(Burden of Service Review by Seunmanuel Faleye)
Often times, the expediency to thread with caution is advised before one believes the popular side of any story. More often than not, the truth is not as open for public knowledge and usually not as sensational as the contrived version that is spread ab initio.
Arguably one of the most controversial public office holders that served in the administration former President Goodluck Jonathan between April 6, 2010 and April 29, 2015; former Attorney General of Nigeria and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke has published his memoir in office as the legal helmsman in that administration, saddled fundamentally with the responsibility of proffering legal solutions on government activities.
His book is titled: Burden Of Service: Reminiscences Of Nigeria’s Former Attorney General. Released September 24, 2019, the Five parts, Twenty Five Chapters and 282 paged book is a first-hand expository rollercoaster ride of power plays at the seat of power, mostly as it concerns legislation at that level.
Adoke, after four years into the Buhari-led administration that succeeded the one he served under, having suffered alleged threat to life, severe character and goodwill assassination and continuous perceived media trail, finally found his once hitherto lost voice, to come clean in the court of public opinion.
His memoir decries how his reputation and every legacy he sweated all his life to achieve has been subsumed to the fury of some persons deploying the instruments of government unjustly.
His only crime was remaining unbending and unyielding to playing by the unspoken rule of making a select few benefit from government largesse – Corruption. He chose the path of honor, and unalloyed loyalty to his fatherland. In his words; “Before I came to office, I had a successful law practice. I was also an international arbitrator.
The hounding by EFCC had ruined my legal practice. The negative stories had affected my position locally and internationally. I had suffered double jeopardy for serving my fatherland.” Pg. 76. In his tell-it-all book, Adoke details his account of most of that administration’s activities, especially as it concerns his office, and his roles in these dealings as he was constitutionally empowered to act. Most controversial, being the now infamous $1.3 billion OPL 245 deal brokered by the Federal Government between Royal Dutch Shell, ENI S.P.A and Malabu Oil & Gas Ltd. He addresses these in the most comprehensible detail.
A seemingly interesting perspective to the Burden Of Service is that while Adoke makes it clear he kept a clean sheet devoid of illegalities while in office, he insisted that he had worked with the country’s anti-graft agencies, EFCC likewise ICPC by inundating them on dealings as it concerns his office. “…I prepared a comprehensive position paper on the OPL Settlement and sent it to the heads of EFCC and ICPC in order to fully brief them on the transactions, especially in view of the orchestrated media campaign by those who were determined to impugn the transaction. “I had nothing to hide and was glad that the anti-graft agencies informed me that they were convinced I did nothing wrong.
At that juncture, I had prepared my mind to expect aspersions to be cast on my person. I knew dirt would be hurled at me. It was the price to pay for being a public officer.” Pg. 67. Although, he reiterates the fact that he is willing to honor the EFFC’s invitation for questioning, however, he has suspicion that the anti-graft agency’s moves are rather sinister, especially under the current administration where the EFCC has now been reduced to an instrument of perceived ‘selective witch-hunting’ on those in the Jonathan’s administration. The suspicions were rather aggravated by the obvious fact that the Buhari administration has become characterized by its notoriety and flagrant disregard for court orders.
In 2018, a Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Honourable Justice Binta Nyako had ruled that the ex-AGF had no case to answer and could not be held liable for his role in the implementation of the OPL 245 Settlement Agreement of 2011, because, he was carrying on the president’s directives in accordance with its executive powers under Section 5 of the Constitution.
Again, on 25 October 2019, Justice Danlami Senchi of a FCT High Court had nullified another bench warrant of arrest issued 17 April, against Adoke, a former Minister of Petroleum, Dan Etete and four others over the OPL 245/Malabu affair. These judgements notwithstanding, it appears that plan against Adoke was an orchestrated onslaught, mastered deliberately by certain individuals who were resentful because he didn’t play games by their whims and caprices. They are now trying to get their own pound of flesh from him under the guise of enforcing laws.
Realizing his life was at risk, Adoke has since remained in exile. Although, he had travelled out of the country for Netherlands, to study for an Advanced LLM I Public International Law at the prestigious University of Leiden, what was initially planned to be a brief trip had now snowballed into years. Adoke was frontal, as he fingers his suspected ‘Witch-Hunters’, while he appeared certain their wanting his head was not a deliberate alliance, he thought it was a case of ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’.
By his speculations, he thought EFCC was a stooge in the charade, but rather than act as a ‘freeborn’, EFCC boss, Ibrahim Magu was allowing himself be used as a ‘slave’. Others he had fingered as his witch-hunters are Senator Ali Ndume, VP Yemi Osinbajo, a certain ‘diminutive lawyer’, who is a darling of the media and Arch of those he fingered to be behind his travails was Mohammed Abacha.
Adoke takes calculated jabs at his witch-hunters that makes for an interesting read, and an expository one too. In addition to pleading his course, Burden of Service also chronicles Adoke’s stewardship in office, he discusses handing-over of Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon, recovery of Abacha Loot, the removal of Ayo Salami as President of the Court of Appeal, and the dramatic climax of the administration in the 2015 general elections. Worthy of mention is his chapter Twelve, where Adoke once again raises the dust over some topical issues that were front burners, before the February 23 Presidential Election; he calls the chapter ‘The Buhari Test’.
He raised questions about whether Buhari truly obtained a secondary school certificate, minimum requisite to contest the presidential election. Adoke further underscores the role he played at ensuring Buhari was not disqualified by court from running in 2015. “Buhari was accused of being in violating the provisions of Section 131 of the 1999 Constitution on minimum educational qualification and Section 31 (3) of the 2010 Electoral Act which required that copies of his school certificate be attached to the INEC form CF 001. Buhari did not attach the certificate… “In fullness of time, though, President Buhari would come to realize and accept the whole truth: God used me, and two other high-profile Nigerians whom I will not name for confidential reasons, to make sure he was not disqualified by the courts from running in 2015.
The two individuals have, like me, also suffered indignity in the hands of Buhari and his men. It must be emphasized here, though that I did not oppose the disqualification because I wanted to help Buhari. Rather, I was being faithful to the Constitution”. Pg. 125 & 126 Yet still, the author presents another account of the Former President Jonathan’s 2015 election concession story.
In ‘The Historic Concession’, the thirteenth chapter, Adoke narrates how Jonathan received the news of his defeat to Muhammadu Buhari in good faith. ‘The Aftermath’ of losing the brewed numerous confrontations and bad blood, including from Former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, who had told Adoke to his face that he betrayed her husband his principal, by not giving him the adequate legal support to stand Buhari in the head. Another phase of the book reveals the ‘The Challenges, The Controversies’. That part discusses Adoke’s intervention as Attorney General and Minister of Justice on issues including; ‘The Impeachment Menace’, focusing on whether or not the Federal Government should support the plan by the PDP dominated House of Assembly in Nassarawa State to impeach Tanko Al-Makura a member of APC as Governor. Should the President, after declaring a state of emergency in some local governments in Northeastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe have also removed the LG Chairmen and Governors of these affected States.
The Judgment Debt Scam discusses how the author restored discipline to the Ministry of Justice. The Halliburton and Siemens bribery Scandals involving high-profile Nigerians rank among the most celebrated corruption cases in Nigeria’s history. On The Bakassi Handover, while the author thought he was acting in good faith, and giving Nigeria a good reputation in the comity of nations, he suffered a backlash and accused of being a saboteur.
Other controversial issues that started national debates at their times were addressed including; “Pardon for Alamiyeseigha”; “the Justice Salami Saga”; “The Gulf War Windfall”; “the Azura Power Project”; and “The Oyinlola and Aregbesola Saga”. The final phase of this laudable publication is a footnote, titled ‘Footprints’.
It sheds light on Recovering Abacha Loot, The Ajakuta Steel Settlement, Reforming The Justice System, The Ministry of Justice Makeover and Looking Back, Looking forward. As a personal remark, Adoke offers an intellectual time travel and a guided excursion through various emotions. Although, he appears sinking under the millstone-like consequence that comes ostentatiously with life in the public service, Adoke appears to have mastered the art of staying afloat through the storm. While he obviously is not attempting to whip up sentiments to his merit, he bracingly echoes his voice, telling his own truth, that was hitherto once silenced.
This work will be referred to in years to come for both history and legal purposes.