In less than 24 hours that the petition written by Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative (ARDI), alleging asset declaration irregularities against Walter Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), became public knowledge, the arrowhead of the organisation, Denis Aghanya, has been unveiled.
Aghanya has never been obscure in the media, and he has a history of aligning with President Muhammadu Buhari or with his interests.
Former Media Aide
Aghanya is a former media aide to Buhari and was also the Publicity Secretary of defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). He is also the current media adviser to Juliet Chikaodili Ibekaku, a senatorial candidate under the umbrella of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
Supported Buhari Over the National Assembly
ARDI and its Executive Secretary have always been vocal in the media, pitching their tents with President Buhari and his government.
Nine months ago, Aghanya and ARDI sided with the President when he purchased $496 million aircraft without the approval of the National Assembly. In his entreaties for the President, he pleaded with the leadership of the National Assembly not to take stringent measures in addressing the President’s faux pas.
In justifying the President’s act, Aghanya reasoned that the President had not committed any serious offence since he did not embezzle the said sum.
“The President’s only sin is that he did not seek the approval of NASS for the release of the fund; he did not embezzle it. For anyone to think of impeachment process against him is not right. We have many problems at hand. Violation of a constitutional provision is bad but it is worse to act in an immoral manner.”
He continued; “There is no doubt that Mr President erred in his approval and release of such magnitude of fund to place order for the controversial aircraft, but I prefer to view his actions from his intention rather than the technicalities associated with the process of releasing the fund. He meant well and nobody can take away that fact. We were all witnesses in this country when funds were appropriated and released and it was completely diverted and embezzled and nobody was questioned. I must confess, however, that I am also happy that the National Assembly could be on top of its game by living up to its oversight function.”
Sided With Buhari During EKweremadu’s EFCC Travails
Aghanya cautioned Ohaneze Ndigbo, an ethnic and socio-cultural organization, against giving ethic colouration to the investigation of Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy Senate President, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He said: “The ethnic dimension given to the ongoing investigation of the Deputy President of the Senate, Chief Ike Ekweremadu, by the EFCC is worrisome. Most worrisome is the role of Ohaneze Ndigbo, which sees every prosecution of their own extraction as unjust. Our position is that Ekweremadu should answer to the issues raised by the EFCC over the alleged 60 assets traced to him. He should also stop giving it the coloration of a persecution against Ndigbo.
“The fight against corruption does not recognize religion or ethnicity and should not be given such coloration. Ekweremadu’s problems are personal and should be treated as such. We wish to commend the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property led by Okoi Obono-Obla for tracing those alleged assets.”
‘Chief Convener’ Of Buhari Unity Band
In November, Aghanya was at the Presidential villa in Abuja to unveil the Buhari Unity Band, a group to propagate support for Buhari ahead of the 2019 presidential election. He splashed the picture on his Facebook page, vividly describing his activity at the villa.
“At the conference centre, state house presidential villa Abuja for the unveiling of Buhari Unity Band by GOGAN (Good Governance Ambassadors of Nigeria) in my capacity as the Chief Convener of C24 (Coalition of 24 Civil Society Organization for Good Governance and Electoral Integrity for Nigeria).
Buhari’s Friends Are His Friends
In 2017, Aghanya’s ARDI awarded Abdullahi Ganduje, Governor of Kano State, the Award of Best Governor in Curtailing Drug Abuse in the country in recognition of his “sustained and systematic fight against corruption through curtailing drug abuse in the state”.
At the award ceremony, Aghanya had said: "Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje represents most of the values that ARDI as an organisation is known for in standing in support of the fight against corruption and graft in Nigeria.
“To be specific, he has taken the anti-corruption campaign to the grassroots by commissioning the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission offices in all the 44 local governments of the state.”
However, since October, when Daily Nigerian released videos of the same Ganduje collecting bribes in dollars from contractors, Aghanya has been dead silent.
These, and many more, are the reasons many are wondering if Aghanya’s petition against Onnoghen is not part of a larger pro-Buhari scheme.