by Femi Fani-Kayode
Much ado has been made about recent events in South Africa concerning the Nigerian-owned jet that was found loaded with millions of dollars and that was in the process of procuring arms and a fighter helicopter for the Nigerian military and security agencies. As a former Minister of Aviation, I wish to assure the general public that the flying of large sums of cash by security and intelligence agencies for the purchase of arms in a time of war and conflict is something that is quite normal and that it happens quite often. As a matter of fact it has happened under successive Nigerian governments, both military and civilian.
Obviously in the case of the jet that flew to South Africa with 9.3 million USD there must have been a breakdown of communication between the South African authorities and ours and a few lapses in procedure here and there which is what has led to the seizure of the money and all the ensuing suspicion and confusion. However the idea that there was anything untoward or sinister about the whole transaction has no basis in logic, sense or rationality. Perhaps the only failing was the fact that the cash was not declared to South African Customs as is required by law.
The fact that our intelligence agencies have said that they were the ones that sent the money and that they have told us what it was for is good enough for me. It appears to me that this was a lawful and legitimate exercise and that there is nothing for anyone to worry about. I am aware of the fact that the British, the French, the American, the Chinese, the Israeli, the Saudi Arabian and the Russian intelligence and security agencies, amongst many others, have indulged in such covert ”cash for arms” transactions on numerous occasions in different parts of the world.
They either sell such arms at short notice and off the cuff or they procure them for themselves or for unknown third parties. Even the South Africans themselves have done so on numerous occasions in the past. These are legitimate transactions that are covert and secret in nature but they are certainly not illegal.
Such is the murky and dark world of intelligence and security worldwide. There is plenty that we do not know about their day-to-day operations and they have their own unique way of doing things. We should not assume the worse or constantly denigrate them simply because we are not familiar or comfortable with their modus operandi. Suffice it to say that anyone that is in the process of getting arms to help our boys at the war front to fight Boko Haram and protect our citizens and our country ought to be regarded as heroes and not villains.
The attempt by certain elements in the opposition and the Nigerian media to stigmatise all those involved in this transaction and make the whole thing appear like something that is out of the ordinary or sordid and criminal in nature really does nauseate me. Those that know no better ought to appreciate the fact that this is how the real world operates and they should learn to live with it.
The Nigerian intelligence services operate in no different a way to their colleagues in the international community and they do so with as much patriotism, professionalism and commitment as their counterparts from other parts of the world. And yes, we do have our very own ”James Bonds” in our intelligence services even though, more often than not, they are not recognised, celebrated or appreciated. I counsel that we should cut these men and women that work in the shadows and in secrecy some slack and that we should not be too quick to label them as sleazy rogues who are attempting to indulge in all manner of criminal activities.
Since we are on this topic I would like to take this opportunity to say one or two things about the way in which Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has been vilified, maligned and treated with the utmost disdain and contempt in this and other matters by elements within the leading opposition party in our country.
The truth is that contrary to what some of the leading lights in the opposition would have us believe he is not an arms smuggler, a money launderer, a murderer or a Boko Haram sponsor. Going to a foreign land and telling the Parliament of that country that the President of CAN in Nigeria is the head of Boko Haram, as one or two of them have just done, is not only a pernicious and vicious lie but it is also utterly shameful and disgraceful. Worst of all it is an affront to the Christian community in Nigeria and a reckless provocation.
On the South African matter, it is clear that Pastor Oritsejafor was not the owner of the 9.3 million USD and neither was he aware that the cash was being flown on the plane. Though he has confirmed that he was the owner of the plane he has also pointed out the fact that he had leased it out to a company on a long term basis who were themselves subleasing it out to other companies for regular trips.
He has also said that he had no idea about who they were subleasing it to, where they were flying it to or who or what they were carrying in it in any of their operations. The two companies that were involved, both the one that leased it from Oritsejafor and the one that subleased it from them for the journey to South Africa, have since confirmed and corroborated what he has said. In my view that ought to settle the matter. Yet some people, fuelled and egged on by a ravenous and desperate opposition with a dark and sinister hidden agenda, have refused to let go of the matter and allow sleeping dogs to lie.
Those in our land that are trying to divide our ranks and denigrate us by alleging that Oritsejafor is involved in gun-running, money-laundering, Boko Haram or any other filthy and unsavoury criminal activity are the lowest of the low. They are wicked and cruel and I have no doubt that such people are in desperate need of prayer.
They need deep intercession and deliverance from the demons that have taken control of them and that are using them. The truth is that it is a grave insult to the Christian community for anyone to suggest that the leader of the umbrella organisation of the over 80 million-strong Christian faithfuls in Nigeria is a sponsor of a vicious and barbaric Islamist sect that has killed and abducted more Christians and burnt more churches than any other terrorist organisation in the history of the African continent.
The same people may as well tell us that the leaders of the Christian community in Syria and Iraq are the ones behind ISIL and ISIS. They can also tell us that the Christian leaders in their respective countries are the ones behind Al Shabab, the Taliban, the Al Nusra Front, Islamic Jihad, Al Qaeda, Daesh, Hamas, the Janjaweed, the Islamic Brotherhood and all the other terrorist organisations that have recently afflicted the world with their vile inhumanity, their sheer evil and their venal barbarism.
It is only in Nigeria that the leadership of the Christian community would be accused, by a supposedly serious-minded opposition, of wanting to wipe out the Christian faith, wanting to kill all the Christians and moderate Muslims in the country and wanting to establish an Islamic fundamentalist state where 6th century sharia law applies.
Calling the President of CAN a money-launderer and arms-smuggler and accusing him of murder and sponsoring terror will not help to create religious harmony in our country. As a matter of fact it will completely destroy it. Those that are doing so and the Janjaweed political party that is stirring up the hornet’s nest and encouraging them ought to think very carefully about the implications of what they are doing.
We know that they have a religious agenda but they should not take this too far or push us to the wall. Our meekness and humility should not be taken for weakness or stupidity. It is in their own interest and in the interest of the unity of our nation for them to leave the President of CAN alone before matters get out of hand and before all hell breaks loose.
He deserves to be accorded the same level of respect from the Muslim community in our country as the Sultan of Sokoto, the leader of the Muslims in Nigeria, is accorded by the Christians. What is good for the goose is surely good for the gander. A word is enough for the wise.
Femi Fani-Kayode is a lawyer and former minister of aviation. He is a member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), he was once a member of the All Progressive Congress (APC). He writes from Lagos.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.