Last Tuesday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), invited the immediate past governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Henry Seriake Dickson to answer questions arising from a petition by a Non-governmental organisation (NGO).
The NGO had in the petition alleged that the former governor failed to declare some of his assets, especially those contained in his family trust and that he diverted the sum of N17.5 billion donation meant for flood victims for his 2019 re-election.
The invitation of Dickson was not a strange thing, as it is the responsibility of the Commission to investigate all cases of financial infractions that fall within its mandate in pursuance to the provisions of the enabling law; the EFCC Act of 2004.
But what was perhaps strange was the timing of the invitation and the contents of the petition which the lawmaker himself described as unfounded and frivolous. It also left most Nigerians bemused because it is common knowledge that Dickson left office as governor on February 14, 2020 and since then no NGO, church, mosque, association or union wrote a petition for his probe until a year and six months after!
Unlike the petitioners alleged, Dickson did not seek re-election in 2019, he couldn’t have done so constitutional. So, it is inconceivable that the NGO could shamelessly have alleged that he diverted the flood donations for his re-election. It was also an act of cowardice that the said NGO did not mention who were those who made the donations that amounted to the whopping sum.
While it is not the intention of this editorial to dress Dickson in white robes because like most politicians in Nigeria he is not a saint, it is however clear to our candid lens that he stands tall among his peers in leadership and arguably remains one of the most honest public servants whose heroics as governor of the oil-rich Bayelsa for eight years, is a lesson and guide for contemporary scholars of political and administrative leadership.
It was during his tenure that he introduced the monthly transparency briefing, where the income and expenditure of the government was made public. It was also during his tenure that Bayelsa became the educational and health hub of the country. Lest it is forgotten, the state owned airport which United Nigeria Airline has today commenced flight operations was built by him from scratch to finish after the Federal Government had pulled out of its earlier promise of undertaking some aspects of the project.
For us, we believe that the EFCC probe was like the biblical hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob. Those who sent the petition did so to unsettle Dickson. It is the usual tactics in the politics of Nigeria, to silence those who speak truth to power. We have seen many opposition members cross over to the ruling party because of threats from anti-graft agencies.
Since he joined the Senate in December 2020, Dickson has become even more vocal in his patriotic zeal to correct certain anomalies bedeviling the country, particularly the Niger Delta region where he hails from. He has made very useful and intellectually buoyant interventions on the floor of the red chamber that have not gone unnoticed. This might be the reason for the latest action to hound him.
But too bad that this time they have chosen the wrong guy. For a man like Dickson who is used to such nuances, having stayed in politics for a long time, he is ready to defend himself and his eight years sojourn in Creek Haven, as the Bayelsa State Government House is known.
Our advice to the EFCC and other agencies of government saddled with similar responsibilities is that they must be very careful not to entertain all manners of petitions from anti-progressive elements, so they will not give the impression of helping to witch-hunt people with opposing views or appear to be petty in their handling of cases.
If we could recall, it was the same Dickson who hailed the appointment of the EFFC chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa and asked Nigerians to support him to succeed despite his young age.
The Bayelsa West lawmaker had expressed support for Bawa when he spoke on the floor of the Senate during his screening and subsequent confirmation. He had said with Bawa’s credentials, there is no doubt that he has what it takes to act as the nation’s anti-graft czar. A man who has something to hide would not have even allowed Bawa to see his face that day.
Our submission will also be that Dickson should know by now that for his sake the “vultures” are gathering. The petition sent to the EFCC was to test the waters, they are gradually coming to devour him. The question however is; would they succeed, granted Dickson’s pedigree?