Grp Capt. Sadeeq Shehu (rtd)
Let me say straight away that I do not seek to deny any person his/her constitutional right to elect or be elected. I do not have such powers. I do also acknowledge any accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. But there is something as remorse , or penitence , or decency or even self survival instinct or even gratitude to God especially when a potential felon escapes punishment and his co-felons get punished.
As a former military officer, it really came as a shock to me to hear that so soon after arms scandal which exposed the whole Nigerian military to ridicule, one of the major players and beneficiaries of the scandal, Air Commodore Salisu Yusha’u (rtd) is coming out brazenly to contest for the House of Representatives seat for the Tudun Wada/Doguwa constituency in Kano state. For those in the military and the Nigerian Air Force in particular, Yusha’u does not need any introduction….it is a name most NAF officers would rather forget. For those who don’t know him just google the name “Air Commodore Salisu Yusha’u” and you get several hits mainly from local media and even one international mention in a book written about corruption .
By way of brief introduction, Air Commodore Yushau was the Director of finance of the Nigerian Air Force during the tenures of both Air Chief Marshal MD Umar and late Air Marshal Alex Badeh as Chiefs of Air Staff. In fact, to the best of my knowledge Yushau holds the record of being the only person to serve 2 Air Chiefs as Director of Finance at a time when there was “Plenty of Action“.
In June/July 2016, and not surprisingly, Yushau was conspicuously listed among those whom PMB directed that EFCC to carry out further investigation into the misconduct established against them based on the recommendation of the second interim report of the Arms Procurement Panel. It is fair to reflect that some of those listed have subsequently being freed having been found not guilty , some are still under investigation, while some are still in court. Yusha’u was the only one who cut a deal with the EFCC and became a government witness under what can at best be described as a very suspicious plea bargain which saw Yusha’u go scot free with all his loot.
After initially absconding to Dubai, Yusha’u came back and instead of facing charges like his former bosses, late Air Chief Marshal AS Badeh (Rtd) and Air Marshal MD Umar, Yushau in very murky and still closely guarded secret arrangement with either EFCC or Ministry of Justice, he turned into a government witness and ratted against both late Badeh and Umar. Not out of any patriotism mind you, but simply a cowardly act to save his miserable neck and throw late Badeh and Umar under the bus. Yushau’s former bosses have obviously counted on a cooperative behaviour from a colleague based on the well known military esprit-de -corps, the expected officer attributes of integrity and owning up to one’s action , as well as the belief that “we are all in this together” but Yusha’u had other ideas. After initially lulling his former bosses into a false sense of solidarity , he went behind , cut a deal and pushed late Badeh and Umar under the train. So pained was one of Yusha’us former bosses about this betrayal (I wont mention who ) that he broke down and wept when he realized that Yushau has left him in the lurch. It is no wonder therefore that among both serving and retired officers , this self-saving treachery by Yusha’u was seriously condemned and he is being cited as an example of “How not to be an officer”. Wherever you mention the name Yusah’u before officers, you hear words and phrases such as; “cowardly”, “unofficer-like conduct” “snitch”, “back-stabber” ”rat” and of course “thief” . You never hear the words like “hero”, “brave”. To the average military officer the name of Yushau is a stench in the nostrils, a pariah an anathema. He has failed that basic test for integrity and a colleague with whom you could trust your life.
What Manner Of Plea Bargain Did Yushau Receive?
A plea bargain is an agreement between a defendant and a prosecutor, in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or “no contest” (nolo contendere) in exchange for an agreement by the prosecutor to either drop one or more charges (not all charges) , reduce a charge to a less serious offense (charge bargaining) , or recommend to the judge a specific sentence acceptable to the defense (sentence bargaining) . In either case the object of a plea bargain is to make prosecution of the bigger fishes easier using one of the culprits as a witness. In no case of plea bargain should the now turned government witness be allowed completely scot free without any form of punishment. For transparency and to safeguard public interest , the details of a plea ought to be mentioned.
However , the details of the Yusha’u plea bargain with EFCC are still shrouded in secrecy; no one knows which charges were dropped and which, if any were tried; no one knows what lesser punishment , if at all, was given to Yushau; No one knows for certain if Yusha’u has forfeited any of his very many properties which had earlier been marked “EFCC KEEP OFF”. All that we know is that as a certain time the “EFCC KEEP OFF” was removed , and that Yushau was singing like a canary to the consternation of both late Badeh and Umar. Yushau, who was avoiding people then , is now contesting for House of Representatives and a few Hausa singers have released albums in his “honour” which he shamelessly sends to military officers via WhatsApp . All we can glean is that Yusha’u in a secret, sneaky plea bargain arrangement that may not bear scrutiny and is obviously antithetical to the public interest , was offered what I would call a “sweetheart deal” whose terms were so unbelievably favourable….
All Charges Dropped; All Illegally Obtained Properties And Monies Untouched
Such a bizarre arrangement makes a mockery of the anti-corruption fight, and in no way reflects the legal meaning and aim of plea bargaining (See my definition of plea bargaining above). One might be excused for thinking that something unethical , some under hand dealing has happened in crafting that sweetheart deal that Yushau got while his co-conspirators late Badeh and Umar were on the way to being pauperized.
And What Did Yushau Do After His Unmerited Lucky Escape?
Now after having co-conspired , and after snitching on his former bosses and after having procured one of the sweetest even suspicious plea bargains which made him escape trial and possible prison with all his ill-gotten proceeds intact, while his co-looters are facing jail with their properties and monies already seized, one would have expected Yushau to lay low. To thank God for his narrow escape, for beating the system. To be circumspect. To show penitence, and look for some way of making restitution . But No….Air Commodore Yushau is brazenly, shamelessly , and with impunity deploying the filthy money he accumulated to contest for the House of Representatives !!! Yushau is busy in Kano throwing money as if the stuff is going out of fashion and has bulldozed and railroaded all aspirants and contestants for the House of Representatives seat for Tudun Wada/Doguwa constituency. Yushau’s callous , obscene, and unrepentant and unremorseful display would certainly have detrimental ramifications when it comes to enforcing anti-corruption. There is tendency for younger officers entrusted with military finances to see Yushau as a hero who successfully beat the system. Yushau didn’t get even a slap on the wrist, Yushau got a golden handshake.
I call on PMB /FGN to look into the Yushau plea bargain.
Nigerians should be told how and why the decision was made to agree to the plea bargain, and more importantly , what charges were dropped and what lesser punishment was given to Yushau, what properties/monies he forfeited if any.
There is glaring contradiction between the FG’s tough-on-corruption stance and this ridiculous plea bargain. Is this how a plea bargain should be? Legal experts have for long opined that while plea bargaining requires informal negotiation, such informal negotiation if not supervised, may take the form of another form of corruption in countries whose legal systems already suffer from endemic corruption and serious legitimacy problems. This is evident here. I suspect that there was some underhand deal in the Yushau plea bargain case , but there is no way I can prove it. What I can do is to caution the FG that compensated criminals should not be allowed to go scot-free to enjoy their loot and wave ill -gotten proceeds in the face of decent folks. It is really a very sorry state of affairs, that such a person is running for public office just a few months after his escapades while his other co-conspirators are on their way to jail. More ominous, evidence suggests that should Yushau win, in order to show his former military colleagues that he “has arrived” he’d likely seek to chair one of the defence related committees, and with his background and experience in milking the system one can imagine the kind of harm that would be caused as such people are insatiable and incorrigible. Such is the audacity of greed. The temerity, shamelessness, audacity, lack of gratitude to God, disdain for the system, and crass lack of judgment of this Snitch, backstabber, coward, squealer, and rat proves Mahatma Gandhis saying that “There is sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.” But none of these wise words penetrate the conscience of my people.
This case is proof that corruption can kill us all and that the EFCC / Ministry of Justice plea bargain arrangement as currently done, is prone to abuse . It is an irony that while the less fortunate late Air Marshal Badeh, Air Chief Marshal Dikko Umar and others in particular have already had most of their ill gotten properties seized , accounts frozen with Umar still facing a possible jail term, the man at the centre of it all, Air Commodore Yushau is let loose scot-free , savouring salubrious European climes and cuisine in five-star comforts while still throwing money around in the Tudun Wada/ Doguwa constituency where he has bought off all contestants , and if not by the grace of God will soon become a federal legislator.
Given that Air Commodore Yusahu was indicted by the Jon Ode panel , it is incumbent for public interest for the EFCC to disclose what charges were framed against Yushau , what he was indicted for and what the terms of the plea agreement were. This is because Section 66 (1) h of the constitution, debars from contesting for National Assembly seat , any person who has been indicted for embezzlement or fraud by Judicial Commission of Inquiry or an Administrative Panel of Inquiry or a Tribunal set up under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act, a Tribunals of Inquiry Law or any other law by the Federal or State Government which indictment has been accepted by the Federal or State Governments respectively. For Yushau to accept to turn from accused to government witness , it means there was an indictment and acknowledgment of an offence. We need to know what it is.
Finally, I’d like to remove any residual risk of thinking that I do not support Yusha’u decision to turn government witness , no matter how self-serving his motives. Or that I sympathize with those he testified /is testifying against. Not at all. I was a victim too directly or indirectly. What I am against is the flawed and suspicious plea deal given to Yushau , and his insensitive behaviour and display of ostentation with money not earned through hard work. If Yusha’u refuses to be sensitive about his escapades in the NAF, if he forgets just how lucky he was and how unlucky others were, if he decides to rub the oil all over his face, we should not be sensitive about helping him to advertise. To the people of Tudun Wada/Doguwa constituency , the choice is yours.
Shehu was former Director of Public Relations and Information (DOPRI), Nigerian Air Force