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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 July 2007, 08:28 GMT 09:28 UK
Profile: Joshua Dariye
By Senan Murray
BBC News, Abuja

Former Plateau State Governor Joshua Dariye
Joshua Dariye fled London after skipping bail

Few Nigerian politicians are as controversial as former Plateau State governor Joshua Dariye, 50, who is never far from the news - usually for the wrong reasons.

Mr Dariye came to international attention when he skipped bail in the UK in September 2004 following his arrest on money-laundering charges.

Twice he has been sacked as governor and twice he returned to reclaim his position, earning him the nickname "the cat with nine lives".

But it appears Mr Dariye may have finally run out of luck, as a Nigerian court has sent him to jail following charges of corruption and money laundering.

A former accountant and businessman, Mr Dariye has interests in banking and real estate with property in expensive areas in Abuja and London.

He is currently defending charges of stealing about $9m of public funds and of money laundering before two Abuja high courts.

One of the courts has granted him tough bail conditions - unsurprising given his history.

Taking sides?

In May 2004, Nigeria's former President Olusegun Obasanjo sacked him for failing to halt ethnic clashes in Plateau where he was governor.

Mr Dariye was seen as part of the problem and Mr Obasanjo decided that sacking him would put an end to the ethnic and religious violence that had claimed over 1,000 lives in the state.

The clashes were between indigenous Christian groups and the Hausa-Fulani people who are predominantly Muslim and originally came from further up north.

What Mr Dariye lacks in height and personal charm, he more than makes up for it in self-confidence and a lack of fear.

His political opponents, notably a predecessor and Mr Dariye's political benefactor, Chief Solomon Lar, know about the former governor's sharp tongue.

'Born-again Christian'

When Chief Lar moved against Mr Dariye's re-election bid in 2003, the ex-governor issued a warning to "spent political forces" to "shut up" if they had nothing new to contribute to the state.

I am a peaceful man. I take after Martin Luther King Jnr
Joshua Dariye

Although the two later made up, the spat established Mr Dariye's profile as a fearless politician.

Not known for his diplomatic finesse, Mr Dariye once described the Hausa-Fulani as "unruly tenants", bent on evicting their own landlords.

The statement provoked a torrent of criticism against Mr Dariye who issued a statement saying he was misquoted by "mischievous reporters".

But his position had already further driven a wedge between Plateau's Christians and Muslims, leading to some sections of the state capital, Jos, being nicknamed Afghanistan and another New Jerusalem.

Suspecting that Mr Dariye, who likes to say he is a born-again Christian had taken sides in the conflict, former President Obasanjo suspended him for six months and declared a state of emergency in the predominantly Christian central state.

Mr Obasanjo's action was quickly interpreted by Plateau's Christians as tacit support for Muslims, a situation that propped up Mr Dariye as some kind of defender of the Christians.

This was partly why he returned to a big welcome after his six-month suspension.

'Courageous politician'

But Mr Obasanjo was unhappy - even though they were both members of the governing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

When the Metropolitan Police arrested him in a London hotel in September 2004, Mr Dariye immediately accused Mr Obasanjo of putting them up to it.

Mr Dariye was accused of embezzlement.

"Many people know that Mr Dariye was not the courageous leader that he seemed," says Aminu Manu, a Jos-based reporter who has covered Mr Dariye's eight year reign as governor.

"But it was former President Obasanjo, who without meaning to do so, gave him that profile when he tried so hard to humiliate him.

"Mr Dariye was seen as a courageous politician who could stand up to the might of the central government," Mr Manu says.

When the case against Mr Dariye became public, Plateau State legislature launched a probe into the allegations and later found him guilty of corruption and money laundering.

Last November, eight out of the assembly's 24 legislators impeached Mr Dariye in controversial circumstances.

'Bin-Laden style'

Having lost his position as governor and with it his constitutional immunity from criminal prosecution, Mr Dariye simply disappeared.

His deputy Michael Botmang took his place as governor.

But Mr Dariye, a father of four, continued to make Osama bin Laden-style broadcasts from hiding, assuring his supporters he was still in charge and would soon return to Jos to reclaim his mandate.

He continued to fight his corner from hiding, using his vast wealth to employ the best lawyers in the country to challenge his impeachment in court.

After a series of cases and appeals he was reinstated as governor in May just 27 days before the end of his tenure following the April elections.

"I bear no grudge. I am a peaceful man. I take after Martin Luther King Jnr," he told reporters in Jos.

But legal analysts say they doubt Mr Dariye will be able to emerge unscathed from his current predicament as he has done before.




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