#Ekitigate: Obanikoro’s Confirmation Hearing Stalled At Senate

Former Minister of State for Defense, Musiliu Obanikoro, was today forced to leave the Nigerian Senate after arriving there with his family to start his confirmation hearings. Mr. Obanikoro, a former senator and ambassador to Ghana, had arrived at the National Assembly with a retinue of aides and family members to begin confirmation hearings after President Goodluck Jonathan recently nominated him once again to fill the same position from which he resigned last year to pursue a failed dream to become the governorship candidate of the PDP in Lagos.

Several senators told SaharaReporters that the mood in the Senate was so hostile to Mr. Obanikoro’s nomination that his sponsors, sensing imminent defeat for him, quickly arranged a suspension of the hearing to spare him a grueling session and likely public disgrace.

Mr. Obanikoro is expected to return to the Senate next week Tuesday to restart the process. A PDP senator disclosed that many of his colleagues were not happy that President Jonathan did not withdraw Obanikoro’s name as a ministerial nominee after the former minister’s involvement in a scandal that has assumed international dimensions.

Mr. Obanikoro was one of several PDP figures whose voices were caught on an audiotape harassing a senior military officer to have his troops help the PDP to rig the gubernatorial election in Ekiti State last year.

The audiotape, which was released by SaharaReporters, revealed that Mr. Obanikoro, Minister of Police Affairs, Jelili Adesiyan, Senator Iyiola Omisore, Governor Ayodele Fayose and one Abdulkareem met with soldiers led by Brigadier General Aliyu Momoh at Spotless Hotel, Ado-Ekiti, to plot the rigging of the June 2014 governorship election.

In the tape, Mr. Obanikoro was heard saying that he was on assignment for President Jonathan and promising to help promote the army general if he did the bidding of the group by arbitrarily arresting opposition members and cooperating with PDP members who earlier received INEC’s documentation to rig the elections. Towards the end of the meeting, Mr. Obanikoro asked that a bribe be given to the army general.

Since the tape became public, several of the participants have confessed to its authenticity, but with some claiming that their intention was misrepresented in the taped scandal. Even so, President Jonathan told US-based Wall Street Journal in an interview that the tape was fabricated.

As other participants in the tape admitted their presence at the rowdy session with the soldiers, Mr. Obanikoro sought to intimidate SaharaReporters for breaking the story and to harass local newspapers that had culled our reports. After threatening to sue SaharaReporters, he chickened out by hiring a major US law firm to write a “letter of warning” to the website to desist from defaming him. A source close to him said the letter, was part of the former senator’s strategy to create the misleading impression that he was a target of false reporting. Mr. Obanikoro has also engaged local attorneys to harass the Nigerian media to retreat from exposing his central role in a treasonable scheme to rig an election.

A major independent firm has authenticated all the voices on the audiotape, including Mr. Obanikoro’s. SaharaReporters stands ready to confront him in a law court if he would have the courage to file one.

In furtherance of his campaign of intimidation and blackmail of reporters, Mr. Obanikoro has sponsored the creation of a website dedicated to misleading the public about his involvement in the Ekiti electoral saga.

After today’s disappointing outing at the Senate, Mr. Obanikoro immediately began a fresh round of lobbying of Nigerian senators, according to three senators who spoke to us. One of the sources said Mr. Obanikoro had confessed last week that he was involved in the Ekiti tape, but tried to lessen the gravity of his role as a senior Defense official telling an army general that his promotion would depend on the general’s willingness to do the illegal bidding of the PDP and the president.

After his awful attempt to deny the authenticity of the tape, Mr. Jonathan has slightly changed his position. He is now claiming that he could not have investigated the rigging tape because the army captain who recorded the tape could not be found to authenticate its content. Captain Sagir Koli, who recorded the tape, fled Nigeria after Brigadier General Momoh, the officer at the center of the rigging session, threatened his life.

After the captain left Nigeria, military officials abducted and tortured his 15-year old brother who is a secondary school student. The military detained the schoolboy for five months.

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