Posted by By Levi Obijiofor on
FATE can be cruel to politicians. Plateau State Governor Joshua Dariye was suspended from office on 18 May 2004, along with members of the state House of Assembly, for reasons that we all know.
FATE can be cruel to politicians. Plateau State Governor Joshua Dariye was suspended from office on 18 May 2004, along with members of the state House of Assembly, for reasons that we all know. But within six months of being cast into political limbo, fate, in conspiracy with Dariye's enemies, chose to launder Dariye's dirty linen in public. Just as he was about to adjust to life as an ordinary and lonely man, deprived of the many cooks, stewards, gardeners, cleaners, drivers, secretaries, special assistants, maids and servants he enjoyed as state governor, the police came knocking on Dariye's door.
Dariye was arrested and interrogated by the Metropolitan Police in London. He was accused of involvement in money laundering. He was accused of making false asset declaration to the Code of Conduct Bureau. He was accused of opening and maintaining innumerable overseas bank accounts. In typical Nigerian style of being hailed when you are in high office and abandoned when your fortunes take a tumble, Dariye's courtiers abandoned him at the peak of his troubles with the authorities. No one likes to be associated with a former high profile politician when that politician is on a free fall to the bottom of the earth. Against all predictions, Dariye does not believe that he is by any means on the way to the pit of his political career. He prefers to be seen as a saint who has been wronged by the Nigerian state.
Dariye's fall from grace has been extraordinary. Despite his claims that he was warned before he traveled to London, it's obvious that Dariye did not foresee what fate lined up for him in London, and he did not anticipate the extent the Federal Government would go to nail his reputation forever. Dariye typifies the popular saying: those the gods plan to humiliate they first crown king. At home, the Federal Government intensified its searchlight on anything connected with Dariye, to find anything, anything at all that would corroborate all the tales about the man's inelegant and sordid lifestyle. Viola! The government found evidence in video form. But for the evidence to stick against the accused person, a group video viewing session was essential. And so the government quickly assembled a group of Plateau State traditional rulers, including the suspended members of the state legislature, to a secret screening of the yet untitled video. In his little corner, Dariye was worried but was also meeting with his lawyers to map out strategies on how to dismantle federal allegations against him.
Dariye didn't need to worry too much. The same fate that conspired to up-end his progress also played a hand to mystify everyone. As soon as it became evident that President Olusegun Obasanjo did not have the powers, as he would have wished, to remove Dariye from office, Dariye's friends began to prepare for his triumphal return to office. Everywhere you looked in the premises of the Governor's Lodge and in the government offices, as his return date approached, everyone was busy cleaning and scrubbing the floors, the dusk-caked windows and doors. The streets that were abandoned in the past six months became busy again with human and vehicular traffic.
When Dariye emerged last week from six months of mental and physical torment, he surprised everyone, in particular his enemies. Despite months of adversity and tarnished reputation, Dariye's face shone, his cheeks grew chubbier and he looked more handsome than he was six months ago. When he appeared in public last week, Dariye looked like a man who had returned from six months of grooming in a fattening room. His enemies were disappointed. They had expected to see a scraggy and unkempt Dariye but they saw the exact opposite - the picture of a healthy looking and self-satisfied man. His tribulations at the hands of the police in London did not show in his visage. It was only a temporary setback, his supporters tell us. If you watched closely during Dariye's triumphal return to office last week, you would see Dariye's supporters pat him warmly on the back, saying, as a mark of encouragement: "don't mind those inquisitive London police. You're here now with us and they can't touch you again. We won't let you go back to London. If they want to continue their yeye investigation, they should come here. You are the governor, OUR governor. The London Police must respect you. We elected you. The London Police did not elect you."
Dariye returned to office last week like a Hollywood hero. That's an absurd aspect of our social values. A man who was demonized in the past six months was presented with bouquets of flowers and those he couldn't carry were hung on his shoulders as a mark of the people's love for their embattled governor. Traditional rulers and prominent citizens of the state crawled all over the crowd to pay homage to Dariye, the comeback kid. Welcome back from political oblivion, Superstar! Ceremonies marking Dariye's return to office, the manner of his re-instatement, and indeed the celebration of his return to office represent a weird commentary on our sense of values. A man who had many allegations hanging over his head returned to office looking more like a pop star than a man who should be worried. Dariye should have been wearing a somber mood on his forehead rather than garlands on his neck. Perhaps his supporters have valid reasons for celebrating his return. Dariye has not been tried and has not been convicted. In a democracy everyone should be deemed innocent until guilt has been established. But the most solid argument advanced by Dariye's supporters is that the man was not suspended because of the allegations against him. The allegations emerged after Dariye began his six-month suspension for failing to maintain peace and order in Plateau State.
Dariye the damned has been catapulted to the status of a super hero. His supporters are not talking about the charges against the man, or the gravity of the allegations. What is important now is that Dariye is back in office. They say there is no need to treat their hero as an ex-convict because he did not commit any offence. They may be speaking too early. President Obasanjo believes that, despite the hype and ceremony surrounding Dariye's return to office, the suspended governor's resumption of office in the face of overwhelming allegations of corruption, has presented the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and the Federal Government with a moral burden. Dariye's supporters don't see it that way. In their view, it is the Federal Government (with its failure to mount an effective fight against corruption) that has become a moral burden to the Nigerian state. There is something strange about the way we interpret crime and corruption in our society.
Dariye is a smart politician. Since his return, he has taken to evangelism, quoting the Bible, preaching forgiveness, reconciliation, peaceful coexistence. His evangelical revival is nothing new. That's what usually happens when people return from incarceration. President Obasanjo said his religious transformation (as a born-again Christian) occurred after he spent solitary confinement in jail.
Regardless of what happens between Dariye and the law, there are compelling questions we must ask ourselves. What were the celebrations in Plateau all about? Were the people celebrating the triumph of Dariye the "Saint" over Obasanjo the "Bad Guy"? Were the people celebrating the return of a man of the people? Were the people celebrating the end of economic problems in their state? Were the celebrations designed to herald the end of violence and inter-ethnic distrust in the state? What messages were the people of Plateau State sending to the world about our sense of values? Are we telling the world that a man burdened with overwhelming allegations of corruption, a man who should be isolated from the rest of society, is now a "Saint" and a hero in our society?