- Post 19 August 2011
- Last Updated on 20 August 2011
- By Moses Ebe Ochonu
First of all, Ajayi Olatunji Olowo, the writer of this rejoinder to my recent recent article on El-Rufai's deceptions , is El-Rufai’s sycophantic biographer (more like hagiographer), who, by his own admission, wrote a praise-singing book about the former minister. Olowo was also, by his own admission, El-Rufai’s subservient subordinate at BPE. It is good that the writer discloses these details. They give away his loyalties and incentive to defend El-Rufai by libeling and attacking those who expose the duplicity and corruption of his former boss.
Second, the rejoinder is riddled with many falsehoods and distortions but I will start with the most egregious of them all, which is also libelous. Ajayi wrote:
"On personal bias, it is important to know that Ochonu once asked el-Rufai for a job and got turned down. Ochonu has been unable to put behind him that incident, but the truth is that at that time, el-Rufai could not provide him a job because only candidates with technical and numeracy skills were required. Available facts indicate that el-Rufai informed Ochonu and others with non-numerate and or science based degrees that they did not meet the criteria. Though Ochonu left for the US where he has done rather well, he has been unable to hide his disdain for el-Rufai mainly because of the latter’s inability to bend the rules to suit primordial personal interests."
This manufactured, libelous lie alone impeaches the credibility of Ajayi and Nasir El-Rufai, who obviously put him up to this. Anyone who is vaguely familiar with my biography would know that this is a malicious lie carefully manufactured to muddy the issues, deflect attention from El-Rufai’s duplicitous persona, and change the subject. It is pure libelous drivel, and Olowo, who is a lawyer, should know enough to avoid libeling people. In refuting this nonsense, let me state the following:
- I have NEVER applied for a job in Nigeria—not one--let alone in El-Rufai's BPE! In fact I have never worked in any full time job in Nigeria—never!
- Forgive the immodesty that follows; it is necessary for my refutation of this odious lie. I graduated from Bayero University Kano in 1997. As the best graduating student in the department of History, a holder of the Bayero University scholarship for outstanding academic performance for all the years that I studied there, and the winner of the most prestigious undergraduate prize in the department, I was retained in Kano to do my NYSC with the department. That is the only job I have ever held in Nigeria, if that counts as a job. While I was serving, I did NOT apply for any job. This was partly because I was pursuing admission for graduate studies in the United States and was hopeful that it would materialize.
- I finished my NYSC in May 1998. By that time I had already been admitted to the PhD program in African History at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and had been awarded a fellowship to cover my tuition and living expenses. I left for Ann Arbor, USA, in August 1998, three months after my NYSC and almost a whole year BEFORE Obasanjo came to power and BEFORE El-Rufai became DG of BPE. I spent the interval between the completion of my NYSC and my departure for States resting and preparing for my trip.
- I graduated with a Ph.D in Modern African History in 2004, having earlier picked up a Masters in December 1999. Even before I defended my Ph.D dissertation, I had already been offered a job by Vanderbilt University, an offer that I accepted because I liked the institution better than others there were courting at the time.
- Since 2004, I have been working as a professor of African History at Vanderbilt University.
- It is thus simply impossible that I would be applying for a job with El-Rufai’s BPE or FCT when I was in school in Michigan and or as a professor at Vanderbilt.
- I have lived in the United States since 1998, which covers the period in which El-Rufai was BPE boss and FCT minister, studying or working. It is in fact a slight to insinuate that I was looking for a job in Nigeria when I was a funded graduate student and later a full time professor! Would I have abandoned my studies and given up my dream of becoming an academic to take up such an appointment in El-Rufai's BPE? If Olowo had done a basic check of my biography, he would have known that the lie would not fly because my foreign residency BEFORE El-Rufai became DG of BPE and my continued foreign residency since then shatters the lie.
- Again, let me state categorically that I have NEVER applied to any job in Nigeria and have never had to. I thank God everyday for that! El-Rufai and his boy are libelous liars. Their lie is designed to shift attention away from the perfidy and corruption of the former FCT minister.
I know where Mr Ajayi got this nonsense. I published my article on El-Rufai on Saharareporters and followed the comments on it for a while. One anonymous commenter made the same false allegation and in fact used the same vocabulary as Olowo. I laughed it off because, even as a lie, it was a terrible one that is patently refuted by the basic chronology of my biography. Those who are familiar with Saharareporters.com’s comment section know that it is a habitat for mischief makers and defenders of corruption and evil, who routinely attack the integrity of anyone who raises a voice against their favorite Nigerian politician. Even Omoyele Sowore, whom we know and respect for his incorruptibility, is routinely accused of being sponsored by this person or that and of having collected bribes to write certain stories against some people. Such mischief comes with the territory, especially since Saharareporters allows anonymous comments by folks who are not registered members. Anonymity is a perfect cover for mischief. It is now clear that Olowo is either that commenter on Sahareporters or he is maliciously repeating the commenter’s libelous falsehood.
I knew that El-Rufai would unleash his minions and clones on me for daring to expose him as yet another fraudulent Abuja politician, but I never knew that he would sink this low. This says a lot about the character we are dealing with, a character whose name was even being suggested at one point as a possible presidential candidate!
When the premise of a rejoinder is a libelous lie manufactured out of thin air, it discredits the entire rejoinder.That's the foundational problem with the El-Rufai/Olowo rejoinder.
As I stated, the so-called rejoinder is riddled with many falsehoods and mischievous asides. I will now respond to those point-by-point:
"This is a rebuttal of the presumption by Ochonu that the story was made up as a self-serving image laundering as he tended to proffer in the third paragraph."
I never insinuated or stated that El-Rufai’s testimony was made up, only that it is self-serving and that El-Rufai is milking it to his PR advantage and to deflect attention from his own monumental failures at BPE. Does Olowo dispute that? By the way, at least one of those El-Rufai indicted in his testimony, Dr. Julius Bala, has now responded, disputing El-Rufai’s account, so we cannot take El-Rufai’s word as a faithful reproduction of what transpired, not when he is trying to save his skin.
"Why and how the Pentascope Management Contract of NITEL was bungled is a duty the immediate successor of el-Rufai in the BPE – Dr. Julius Bala owes the Nigerian public because it was under his tenure that the implementation of the Management Contract took place."
No. El-Rufai oversaw the fraudulent PENTASCOPE Nitel management deal and approved it. PENTASCOPE, the national assembly investigation of that disastrous transaction showed, didn’t even have an address, as its stated address was traced to an empty warehouse in the Netherlands. The contract papers were also written in Dutch! Yet El-Rufai, who now wants to be seen as a diligent and painstaking privatization professional, approved the bid. He approved the deal and is responsible for what PENTASCOPE did to NITEL, stripping it bare. A responsible politician would own up to his most egregious screw-up and not try to bluff his way out of it. Why did El-Rufai not mention the PENTASCOPE deal in his recent testimony? This is a rhetorical question that Olowo and his hero, El-Rufai, need to ponder on. In the wake of the national assembly investigation into PENTASCOPE, which also revealed that the deal cost Nigeria tens of billions of naira, El-Rufai, now at the FCT, was asked in several newspaper interviews if he regretted approving the deal knowing what he now knew. The arrogant crook repeatedly stated that he didn’t regret it. Even though we knew at that point that PENTASCOPE was a fraudulent entity put together by a group of greedy Nigerians for the sole purpose of stealing from NITEL in the name of managing it, El-Rufai refused to acknowledge any error of judgment.
"For instance, apart from the on-going public hearing, he falsely stated that el-Rufai apologised to Senators Mantu and Zwingina on the popular “bribe-for-Senate-Clearance saga” of 2003. The fact is in the public domain that el-Rufai never apologised to the bribe-demanding senators, rather he re-affirmed the circumstance in which the Senators made the demand when he appeared before the Senate Ethics Committee then headed by Senator Olorunimbe Mamora. Although the Senate Committee treated the issue as an in-house matter, that did not obliterate the facts in issue – that the affected Senators made a demand for bribe from Nasir el-Rufai, an event which turned el-Rufai into a momentary whistle blower."
Another lie. I didn’t claim that El-Rufai apologized to the senators. I stated that some newspaper reports claimed that he apologized to the senators and recanted when the matter was taken behind closed doors in a series of meetings arranged by PDP heavyweights to settle it as “a family affair.” The truth is that we will never fully know what transpired behind those closed doors to kill that scandal before the allegations were proven or refuted and before the culprits, if there were any, were shamed and/or punished. Before Nigerians got a chance to find out the veracity or otherwise of the allegations. And that, precisely, is the tragedy. Some newspaper reports claimed that El-Rufai recanted at meetings convened between him and the senators. Other reports claimed that he apologized. Yet others claimed that he was pressured to withdraw the allegation and not pursue it. The senators clearly threatened to block his confirmation (Mantu was the deputy senate president). Whatever the truth is, the fact is El-Rufai treasured the nomination above helping Nigerians know the full details of what he alleged. He balked when the nation was yearning for full disclosure. And, even more importantly, El-Rufai acquiesced in the closed door, PDP family solution (a.k.a cover-up) that has been the hallmark of the PDP oligarchy. He was complicit in the cover-up. But today, he wants us to see him as a saint, a crusader against government graft. It's not that we're looking for saints to govern us. We will never get one. The thing is, EL-Rufai wants to be seen differently by grandstanding and posturing as a clean fella when he is just another establishment politician with all the familiar attributes.
"Moses Ochonu, as an Associate Professor of History works on a project that focuses on “non-Muslim consciousness to counter perceived Anglo Fulani hegemony”. His focus and project fit into today’s Nigeria that is terribly divided along ethnocentric and religious lines following the April 2011 political gerrymandering that has inflicted unprecedented damage on the fragile unity among the diverse ethnic nationalities of Nigeria."
Olowo is clearly grasping here. As an academic, what I choose to research or write on is my business. This is one of many topics I write on but I am sure it’s not the only one you don’t like. I have the liberty to investigate any issue I deem worthy of my scholarly attention, no matter how sensitive. In fact the more sensitive the topic the more interesting it is as a historical subject. There’s even a fancy name for this liberty: academic freedom. That’s the beauty of my job. I get paid to literally write what I like (apologies to Steve Biko). Nothing stops Ajayi Olowo from doing the same if he does not like what I research or write on. Better yet, when I publish, Olowo is free in the spirit and tradition of academic disputation to critique my logic, premise, or arguments. That’s how knowledge grows.
"It might not be out of place therefore to place Ochonu in the realm of the foot soldiers already being recruited to diminish the profile of personalities considered threats to future stake of some ambitious Nigerian politicians, especially from the middle-belt geopolitical zone."
This is another nonsensical aside. I have a full time job in a top 20 American university that I love. My career is on the upswing, glory be to God! I have NOT been recruited and I am NOT interested in being recruited for any purpose by anyone in Nigeria. I write on what I feel passionate about. But I am not naïve. I know that the targets of my social commentary like El-Rufai have vast resources with which they can recruit character assassins and merchants of falsehoods like Ajayi Olowo, Esq. Insinuations of this nature dog every conscientious social commentator, as those stung by critique always find a way to change the subject and muddy the issue through ad hominems and unfounded character attacks. It is a small prize to pay for helping to stimulate the vigilance and social conscience of my compatriots. So, I say bring on the drivel and the silly insinuations.