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Femi Fani-Kayode & the Mistakes of Chief Edwin Clark

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It is very important at this critical time to refute the opinion of a former Minister of Information and respectable Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, in his November 2, 2011 petition to the Chief Justice of the Federation, Dahiru Musdapher calling for the urgent

 trial of 14 former governors and two former ministers standing trial for alleged corruption. He went further to say there was no reason why the courts cannot determine the fate of the 16 high-profile cases within six to 12 months. Chief Clark listed the ex-governors and ministers as James Ibori, Senator Saminu Turaki, Peter Odili, Michael Botmang, Joshua Dariye, Boni Haruna, and Rasheed Ladoja. Others are Jolly Nyame, Attahiru Bafarawa, Adamu Abdullahi, Lucky Igbinedion, Ayo Fayose, Chimaroke Nnamani, and Orji Uzor Kalu. The affected ex- Ministers are Chief Femi Fani-Kayode and Babalola Borishade as contained in Chief Clark's petition.

I truly honour Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark'sgoodintention and courage in exposing corruption and call for accelerated adjudication, to drawing conclusive ends to all the high profile corruption cases in the country which have almost become hard-nut to crack for the judiciary and perhaps the anti-graft agents. The elder statesman (Chief Clark), asked the CJN to prevail on the courts to dispense with the cases of these former public officers to prove that Nigeria is committed to anti-corruption crusade. I also agree that it is highly despicable that the country has found itself in a situation where over 50 high profile cases of corruption levelled against some former governors, ministers and legislators and other high profile government functionaries have been pending in various Federal High Courts and Court of Appeal for over four years due to corrupt practices both in the judiciary and at the Bar, is most unacceptable because it is definitely responsible for placing Nigeria at the bottom index of corrupt countries in the world such as Somalia; Kenya, Bangladesh, Pakistan, etc.

However, whilst pursing this legitimate and just course, Chief Clark should be aware that this could only be ensured by the "shock and awe" of the attack itself combined with an intense propaganda campaign to sell the official story. Ironically, the vast majority of those who created and promoted this propaganda probably did so innocently, never questioning the official version of events. The idea that the entire attack was an inside job was simply too unthinkable for most Nigerians to consider so to say.

The use of disinformation and diversion to manipulate public opinion is a highly developed, vicious and untoward task which is needless at this material time. It is well understood not only by psychological operations experts in the legal and national security establishment, but also by marketing and public relations wizards. With the engineering of public reaction to November 2, disinformation has been used with a sophistication and depth that is historically unprecedented. A key tool in this modern form of psychological warfare is the "meme" - an idea that acts like an infectious agent to spread itself through a population. Through careful construction of memes, the perpetrators could depend on others to unwittingly promote their cover story and conceal the truth. Their disinformation strategy was twofold. First, they would sell the official story to the masses through the compliant mass media, relying on people's desire to believe the official story. Second, they would seed specious ideas in the community of November 2 ''skeptics'' in order to distract and discredit them. For clarity and without fear of contradiction Chief Femi Fani-Kayode alleged money laundering legal quagmire orchestrated by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is frankly a ruse from the pit of hell. The innocent Fani-Kayode is only paying price for defending President Olusegun Obasanjo while he was his Special Adviser on Public Affairs and for stepping on toes of power brokers in the country.

It would be ostensibly unfair and preposterous for anyone to name Chief Femi Fani-Kayode in the long list of corrupt Nigerians, because no court of competent jurisdiction has named him so, and not even the anti-graft agent EFCC has any convincing or tenable evidence(s) to judge him in that category of people with indelible stains and questionable records while serving in the public service. Fani-Kayode should indeed be appreciated for putting in place an excellent, dedicated and loyal team of personal staffers whom he took with him to the Ministry of Aviation when he went there.  Consequently, divine intervention, which he claims came as "a consequence of continuous and deep intercession by the most dedicated and selfless group of prayer warriors that I have ever come across in my life was indeed worthy of commendation. They prayed for those horrific crashes to stop and they stopped. God answered those prayers and the blood of innocent Nigerians stopped flowing in unnecessary and avoidable plane crashes. Considering the forces that wanted the crashes to continue, this was a miracle that was second to none. We must give thanks to God"(The Christian Explorer Magazine, 2007).

Again Fani-Kayode increased the capital base of domestic airliners in Nigeria in order to ensure bigger, safer and stronger airlines in the country and he also fought corruption by exposing a massive N6. 5 billion naira ($55,000, 000 usd) fraud that took place in the aviation sector just before he came in as Aviation Minister. For this Chief Femi Fani-Kayode was widely acknowledged and commended but he also earned himself many powerful enemies. As Minister of Aviation he also insisted that Nigerians should be treated with dignity, fairness and respect by all foreign airline operators. He did this with ruthless zeal and the foreign airliners complied fully whilst he was in office. Again as Minister of Aviation he ensured that the largest, most advanced and most sophisticated domestic airport terminal (MM2 Domestic Airport Terminal in Lagos) which was owned and built by his colleague, Cambridge-trained lawyer and businessman, Dr. Wale Babalakin  S.AN , was not only built and completed but was also fully commissioned and made functional under his watch as Minister of Aviation.

This was despite immense opposition to the project from the more retrograde and conservative forces within the aviation sector and the country. This was a great achievement on the part of Fani-Kayode and an excellent example of the public and private sector partnership policy which was one of the hallmarks of the Obasanjo administration. This airport terminal is undoubtedly the largest and the best equipped domestic airport terminal on the African continent and is certainly the best terminal (whether it be international or domestic) in the whole of Nigeria. On June 30th 2008 Femi Fani-Kayode was invited to appear, together with all the other former and serving Aviation Ministers in Nigeria, before the Senate Aviation Committee to defend, explain and give an account of their tenure as Ministers of Aviation. Fani-Kayode was articulate, factual and accurate at the public hearing, substantiating his forceful assertions with facts, figures, documents, bank statements and due process certificates for every contract that he awarded. He also proved that he left an unprecedented and staggering N7. 2 billion ($60, 000, 000 usd) in the accounts of the ministry's special intervention fund by the time he left office. He submitted a detailed analysis and report on the problems of   aviation in Nigeria to the committee and his submission shed a lot of light on the workings of the aviation sector and even exposed what he referred to as "a vicious blood cult" within that sector. Femi Fani Kayode assisted the Senate Committee in its work by providing essential documents and explanations on virtually every question that he was asked. He did an excellent job at the public hearing (see C. D. of the Senate Aviation Committee public hearing 2008) and was given commendation and applause by many of those that witnessed the proceedings.

Of particular interest to many members of the Nigerian public today are his days at the Presidency. Without mincing words whilst he was in charge of Public Affairs at the Presidency Fani-Kayode was President Obasanjo's chief ideologue. He was loved, respected and admired by those who supported Obasanjo but he was intensely disliked and feared by those who opposed him. This was as a consequence of the passionate and aggressive way in which Fani-Kayode took on Obasanjo's many traducers and defended the President. The office of Public Affairs within the Presidency had effectively become a shadowy and powerful weapon of war in Obasanjo's arsenal whilst Fani-Kayode ran and headed it. He reported directly to Obasanjo and he was regarded by the President more as a trusted son rather than an aide. For this he paid a price (and still paying price) and he often admitted the fact that his job at Public Affairs had cost him many friends and relationships. During the Senate Ministerial screening session in 2006 when he had to appear before the whole of the Nigerian Senate in order to be screened before his nomination as a minister could be confirmed, he shed some light and offered some explanations on his role as Special Assistant to Mr. President on Public Affairs. When asked about the fact that he attacked and hurt many Nigerians as a result of his defense of Obasanjo and whether he had any regrets about doing so, He said the following: ''President Obasanjo is a great man and I have no regrets about doing my job effectively though I do regret it if anyone was hurt in the process. I was simply doing my job and if I wasn't prepared to do it I would not have taken the job in the first place. I did not wish to hurt anyone and I do not believe that anyone should take whatever may or may not have been said personally. If I did hurt anyone then I am deeply sorry and I hope that they will find it in their hearts to forgive me as I have found it in my heart to forgive them for what they have said about me and Mr. President. Many of those that I clashed with and joined issues with on behalf of President Obasanjo were either old friends of mine for whom I had , and still have , tremendous respect or those that I have always looked up to from the day that I was born. But I had to do my job and my job was to defend Mr. President night and day and take on his enemies and detractors. Even though he is not an angel President Olusegun Obasanjo is the most vilified , misunderstood and misrepresented leader in Nigeria today and yet this man not only loves Nigeria but he also believes in Nigeria and Nigerians , just as he believes in Africa and in Africans.''                                                                                                                  

Precisely in June 2008, Fani-Kayode and some others were arrested, detained and interrogated for a few days by the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) over the 19.5 Billion intervention fund of the Aviation sector. After a thorough investigation all charges against Chief Femi Fani-Kayode were withdrawn from the court by the EFCC as it was clear that there was no evidence that he had anything to do with the misappropriation of the intervention fund. As a matter of fact it was established clearly that he was the one that actually exposed the scam. All others that had been originally arrested and detained with him were later charged at the High Court but Fani-Kayode was not amongst them. However 6 months later, on the 22nd of December 2008,  Fani-Kayode was re-arrested by the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged allegations of money laundering. He was arraigned on a 49 count charge for money laundering. This was clearly politically motivated and provided more evidence of the persecution that the Yar'Adua regime was unleashing on all those that had once worked closely with President Olusegun Obasanjo. Amongst those that have been subjected to similar persecution, who have been declared wanted because they are out of the country and who are also being prosecuted in absentia are Nuhu Ribadu and Nasir El-Rufai. Again these charges are politically motivated. In my view there is absolutely no evidence of any wrongdoing or money laundering against Fani-Kayode and neither do I believe that El Rufai stole the billions that the EFCC is claiming. We await the verdict of the Courts but Fani-Kayode has sworn to stand and fight and clear his good name.  Out of my dispassionate stance over this legal tussle I wrote sometimes in September this year (2011) about the fact of the matter in the print, and internet blog/magazines concerning Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, Mr Festus Keyamo and EFCC and other vicious protagonist in this matter: .

Democratic theory generally posits that society needs a journalism that is a rigorous watchdog of those in power and who want to be in power, can ferret out truth from lies, and can present a wide range of informed positions on the important issues of the day. Each medium need not do all of these things, but the media system as a whole should make this calibre of journalism readily available to the citizenry. How a society can construct a media system that will generate something approximating democratic journalism is a fundamental problem for a free society, as powerful interests tend to wish to dominate the flow of information.  In addition to this half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can't, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it".... Robert Frost. Speech is Human Nature; used in the way in which God intended would alleviate the necessity of preaching on the dangers of the tongue. The tongue is dangerous and we need to examine the importance of keeping such a dangerous weapon under control. Dynamite is stored, and moved with great caution, because of the knowledge we have of the power that it possesses to destroy. Likewise, all believers be it Christians or Muslims, we have something as powerful as dynamite; yet, very often it is handled as if there is no danger at all, we must all work for the good of Nigeria and also in search for truth so that posterity can judge us rightly.

By Prince Paul Ivagba