He is known within Nigeria and abroad as a former footballer, TV presenter, sports ambassador and an international businessman but hardly is he known as a social crusader. His unexpected metamorphosis from a military apologist and die-hard Abacha lackey to an activist and Nigerian patriot is by any standards intriguing. Perhaps, the most controversial period in his life was when he stood trial and was acquitted in the celebrated football match fixing case in England. John Tokunbo Fashanu has been making headline news since he decided to get involved in Nigerian politics, albeit spiced with an American connection. The ex footballer, will be the first to admit that his widely publicised ''Fashanu Report'' is nothing about politics, but by commenting on Nigeria's debt buyback deals from 1988-1993, Fashanu has ignited a political dynamite and the expected debris may eventually consume him, judging from recent developments. Amongst other powerful interests, Fashanu has indirectly accused Nigeria's former military ruler, General Ibrahim Babangida, who was the chief executive of the country at the time the deals were done of financial impropriety.
Way back in April this year, Fashanu, often described as an ''intellectual light weight'' announced in a series of media interviews that he had compiled a controversial report called ''The Fashanu Report''. He said the report which took three years to compile contained information on those who allegedly stole Nigeria's money. Since then, Fashanu has been hopping from one media house to another, telling those who cared to listen that he had uncovered about 6 billion dollars of Nigeria's money looted from the treasury. He swore that his revelations had led to the freezing of some bank accounts in Europe, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. To date he has failed to provide details of such accounts that had been frozen and where they had been frozen. Not a single name has been linked to accounts that have been frozen through the Fashanu crusade. Not one. Fashanu's critics say he has been economical with the truth. But the former Abacha points man continues to maintain that he had uncovered fraudulent activities. Yet he would not give concrete evidence.
On its face value Fashanu's so called crusade sounds laudable, but recent revelations cast aspersions on his motives, not least allegations that he actually demanded 500 million naira from the federal government to handover the report prepared by the Scientology organisation.
His alliance with the brutal dictator, Sani Abacha in the infamous one million man march bought him no beans nor his links with the dreaded cult group, the U.S. based Scientology organisation. Similarly his unconvincing explanation for not appearing at a well publicised public forum in the United States where he was to have taken part in the debt buyback debate with the man he and his Scientology backers are after, retired American investment banker, Robert Minton, did little for his credibility. Fashanu has admitted to several journalists and government officials that he has no score to settle with Babangida, even though the retired General was military ruler when the debt buy back scheme was executed. ''I have no intentions of embarrassing or exposing anyone. All I want is the repatriation of the stolen funds'' Fashanu was quoted as saying in TheNews magazine recently. If he has no intentions of taking on IBB, or Nigerian public officers at the time the deal was done, then who then is he after. And if IBB had erred along with others and Fashanu is unwilling to confront them, where does that leave his credibility?
Fashanu has tried to dissociate himself from his connections with the Abacha family. But that link continues to hang around his neck like an albatross. Incontrovertible sources have hinted that Fashanu had met the Abachas and their representatives and had demanded 5 million dollars from them in return for their names being taken off the list of those who allegedly stole Nigeria's money. The Abachas had reportedly demanded a copy of the ''Fashanu Report'' to verify the veracity of Fashanu's discoveries, but the ex footballer reportedly failed to do what he knows best, play ball. Consequently, the Abachas pulled out of the discussion not convinced Fashanu had any meat on the bone.
Fashanu's failed campaign for General Abacha to remain in office in spite of the late dictator's brutality, makes him one of the most celebrated hypocrites around. His defence?: ''I was identifying with the youths in the one million man march...........'' Fair enough, but how could Fashanu had started an investigation three years ago, on Nigeria's stolen money, exactly the same period he was winning and dining with Abacha?
Any person who openly campaigned for Abacha to continue his enslavement of Nigerians must really have his head re-examined. And Fashanu is one of them. At least today, we know all those who went on that band wagon were first class huzzlers and by implication Fashanu is not an exception. He was among greedy people who thought about nothing else except stuffing their pockets with blood money, whilst Nigerians were being maimed, detained and in some cases killed.
Maybe Fashanu should tell us how much money he got from Abacha. We'll never know. Perhaps, millions of dollars. Maybe Fashanu the crusader, can explain if he had indeed paid the appropriate taxes from the blood soaked money he received. Investigations have revealed that he is yet to pay appropriate taxes here in Nigeria from all those controversial earnings.
Now that the dust has settled, Fashanu's so called campaign to recover Nigeria's stolen money is now under the microscope. Several publications have questioned his motives. Lagos based PM News reported that he may have used the ''Fashanu Report'' to extort money from the federal government. Here we are talking 500 million naira!! Is this the appropriate conduct of a person hell bent on recovering Nigeria's loot? Or is this simply another ''419'' money making project? Did the government commission him to do investigations? If no, why then should he demand 500 million naira? This crusade is meant to be a patriotic act isn't it?
Since April this year, the Nigerian media have focussed on Fashanu's campaign. This is how some of the publications reported the case. On Tuesday July 11, Morenike Taire, writing in her column ''Speaking out'' in the Vanguard newspaper, did not spare Fashanu the rod. ''...It is Fash's (Fashanu) palpable insincerity of purpose which fails to make him a role model he would have been to Nigerian youths......A huge shame that it is that Fash typically has failed to turn up at events organised to give him the opportunity to speak publicly on his findings and tackle the accused, one on one''.
Writing in the Guardian of Sunday 2 July, Abiodun Adeniyi stated thus: ''The Presidency is also said to have been discouraged from using Fashanu's pronouncement as a lead because of an alleged demand for fee by the former footballer. Close to 500 million naira is reported to have been demanded by the United Kingdom resident......'' Adeniyi in his report also revealed that the so called controversial debt buyback deal had saved Nigeria a whopping 5 billion dollars.
Mohammed Abubakar's report in the July 12 edition of City People equally indicted the former footballer. The title of his piece was ''John Fashanu Exposed: How he lied over the $6 billion debt buy-back deal''. City People looked at the other side of the coin. ''....Checks also revealed that contrary to Fashanu's claims, the debt buy-back was not fraudulently done....''
In the July edition of Thisday newspaper......Robert Minton, the man Fashanu is after alleged that Fashanu was being used. ''Fashanu has been used by the Scientology Organisation that considers me to be their greatest enemy in the world. There is no chance Fashanu investigated it on his own. His investigator is a full time worker for Scientology. This is a vendetta on Scientology's part against me and they are using Fashanu and NIgeria as a tool to beat me on the head, that is the bottomline''.
In the July 2 edition of Thisday, The Sunday Newspaper, Olusegun Adeniniyi wrote that ''Mr Fashanu while alleging he has evidence of Nigeria's looted funds fingered Mr Robert Minton of Greenland Holdings. But the company according the testimony of Alhaji Hahe Rafindadi Rasheed, CBN deputy governor, Domestic Operations ''was a wholly owned company belonging to the Central Bank of Nigeria and used for the purpose of concealing a debt buy back from the eyes of the Paris Club and others who frowned at debt buybacks''.
On Sunday July 2, the Vanguard newspaper stated that the Senate backed debt buyback deals to reduce external debts. ''The Senate committee in its report described the debt buy back deals undertaken by Greenland Holdings as very transparent''.
Most Nigerians had relegated their dislike for Fashanu for past misdemeanours and had opted to listen to the tune of the season....which is undoubtedly....... ........Loot recovery. These days any report purporting to recover Nigeria's stolen wealth attracts attention no matter who is making that allegation. The honey moon is over. This is the period of stock taking and the media is now scrutinising and probing Fashanu's motives. These are some of the questions being asked. Why hasnt Fashanu made the Scientology report widely available to the media. Why has he been clutching the document to himself? Why did he not attend the public forum in the U.S? Why is that it is only one person's name that keeps cropping up in this debt buy back scheme. Why Robert Minton? Why hasn't Fashanu mentioned the names Chief Olu Falae, Finance Minister when the deals were done or other Central Bank of Nigeria officials or military officers who were in power then? Why? Because it appears the target is no one else apart from Minton. But why Minton?
Minton himself recently gave an insight into why he was being dragged into the controversy. Minton said Fashanu was either a member or an agent of a cult group, the Scientology organisation. ''I do not want to dwell too much on this lest it is perceived as a distraction. I would like to defend each of Fashanu's allegations, but it is important for Nigerians to know why my name is being linked to the Fashanu Report. The truth is Fashanu's so called investigator David Lee or Robert Clarke or whatever he calls himself, is a member of the cult group of Scientologists. That is why Clarke cannot show his face in public, because former members of the cult group would have exposed him for who he is. Fashanu has been hired by the Scientologists to tarnish my reputation. He is being paid to do this because I am at the moment sponsoring a multi million dollar law suit against this cult group for the death of one their members, Lisa Macpherson. The Scientology organisation want me to discontinue my funding for this litigation, but I won't. That is what this Fashanu Report is all about. It is about me fighting against a cult group in the United States. It is about this cult group wanting to destroy me''.
As Minton himself said recently: ''If people plundered Nigeria, they should be brought to book, but such a campaign would lose its focus if the main motivation is vendetta. Fashanu is neither interested in seeking the truth nor willing to confront me in public over unsubstantiated allegations because ''The Fashanu Report'' was a document conceived out of vendetta. Fashanu is being used or he is simply naive. As far as I am concerned Fashanu should focus on those who stole Nigeria's money and not people like me who are being maligned for a completely different reason''.
Investigations conducted using former members of Scientology have revealed that some of those assisting Fashanu and fuelling the debt buyback debate in Nigeria includes Chief Rilwanu Lukman. The OPEC scribe, a ''devout'' Moslem is an undisputed member of the Scientology organisation. He professes to be a muslim, but mixes his Islamic faith with the Scientology group that believes there is no God. But Lukman prefers to be in the background whilst Fashanu continues to play the political ball.
Has anyone paused to consider whether Fashanu could have spent millions of dollars of his money to embark on a crusade to recover Nigeria's loot? Could Fashanu had parted with such monies when he was General Sani Abacha's disciple, eating and drinking on the woes of Nigerians? Insn't it credible that he is working for Scientology and not really interested in Nigeria's well being. Or isnt it the case that Fashanu is helping these foreigners to use Nigeria as a battle field to settle there scores?
One of Fashanu's refrain when asked why he got involved in the debt buyback investigation was that he was investigating potential business partners for a duty free shop at Muritala Mohammed International Airport.....what baloney! Who were these partners he was investigating and how come an Abacha man with absolutely no pedigree in freedom fighting suddenly becomes a patriot?
From recent media reports, we now know what motivates Fashanu. It is not the prosecution of IBB, or any Nigerian public officer for that matter, whether, they had stolen or not. Simply put, Fashanu is being paid by the Scientology organisation to hound Robert Minton, whether he is guilty of any offence or not, because Minton has exposed the antics of the cult group.