By Ado Umar Muhammad
The bribe-taking videos released last month by the publisher of online medium Daily Nigerian, Jaafar Jaafar, caused a sensation before the release was suspended by a Kano High Court. The videos showed Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano state stuffing bundles of dollars he was allegedly receiving from a contractor into his pockets. The raging debate among Nigerians since then has been whether the videos are genuine or not.
After releasing the first video, Jaafar explained how he came by them. He said following complaints by a contractor that the governor was collecting bribes he resolved to persuade him to secretly record the act using a spy camera. The publisher then described the contractor as a friend who had been doing contract jobs for the government since the tenure of former governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, whom he served as a media aide.
However, I must say the whole episode pissed me off not just because of the despicable show of shame but the holier-than-thou attitude of people since the videos went viral in the social media. It was as if bribe-taking is totally unheard of in Nigeria and nothing of the sort has ever happened here. Who among us can claim that he or she has never been forced by circumstances to either receive or offer bribes? If there is any, let him cast the first stone. Only PMB can cast stone because he is known to have the requisite integrity.
In point of fact, it is common knowledge that our leaders at all levels solicit bribes from contractors. Misappropriation of public funds and bribe-taking are so common that people now regard political leaders as “thieves.” This is because, rightly or wrongly, Nigerians see office holders as corrupt officials. The “10-percenter” cliché has indeed been with us since the First Republic. And in recent years, many of our leaders have been prosecuted, convicted and jailed for corruption offences.
I was also dismayed by the skewed perception of the video release because people seem to have misread the politics involved. This may have stemmed from ignorance of the antecedent that informed release of the videos at this time. I am talking about the frosty relationship between the governor and the publisher’s political mentor. Jaafar would certainly be all too pleased to unleash this unprecedented smear campaign to avenge his master.
Lest I be mistaken for condoning bribery, let me hasten to add that that is far from the truth. I just thought an explanation of the politics involved is required to understand the motive behind the videos. It would thus be very wrong to suppose that I am an apologist for anyone. Rest assured that I am writing this piece, without prejudice to all concerned, out of personal conviction and the desire to expose what is obnoxious and dirty politics.
The bundles of dollars the governor is shown receiving are said to be part of 15 or 20% bribe amounting to $5 million for some contracts. According to Jaafar, the recording of the videos began in 2016. That is, shortly after the quarrel between the governor and Senator Kwankwaso escalated. The latter and his entourage had visited Ganduje’s village to commiserate with him over the death of his mother. The unruly behavior of his supporters during the visit stoked up the feud and made matters worse.
Generally speaking, people are bound to repeat mistakes and fall victim of deception if they don’t learn from history. Within political circles in Kano Jaafar is viewed, rather uncharitably, as a hit man especially for a particular politician whose adversary he is known to have consistently attacked in the past. Actually, he made his name writing propaganda articles against such adversaries.
Dr. Aminu Magashi, a popular columnist on health issues with Daily Trust, after viewing the videos recently exposed the fallacies contained in one of such articles. In a piece titled “October Blues: Can we trust Jaafar Jaafar?” Dr. Magashi said in 2006 he was doing his Master’s degree in London School of Hygiene when he read Jaafar’s article at Gamji website on then Kano state governor, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau. According to him, the writer accused Shekarau of operating foreign bank accounts in London, Saudi Arabia, Germany and Egypt. He claimed that the governor had lodged a total of 4,512,269.59 British Pounds with the National Westminster Bank in London with Acct. No. 4113242. Out of penchant for truth Magashi said he and three others went to the bank to verify the allegation. To their bewilderment, the bank had no such account number. Also prompted by a petition the EFCC took up the case but similarly found it to be false.
Last year also, Jaafar was the first to raise alarm on the alleged financial impropriety in Kano Emirate Council in two successive articles detailing flagrant abuse of palace funds in billions of Naira. He said Emir Muhammadu Sunusi II inflicted deficit on the billions of Naira he inherited after his coronation in June, 2014. According to him, the emir went on a spending spree squandering “the treasury on exotic cars, unnecessary ‘restructuring’ of the palace, frequent foreign travels, chartered flights, customize sets of Christian Louboutin spiked shoes, Moroccan costumes, (and) internet bills.”
The most disquieting aspect of the scathing attack on the emir however was his linkage of the allegation with the Muffet Commission of Inquiry that investigated the emir’s grandfather, Sir Muhammadu Sunusi, leading to his deposition in 1963. He surmised that if a similar commission were to be inaugurated to probe the emir the revelation would be startling. The implication here is obvious. Only the writer knows at whose behest he did this one. However, it is gratifying to note that the revered emir remained level-headed throughout the crisis that ensued.
Cited above are only two of several instances. The questions that arise now are: Why did Jaafar not use the videos in his friend’s possession until when next year’s elections are just around the corner? Is the timing not aimed at inflicting maximum negative effect on Ganduje’s campaign for second term? Is it not a case of Jaafar fighting another war with an opponent? And why is the suspension of the videos by a High Court now being breached?
As someone known for such political battles, it is clear that the publisher’s main motive of releasing the videos is not morally inspired but to wage a vendetta. It is just one of his so many sanctioned battles. Actions are judged by their intentions. Thus, Jaafar is not an anti-corruption hero as some people posit; he is merely serving the interest of his boss who has vowed to sabotage Ganduje’s second term bid.
Finally, Jaafar’s calculated vilification of his principal’s political opponents have so far failed because what he wrote was proven to contain falsification of facts, as testified by the EFCC itself. One wonders now whether the dollar videos – which I must admit seem incontrovertible – would ultimately prove to be authentic or he will suffer another defeat in battle. Time will tell.
Muhammad wrote in from Hotoro, Kano