Thursday, 8 October 2015

Taming the Monster of Corruption

by: Ohio-Michael Elakhe

Corruption is as old as politics in Nigeria, but now, another battle to rein-in the hydra-headed monster is on, as the world waits with bated breath to see the process, sustenance and result of President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise to wrestle the epidemic in the Nigerian government and society at large.

But, as expected, any battle, especially one prosecuted on this mammoth scale against an entrenched anomaly like corruption, will meet with stiff resistance from its perpetrators, cronies and beneficiaries, who will both frown on the encroachment on the means of their livelihood, the exposure of their misdeeds and possible prosecution.

But when a group of eminent men and women use their access to the corridors of power to strive to short-circuit the due process of the investigations with subtle proddings which are passed off as friendly banters or government support, then the fear of the enemy within becomes a real threat which cannot be overlooked.

This, I believe, is the thinking behind the article entitled, Why peace committee must disband now, in which Rev. Chris Okotie laid out his opinion on the untenable excuse which Rev. Mathew Kukah, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, offered as reasons which necessitated their visit to Aso Rock to seek audience with the President on ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s behalf sometime ago.

When news broke out of the visit of members of the National Peace Committee to President Buhari, naturally, eyebrows were raised as to the need for such a committee’s visit to the office of President as there was no electoral upheaval in the country requiring them summoning themselves to action. When also the team, through its spokesman, Kukah told reporters after the session that the committee pleaded with the President “to be fair” to officials of the Jonathan government who are under investigation, it went viral on social media. What he probably didn’t envisage were the responses which showed that Nigerians took offence at what appeared to be an attempt to impinge on the integrity of the corruption investigations before they even got on the way, because, at the material time, nobody had even been named as being investigated by government’s anti-corruption agencies.

Okotie put it rightly when he said, “A mitigation plea by this committee is not only premature but uncalled for, and is a direct insult adding to the injury that ex-President Jonathan’s six-year misrule has inflicted on Nigerians, a majority of whom are now impoverished and dying from the ravages of hunger, malnutrition and disease.”

But, some Nigerians support the existence of the committee, based on the calibre of persons in its make-up. But, not only do they support its continuation, even though the conditions which warranted its formation have become extinct, those who have put up a defence for the visit claim that there was no ulterior motive behind the visit, as the members have displayed exemplary conduct in their respective areas of calling, which means they should not be called to question on their intent or Kukah’s comment to the press after the visit.

If that is so, then now that the British government has begun its prosecution process on one of Jonathan’s key kitchen cabinet members, we need to see if they will approach the British judiciary to ask them to be fair in their dispensation of justice, except of course if they think that the British are above board and Buhari is not. Otherwise, the committee’s sudden epiphany on Mr. President’s need for advice on integrity must be seen as the two-faced farce that it is.

As Okotie puts it, “this gratuitous charade and national embarrassment” only betrays the intent that urged the committee into engaging in the peace deals during the run-up to the 2015 elections. The peace committee’s closed door meeting for “undisclosed reasons” with Mr. President is just another abuse of the privilege that the President must be wary of, if he will remain untainted by the gathering moss of political conniving. This is even more so as government itself has not offered any word since the news hit the airwaves.

Kukah who spoke on the behalf of his colleagues on the committee has thus far been known as an upright crusader for public justice. That’s why his comment generated such uproar. Also, a hint he made in an interview published in this newspaper, suggesting that former Presidents and Heads of State can help persuade government to ensure that Jonathan gets immunity from prosecution, his estimation of the Jonathan administration as “fantastic” and his berating of Buhari’s leadership style as slow, only deepen the distrust and case against him and the committee.

Honour, a virtue in short supply in these climes, requires that the men and women who make up this committee disband immediately, return to their respective platforms and interject in the public discourses as impartial observers, rather than create a cloud of ambivalence which only creates a shifty image of falsehood for the government as collaborators with cronies who seek to aid and abet the exculpation of their erstwhile benefactor. A former Petroleum Minister,

Diezani Allison-Madueke, and Senate President Bukola Saraki are the first two high calibre government officials who are in the eye of the transparency and corruption storm, for various reasons. How this will play out is anybody’s guess. But Nigerians, who have waited for independence from the shackles of the debilitating effects of corruption on the various sectors of public life, are of unanimous expectations: The restoration of the economy to its past glory, prosecution of public offenders and return of looted funds.

Hopefully, now that the road to fulfilling that expectation has been entered, the peace committee will allow the government do its work and be judged on the merit or de-merit of its performance. Will it come to a logical conclusion? Let’s wait and see if this government has what it takes to go the whole hog.

No comments:

Post a Comment