Tinubu finally defends his documented drug-trafficking

“This investigation has disclosed the identity of other individuals, including relatives, who have worked for Akande with various duties in the [white heroin] distribution organisation.

One of those individuals has been identified by the investigation as Bola Tinubu.” (Mr Tinubu is Nigeria’s president-elect and will assume office on May 29th, 2023).

The above quoted assertion is by Kevin Moss, a special agent with America’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in section 21 of a sworn court affidavit in July 1993, at the U.S. District Court in the County of Cook in the State of Illinois.

Mr Moss’ testimony underpins the forfeiture of US$460,000 by Mr Tinubu to the American government in 1993 as proceeds of narcotics trafficking.

It provides a detailed history of how Mr Tinubu systematically opened and operated several bank accounts that served as conduits for the laundering of funds from narcotics trafficking by a distribution organisation that Mr Tinubu was a principal part of.

The logic that a documented drug-trafficker is still potentially qualified to be Nigeria’s president owing to legal technicalities is just absurd

IRS’ Moss worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to uncover Mr Tinubu’s drug-trafficking activities in the United States.

For context, Mr Tinubu had already been elected a senator representing a Lagos constituency in the federal legislature in 1993, and was a close associate of Moshood Abiola, the presumed winner of the 1993 presidential election, which continues to be argued as the best polls Nigeria ever had.

Why is this background important? Mr Tinubu makes some curious arguments in his defence against the election petition filed by Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), who is challenging the declaration of Mr Tinubu as president-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in early March 2023. I highlight how Mr Tinubu’s documented drug-trafficking activities in 1990s America will be hard to ignore by the presidential election tribunal in an earlier column, and how it is fundamentally what underpins Mr Obi’s strategy to have Mr Tinubu’s victory in the February 25th presidential election, which is arguably one of Nigeria’s worst polls, overturned. Mr Tinubu argues the US court narcotics trafficking assets forfeiture order in 1993 was against his bank accounts and not him personally. Mr Tinubu also argues that the US court narcotics trafficking assets forfeiture order in 1993 was a civil matter, and not a criminal one, as by his own interpretation, a decree of forfeiture is not a fine.

Put verbatim, Mr Tinubu submits to the presidential election tribunal that “the said decision is not against…[him]…but against the funds in the various accounts opened in the name of Bola Tinubu with First Heritage Bank and City Bank N.A.” Mr Tinubu further argues that in February 2003, Nigeria’s police chief enquired and got a clean bill of health from the American embassy in Nigeria about any “criminal record or law enforcement interest of any sort” in regard of his person. In any case, “the impleaded decision of the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, is not a decision by a competent court of law or tribunal in Nigeria,” Mr Tinubu argues further, adding that a period of 29 years had already passed between his documented American drug-trafficking activities and his participation in the 2023 presidential election.

There have been commentary by some of Mr Tinubu’s associates about his documented American drug-trafficking activities in the early 1990s since he became Nigeria’s president-elect. That by Bayo Onanuga, Mr Tinubu’s media aide, is very pertinent. Peoples Gazette, a credible Nigerian online newspaper publication, headlines Mr Onanuga assertions in a report on March 26th, 2023, viz. “Tinubu’s drug business was over 10 years ago; he can be president now: Bayo Onanuga.” Mr Onanuga was inferring from a provision of the Nigerian constitution which places a 10-year limit for a criminal conviction for dishonesty or guilty finding for contravention of the code of conduct to be relevant to the eligibility of Mr Tinubu to be president. Besides, the presidency is not a sainthood, some of Mr Tinubu’s associates assert. In any case, the moral argument does not resonate with me: I am amoral. Slavery is immoral, inhumane and barbaric, and yet our Abrahamic faiths supported it, and it continues to be practised in some parts of the world owing to scriptural approval. This great matter is about justice. Plain and simple.

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We’d certainly agree that the presidency is a constitutional office and the only requirements that matter are those of law and the constitution. The logic that a documented drug-trafficker is still potentially qualified to be Nigeria’s president owing to legal technicalities is just absurd. Nigerian authorities have executed drug-traffickers in the past.

In fact, some of these executions took place when Muhammadu Buhari, the outgoing Nigerian president, was a military head of state in the 1980s.

Many Nigerians have been executed abroad for drug-trafficking, and many are currently in Nigerian prisons for the same crime. Thus, it cannot be lost on any clear-thinking Nigerian how Mr Tinubu’s ascendancy to the presidency with such a history will be hugely problematic.

I doubt very much that Mr Tinubu is not aware of how his documented drug-trafficking history will weigh on Nigeria’s brand and stock in the comity of nations. But he clearly seems to think that the Nigerian presidency is worth the risk.

It is a huge mockery of Nigeria’s judicial and democratic institutions that Mr Tinubu was able to contest the presidency in the first place.

Still, the greatest mockery of Nigeria’s democratic institutions would have been for Mr Tinubu to have passed through the electoral system without the media scrutinizing his huge baggage nor the judiciary interrogating his many misdeeds, which range from perjury to documented drug-trafficking. Thankfully, that did not happen.

That Mr Tinubu was a documented drug-trafficker in America in the early 1990s is incontrovertible. American authorities have established this fact, as have Mr Tinubu’s associates on the record. The Nigerian judiciary must not fail Nigerians.