By Fred Chukwuelobe
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) last Sunday released the “Pandora Papers,” an exposé of the financial secrets and offshore dealings of dozens of heads of state, public officials and politicians from 91 countries and territories.
Incidentally, Mr. Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra State and Vice-Presidential candidate of the PDP in last presidential election, was alleged to have been mentioned in the report.
Mr. Obi is a household name in Nigeria for his successes as both a private businessman and a politician. He remains today the most successful governor produced by Anambra State; first to serve two-terms and he left government with his heads held high.
Among many Nigerians, he is widely regarded as potential for a shot at the presidency of the country. He has also been speaking out against inefficiencies in government; proffering solutions on how to arrest the decline in accountability in public offices.
With his name allegedly listed in the papers, interest is generated; political opponents are woofing for blood and Mr. Obi’s head appears on the guillotine.
According CNN, “more than 600 journalists from 150 outlets spent two years investigating nearly 12 million confidential files — a bigger cache of documents than 2016’s Panama Papers.
The Pandora Papers reveal how unusual offshore finances and secretive wealth have infiltrated global politics. Some of the people named in the papers are major political leaders in developing or impoverished countries, such as Jordan and Kenya.”
It is worthy to note that some of the world leaders mentioned in that report, including Russian President, Vladimir Putin; former British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair; King Abdullah Il bin Al-Hussien of Jordan, have all denied any wrong doing.
I have read the report published by Premium Times and I found it troubling. From the title, “Pandora Papers: Inside Peter Obi’s secret businesses – and how he broke the law”, it was obvious that Premium Times was out to rubbish Mr. Obi and damage his profile.
I am not out to defend the former governor, as he’s capable of doing so himself. However, I am worried that Premium Times has gone beyond its role to pass verdict on Mr. Obi. It described him as a man assumed to be clean and then went ahead to state, “but beyond the facade of priggish speeches and appearances, an investigation by PREMIUM TIMES has now shown that Mr. Obi is not entirely transparent in his affairs as he likes Nigerians to believe.”
This is a hatchet job meant to put the ex-governor on the spot without properly establishing he had run foul of the law. Other news outlets have equally published the papers and not one of those mentioned was as indicted as Premium Times has done of Mr. Obi. The news organization created the wrong impression of Mr. Obi and one will be right to accuse them, and rightly too, of being a tool in the hands of those rattled by Obi’s rising profile.
One cannot rule out political opponents, who are afraid of Obi’s chances ahead of the 2023 elections, using Premium Times to cut him down. By mixing news story with its opinion of the investigation, Premium Times passed judgment. This is wrong. Facts are sacred and opinions are free, and in news writing, you present the facts and leave opinion for the Opinion Pages. To infuse your opinion in a news story is wrong and on this Premium Times was judgmental.
As far as the report goes, there was no where Mr. Obi was accused of stealing government money and depositing it into the so-called ‘Shell Companies”; the investigation never said that Anambra State money was missing and was found in the account. So, Mr. Peter should not be so profiled as Premium Times has done. Even if the contrary is the case, it is still not in the place of the news organization to act as judge and jury.
What has Obi’s speeches and appearances got to do with the investigation? As far as I am concerned, Premium Times saw this report as an opportunity to ‘nail’ Obi, on whose behalf, I do not know. But it is in bad taste. You don’t editorialize in a news story.
Mr. Peter was a successful business man before he ventured into politics. His curriculum vitae is intimidating. His success in whatever capacity he had participated remains a reference point. Naturally, he is a marked man.
Premium Times was not fair to Mr. Obi and on that score, I fault the publication and see it as a hatchet job and witch-hunting.