In my last column entitled “Jonathan’s Hostage Negotiator Puts Him in a Tight Corner” (3 September 2014), I argued that Australian hostage negotiator Dr. Stephen Davis did Nigeria a favour by daring to call by name two persons (whether or not the evidence against one seems sketchy) alleged to be sponsors of Boko Haram, and by pointing to an unnamed person purported to be the evil sect’s banker ensconced in our Central Bank.
A premise of my argument was that Davis played his generally acknowledged role of negotiator for the release of the over 200 Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram 154 days ago on behalf of the federal government. But Davis, it emerges, was a freelancer. It is unclear to me if Davis, a man of the cloth, intended to mislead the world or was merely unable to resist a bit of self-inflation once faced with television cameras, but no matter. It seems clear, nonetheless, that Davis has had an informal but close relationship with the federal government dating back to his role as a hostage negotiator in the Niger Delta when General Obasanjo was president.
My argument does not depend on Davis' true status. His prime suspect, the untouchable former governor of Borno State, Alhaji Ali Modu Sheriff, remains, despite his staunch denials and the presidential protection he currently enjoys, under the darkest cloud of suspicion.
In any case, I did allow enough room for doubt up to the possibility that Davis could be a “rabble rouser,” insisting only that President Jonathan put personal interest and petty party politics aside to move decisively against anyone regarding whom a prima facie case of aiding and abetting the terrorist group threatening to destroy Nigeria can be established. By the evidence that has filtered into the public domain, a prima facie case against Sheriff can be made. This is what gives Femi Falana the confidence to beg Sheriff to sue him for defamation. And to threaten to seek an order of mandamus to compel Jonathan, through his Attorney-General, to act or, failing to act, allow him to initiate proceedings, thereby separating fact from fiction to vindicate or convict Sheriff.
But far from invoking the law, Jonathan contrived to be seen with Sheriff holding bilateral talks with the president of another country, General Idriss Déby of Chad! Without any foreknowledge on the president’s part, we are told, Sheriff appeared at the airport in N’Djamena to welcome his president to another country and to later on share his jolly company in the same room with the host.
How well this speaks of our protocol and intelligence services that they do not vet the list of persons who would be in close contact with our president, especially in a foreign land! We know that to this government, everyone who is not a member or cheerleader of the shameless political hucksters called Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria — yes, those who say Jonathan is a co-equal of Ghandi, Mandela and Martin Luther King — and Bring Back Jonathan 2015 is an enemy.
You know, the likes of those who were bribed with pure water, a luxury not to be found in Otuoke, to protest their further pauperisation through the withdrawal of a corruption subsidy, deceptively named fuel subsidy, in January 2012. Or who believe that no president can fight a war against corruption if he doesn’t give a damn about personal example through the public declaration of his assets. Or that it smacks of moral bankruptcy to pardon a convicted former governor when the wound of his thievery is still open and bleeding. But with friends like Sheriff and Déby, it is clear why those I have just described must be enemies.
But watch out, my president! First, it would seem you are your own worst enemy for always acting contrary to your best interest by scorning the general good. Second, those you call your friends are, really, your mortal enemies. See how your latest bosom friend, Sheriff, connived — since you had no knowledge of it — with your brother president in Chad to embarrass you! Perhaps you are not embarrassed? That would be yours and Nigeria’s great pity.
Why Davis still has you in a tight corner and Boko Haram, so far, is winning the war against Nigeria. Sir, you must do better than tell us that Sheriff did not travel with you to N’Djamena. The point is that you did not protest his presence, shockingly failing to see the moral implication of having him within arm’s length at this very time. If you will not have Sheriff prosecuted, you are obliged at the very least to tell him to go and clear his name. And that until then you would not be seen in his company.
For the trouble, sir, is that as with Sheriff, so with many a minister, governor or close associate who has been accused of serious wrong-wrongdoing, even of crime. Thus, one might say that with you integrity comes with a bad reputation.
That your best political friends are precisely those under suspicion, the more foreboding the cumulus cloud of suspicion the better. Making me wonder if Sheriff, like Mr Ayodele Fayose and Senator Iyiola Omisore, will not emerge as your party’s governorship candidate in Borno State before long. A moral black hole threatens your government and my worry is that you don’t give a damn about that either.