These are interesting times. Pariahs of yore are being canonised as saints. The price is affordable. All that is needed is to feign a hop onto the change train and kowtow at the shrine of anti-corruption fight and pronto one’s sins are forgiven. Or, at least that is the thinking of the onetime Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Michael Kaase Aaondoakaa.
At a time when one time People Democratic Party (PDP) henchmen and chieftains are clinching juicy appointments in an All Progressives Congress (APC) government, everyone with a sinister past could be forgiven for hallucinating about the prospects of hitching a ride on the gravy train. But even the luxury of such daydream cannot be afforded to the ilk of Aaondoakaa.
The reality provoked by this realisation must have thus prompted the one time perverter of the nation’s law to fraudulently try to win back at an intersection what he carelessly lost at a roundabout. His latest antic is to try besmearing others as evident in the petition he wrote to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against the immediate past governor of his home state – Benue, Gabriel Suswam. A fair disclaimer here is to point out that Suswam, unlike known associates of Aaondoakaa when he held sway, has indicated he has nothing against being investigated either by the incumbent Benue state government or the EFCC at the federal level provided the exercises are not driven by desire to witch hunt.
Perhaps, there is something behind Suswam’s confidence. His account of stewardship as the governor of Benue state for eight years has become like the smoke of a bushfire that flushes out rodents and vermin during a communal village hunt. Suswam’s debriefing at the EFCC flushed out Aaondoakaa out of his farm where he had gone on a deserving exile after an ignoble outing that shamed not just the people of Benue state but also brought opprobrium to Nigeria as a nation. The man who actually wrote the petition that allegedly indicted Suswam had to scamper out with a statement trying to save his skin as he is wont to do.
A statement he put out when he realised that his game was up read, “As a lawyer, I do not believe that former Governor Gabriel Suswam would want to drag my name into this matter with the intent to destroy me for reasons best known to him.”
This statement immediately call to mind that the nation reaction to those inglorious acts only broke the snake’s back without severing its head: the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee that withdrew Mike Aaondoakaa’s Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) title should have gone the extra length to stop him from parading as a lawyer. We would have then been saved this whimpering and claim of being a lawyer.
It is imperative, in view of the tendency for selective amnesia by mischief makers, to remind Aaondoakaa that he went down in history as the first person to lose privilege as SAN. He lost the exalted rank on account of sundry allegations of abuse of office and privileges, during his tenure as the nation’s chief law officer – which now reads more like chief law breaker. The abuse of office specifically included stalling several high profile cases of fraud and corruption involving notable Nigerians through fraudulent manipulation of the judicial process.
He was further indicted for questionably terminating 419 cases in court by issuing unjustified Nolli Prosequi to withdraw charges against the accused persons even in trials that had reached advanced stage and consequently blocking the anti-corruption crusade of the government he served.
Nigeria became a laughing stock internationally when Aaondoakaa contrived to mislead the Federal Government with fraudulent legal opinion on cases of money laundering involving the former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori. Ibori is currently serving jail term in the United Kingdom as the judiciary of that country was not misled for one fraction of a second by the treachery of the former SAN, who had issued legal opinion to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua government suggesting that the EFCC cannot engage in mutual cooperation with the British Metropolitan Police on supply of evidence materials for the prosecution of money laundering suspects.
Of course, he was never able to plead any justification for the fraud he pulled on the nation having earlier planted his proxy and fellow Benue indigene, Mrs Farida Waziri in the EFCC to do his bidding. The commission under the watch of his minion was reduced to holding world news conferences to parade Yahoo boys while fat cat treasury looters sip expensive champagne with the then chief law officer.
Hazarding a guess at his thinking, Aaondoakaa must have thought he could use the petition against Suswam to warm his way back into the heart of the government of the day by masquerading as an anti-corruption activist. But his investment in his inglorious days as a pro-corruption AGF has yielded such returns that it will take a crass government to touch him with a mile long pole let alone bring him on board. The choices he had made in the past clearly indicate he will taint even a government with the best of intentions.
For us in Delta state, we have questions. For instance we want to know why Aaondoakaa is eager to bring Suswam to book when he denied us having the same opportunity when he fraudulently tried to free Ibori. Of course, he successfully made Ibori a free man in Nigeria had the UK authorities not tried and jailed him. Aaondoakaa thus shortchanged us Deltans. The fate of state funds he looted remains uncertain today given the bottlenecks of repatriating loots stashed abroad. A conviction in Nigeria would have at least allowed Delta state confisticate onshore assets as well as use the court ruling to initiate repatriation of the stolen funds. This is not to be. In addition to being a questionable chief law officer, the Benue chief is also parochial as he has proven that the money of some states can be stolen while a kobo of his home state must not go missing.
Our neighbouring Edo state did not fare any better, a ludicrous plea bargaining had its former governor, Lucky Igbinedion paying a measly N3.5 million fine after admitting to stealing N2.9 billion. The precedence set by that outcome haunts the nation till date as career thieves get away with lighter than a slap on the wrist.
However, an alternate way to explain his latest shenanigans is to posit that that Aaondoakaa did Suswam the favour of fast-tracking the process of rendering accounts of how his state’s resources were managed in those eight years. In the course of rendering account, the interest of Benue people would have also been served since the names of those the people should be asking questions are surfacing. The people of Delta, Edo and other states whose governors could not be properly investigated and tried under Aaondoakaa watch are thus left holding the slimy end of the stick. But if that were the case why would Suswam turn the table on him? It must therefore be that the old rogue is genuinely back to plying his toxic wares.
Whatever the case is, for daring to come out of his disgraced induced seclusion, Aaondoakaa should be worried. He has through his recent outing reminded us of how he shortchanged us with his shady dealings. Now that he has refreshed our memories, some of his earlier unknown sins will begin to surface with the growing prospect that he may yet hold prison-to-prison communication with his buddy Ibori in no distant time. For a man with the kind of inglorious past that warranted losing the rank of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Aaondoakaa should have perhaps stayed quiet on his farm in Gboko, Benue state. But since he did not, he has thankfully added himself to the list of people the country could recover stolen funds from.
George Timothy Amuna, the President of Patriots Without Border wrote in from Asaba, Delta State.