As a newspaper publisher, I am quite familiar with the famous journalism dictum: “Comments are free, facts are sacred.”
That is what Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi attempted to do in his THISDAY article of Thursday, April 12, 2018. He attempted to turn truth on its head in the piece entitled “Buhari and the Presidential Persuaders.”
He started by accusing me of “gallivanting” all over the country for President Muhammadu Buhari, because there is an “anti-corruption” case against me. Then, like an imperial judge, he circumscribed the president’ s right to seek re-election.
I would not have dignified this misguided writer with a response but for the unsubstantiated allegations against my person, and the wrong premises he unjustly tried to malign those of us campaigning for the president. He claimed I was engaged in the campaign for Buhari because of my EFCC case.
I thought Segun was more intelligent than this. How can a man who has been in court for 11 years, and whose case is still being vigorously prosecuted and a robust defence rising up to the challenge, be said to be doing what he is doing because of alleged corruption charges?
The truth is, I have never intervened nor asked anyone to intervene on my behalf in the judicial process. I remain a firm believer in the rule of law and would rather the judicial process was fully exhausted in this matter. I am convinced I haven’t stolen a dime while I was in government. I believe many people, including Segun, know that I am being persecuted for my principled and dogged stance against former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s evil third term agenda.
On campaigning for Buhari’s re-election, I have no apologies whatsoever to give to Segun or anyone who believes I shouldn’t be doing it. It is my inalienable right to hold and express an opinion or belief. I do not begrudge others theirs. I believe that Buhari’s re-election in 2019 will pave way for president of Igbo extraction in 2023!
It is obvious that the issue of 2019 and President Buhari’s interest in re-contesting for the office is what has brought out the ‘beast’ in Adeniyi, who, at a time, was spokesman to President Umaru Yar’Adua, who had the misfortune of dying in office some years ago. That natural end cut short Segun’s romance with the office of spokesman to the president, currently occupied by Messers Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu. I guess that, if not for death, Yar’Adua would have asked for a second term, not necessarily because he was the best that Nigeria had at the time but because he would stand on his democratic and constitutional rights to seek re-election. If nature granted him that opportunity, I have no doubt that Yar’Adua would have also given Nigerians the same reason Buhari has given to seek re-election.
If divine providence allowed that to happen, I am certain there would be politicians who would go round Nigeria, on their own merit, to express their rights to freedom of association, and also to hold views that are contrary to ours. They would also ask us to vote for him, irrespective of whatever anyone would say were his failings.
While his boss was down, I did not read any article by Segun Adeniyi admonishing anyone within the corridors of power against making political capital out of the situation. I also did not read him asking his boss to stand down. In fact, it took pressure from Nigerians for Segun to issue statements disclosing the whereabouts of his principal. Prior to that, he sequestered himself in his cocoon even away from his media colleagues. How he expects Femi and Garba to act differently baffles me. But I understand that the better wrestlers are not always in the ring.
However, what struck me in Adeniyi’s article was the first paragraph, where he attempted to denigrate and impugn my reputation for expressing my democratic rights to hold opinion and express same; to associate and also move freely within Nigeria. I find it quite disturbing that a journalist of Segun’s standing would descend so low in expressing his hate for Buhari. Segun finds it unhealthy for democracy, that a free citizen of Nigeria is spending his personal resources travelling round the country to seek to convince others to support Buhari’s re-election bid. For this, he works to suppress that fact that democracy thrives because it allows citizens to hold and express opinions like he did with his article.
The alternative to what Segun argued in the first paragraph of that article is a call for dictatorship, which Buhari had rejected by his style. Segun was free to author the article because we have democracy. If Buhari were such that would suppress freedoms, I doubt if Segun would have the space to write as he suggested in the opening paragraphs of that article. In betraying his pains through that article, Segun also showed his ‘hatred for Dr. Kalu.’ If Segun is free to hold the opinion he holds against Dr. Kalu, what then makes it immoral or undemocratic for Dr. Kalu to hold and express his views for Buhari? Is Segun suggesting that democracy is about seeing reality from his own lens?
I used to think that democracy thrives on plurality of opinions. So, what exactly is Segun’s angst against me who has proved himself to be an equal stakeholder in Nigeria, like him, but holds more in investments and job creation, such that I would prefer an economically progressive country where corruption does not retard development and business growth?
In Segun’s view, I ought not to have expressed opinions in favour of Buhari. I also ought not to have embarked on this tour of Nigeria soliciting support for Buhari. I have searched our law books to find a clause that ousts my freedom to so embark and have found none. This, to my mind, suggests that Segun is frightened by my abilities to move people to positive action. If that be the case, Segun should seek a better understanding.
I am happy he said he had researched into elections. He should also research into progressive activism, the type that Dr. Kalu has embarked upon for the sake of our country, whose today was raped yesterday by leaders, including those who Segun freely associates with.
On my ongoing matter with the EFCC, that matter is still being prosecuted and it would be sub judice to speak extensively on it. However, I would like to state that, in criminal jurisprudence, cases must be proved beyond reasonable doubt to achieve conviction. Until that is achieved, I remain a bona fide free citizen of Nigeria and as such free to enjoy my right of association, right to free movement and right to hold opinion, no matter how contrary.
I have also not interfered with the on-going trial and at no point has my trial been adjourned because I was not available in court. If you check the records of court, I have always been present to face trial. I even had to cut short my business trips to be in court. So, to make insinuations, like Segun did, is akin to attempting to force the hand of court. It also represents an effort to blackmail me to silence.
As someone who is versed in politics, as Segun claimed, I expect him to use his page to educate Nigerians more on the tenets of democracy and their rights and not to spread fear about the political profile of Dr. Kalu or his campaigns for Buhari. Segun should know that, on election day, what happens to a man when he is left alone with an ink pad, a ballot paper and his thumb, is a matter of conscience; and that matters more than whatever one says, or does, on the campaign ground.
I am just an individual Nigerian who understands my rights as guaranteed by the constitution of my country and has decided to enjoy those rights.
• Kalu is former governor of Abia State.