Olisa Metuh, the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who has been charged on seven counts of corruption relating to misappropriating 400m naira ($2m), appeared at the Federal High Court in Abuja today in handcuffs.
While this organ has little sympathy for Metuh, as pointed out here, photographs showing him in handcuffs would cause presentational difficulties for the Muhammadu Buhari administration for a variety of reasons.
Metuh allegedly took the money from former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki, who allegedly dished out $2.1bn in funds that were meant for procuring arms to defeat the Boko Haram insurgency. Dasuki, the main man in the deal, has appeared in court and has not been seen handcuffed.
This different strokes for different folks mirrors the situation when Buhari, as a military dictator, placed the deposed former president Shehu Shagari under house arrest, while the vice president Alex Ekwueme was thrown into jail. Shagari and Dasuki are Fulani, like Buhari, while Ekwueme and Metuh are Igbo.
In 2003, then governor of Lagos State Bola Tinubu, who would later be one of kingmakers behind Buhari’s (s)election last year, said Buhari’s “ethnocentrism would jeopardize Nigeria’s national unity”.
In 2010, the former Minister for the Federal Capital Territory and now governor of Kaduna State and close Buhari ally, Nasir el-Rufai said about Buhari: “His insensitivity to Nigeria’s diversity and his parochial focus are already well-known.”
Buhari said last year in the early weeks of his administration that those that gave him 97% in votes should expect to be treated differently from those that gave him 5%. Many Igbos continue to view Buhari with suspicion and those sentiments serve as a recruiting tool for Biafran separatists.
Having Metuh in handcuffs, when he has not been found guilty – yet, was an own goal by the Buhari administration. It appeared very unnecessary. It looked like he was being treated differently from the likes of Dasuki. Different treatment for people in similar circumstances, smells of prejudicial treatment or discrimination.
People in leadership positions should understand that perception is just as important as reality in an ethnically diverse country as Nigeria. A failure to handle these issues with the sensitivity necessary could have unintended consequences.
Metuh was eventually granted bail by the court today.