns the money, and how was it amassed; and was he aware that his plane was being used for such illegalities? When did he know? If he didn’t, how could he not know?

How could his private plane be used to transport $9.3m and he tells us he was not aware of it? Is this Oritsejafor first experience with gun-running and money laundering?

Something else: Were the guns and ammunition being purchased in readiness for the 2015 elections? Or were they to be used against Boko Haram? Perhaps there is another explanation? And finally, who else is involved in this scandal?

One of the few saving graces, insofar as this matter is concerned, is the condemnation by Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, former Archbishop of Lagos and first president of Christian Association of Nigeria. In an interview he granted the New Telegraph (September 27, 2014), he said: “What is the man (Oritsejafor) looking for? If you call yourself a man of God, then you should rely on God. Why should he be jumping up and down? This is not right. Look at how Oritsejafor has fallen, from grace to grass.”

When asked if “President Jonathan and Oritsejafor have a case of money laundering to answer?” the outspoken retired cardinal went on to say: “Of course, they have. In fact, if I have a lawyer, I would sue them. And I am telling you that I will win. If you can tell me that if I carry huge sums of money without declaring it, that you will arrest me for money laundering, then what is this one. They were carrying all that money and it was not declared. It is a clear case of money laundering. Yet, they are the ones making laws against money laundering.” If Chief Gani Fawehinmi was alive, he most likely would have taken up this case. Where do Femi Falana, Olisa Agbakoba and Festus Keyamo stand on this matter?

With the very limited information at the public domain, we already know that the President knew the “who, what, when and how” of this egregious matter. If he knew, then, the Office of the Inspector General of Police and that of the National Security Adviser may have been in the loop, too. If that’s the case, then, they acquiesced to the contravention of domestic and international law.

Year after year for the last several years, Nigeria’s image has been taking severe beatings because of disgraceful and criminal acts like these. And you wonder why many countries, in and outside of Africa, no longer consider Nigeria a serious country – or its leaders, men of honour.

Tell me: how do you load close to 10 million dollars into an airplane without the President or folks high up in his administration knowing about it. How? And how could he or his office not know that they were violating several laws – unless of course they didn’t care and or actually meant to commit the crime. If that’s the case, then, we must conclude that what we have in Aso Rock is a criminal consortium. How else would you describe what happened? How?

You truly want to root for this President and his presidency. But at every turn, he disappoints. He hugs and embraces certified criminals and rogues. He makes decisions that set the country back. He makes pronouncements that make one wonder if things are OK with him. He can’t seem to inspire. And he can’t seem to get anything right for a sustained period of time. His administration has been beset by one controversy after another. But more than anything else, he can’t seem to lead.