On Corruption Perception, Atiku Has Himself to Blame By Wendell Simlin
Over the last couple of weeks, Atiku has been making the news from running “one of the best campaigns in Nigeria’s history”. He’s probably been basking in that halo of “assembling great teams”. I think this is not very true. His media team seems decent, but I have good reason to disagree – they are not as good as they are being made out to be. If they were that good, Atiku would not be carrying the baggage of corruption.
At this point, it’s important to make the full disclosure that having followed Atiku over the last year or so, I’m convinced he’s the best candidate among the few who have indicated their interest in running for the office of President so far. Wendell Slimlin is also a pen name, just in case it was mistaken for real. That out of the way, let’s talk about Atiku’s failings.
Many people have said Atiku is running the most organised campaign ever seen in Nigeria. That is debatable. But I understand where the sentiments come from, and and I agree to an extent, that Atiku’s current campaign team has done very good work, but this is where the failing begins. Where was this team in 2007?
Most people who question Atiku’s fitness for the job always refer to three points of reference: his record as a customs officer, his tenure as vice president and alleged corruption during that period, and the rumours that he is wanted in the US. I find the fact that his team has not been able to deal with these issues decisively very curious. So I decided to do some questioning and digging myself.
People say Atiku was a Custom’s officer, so must be corrupt. Is there a shred of evidence to prove this? In fact, when Atiku exposed Buhari’s 53 suitcases issue, and the junta ordered that he be fired, the minister of finance, Dr. Onaolapo Soleye, found he had such a good record at the customs, there was no ground to even order an official query. Atiku had one of the highest records of revenue returns to the government, if they had fired him then, the service would have protested. I just made this case without being a PR expert – how come Atiku’s handlers could not?
Truth is that if you follow the history of Atiku’s business life, you will find a period of overlap, where he was involved in private business, but was also employed by the Nigeria Customs. This has been used by his detractors as a sign that Atiku is corrupt. This is funny. In Nigeria where having a side hustle is advertised by every life coach as the smart thing to do, having a side hustle is no crime. I can hazard a guess – 75% of people in full time employment have a side business. So why could Atiku’s team not simply bring up this argument years ago?
What about the fact that his business grew so big? Wasn’t he stealing from the Customs? This is also a silly one.
As a DIG of Customs, anyone who expects Atiku to go into biscuit and groundnut business at that level needs their heads examined. As we grow bigger in life, our perception in business grows. The DIG of Customs would have seen business at such a high level, if he wasn’t able to build a big business afterwards, that would be a failure. Again, I don’t see why Atiku’s team don’t make this argument.
People argue that his business grew because he stole from the customs. Another piece of horse poo. He was DIG at the highest. How much could he possibly have stolen in 1984, under Buhari’s government too, which was cracking down on corruption left right centre? If it was that easy to steal from customs and build businesses, how come all the DIGs and DGs who retired are not all billionaires today?
Atiku’s major cash cow is said to be the Intels port, which he and his partners built with borrowed international funds, in exchange for long term concessions from the government. The story is that after the Shagari government abandoned the Onne project, Atiku came in with his Italian partners, and developed it privately, with the expectation that the oil industry will boom and they will get their investments back. Their gamble paid off and Intels became so profitable, the Abacha government kicked Atiku off the board just to get a slice of the action.
So the question for Atiku’s team is, how come this story is not folk tale by now? If everyone knew this story, then nobody will be questioning their principal’s source of income. From what I know of Intels, every big oil company in Nigeria is an Intels customer. My guess is that Intels rakes in at least $1.5 billion every year. And this is kosher money. So how come they have not opened this to the world? That man provides jobs for at least 45,000 families in this country. I hear even Dangote has not done that much. So why are they not using that to their advantage?
I remember when the US Senate report against Atiku came out, and people were raising hell about it, my attention was drawn to the fact that instead of being an indictment, the report was actually a great asset for Atiku. The US Senate during their investigation, went ahead and interviewed ExxonMobil, which is a US company, to ask if Intels, one of the companies transferring money to the American University was a legitimate company. Mobil responded that yes, in less than three years, Intels had made over $240 million dollars from its business with them. Considering that Mobil is only about Intel’s 3rd biggest customer, it’s easy to show, even without bank records that Intels turns over $1b in revenues. So how come people are still asking about Atiku’s source of income?
I have taken a screen munch of the US senate report below:
My late father told us stories about Atiku, from back in their SDP days. As far back as 1993, when Atiku was running for Adamawa governor, he declared his assets and was independently verified. He was a multi-millionaire then. In dollars! When Arthur Nzeribe was sharing sponsorship money for all the SDP governorship aspirants, he brought Atiku’s own, and he didn’t take it. Because Atiku is naturally quiet, Nzeribe had not known who he was. It was only later that some of Shehu Yar’Adua’s people introduced him as the Turaki Adamawa, and Nzeribe was surprised. Atiku’s media team have not told this story.
Now about that US Senate report, I read it, and thought Atiku’s legal team made a blunder there. The report clearly showed that monies were wired from foreign accounts to the USA, specifically to Atiku’s wife, who said they were for payments to the American University, Washington DC, home purchases, upkeep etc. The report did not say it was money laundering, or that the money was stolen, or being stashed away. This is rather simple logic. The woman wasn’t trying to hide the money. She opened the accounts legally (albeit without indicating she is a Politically Exposed Person, but then she wasn’t required to), and they also could trace the accounts where the monies were sent to, including home payments and the American University.
So all we’re left are two issues – where did the money come from, and why was it cited in the report. The money was clearly transferred from Intels and related companies. This is no surprise. How much was transferred – about $40m. Is this a problem? No. As the report shows above, Intels was clearly printing money at the point. So they made legitimate money, and when their director needed to pay for his new university, they made the needed transfers.
So why were the monies called suspect funds? Simply put, any money that comes from Nigeria to America is suspect. Every businessman in Nigeria will tell you that for free. The banks will sniff the money very well before anything is done. Imagine they now said the company sending this money is owned by a Nigerian politician, that one is now a big issue sef. And that’s simply it. So the only reason Atiku was cited was because he was a public office holder – the report did not in anyway indicate the funds were illegal. So the money was legally his money to send, what it was used for was legal – so what’s there? Nothing, really.
I am sure a man of Atiku’s stature can afford the best lawyers on retainer. So why could his legal team not break down that report so regular people can see that it’s not even an indictment? What did the US Senate do? Was there a warrant of arrest issued, or a case sent to court? No. So why would his media aides and legal team allow Atiku’s name to be dragged into rumours that he was indicted? Your guess is as good as mine.
In fact I could even use the US Senate report to show that AUN, Atiku’s university, was built using private funds, contrary to suspicion that it was stolen Nigerian money. And by the way, would Baba have gone to commission the university if it was built with stolen money?
The other issue is that Atiku is banned or wanted in the US. Silly again from the media team for letting this grow. America, unlike us, keep records and sometimes keep them too well. So here is the list of every person currently banned from visiting America – there’s no Atiku Abubakar on it. By the way, there are some mean Nigerians on that list, if you have time to look.
So armed with just Google, I’ve solved two of Atiku’s major issues. So what about PTDF? I think he tried to explain it here, but again his team didn’t do enough. This is an open and close case like they say – as public records show, Atiku admitted he authorised PTDF money to be placed in private banks (because PTDF could only be spent if the money gathered interest, and banks pay interest). You could argue till tomorrow that the banks were owned by his friends – so who doesn’t give their friends deposits in Nigeria? Is that illegal? No, of course. When Baba made noise that the money was stolen, Atiku jejely went and brought the money back, with interest. So has money been stolen? No. Case closed.
During that PTDF issue, Fasawe, a mutual friend of Baba and Atiku, was locked up by Ribadu for six months without charge for remaining Atiku’s friend and for refusing to agree to their charges against Atiku. The Court later awarded Fasawe a substantial sum as damages for his wrongful detention. No evidence of wrong doing would have escaped detection, judging by Baba’s desperation to nail Atiku, yet Atiku’s media team is allowing people believe Atiku misused PTDF funds. They have tried, but have not gone far enough.
What about the by-mistake public servant and current governorship aspirant who wrote that book and called Atiku corrupt? Did the man not say Atiku never bought anything from privatisation?Videos don’t lie. So how come he now said later that Atiku was corrupt? If Atiku’s media team cannot sponsor advertisements using that video, then they have failed.
What about the monetisation story, when they asked the President and vice to buy their guest houses? OBJ bought his own, Atiku refused, citing that in South Africa, they have 3 capitals and the government maintains guest houses in all of those, so there’s no need for them to be owned by him. Rumours have it that El Rufai bought the VP’s guest house! The very one Atiku refused to buy.
There is also the issue of Transcorp shares. Atiku was offered Transcorp shares, he rejected them. OBJ collected his own. Transcorp then went ahead to buy up many government companies and properties. So why is Atiku’s team not going to town with these issues? Are they afraid of Baba?
It’s very interesting that in all those times, when OBJ was chasing Atiku up and down, not one case could be brought against him. OBJ wanted Atiku gone, and was willing to use every means, legal and illegal. If OBJ knew Atiku was corrupt, how come he couldn’t produce one piece of evidence. Haba, is the man ghost?
Atiku’s legal team is slow. All this while, nobody produced evidence of wrong doing against their oga, and they have allowed people call the man corrupt in public. Why have they not sued one person to teach everybody else a lesson? So that when anybody wants to call Atiku corrupt, you first go and pack evidence; otherwise, you will stay in court so long you begin to know which wig the judge wears on Wednesday.
I don’t think Atiku is as bad a man as many have made him out to be. In fact I think his record as a democrat is quite sterling. He has never served in a military government, and refused to work under Abacha, which nearly cost him his life. His media team never talk about how his house in Kaduna was shelled with gunfire by Abacha’s goons. They never talk about how he escaped into exile, first to London, and later to America, where he met his youngest wife, Jennifer.
When Baba came out of jail, he was broke. Atiku gave him N100m. He later paid about N500m or so to get PDP registered and bought the PDP secretariat. He funded Baba’s election even. Baba never called him corrupt then. In fact Baba never called Atiku corrupt until after the 2003 begging issue, and 3rd term. How come Atiku’s team don’t bring that up?
I agree that Atiku’s media team is good. But they’re not that good. If they were, all these issues would have been dealt with since!
Now that I’m done, maybe Atiku should give me a call. I could help his media team out. How is that for a job application, Oga Atiku?
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