Opinion

Buhari’s FMG, Atiku and 53 suitcases controversial by Abba Dukawa

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Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, he almost his job as an officer with the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS following the controversial importation of 53 suitcases into the country in 1984 by a traditional ruler in the than old sokoto state . Than The former VP was the Customs Officer in Charge of the Murtala Muhammed Airport when the suitcases were brought into the country.

According to him The plane landed on the VIP section of MMA and ADC to the Head of the federal military government came in with a military truck and personnel and drove straight to the aircraft and offloaded those suitcases and did not allow the Customs officers to do their work, and drove away. It was on a weekend when the issue of the 53 suitcases came up. I wasn’t at the airport because it was a weekend and I was the officer in charge of the place and so, there were beat officers conducting the affairs.

The military administration of Major-General Muhammadu Buhari had introduced new Naira notes in April 1984 as part of the junta monetary policies was aimed at halting the illegal speculative trading of the Naira outside the shores of Nigeria. While the time limit was imposed within which old notes could be turned in for new ones. There was instructions to the NCS to
screen all bags and containers entering the country to ensure old Naira notes were not being smuggled back into the country. On June 10, 1984 “Passenger with 53 suitcases leaves airport unchecked. The Guardian, a Lagos-based newspaper, reported on its front page.

The incident became a scandal and government was forced to set up an administrative panel of inquiry to determine why due process was not followed. The government was clearly embarrassed by the incident and rather than punish those who flouted its directive that all baggage be searched, it began to look for scapegoats.
They mounted pressure on Atiku Abubakar to denied that the incident ever happened. But the fearless Atiku was threatened and intimidated but vowed to surrender his uniform and quit the Customs rather than lie. When Waziri of Adamawa stood by his officers who reported the incident in writing than the military government said that those who intimidated and threatened the Customs officers on duty on that day at the airport had been reprimanded. FMG later declared that the controversial 53 suitcases contained the personal effects of the traditional ruler, the returning ambassador and members of their families.

Thirty four years after the scandal neither PMB nor those that brought the suitcases ever denied it and waziri sense of justice and respects due process set him free. No matter what happens now, no matter what some few characters at the corridors of power do to cover their misdeeds and mudsling the integrity and credibility of others, the day of reckoning, when all those who are in power today will give an account of their stewardship is just around the corner.

At the heat of the controversial Some government officials wanted Atiku sacked for not covering up their mess but Finance Minister Onaolapo Soleye, who supervised the Department of Customs and Excise, said I should be left alone. Soleye did not know me. He acted on the basis of the facts before him. He said it would be unfair to punish him for doing his job and for standing by his officers. He was also swayed by his impeccable service record. No queries. No sanctions. His file was filled with commendations for meeting and exceeding revenue targets at the different posts he had headed. Still the issued remained unresolved but those
officials that wanted AAA kicked out from the service was failed and those alive witnesses his raising status in the country politics.

Thomas Mann once declared that ‘the destiny of man presents is meaning in political terms.‘ That is to say, in our contemporary experience, it is difficult to make clear separations or distinctions between the politics of life and the life of politics. It is pertinent to state without mincing words that the Atiku Abubakar team is not coming to mount the saddle of leadership of the country as green horns in human and resources management.

Many Nigerians are anxious to get a glimpse on how the elections will look like unlike in 2015, when change battled continuity. 2019 is most likely going to be maintaining a change versus changing the change. They are overwhelmingly awaiting the February 2019 presidential polls to vote for a far-reaching departure from politics of subservience to snobbish overloads paying lip service to religious piety and crass insensitivity towards the people’s material and spiritual wellbeing.

The PDP presidential hopeful is ready to expunge previous avenues for wastages through transparent and accountable administration as well as implement his agenda for robust self-reliance policy that will enable the incoming administration to create multi-faceted job opportunities for the masses, especially the teeming youth population in the state via massive local and foreign direct investments.

To Nigerians, voting Waziri of Adamawa is an obligation to return the country to glory days. Indeed, if elected as the president with his experience, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar will govern the country through a leadership that was accountable and committed to rapid socio-economic transformations through people-oriented policies and programmes tailored towards sustainable and integrated development.

It is imperative to under score the fact that Atiku is one politician who before he became the vice president, never held any political appointment, he had all along been a civil servant and when he retired he went into private business, which was very successful by the grace of God and dint of hard work. Much more importantly is the fact that even as the former vice president he never awarded contracts and has no direct access to public funds, he has lost more money in government than when he was in private business.

The money he has is the money he made in private business before he became the vice president. But there is what they call the management of public perception; this has to do with people holding tenaciously to a point of view and believing it weather or not it is correct or otherwise. Some have gone to the extent of saying that he made his money through dubious means or by fraudulent practices, and the response of the vice president has always been that if anybody, anywhere has any evidence that he was engaged in any unwholesome dealings, at any stage of his life, they should go to court.

And, he has repeatedly subjected himself to public scrutiny at all times, exuding uncommon confidence that his track records are impeccable.

Besides, it is also instructive to observe that, a man is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of competent jurisdiction; nobody therefore has the right to label another as guilty until the court does so. Again, it is important to note that, if indeed, the vice president had been corrupt this will have glaringly manifested since 1999, why wait for seven years before trying very hard to nail him at all cost, to prevent him from vying for the presidency in the 2007 election? And, try as much as they have, they have not been able to pin him down to any case of financial impropriety or financial scandal, in spite of the fact that the lemon-squeezing, fault-finding gambit goes on to no end.

In today’s Nigeria, how many people amongst the political gladiators can come out and tell the public how they truly made their money? Some have even argued that, he made so much money from the privatization exercise because he is the chairman of NCP, when people that make the frivolous statements are asked to mention in specific terms, the companies he has cornered personally or through proxies, they are usually unable to substantiate their spurious claims. ’ Yes, there is no concrete proof. Usually this kind of thing which is called bad belle in local Nigerian parlance is sheepishly done by his political detractors that want to pull him down at all cost.

Dukawa public commentator and also a media practitioner wrote in from Kano can be reached at [email protected]

Famutimi Femi is a writer for theheraldng. He is also a lawyer by trade. His hobbies include reading and writing, he also loves Renaissance art.

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