“Whatever ignominy or disgrace we have incurred, it is almost always in our power to re-establish our reputation.”
–Francois de La Rochefoucauld
By Cosmas Omegoh
Convicted former federal lawmaker, Mr Farouk Mohammed Lawan, is embattled on all fronts. Last Tuesday, he was hard pressed trying to make a head or tail out of the ugly fate that eclipsed him. Looking marooned, he kept starring into space as his sentencing went underway.
Lawan was handed a seven-year jail term by a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) judge, Angela Otaluka, who found him guilty on all the three count charges of bribery.
Lawan’s prosecution began in 2012 after he was accused of asking for $3 million bribe from billionaire business mogul, Femi Otedola.
Otedola had accused him of asking for the said sum while serving as the chairman of the former House of Representatives ad-hoc committee investigating the fraud on fuel subsidy in 2012.
Lawan was charged for receiving $500,000 from the oil industry bigwig as part of the $3 million he requested so that he could take down Otedola’s firm out of the list of companies marked as indicted for profiting from the scandalous fuel subsidy scam.
When the case came up at the FCT High Court, in Apo, Abuja, Lawan denied the charges preferred against him. He kept doing so until the judge’s gavel finally fell pronouncing him guilty. It was then that it dawned on him that he had for now hit a dead end.
On that very day, Lawan cut a pitiable sight. Spotting a white flowing gown and a fitting princely cap, he sat in court forlorn, wondering what next life held for him.
Perhaps a flash of optimism kept assuring him that a last ditch effort could earn him a reprieve. He was wrong. Long before then, clear signs were out that he was failing despite his legal team’s spirited effort to get him away from harm’s way. Sadly, when the jury’s gavel descended for the last time on the matter, Lawan’s fall was inevitable.
Until that very hour, many had long forgotten about Lawan and his baggage. After all, nine years is a long time. So you can pardon as many that forgot about him, passing off his long-awaited sentencing as one of those funny vibes from the system.
Any wonder then that Lawan’s conviction news jolted many from their midday slumber when it broke? They kept asking: “Is the trial still on?”
But why was Lawan’s sentencing that important many have continued to ask?
In all its ramifications, Lawan’s matter is special. It is an undoubted fall from grace. It was the fall of a mighty man – a Goliath of a lawmaker. It was the fall of a lawmaker who became a victim of the law he made. It was the fall of a saint into the miry world of sinners. His was the case of a man of valour who tumbled into a pitiable plain where villains bow their heads in sadness and sorrow. Oh how had the mighty fallen? Oh how time changes everything? Oh what a twist of fate? The Lawan many knew years before as straight as an arrow has fallen; he sits in ashes humbled, humiliated. How did he get there? How will he wear that toga of shame going forward amid men who will no longer be seeing a man whose words meant power and authority, but now one who has had a mercurial fall from the Olympian heights? This is the telling reality that is beginning to stare Lawan in the face until the dramatic happens. What an irony of life!
Lawan, 58, is a diminutive man, who wears a certain likeable boyish look. Kind, soft spoken, his voice is sonorous; he appears to choose his words carefully.
Now consider the flip side before the wind was taken off his sail. In his heyday he had maintained a steady climb up the pecking order. He was such a bright northern star. For 16 straight years, he shone brightly, radiating hope, and exuding engaging energy. After blasting out from obscurity he had assumed a role model, and a beacon of hope in such a short time.
He was a four-time lawmaker representing Bagwai/Shanono Federal Constituency of Kano State. In all those years (1999-2015) he amassed some gargantuan experience sort of. Call him a ranking House member who gave his people quality representation. And for his reward, they kept returning him to Abuja. Such was his stewardship and his reward in four legislative seasons.
Lawan was the chairman, House Committee on Finance while ex-Speaker Aminu Bello Masari was in office. He also had legislative interest in Appropriation, Information and Education. Such was the size of his experience in the House which earned him a likeable personality.
There is no forgetting that Lawan while on top of his game also earned the sobriquet of “Mr Integrity” for his dogged fight to ensure probity in the House. In actual sense, in 2007, while former Speaker, Patricia Etteh’s corruption scandal festered, Lawan was said to have led the House Integrity Group which eventually pressured the lady lawmaker to quit.
With so much going his way, he got propelled at every turn, continually carrying himself with a certain unmistakably dignified mien. It was not long before his colleagues in the Green Chambers began to notice a man on the rise. Then gradually the watching world followed. From then, there was not stopping Lawan. He kept making significant progress, garnering groundswell of support from all the divides and kept building bridges too.
As Lawan continued to soar, many had concluded that he was a guy to watch out for politically. He was unarguably a member of a new pack of politicians on the block. Many had marked him out for new levels, for glory and for greatness. At some point, all eyes were on him to take a shot at the governorship contest in Kano State on the PDP platform.
But right now all that goodwill is looking wasted – frittered away within a short season when everything went wrong and low for Lawan.
While nailing him, this is what the judge had to say: “Count One of the charges is not based on suspicion, but on credible evidence. The defendant (Mr Lawan) corruptly asked for $3 million and received a $500,000 bribe in two tranches from Femi Otedola,” insisting that that “Mr Lawan’s conduct had elements of corruption.”
The judge had dismissed his claim that he received the $500,000 to obtain proof of moves by Mr Otedola to induce him and members of his committee.
As it stands, Lawan will have to fight the fight of his life to prove his innocence – perhaps at the next tier of the justice system in order to avoid going down completely politically.
Only time will tell.