Why EFCC shouldn’t Waste its time on PDP’s ‘housing allowance’ scandal – Sagay

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In this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), discusses the elements that will influence the 2023 presidential election, particularly developments within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other national issues. Excerpts:

Since the democratic rule was restored in 1999, there have only ever been two candidates running for president. Do you still anticipate the same things to occur in 2023, or should we anticipate a shift in light of the entry of the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi?
The APC, PDP, and Labour Party are, in my opinion, in a three-way battle. Peter Obi, though, continues to be my third-place pick out of the three contenders. Despite what we have seen on television and other media, I don’t believe Peter Obi’s supporters have had an impact on Nigeria’s voter base. The young folks in cities are the ones generating all the noise. I believe the rural residents will outnumber everyone when they decide to vote. The voting takes place in rural areas. If voters from rural areas turn out in large numbers, they will win the election.
Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike on Friday assented to the motion by the Rivers state House of Assembly which derecognises Celestine Omehia as a former governor of the state. Many analysts believed the governor took the action because Omehia was supporting Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate. What is your take on that?

Wike goes after his opponents without looking back. He searches for them left, right and centre and just tackles them really hard. That is his style and he is obviously inconsistent. It really establishes that what he does is not on principle. I am not surprised by what he has done because that is the way he relates with his opponents.

Having lost in the PDP presidential primary, don’t you think Wike is fighting a lost battle by withdrawing from the PDP presidential campaign, especially with the NEC passing a vote of confidence on Iyorchia Ayu, the party’s national chairman?

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I think those who are assessing Wike’s actions by saying he lacks the spirit of sportsmanship by refusing to accept defeat having lost in the presidential primary are not being fair to him. I’ve heard people saying he should just accept that he lost and move on since the election was free and fair. All those saying that are not being fair to the man. Let me use this opportunity to analyse the situation for the world to see.
In 2019 it was Wike who funded Aminu Tambuwal to contest against Atiku Abubakar. Without Wike’s support, Tambuwal would not have had a chance to contest. Wike funded his campaign then and fully committed himself to Tambuwal’s presidential ambition. Even after Tambuwal lost the primary, Wike was very unhappy about it. Now moving on to 2022, that same Tambuwal that Wike sponsored in 2019 now conspired with Atiku to sabotage Wike’s ambition to be elected as the presidential candidate of the PDP. Since Tambuwal was withdrawing from the race on the day of the presidential primary, he asked all his supporters to transfer their votes to Atiku. Even after he had made his speech to the delegates, they then allow him to go back and now tell them that the delegates should give their votes to Atiku. We will never know the effect of that but possibly, Atiku would not have won if not for what the likes of Tambuwal did. For me, that is betrayal.

Another issue is that Wike came a very strong second in the presidential primary after Atiku. The party now said being a popular man who got votes from delegates across the country, he will form a good partnership to Atiku as running mate. The party in its wisdom believe that Wike’s popularity will be merged with that of Atiku to win the election. But what happened? Atiku ignored the recommendation of the people set up by the party to help him search for a vice-presidential candidate and chose another person. The 17-member committee recommended Wike but Atiku ignored them and went for Okowa. Atiku further poured kerosene to the fire by saying ‘I decided to pick somebody I can work with’. By that statement, he is saying that he cannot work with Wike. So, what I am trying to say is that Wike’s anger as far as I can see is not just that he lost the presidential primary but that he was betrayed again and again. He was unhappy that they conspired against him. That is what I want the world to appreciate. He didn’t just lose the primary but there was a conspiracy against him, especially by people he has helped.

The PDP was also rocked by financial scandal whereby serving officers in the party returned N28 million that was mysteriously paid into their accounts by the party. The party later claimed it was Housing allowance. As PACAC chairman, do you think this is a matter the EFCC should beam its searchlight on?

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It is obvious that they were just sharing money amongst themselves. This whole thing of saying the money is meant for housing allowance is just an afterthought. Yes, it is a matter the EFCC can look at but I don’t really think they should waste their time since there are more other important cases that requires their attention. It will be difficult to prove. The issue of intent may be difficult because the party will say we paid the money for their tenancy and housing in Abuja is expensive. You cannot say that that is not their intent even though we all know that it is not their intention for giving the monies out. However, proof in court is another thing. So, I don’t think it will be a case that is worth pursuing.

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