For 10 years now, Bafarawa has been in the eye of the storm. He has faced a ceaseless witch-hunt in the hands of his successor Aliyu Wamakko and the EFCC
There is no doubt that the declaration by the former governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, for the 2019 presidential elections, has sent shock waves to the territory of those who do not wish him well. But Bafarawa, from the look of things is the handmaid of God. He appears destined for a higher calling. That is why many who have watched him closely over the years are convinced that his presidential project will be a huge success.
It is significant to note here that his detractors wanted to nail him? They wanted him to be put to shame. But God is always on the side of the righteous. That is why Bafarawa gas come out of a decade-long court case with broad smiles. The courts have set him free, having not found him guilty of any wrongdoing.
For some 10 years now, Bafarawa has been in the eye of the storm. He has faced a serial and ceaseless witch-hunt in the hands of his immediate successor, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko and the the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
At a time most state governors were leaving their states with a huge debt overhang, Bafarawa left twelve billion Naira in the coffers of Sokoto state government . He did so in order to protect the state from unforeseen contingencies by providing for the rainy day. Regrettably, his successor, Alhaji Wamakko, who was expected to give credit to the man who made it possible for his government to take off on a sound footing, decided to play politics with the legacy that Bafarawa left behind.
Wamakko denied the existence of the said two million in the accounts of the state government. But Bafarawa would not succumb to that antic. Ever clinical in his approach to issues, Bafarawa went for all the documentary evidence that was required to back up his claim. And in order to ensure that Wamakko did not get away with any cover-up, Bafarawa approached the EFCC over the matter. He urged the commission to freeze the account of Sokoto state government where the two billion Naira was domiciled so that the governor would not misappropriate the said fund and deny its existence.
Under this circumstance, the EFCC was expected to beam its searchlight on the financial operations of the Sokoto State government under Wamakko. But rather than do that, the commission invited Bafarawa to shed light on his letter to it. Bafarawa, strangely, was detained in the process. The complainant instantly became the accused.
The matter has witnessed a lot of turns and twists since it began in 2008. The Sokoto State government has had cause to turn the table against Bafarawa by slamming more charges against him.
In December 2009, Bafarawa and his fellow accused persons were arraigned by the Sokoto State High Court on a 47-count charge bordering on misappropriation and embezzlement. Then in September 2011, the prosecution filed a fresh motion in which it amended its charges to 22 counts.
Bafarawa and his co-defendants were accused of misappropriating and embezzling N15 billion belonging to Sokoto State government.
However, strange things continued to happen. While the EFCC was prosecuting the case it brought before Bafarawa and others accused alongside with him, the state government was busy withdrawing its charges against some of them. Those who switched to Governor Wamakko’s political camp got a reprieve.
Their ‘sins’ were forgiven. At this point, it became obvious to the watching world that the trial of Bafarawa was political. That it was a deliberate witch-hunt. A calculated attempt to give the dog a bad name in order to hang it.
As if the acquittal of some of the accused persons was not enough, five of the accused persons were fully pardoned by the Sokoto state government, thus giving the impression that the accused are necessarily sinners who needed to be pardoned or forgiven. This was part of the shenanigans that we were treated to until the law took its ultimate course three days ago.
While delivering judgement on the matter this Tuesday, Justice Bello Abbas dismissed all the 22 counts over which the accused were being tried. He said the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. The judgment dismissed all the evidence brought by the prosecution as mere hearsay. Consequently, the Judge discharged and acquitted Bafarawa and four others who stood trial with him to the very end.
With this judgement, it had become evident, even to incurable Doubting Thomases, that what Bafarawa has gone through in the past 10 years was mere witch-hunt. During the intervening period, he was harassed, harangued and blackmailed. He was given a bad name which he never deserved.
But the court has demonstrated that all that we have been witnessing was vendetta. Someone wanted to gain an undue advantage over the other on account of politics. This was primitive and bitter politics at its most banal.
The Bafarawa trial presents us with a lot of ridiculous scenarios. The discharge and so called pardon granted to some of the accused persons while the case was still in court was an assault on the integrity of the court. By that action, the government of Sokoto state unwittingly passed a judgement of guilt on the accused persons. But we know that it is trite law to assume that an accused remains innocent until proven guilty.
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But in Sokoto, those accused persons were presumed and pronounced guilty and therefore needed to be pardoned by the state government. This is one of those aberrations that have not made it possible for Nigeria to make progress.
We assault the system freely and still expect it to work. Those fellows got the soft treatment because they chose the easy way out. They were ready to procure their freedom by whatever means. And it worked for them. If Bafarawa were not a man of principle, he would have caved in at some point.
He would have abandoned his political flag and pitched tent with his traducers. But the man stood his ground. He chose to fight on the side of truth. And truth, in the final analysis, has set him free.
Today, Bafarawa has stepped out to run for the presidency. Anybody who has followed his track record will readily admit that he is one of the best for the job. His integrity puts him in good stead to be considered for the top job. With the likes of Bafarawa, there is hope for Nigeria. There is light at the end of the dark tunnel.