• Sunday, May 19, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

The Kogi debacle: A requiem for activism?

Yahaya Bello: A white lion or a big cat?

By Kazeem Olalekan Israel

As a member of the young cadre in the field of activism, there are some older comrades we look up to for guidance and inspiration. However, I was taken aback when I saw how some of our senior cadres became the mouthpiece for the embattled former Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello.

I watched with dismay how these senior comrades were addressing a press conference, purporting to be defending the rule of law and sanctity of the judiciary in respect of the court order obtained at Lokoja by Yahaya Bello against his arrest and prosecution by the EFCC. It should also be noted that these same set of senior comrades, whom I have reasons to presume to be under the instigation of Yahaya Bello last year, embarked on a one-week street protest against the former Chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, calling for his removal for allegedly flouting a Kogi State High Court order in respect of the same Yahaya Bello. It is quite embarrassing that a number of civil society activists in Nigeria have turned themselves into the mouthpiece of the rogues who have collectively left the mass of Nigerian people impoverished.

The press conference by these activists is a pointer to the double-edged nature of some acclaimed activists. In fact, I even learned they followed the press conference up with a rally in support of Yahaya Bello. Nothing could be more embarrassing than seeing old men and women organise themselves under the guise of human rights advocacy to defend and promote the interests of an element like Yahaya Bello.

Read also: Wanted by EFCC: Yahaya Bello or White Lion?

It is not the case that Yahaya Bello does not have a right as guaranteed in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). Far from it! But the reference they are making to the judgement of the Kogi State High Court, which granted an order for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of Yahaya Bello to personal liberty and freedom of movement, does not invalidate the ruling of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, which is for the purpose of arraigning Yahaya Bello.

I must really commend Femi Falana for his intervention on this issue, which I align with. I was honestly expecting them to have first studied and analysed the judgement before coming out to regurgitate a hidden expression, but it seems they were so in a hurry to make a case for Yahaya Bello.

According to the learned Falana, SAN, the order of the Kogi State High Court was made “without prejudice to the power of the Federal High Court to make an order as it may deem fit just in the determination of the rights of the applicant and the respondent as may be submitted to her for consideration and determination.”

According to the judgement of the Kogi State High Court as highlighted by Femi Falana, SAN, the Kogi State High Court specifically directed the EFCC ”to bring before the said Federal High Court, or any such appropriate Court, such criminal charge, allegation, or complaint in respect of whereof the Applicant is reasonably believed by the Respondent to have committed any offence.”

The fact that the EFCC has filed charges of money laundering against Yahaya Bello at the Federal High Court means that they are obeying the order of the Kogi State High Court. So, I don’t understand where these senior activists are coming up with the allegation that the EFCC is desecrating the court by making efforts to arrest Yahaya Bello so that he could appear before the Federal High Court in Abuja.

It is disturbing that these senior activists and their other enablers did not see any reason to condemn the reckless attitude of the Governor of Kogi State, Ododo, who came to obstruct EFCC from performing their constitutional duties. I could remember that these same people went on a week-long protest against Bawa as EFCC Chairman until they ensured that he was sent out of the EFCC, just because of Yahaya Bello. This is another creation of theirs.

Read also: Yahaya Bello: Don’t desecrate courts while fighting corruption – CSOs tell EFCC

Meanwhile, about two years ago, when the EFCC laid siege on the house of former Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, who was even live streaming the onslaught, these same activists were so silent then. Should we not ask what their agenda is with selective activism? It must be made known that Okorocha equally got a similar order through his counsel, Wole Olanipekun, just as Yahaya Bello did. Unfortunately, these human rights activists did not deem it fit to utter a word or even hold a press conference not to talk about organising a rally, as is the case now.

The claim of these senior activists is grossly falsified, misleading, and an effort to distort facts. Perception is more potent than reality. The perception out there is that these Yahaya Bello activists are being sponsored by Kogi State, and there are enough reasons to hold such a belief; they only show their mojo when it concerns Yahaya Bello. It is embarrassing to some of us who look up to them for direction and inspiration. One would have expected them to condemn the action of Governor Ododo of Kogi State, who travelled down to Abuja just to whisk Yahaya Bello away. The action of Governor Ododo alone ridiculed democracy and brought to contempt the ruling of the Kogi State High Court, which empowered the EFCC to try Yahaya Bello.

The action of Ododo is injurious to our democracy, not the attempt by the EFCC to get Yahaya Bello to appear before a Federal High Court to answer issues concerning money laundering. With this less-than-honourable posture of our senior comrades in this saga, I am particularly disappointed.

Kazeem Olalekan Israel writes from Ibadan, Nigeria.