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BettaGate: Can Tinubu Bell The Cat?

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BettaGate: Can Tinubu Bell The Cat?

By Bola BOLAWOLE

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Will sleaze and controversy ever depart from these shores? Two of such making the rounds at the moment are the BBC documentary on the late Prophet Temitope Balogun (TB) Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) and the multi-billion Naira scandal involving two of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s ministers – the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu, and the (before now?) top-flight Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo.

What is BBC’s interest in TB Joshua, especially since he is dead and is nearly forgotten? What public interest will the BBC documentary serve? Is there any way anyone who has suffered as a result of the activities of TB Joshua will receive justice or have their situation and or circumstance ameliorated? Will justice be served to anyone who has suffered injustice as a result of the activities of the prophet and can his estate be held liable, if only for compensation purposes?

Assuming we have here a Truth and Reconciliation commission, like President Nelson Mandela instituted in South Africa in 1995 through the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act 34 of 1995 after the collapse of apartheid and the enthronement of black majority rule, we can then say that the catharsis occasioned by the recalling of injustices suffered, confessions and pleas for forgiveness made, reconciliation followed by compensation, where possible – we can say all of this could help the healing process as it calms frayed nerves and bows the head of culprits.

The Human Rights Violation Investigation Commission of Nigeria, which imitated its South African counterpart, was inaugurated by the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration in 1999. Otherwise known as the Oputa panel, so named after its chairman, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, its mandate was to investigate human rights abuses during the period of military rule from 1984 to 1999. It failed abysmally because the key violators of human rights during the period under review, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, and Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (with Gen. Sani Abacha already dead) not only boycotted it but poured scorn on it. With Obasanjo cleverly leaving out his own tenure of office as military Head of State (1976 – 1979), his hands were tied, so to say, as he could not compel his military subordinates to turn up before Oputa. With the big fishes out of the way, what was left was just a circus show and waste of scarce public resources.

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Snippets of the BBC documentary on TB Joshua are already in the public domain. Some of the “revelations” were common knowledge to insiders in those days and, therefore, were no secret to me. I attended Synagogue for close to two years and had near unrestrained access to TB Joshua as I was the editor of the church magazine and a very close pal of his second-in-command then, Prophet Taiye Oladosu (Prophet T, as we called him). I also nearly married one of the choristers there, Sister Esther (where is she now?).

TB Joshua called me “Uncle” and I called him “Pastor”. Church, to me, is: What you seek is what you get! And this does not pertain only to Synagogue or TB Joshua; neither does it exonerate TB Joshua or Synagogue from answering to whatever charge that may be laid at their door-mouth. But those who died, those whose lives were ruined, and those whose destinies were truncated – how do we know them; and how do we get them justice? Will the BBC documentary move our government to action in any way? But if it helps to sound an alarm to the millions of worshippers still under the influence of the many TB Joshuas still in our midst and the many Synagogues still taking advantage of the gullible, then, it would have served a purpose. So much for TB Joshua!

Two ministers in the seven-month-old Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration are enmeshed in the billion-Naira “poor-people-money” scandal making the rounds. It is money meant for the poor, to alleviate their suffering, that people are alleged to be doing monkey business with. Some people can be heartless! Their conscience is seared, if at all they still have any. Now, the Minister responsible has been suspended from her post and an investigation ordered.

One thing I like about the Tinubu administration, and I will keep saying it, is that this President listens to public opinion. He acts on public outcry, very much unlike his predecessor who played deaf and dumb. We await the outcome of the EFCC investigation, which must be swift and thorough, and which must be made public. If this Minister is found culpable, she has to face the music.

Does it suggest anything that the two Tinubu ministers that have been involved in scandals so far are women? The first was the Minister for Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye. If we can laugh off her idiocy as she threatened to sue the United Nations over the (mis)management of donor funds to Nigeria, we cannot do likewise over her threats to, and blackmail of, university students calling out the Dean of their Faculty as sex predator. The minister has since apologized, though, and the lecturer in question is having his day in court. A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered him remanded in Kuje prisons.

The doors of the Presidential Villa may have been slammed against her but it is not likely that Betta Edu is intent on going away quietly. She may drag a lot of people along with her. Unfortunately, the high-performing Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, has had his company named as having benefited from what looks like a repeat of the arms bazaar that consumed NSA Sambo Dasuki and many others in the PDP/President Goodluck Jonathan administration.

I listened to Tunji-Ojo as he tried to defend himself and I felt sorry for him. Yes, he started the company in question with his wife. Yes, he was a director of the company for years but he resigned his position some years back. Yes, that is as much as the law required him to do as a public officer. Yes, the company is a legal entity that is at liberty to pursue its legitimate interests. Yes, the company can pursue, win, and execute contracts and should be held accountable for its actions. All legalese! But involved here are moral issues!

In 1 Corinthians 10:23. The apostle Paul said: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” Tunji-Ojo may have fulfilled the provisions of the law by resigning as a director of the company but he still remains a shareholder and beneficiary of both the losses and gains of the company. Would he want the company to make a loss and liquidate while he is serving as minister or that it makes profit and prospers so he can return to a boisterous company? Is his wife still on the Board of the company or a shareholder? Can he vow that he never discusses the fortunes or misfortunes of the company? Could his influence or current position not have helped the company in this instance and or in some others? He may escape by the whiskers but what does the principle of strict liability say in this respect?

Now, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation is a cesspit of corruption: Scrap it! It was so in the time of Buhari. The ex-Minister in charge of the ministry under Buhari has started answering questions at the EFCC. Throwing money at problems does not solve the problems. Buhari did; he failed. It is unfortunate that Tinubu has continued in Buhari’s steps in this regard. It may be that he is being railroaded by his party leaders. Except he backtracks, he, too, is destined to fail.

The so-called palliative measures of Buhari palliated nothing but only fueled humongous corruption. In like manner, the Tinubu government’s palliative measures palliate nothing but has started providing opportunities for corruption. Rather than give people fish to eat, teach them how to fish. The funds being wasted on phantom poverty alleviation programmes should be deployed to more useful ventures.

Many are asking: Can this President fight corruption? He can! It is a matter of choice! It is difficult for a ruling party to throw caution to the wind as many would have loved but I dare to say that Tinubu has taken a few cautious steps in the right direction. But we must understand that he is part of the system and not an angel from above. He is a beneficiary of the system. He appears intent on keeping the system going. He seems to believe that the system can still be rescued, panel-beaten and restored to good health. I think he is wrong.

So, he may stem corruption, but can he uproot it? A leader is as good – and as bad – as the people he surrounds himself with. Look at the people around President Tinubu and form your opinion. The apple never falls far from the tree! Usually, the twin enemies are selfish interest and class interest. Is Tinubu prepared to scale both hurdles?

* Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.

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