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YUSUF SULEIMAN: VICTIM OF PETITION AS ELECTION WEAPON?

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A petition to any anti-graft agency is supposed to be a weighty matter and which should be done in the overall interest of the nation. It is one of the ways in which private persons or groups should team up with the law enforcement agencies in a concerted effort to rid Nigeria of the foraging locust of corruption and help to check the activities of those in government.

If matters were so, the mere appearance of any petition against any public official is supposed to raise serious concern about the track records of such an official. Such an act should also tell something about the petitioner; that he is not just a concerned citizen, but one who is not only alive to his civic responsibilities, but is imbued with certain unmistakable signs of bravery such that he could, without asking for personal gain, strive to do his best in aid of societal cleansing.

Yet, the very act of petition writing against past or serving public officials has become so common that it is being debased. In fact it is fast becoming an act of corruption itself; a medicine even more dangerous than the disease it was supposed to cure.

Take, for instance, the petition against a former Sports Minister, Alhaji Yusuf Suleiman. Suleiman was in government for all of six months – under the President Goodluck Jonathan administration from May to December 2010. Then he resigned on his own volition simply because he wanted to contest for an elective office. The chance came for him to contest for the office of the Governor of Sokoto state, an election which took place recently.

As preparations were in top gear in January, as people jostled for the chance to emerge flag bearers of the various parties, a petition suddenly appeared against Suleiman. That petition was dated, please wait for it; “31st January 2012”. So, it would appear to any right thinking person that the petition was tailor-made to affect the chances of Alhaji Suleiman.

Worst of all, now that Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko, against whom Suleiman contested, won the election, it appears that a winner takes it all syndrome has afflicted some persons in the winning camp, or some persons residing somewhere in the margins of the power equation in the state is so tired of looking in from outside and wants to land squarely on the corridors of power, that he thinks that the duty he owed the powers that be is to further shoot down those who were bold enough to contest against the person that emerged Governor. Thus, this nonsense of a petition! Yes, it is easy to point fingers at such places for where this attack against Suleiman could come from.

Yet, in the reports from some hardly-known blogs and a few renegade newspaper reporters, it became clear that the source of petition could be easy to fathom. A sure give-away appeared in a report as this: “It was further alleged that there was NIMASA Board’s conspiracy with the minister and the contravention of Section 11(4) of NIMASA Act 2007.

This involved one Mr. Omatseye, the first Director General in the history of NIMASA, who was alleged to have surged the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund from $11 million to over $80 million and released the Primary Lending Institution for onward disbursement to Nigerians.

The former minister, on prompting by some aggrieved board members through a petition, summoned an emergency meeting and had Omatseye ‘suspended’ contrary to Section 11, sub-section 4, NIMASA Act of 2007”.

The petitioners should have attempted to be cleverer than this; they should have saved the EFCC, The Presidency, the Police and the general public the details of Omatseye’s suspension. And if Omatseye or his supporters wanted to really challenge the appropriateness of that suspension, there are other avenues that were open to them. This petition is not one of such avenues.

In a curious claim, the petitioners also shouted that Suleiman committed the grave sin of operating a bank account in Nigeria while in office. That is patently silly; what the constitution frowns upon is the operating of a foreign bank account by a serving public official. Finish!

Suleiman was in office for all of six months for goodness sake, and in a transitory era, when everything was fluid and he too opted out of that administration to face politics. Most of all, Suleiman is a scion of the well-respected ruling house of the Sokoto Sultanate, which so far, has managed to remain far from the scandal and sleaze that appears to have become common place elsewhere.

Written By Danlami Salisu

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