WHEN yours sincerely set out to write this, I did not have Jeffrey Archer, the famous English author, who wrote in 1977 ‘Shall we tell the President’ in mind. In fact, I wanted to achieve one purpose: Interrogate why, despite the presidential pardon since April 14, 2022, Chief Joshua C Dariye is yet to leave the Kuje Correctional Facility back to the embrace of his family, friends and political associates.
His conviction and incarceration has been a subject of partisan consideration by different people.
Those who know are quick to point out that his case and that of his co-traveler, Rev Jolly Nyame are allegedly shrouded in political manipulation and worthy of consideration; if only we could situate his voyage without being accused of being partisan also.
It has been opined, if his ‘sins’ are placed side by side with those of his colleagues who served in other states during the same period, today, Dariye should be walking free on the streets of Abuja and elsewhere. For me, and indeed many others, that is the irony of how life has been skewed to treat some Nigerians. In this category, Dariye’s case falls squarely; for which it is proper to examine, if only a cause could be fought for.
Not many of us would have been close to former Governor Joshua Chibi Dariye of Plateau State, but the fact that he was once the governor of my state makes him a candidate for my prayers. It should not stop there; his state of health deserves to be my concern also, if we are interested in honouring those who offer service to the state.
But even if that is not a reason to be considered, for me and many staff who worked and are still on the payroll of Plateau Publishing Corporation (publishers of) The Nigeria Standard, to his credit; they are able to access their gratuity and pension when they retire.
Working with the Plateau Publishing Corporation as its Chief Accountant enabled him to become acquainted with the plight of its workforce on retirement. Therefore, in 2005, while serving as governor of the state in his second term, he set in motion the process for the scheduling of the corporation.
Today, hate or like him; he is highly revered for his magnanimity and setting in motion a process that puts into consideration the toiling of many who would have returned home to their families and friends in penury and perhaps using their new station to go about begging for pittance to survive from different sources. No one can take away the openhandedness of Senator Joshua Dariye; in fact, many can go to town protesting on his behalf, if any person thought otherwise.
But the Khawung Mushere, and one who is today popularly referred to as the Head Boy of Plateau politics, without doubt, cannot be limited just for the consideration of individuals.
Beyond what we may have thought he did for organizations in the state and all; he has gone through hell and back in the course of service to his state. It is for this reason that people are asking for his freedom.
Governance can be tasking as well as demanding. Sometimes during the life of any administration, mistakes could be made against the state. The travails of Senator Joshua Chibi Dariye admittedly were against the state, and during his trial which took some time, he reportedly consented to that in a statement.
It should be noted that former Governor Joshua Dariye has never admitted to being a Saint, neither do I confer on him the staff of such an office. His case can be described as one who has risen from grace to grass; but, like the beetle, it will be difficult to kill its resilience.
Many have been worried long before now and wondering why if those who allegedly took home bigger sums belonging to their states are today playing roles that determine the course of Nigeria; the case of Dariye cannot be swept under the carpet; even though a judgment was entered, but more importantly that the Council of State had recommended for his pardon. That changed his story and put smiles on the faces of his family members, friends and associates.
The trial of Dariye, which was prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for a 23-count charge bordering on money laundering and diversion of funds, on the strength of a statement he was alleged to have made in 2007 forming the thrust of the proceedings.
His trial before Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, High Court, Gudu, Abuja had commenced on January 25, 2016 with the EFCC presenting exhibits, including the statement, alleged to have been given to All States Trust Bank, (now defunct), on the disbursement of the said N1.162 billion diverted from the Ecological Fund meant for the state, to private companies and individuals.
As a layman, I am tempted to ask: If the giver is punished, what should be done to the one(s) who were freely given part of the money? Does the law not provide that those who benefit from the ‘largesse’ not be punished also? Did they not encourage him, and yet they were left to walk freely while he languished in jail?
Did the court not order the EFCC to repatriate the N80m and other funds recovered during investigation to the coffers of Plateau State government? Why was it that the court however did not make any pronouncement on the N100m said to be paid to Marine Float, a company alleged to be owned by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar? How long will it take the EFCC stay on the matter investigating? What about the N100m collected on behalf of the PDP South/West by Yomi Edu former Minister of Special Duties and N66m for PDP in Plateau which was shared among the 274 wards?
Senator Dariye, who was governor from 1999 to 2007, was jailed for laundering public funds to the tune of N1.162bn and sentenced to 14 years in prison. Dariye’s prison term was later reduced to 10 years by the Court of Appeal in Abuja, while his conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court.But, it is in the clemency granted by President Muhammadu Buhari that we would like to situate our concerns and draw the attention of the president considering that much is expected.
The spokesperson for the Nigerian Correctional Service, Abubakar Umar, had hinted that the NCS was not responsible for the delay. According to him, the duo could not be released by service until a correspondence from the Ministry of Justice stating so was received. ‘The moment we get that, we will affect their release. It is a presidential pardon, no doubt, but there must be a document to back their release. They can’t be released on pronouncement alone.’
That indeed is a fact; however, what should interest all who have followed the case is the quality of Nigerians who have joined the fray for the struggle to allow the former governor return home to the embrace of his family.
Former Governor of Kaduna State, Colonel Abubakar Umar’s call on the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to issue the warrant for the release of ex Governors Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame; is, if anything is instructive for the struggle to free Dariye.
He had in a statement said: ‘The Attorney General should, in obedience to the directive of the President, transmit the warrant to the agencies responsible for the release of Governors Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame without any further delay. Besides, I am sure the President will remain steadfast in implementing a decision approved by the National Council of State even if it might seem somewhat unpopular with a section of the public.’
We have maintained, so also is Colonel Umar that in ensuring that the duo’s release is made possible, it should be noted that: ‘At a time when most Nigerians are calling for equity in every aspect of our national life, Governors Dariye and Nyame do not deserve to be singled out but treated like everybody else’.
It should be noted that if you take the travails of the two former governors as personal, then the vigorous war that will be waged for equity and fairness concerning their treatment may not make headway. Regrettably, ‘both spent two years in detention, while their trial lasted. They have now served a further four years after their conviction, making cumulative six years of a ten year sentence.
‘It is remarkable that the two are so far the only former Governors who have been convicted and have remained in jail even though their colleagues Governors have similarly been accused or facing prosecution. A few were actually found guilty and jailed–but still managed to remain free!
‘Regrettably, the public’s antagonism might well have intimidated the government resulting in the Justice Ministry’s hesitancy in issuing their release warrant to the Ministry of Interior and the National Correctional Service’.
We are, like many others, worried about the alleged ‘seeming selective nature of the anti-corruption war targeted at the two governors while their colleagues walk free.’ It is expected that in the interest of justice and fairness, Nigerians should walk the streets calling for the conclusions of cases involving other former governors. Justice is the meat meant for all, it should not be selective.
His counsel, Paul Erokoro (SAN) during the trial had ‘begged the court to be lenient on Dariye, stating that the offence was committed in 2001, two years when the 1999 Constitution came into effect and that Dariye as part of the first sets of leaders after the enactment, was ignorant of the financial laws’.
He had said to the Judge, ‘mistakes were made, my Lord, should this man be punished by our mistakes? My Lord, appeals against your judgment hardly succeed. When we get there (appellate and apex courts), they tell us you were right in your judgment, so we are appealing for a non-custodial sentencing.
But the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) would not want to hear any of that, as he urged the court to impose the maximum sentence to serve as deterrent. It was at this point that, Dariye, irked by what was to befall him signified to the court that he wanted to say something.
Given the chance, Dariye, who was visibly angry that prosecution counsel said he didn’t show any remorse, said, “You cannot predict my state of mind. Let us not spoil tomorrow because of today. Can you raise your hand to swear there is a saint in Nigeria?”
You could be right to ask, like Senator Dariye: Is there a saint in Nigeria? Could we not like Col Umar also demand to ask the same question?
At that point, and always in any court, that is the season where heroes are either made and villains could be left to be remembered. Truth, he took his fate with equanimity; and today, the Lord has turned his captivity into dancing. He knows that when there is a casting down, certainly, a lifting will take place, on account of the one who is seated in heaven and guides the affairs of men.
Before long, the Khawung Mushere, Senator Joshua Chibi Dariye will be back to where he belongs. And you can be sure; the Head Boy shall be welcomed
SOURCE: AFRICAN DRUM NEWS