As a journalist, one of the words I use frequently is the word, “allegedly”. I use it when I cannot authenticate the validity of a claim; especially when covering a story from a publication whose trustworthiness, I cannot vouch for.
I and my colleagues use the word a lot; especially when covering politicians. For example, a politician may be accused of corrupt practices; and when we are not sure – especially when the person has not been indicted – we inject the word “allegedly” into the headline, to avoid a law suit.
For instance, a headline may read: “Trouble plagues Kafanchan (fictional name) as EFCC fingers him in alleged N7.9bn fraud scam.” By framing a headline this way, you cannot be held liable for an offence; because you did not expressly say the man committed the crime he is being accused of. You merely reported the allegation.
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines an allegation as a statement, made without giving proof, that someone has done something wrong or illegal.
On Sunday, October 7, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar emerged as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party; and as Nigerians reacted to the news that the man who had previously usually ended his presidential ambitions at the round of primaries had finally gotten the ticket, the Buhari propaganda machine also came out in full force.
The response from the president’s henchmen was that while Buhari was basically a saint, Atiku was held bound by corruption allegations which would disqualify him in the eyes of Nigerians.
Festus Keyamo, director of media for the Buhari Campaign Organisation stated: “We welcome H.E, Atiku Abubakar to the 2019 campaign trail. Nigerians would now decide between a candidate with a history full of credibility crises, damning reports on corruption, both home, abroad and from his former boss and another candidate with an unblemished record in public service.”
Following suit, the president’s social media aide, the ‘ever-colorful’ Lauretta Onochie, also had something to say. In her words: “Congratulations Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. You have outspent the rest. You have a new toy. But believe it, it is only a dream.
“Bearing in mind that you can’t go to America to represent us at the United Nations, nor meet with Nigerians in America, our job is made easy. Say Baba Buhari. 2019 is settled. God bless Nigeria.”
It soon became clear that the presidency had identified its line of attack, now that it was certain about the identity of its main opponent for 2019; and that was: Buhari is a man of integrity, while Atiku is corrupt!
However, the allegations of corruption leveled against Atiku, while being bandied about for years now, have never really been authenticated or proven to be true…without a shadow of doubt.
Atiku Abubakar has been accused of everything from money laundering (via his fourth wife) to siphoning public funds (aka the PTDF saga during the OBJ administration), to taking bribes even from foreign organizations (the iGate episode which led to the conviction of an American lawmaker).
Since the former VP exited the halls of power, successive administrations have accused him of corrupt practices. But then, not one of them has been able to nail anything substantial on him, or make the allegations stick.
So far, they have remained allegations.
However, we are now expected to take them seriously…now that Atiku Abubakar is no longer a presidential aspirant, but has become a viable candidate! I mean, the APC and the presidency certainly want us to. But, they will have to offer more than mere allegations.
We are not saying that Atiku Abubakar has never done anything wrong. On the contrary, he may certainly have committed some measure of financial impropriety during his tenure as VP. This is Nigeria after all; there is not one politician in the land who can claim to be spotless…not one. However, we are saying that we need proof; not just allegations.
If Atiku Abubakar is so corrupt, why hasn’t he been indicted and convicted so far? I mean, its been 11 years since he left office as VP!
Maybe things would be different this time around though. Maybe the heat was not turned up to full notch, previously, because Atiku had not yet become a candidate. Maybe now that he is in the crosshairs of the presidency, substantive evidence would finally be put forward. However, I am not really holding my breath.
Supporters of the ‘Turaki Adamawa’ will argue that Nigerians have an opportunity to choose a leader that would be better for the nation’s economy. They will highlight Atiku’s achievements as a businessman as proof that he is capable of taking the nation to greater economic heights.
They would sing songs of his support for restructuring and highlight his advocacy for youth empowerment and education as rallying points to canvass for votes from the masses.
And when the presidency and APC bring up the corruption allegations, they would say – as they always do – “where is the proof?”
Atiku Abubakar is poised to put up a fierce fight. He has immense resources, political clout and experience from failure. And if the PDP convention is anything to go by, the former VP also has the ability to engage in horse-trading and backyard dealings, which is necessary to pull supporters even from opposing camps.
The one thing that would certainly stand against him though, is that he is going up against the power of the incumbency…an incumbent administration which has shown in Osun and Ekiti, that it will do whatever it takes to perpetuate itself in power.
Atiku, as usual, will also have to contend with the allegations of corruption that have plagued him for years now; however, as I said before, his response will always be: ”Put up evidence, or shut up!”
Allegation: A statement, made without giving proof, that someone has done something wrong or illegal.
The key word here is ‘proof’; and as long as that is lacking, Atiku Abubakar will always have an escape route to evade his critics and detractors!
This opinion piece was written by Buchi Obichie.