GOING by credible media reportage, there is hardly any governor between 2007 and 2015 with the exception of the immediate past governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, who was not outlandishly and inestimably corrupt. A few of them worked despite allegations of fraud while most others were simply disastrous, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors, according to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. The level of official banditry was unprecedented. Obi, in his valedictory speech, said he left N75 billion in cash and investments, which are now highly-inflammable subjects of controversy.
Let me state from the outset that I strongly do not believe that the endless flurry of petitions and advertorials from institutional agencies, multifarious groups and individuals against the alleged corruption of the governorship class of 2007/2015 are all frivolous, misguided or sheer political witch-hunt. The Presidency cannot just dismiss corruption reservations with a wave of the hand or routine press statement issuance! Our country can never advance with such nonchalance to critical issues that define national transformation.
On Monday, November 7, 2016, I wrote here that we were, as a nation (correctly country), trifling with the ogre of corruption because of our comical approach to its management vis-à-vis its reduction or elimination, if possible.
When I got my official bunch of newspapers that Monday morning, one of the major news items on the front pages of all the dailies was the blatant declaration by the Presidency that it did not have any evidence to try ministers and aides over corruption allegations. This corroborated my column’s standpoint that day, as if I knew about the foreboding coincidence of my irrefutable assertion and the unwitting confirmation of the same with audacious swagger.
Let me preface this intervention by reaffirming that what we really need in this country is a modification and adaptation of former Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings’ dose of redemptive tonic and correctional fluid with efficacious national healing attributes exemplified in Ghana years back. We may leave out the fatalistic aspect of deleting all “official” looters, comprising all politicians that held public offices who had anything to do with the treasury.
Any other effort in this direction would amount to trivialisation as we keep on, deliberately, indulging in justificatory rigmarole of this manacling asphyxiation. My candid proposal is that we compel all former governors and other sundry office holders from 2007 to 2015 to refund all established looted funds with additional 50 per cent fixed interest charge on the principal (stolen) funds. If not that it would be unwieldy and time consuming, I would have advocated that we begin the cleansing and restitution from the 1979 political clan. We can yet make a bold statement and show a candid example with just the last stream of governors.
My emphasis on former governors is on grounds of their being worst “official/public” bandits (looters) in the country, an incontrovertible fact presented by Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN) sometime ago, which I subscribe to whole-heartedly. The brazenness of this profile of banditry is that most of them end up in the Senate and retire to their ill-gotten onshore and offshore billions and eye-popping assets worldwide. Of course, there are a few exceptions of known opulent entrepreneurs, who came into elitist politics to serve and not to build financial empires or quadruple their resources after sudden liberation from previous abject poverty known to every adult in their communities! Most members of this latter group were largely struggling men without a pedigree of any wherewithal, who were surrogated to power and concomitant wealth in our queer brand of godfather democracy.
As I epilogue this prefatory, we have got to an irreversible point when we have to set a few examples by jailing some of these “prominently notorious” erstwhile public office holders to serve as a deterrent to others with similar roguish aspirations and to enthrone a narrative of propriety, a regime of probity and an institutionalised best-practice etiquette.
I am scandalously embarrassed that the Presidency has, finally, stated that it does not have any evidence to prosecute ministers and aides over multifarious allegations of inextinguishable corruption shadowing them! This is utterly unfortunate because it cannot be true. The suspects and their employer hauntingly know this. No amount of public deception or governmental braggadocio can erase the issues and facts of corruption in the public domain against the fingered fellows. And even if we are cowed to haplessly believe the well-scripted defence couched in gobbledygook, eternal punishment and retributive/karmic justice await such tribe of scammers.
Unlike South Africa, where anti-corruption agencies enjoy independence from the Executive, we are handicapped here as all the institutions that will avail us of information on these matters are appendages of the Presidency! Now, with the autocratic routing of the judiciary, I doubt if any judge will henceforth rule against the Federal Government and its ministers, aides, agents/proxies for obvious reasons. So, we are stuck with whatever information we are fed – swallow it hook, line and sinker or get officially ambushed by the Department of State Services (DSS) empowered by amorphous provisions of unquestionable state laws of inelasticity!
If the immediate-past governors of Rivers and Lagos states, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), respectively, were not in government today, as key members of this floundering administration, I would not have cited them here. Have you noticed that as the years roll by, successive governors become more thievish than their roguish predecessors?
Last weekend, the Presidency exculpated Amaechi and BRF, among others, from any corruption during their governorship days because of “lack of evidence”. It sounds so simple as if their accusers were under a trance or up to some political mischief. I do not believe the lack-of-evidence theory, as their accusers do not have the privilege or authority to counter government’s stance on this matter. To that extent, whatever the Presidency says is regrettably the final word on this matter.
I cannot estimate the soothing effect of telling these accused men to step aside while reprehensible allegations against them are fully addressed through dispassionate judicial probes. If found culpable, they face the consequences and if exonerated they return to their offices while their accusers are reprimanded. The interrogations should involve profuse contributions by their successors, Governors Nyesom Wike and Akinwunmi Ambode of Rivers and Lagos states, respectively.
Immediately Governor Ambode took over from BRF, he went online massively and created a portal to show the world alleged records of inflation of contract awards and other financial improprieties of his predecessor. This went on for some time before it was abruptly stopped – probably at the instance of the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and the emerging Jagaban of Yoruba land, nay Nigerian politics. Gov. Ambode’s insightful revelations were clinical and sounded profoundly authoritative because of his illuminative accounting scholarship and robust involvement in the administration-cum-financial management of the state for copious years.
The Ambode inquisition was seen as political witch-hunt of Fashola, having stoutly opposed his succeeding him. But the kernel of the matter remains the substance of the issues raised by Gov. Ambode and the ragtag PDP oppositional forces. Interestingly, while Gov. Ambode’s “public trial” of his predecessor lasted, there was no coherent response by Fashola, which may suggest acquiescence or incontrovertibility. So, for the Presidency to absolve Fashola and others on purported grounds of lack of evidence is curious and enervates public ethic.
In the seemingly irrefutable case of Rivers State, Gov. Wike, also a lawyer, unflinchingly tells the world that his predecessor and erstwhile political associate squandered the state’s resources and lacks the morality to function as a minister. Again, supporters of Amaechi will swiftly let you know that Gov. Wike is merely trying to get at the minister for almost the same reasons as in the Lagos Ambode-BRF tiff, even as they willfully ignore the possible facts in the allegations.
Nigeria will not come to an end if these fingered men are excused from the cabinet and allowed to face judicial panels of enquiry. Thereafter, whatever is the outcome should be given a free rein of either freedom or life behind bars while other persons take over their positions. This will upscale people’s confidence in the Muhammadu Buhari presidency and reaffirm his reputational zero-tolerance for corruption.
For now, as I pointed out last Monday, we are still moonlighting with farcical anti-corruption initiatives like a kamikaze warfare. The way and manner we are carrying on, this country, without being alarmist, will soon stagnate, if not disintegrate, because of corruption and lethal cost of living. This is hoping that I will not be charged with treasonable felony or “trying to cause a violent change of government” as the Abia State power-drunks of yore slammed me in 2014 for being unprecedentedly and superlatively hypercritical of their misrule and kleptomaniac roguishness!
If the Presidency insists that its functionaries have no cases to answer due to unavailability of evidence, then other corruption suspects standing trial in various courts and allied establishments should be set free equally. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
I will rest my case against the Presidency, Amaechi and BRF, et al, after audiences with critical stakeholders and, of course, Governors Wike and Ambode, my telephonic friend just before the last governorship election!
•Wabara ([email protected]/08055001948) is the media adviser to Dr. Orji Kalu.