Dear Mr. Omoyele Sowore,
Thank you so much for your letter dated the 7th of January, 2009, which you sent to me via e-mail. In fact, I was just settling down the next day to digest some of the information you supplied when I got calls from many quarters that the letter was already on the internet inviting comments from the public. I want to thank you for your wisdom in doing this because for people like you and I who insist on transparency in public life, we cannot be exchanging letters that imply so much behind the scenes.
So, even though you did not inform me of the open nature of the letter to me except that I got to know from well-wishers, I am informing you that this reply will be on-line for the public to digest just as yours also was. Fair enough, I guess?
Let me briefly comment on the personal nature of the letter you addressed to me. People may not know, but we have known each other for nearly fifteen years now, especially from my days in Gani Fawehinmi Chambers when some of us formed the National Conscience (not a party then) to fight the military. You were then a student at the University of Lagos, but I cannot remember whether you joined the movement then. I only remember a few years later when you had problems with cult members whom you claimed you were fighting and we all believed you. Your confrontation with them led to your abduction by the cultists from whose hands you were later rescued. When you graduated shortly after, you visited my office then at Maryland a number of times to intimate me of your intentions to travel abroad to treat yourself. According to you, the poisonous substances that were injected into your body by the cultists, needed to be flushed out of your system.
A few papers reported this at that time. Then, I remember you had no job. You eventually travelled abroad on medical grounds to “flush the poisonous substances from your system”. As a friend, let me apologise for not following the treatment for more than ten years now, even when you visited me when you were in Nigeria a few years ago. I hope the treatment is going on well in the U.S? Even though it is more than ten years, I know these treatments take some time. Please, send some of the duly authenticated medical records to me as a friend for me to know how far the treatment has gone. You may also wish to make it public like the previous letter to me. This may dispel any insinuation from bad people that you falsified medical papers to travel abroad in search of a better life which is the worst form of corruption. Just as you said you admired my activist credentials, I can also vouch for you that you are still undergoing treatment till today. Please, send the records.
Now, to the contents of your letter. As I do not intend to leave anything out, I will take phrases and sentences piecemeal and make my comments on them:
“WE ARE DISTURBED THAT A VOCAL CRITIC AND ANTI-CORRUPTION ACTIVIST OF YOUR STATURE HAS MAINTAINED STOIC SILENCE ABOUT THE EXTENSIVE ACTS OF CORRUPTION AND COLLUSION WITH CORRUPT SERVING OR FORMER PUBLIC OFFICIALS PETPETRATED BOTH BY MRS. WAZIRI AND NIGERIA’S CHIEF LAW OFFICER, ATTORNEY GENERAL MICHAEL AONDOAKAA”
Since assumption of office by Michael Aondoakaa as the Attorney-General of the Federation and Mrs. Farida Waziri as the Chairperson of E.F.C.C, there has been insinuations and rumours about the corrupt activities of the duo. I will be the last to defend them (or any public officer for that matter) over these allegations. I cannot stick out my neck for anyone, including the Ribadu you have spent so much time defending, giving the impression that your attack on Waziri and Aoadoakaa is a Ribadu agenda (even though, as I know you, it may not be true). I will also be the last to crucify them over these allegations.
The reason is that I did not have documents to authenticate the facts. (You just sent some now by e-mail which I will come to shortly). If I speak up every time I hear a rumour on corruption without documentation, I will soon be seen as a public nuisance rather than as an activist. All my previous crusades have been with documents. Some examples are:
(a) When I took on Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi in 1999, I presented certified copies of court records showing how he was charged for 419 and jumped bail.
(b) When I took on the Bola Ige case, I presented certified affidavits, audio cassettes, visual cassettes, and hand-written statements of Fryo to the public which led to the impeachment of Iyiola Omisore and his eventual trial. Even the recant by Fryo could not change the situation.
(c) When I took on the operators of the Police Equipment Fund, I presented a barrage of documents to law-enforcement agents and the public which led to their arrest and prosecution and the end of that scam.
(d) When I recently took on the House of Representatives, I presented documents to back up my facts that even a weak denial of those documents could not prevent the on-going investigation in that regard.
There are many more, but that has been my modus operandi. But in this case, apart from the non-existence of documents regarding these rumours of corrupt practices, I have been very careful in this case because it is the very people that have, at one time or the other either transferred some powers from Ribadu or replaced him in his previous office that have been branded as “corrupt”. I am sure if Jesus has replaced Ribadu, Jesus would have also been termed “corrupt”. The simple reason, I suspect is that, there may be a subtle campaign to make anyone coming after Ribadu fail in that office. But the office does not belong to Ribadu’s family, and that is not patriotism. In fact, I wonder what would have happened if Ribadu had stayed for eight years in that office when he would not be eligible for “re-appointment”. Maybe, his friends would have campaigned for amendment of the law for him to stay on for life. It is the Nigerian mentality of “only-me-must-succeed”, even when the so-called “success” is hyped beyond what it was by his friends in the media.
These are just my suspicions. I do not have documents to back up my claim except for the refusal of Ribadu to come forward to give a proper account (not the three-page handover note to Lamorde) when invited to do so and the refusal to name 31 governors he alleged that the E.F.C.C had completed investigations against.
But despite these suspicious, I am still on the alert. Whenever, I see duly authenticated documents on corruption against either Waziri or Aondoakaa, I will speak up. I will not maintain a “stoic silence”.
“IT WOULD BE SAD IF YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE EFCC BECOMES AN EXCUSE TO SHIRK YOUR RESPONSIBILITY AS A SELF-AVOWED PUBLIC CONSCIENCE AND COMMENTATOR ON MATTER OF CORRUPTION, ABUSE OF OFFICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS”
The suggestion here is that because I am now a private prosecutor to the E.F.C.C, I will be impeded in my various crusades.
I want to assure you that this cannot be farther from the truth. I am just a private prosecutor for the E.F.C.C, not an employee. My views cannot be impeded because of the assistance I give to that body, and it is an assignment I took up without first asking or negotiating for a kobo. It was patriotism simpliciter. Do not forget that I am also prosecuting the operators of the Police Equipment Fund for the Police FREE OF CHARGE. Since I took up the challenge of prosecuting suspected corrupt persons on behalf of E.F.C.C, I have continued to constructively criticize the Federal Government’s many anti-people policies. I have variously referred to the Yar’Adua’s regime as “illegitimate” because of the way the elections that heralded him was conducted, and of course orchestrated by your good friend and anti-corruption “czar”, Ribadu.
I have taken Aondoakaa to court and the Federal Government and I am still in court with them over the appointment of Service Chiefs without legislative approval. I have also taken the Inspector-General of Police to court to compel him to arrest and prosecute Obasanjo over the Odi and Tiv massacre. I am still in court over that. Moreover, I defended and I am still defending your fellow online journalists arrested by this government FREE OF CHARGE. These are Jonathan Elendu and Emmanuel Asivwe. I am also defending one of the editor of the Leadership Newspapers charged to court by this government FREE OF CHARGE. I defended Channels Television and all its editors, including the CEO John Momoh, FREE OF CHARGE when this government clamped down on them. If you eventually run into problems with some of this your stories, whether they are true or not, I will be there to defend you FREE OF CHARGE if you require my services.
Therefore, I cannot hobnob with those in government and shirk my social responsibility. I laughed so much when I read a mischief maker say he saw me one day in the office of Attorney-General. Ignorance, at times, can be so embarrassing. I do not know of a busy lawyer with good briefs that will not have one thing or the other to do every week in the office of the Attorney-General of a State or the Federation – either in the Directorate of Public Prosecutions or Directorate of Civil Litigations, or just following up letters or complaints, on behalf of clients, to the office of the Attorney-General.
My friend Sowore, I have worked hard and I am comfortable. There is nothing I will gain from prosecuting for the E.F.C.C other than the satisfaction of contributing to the anti-corruption crusade. I do not have too much, but allow me the immodesty to say that I have a few fully built landed properties in choice areas of Lagos and Abuja. My three-storey office complex which I built about three years ago in FESTUS KEYAMO LANE, ANTHONY VILLAGE has about 18 lawyers and 12 support staff.
My Abuja office building in Zone 6 which I bought about two years ago has many lawyers and support staff. The houses which I stay in both cities are my personal properties acquired through the sweat of my brow without a single brief from Government. I drive descent cars that even the rich also drive. What more do I want? My needs are not much. I live a restricted life. I do not like unnecessarily expensive things that display wealth. I am not hungry.
As a result, I will not toe the path of very prominent radical lawyers who were heavily paid consultants to Ribadu’s E.F.C.C and kept a “stoic silence” when the following corrupt practices happened under Ribadu:
(a) When Ribadu accused lawmakers in Ekiti, Bayelsa and Plateau States of gross corruption and arrested them at different times. After signing impeachment notices against their various governors at various times, that was the end of the allegations of corruption and abuse of office against them. In fact one of these lawyers who initially said he would defend the EFCC free of charge, later collected Six Million Naira from the EFCC under Ribadu. The case was lost by the EFCC at the Supreme Court. I am not aware the lawmakers were even charged to court. In Bayelsa State, one of them became the Deputy Governor and in Ekiti State one of them became the Acting Governor.
(b) When Ribadu refused to arrest and prosecute the likes of Bode George and Andy Uba, despite large outcry from the press.
(c) When, in the sale of Russel Center, a property priced and assessed at N3.2 Billion suddenly dwindled to N2.3 Billion under Ribadu’s watch (I have the documents). Ribadu was later to say it was his lawyers that handled the sale, not himself! Haba!
I cannot remember whether you wrote letters to these prominent lawyers at that time asking why they kept “stoic silence”. It must have been an oversight by you. Even the silence you kept too must have been an oversight by you. But I remember I spoke up against all these acts of corruption and abuse of office.
THE DOCUMENTS YOU SUPPLIED
(1) ON CASH WITHDRAWALS FROM E.F.C.C ACCOUNT
I unreservedly condemn any withdrawal of funds from the public till without a clear purpose. However, you had no document to back this claim and how the money was misappropriated. Please, let me have the documents when you have them so we can fight this together. Please let me also have a comparative table on amounts spent by Ribadu in running the E.F.C.C monthly so we can make proper deductions.
(2) ON PROPERTY AT 10 PORT NOVO STREET, WUSE II, ABUJA
I condemn any acquisition of public property by a public office holder without a clear source of the money. However, you had no document at all to back this claim. You said Waziri paid a deposit of N5 million naira, and “it was not clear how Mrs. Waziri paid the balance of N45 million naira”. As a result, anytime you become sure of your facts, please do let me know.
PROPERTY AT PLOT 1460 OF 25 TRENT RIVER STREET, MAITAMA
According to you, this property was allocated to her, like many other prominent Nigerians whom you listed. It was later revoked and taken away from her. Maybe, as a public servant she could not pay for it. However, you claimed that one Zainab Naomi Salawu, who is her daughter, later acquired the land.
I want to assume that it is true that Zainab is Farida’s daughter. But this case is exactly the case of Ribadu. In 2005, Ribadu was offered a palatial home in Maitama by El-Rufai, whom he saw nothing wrong against throughout his tenure (we now know better!) for forty-five million naira. Ordinarily, that house should have cost triple that amount. Ribadu, like Farida, claimed he had no money to pay for it. So he approached his father-in-law, Professor Ilya Abubakar, who provided the money!
I do not see the crime Ribadu committed by approaching his father-in-law to provide the funds for him. I have never raised issues about this. And for me to be consistent on this, I do not also see the crime Farida Waziri committed by renouncing the land and for her daughter who is married (and can get money form her husband) to later buy it. Like in Ribadu’s case, I will not criticize her yet, unless I see evidence that the funds used by her daughter was corruptly acquired or taken E.F.C.C.
MERCEDEZ BENZ GL GIFT FROM GOVERNOR GODSWILL AKPABIO
This is the simplest thing to which I can respond. When the operators of the Police Equipment Fund got desperate to tarnish me, they alleged they gave me a Jeep and Ten Million Naira. No single document backed their claim. No Bill of lading by which the car was imported, no chassis no., e.t.c. I told the public to disregard them.
How then can I then turn around and accuse someone else of the same thing without a single document? Haba! But your story may be substantially true. It may also be substantially false.
Just provide evidence and we shall fight this together. Like I said before, I fight with evidence.
ON RIBADU’S ALLEGED HOUSES ABROAD
Like in the case of Waziri, I will never accuse Ribadu of acquiring properties abroad without proper documentation. Check my public speeches. I have never done that. In fact you spent a lot of time, energy and skill showing in graphic form how people COULD HAVE lied that Ribadu owns properties abroad. That is your prerogative and I will not criticize you for that. I will only caution that you cannot stick your neck out for a public officer, like I will never do, whether it is for Waziri or Ribadu.
Think about that. Your conclusion that all the allegations against Ribadu have been “investigated” by you and found to be untrue betrays a bias that is deep-seated on this issue. Do not be caught in an embarrassing position. You are not a detective or a law-enforcement agent. Keep your mind open.
What I have done and I continue to do is to say I disagree with those who now seek to build our collective struggle to enthrone a corrupt-free society around a policeman who was picked by a corrupt dictator, bent on perpetuating himself in office, to do his bidding. And when it came to the crunch, this same policeman refused to lift a finger, despite a mass of evidence against the following persons and more:
(1) Andy Uba who was caught smuggling dollars to the U.S ( I have the documents and I went to court over this)
(2) Alao-Akala whom Ribadu called a thief publicly. (I have the publications)
(3) Bode George who was indicted by an investigative panel. (I have the report)
(4) Fani-Kayode, who was the Man Friday of Obasanjo, and who was alleged to be involved in corrupt practices. (I have the documents and I am prosecuting)
(5) Kenny Martins who is an in-law to Obasanjo and looted public funds in the name of the Police (I have the documents and I am in court over this)
(6) Professor Borishade who the Senate rejected many times as a Minister and was re-nominated many times by Obasanjo, and was later linked to corrupt practices (I have the documents)
(7) Iyabo Obasanjo, the daughter to Obasanjo (who has been charged to court for corruption)
(8) El-Rufai, the known acolyte of Obasanjo (who has been declared wanted for corruption)
My brother, Sowore, I will never deify the person who failed to act against these individuals, but rather brought out a list of over 100 politicians indicted for corruption when many of them never knew they were being investigated or were they even invited for questioning. All was in a bid to prevent them from running for offices to satisfy Obasanjo.
I don’t forget history easily, that is why my position on Ribadu is what it is. I am not a politician, so I am not looking for votes from the public. As a result, my positions on matters are not dictated by popular sentiments, especially built by the Press, even when my conscience and thinking say otherwise. I take my positions based on my deep-seated convictions and beliefs, even if the world is going the other way. For instance, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, whom we all respect so much, has been defending in court those allegedly corrupt drug dealers, accused and charged to court for attempting to murder another anti-corruption amazon, Dora Akunyili, despite popular sentiment. The case is still at the Supreme Court. But Gani still stands tall in his beliefs.
Fortunately, Sowore, we have agreed on so many things in the past, but have disagreed on the singular issue of the Ribadu saga. But I still respect your opinion, and I hope you respect mine as well. In future we shall agree on other issues.
Since assuming office, Farida Waziri, have either charged those listed above as “untouchables” to court and declared some of them wanted. That is not to say she is a saint. That is not to say I can vouch for her. But these are the facts as I have them. And I prefer to work with facts.
I rest my case.