The Punch is a great Nigerian paper. Generally, it may be said that each day the Punch rises to its place under The Sun. That alone vouchsafes its veracity on news coverage.
Yet, one was alarmed when on November11, 2016, Punch ran a headline “Opposition leaders in Rivers, A’Ibom corrupted judiciary – Sagay”. One’s attitude was that the headline was conceptually dubious, driven more by the need for a saleable headline than the gist of the report.
But the headline was actually a faithful reflection of the details of the Punch report. And one had to make sure the Punch didn’t stretch matters. So one e-searched the story to check on other sources. And they corroborated the Punch report. That is, Prof. Itse Sagay actually made such bizarre statements. Let’s quote him, from the Punch:
“This sudden anti-Amaechi narrative is consistent with the objectives and interests of the chief promoters and funders of judicial corruption during election petitions. These powerful opposition politicians are well known. To be more specific, they are from Rivers and Akwa Ibom states.
“They are the ones who financed judicial corruption and brought that great institution, the judiciary, to its knees, after the 2015 elections.”
To repeat this statement attributed to Professor Sagay is fantastical, perhaps inane. Some backgrounders first. According to the urban myths and legends of the APC and the Presidency, the Nigerian [national not just parts] judiciary is epidemically compromised with corruption. For effect, they claim that is what is stopping the APC government from delivering even on their least promises. That is, there are thousands of judicial cases emanating from all the states and the federal capital territory. These cases run through the stretch of election petitions, specifically, and other non-electoral matters, generally.
Now, on the law of averages the two unjustly “black eyed” states constitute less than 5.6 per cent of the judicial/electoral constituencies of 36 plus FCT. The point is that the professor never educated us on how such a miniscule portion could co-opt and impale the whole. Or is the professor suggesting that the opposition parties and politicians of Rivers and Akwa Ibom are the ones that funded and financed all or a majority of the cases of corruption in the national judiciary, in all the 36 states plus Abuja, whatever electoral and other disputes? Could it also be that when APC politicians won their court processes as incumbents or opposition candidates in other states, the funding, co-opting and corrupting of the judiciary were also fixed from Akwa Ibom and Rivers states? Or could it be that the opposition politicians in these two states were elected with a national mandate to bring down the national judiciary and not to govern their states?
If, for purposes of argument, we agree that the incidences of alleged bribery and judicial corruption are provable all across the national judiciary, the question still arises, why and how did the two states acquire the exclusive franchise as financiers? Is it that when there is a judicial tussle in Sokoto, Imo or just anywhere else in Nigeria, the so-called opposition leaders of Akwa Ibom and Rivers would purchase a lien to the ownership of the bribe-giving processes or the corrupting of the national judiciary while the beneficial states/politicians warehoused their own funds for development? And what imaginably would have been in it for Akwa Ibom and Rivers states? Or perhaps, like the mythical prodigals, they are in it to waste their states’ inheritances? The illogicality of it all belies belief.
However, the only way to approach the inanity of two states corrupting one whole is that in Nigeria as in much of the third world, there are many who are lexically brilliant but are concepts-illiterates. If we took matters back to “the beginning of things” we can recall that it is because of this gap of lexical proficiency and concepts illiteracy that Plato, perhaps the first great educationist, warned that nobody who has not studied mathematics should be educated further. All Plato was saying was that, without logic, assertions or sentences, however poetic and fanciful, are themselves deprived of meaning, since they can’t hold together either of themselves or with their surrounding realities. And, if we broadened matters a little, we can recall that our modern era must have begun with Euclid and his formalisation of axioms and the logic of inferences. That is, after Euclid and Plato, you must be logical to be modern, otherwise, you belong to the age of barbarians.
That is why we were specifically troubled that the quotes were attributed to a professor. Why and how could a professor be making such elementary mistakes of logic or axioms and their inferential build-ups? What specially isolates Rivers and Akwa Ibom states as to predispose them to using up their resources to co-opt and corrupt the entire national judiciary? Sagay must prove how an inconsequential part, less than .056 per cent, can impale and co-opt the whole to bring it down. What is required is logical proof not begging the question.
Even if, for purposes of argument, we grant as falsely speculated by Sagay that Amaechi is the reason, the question still arises, why rope in Akwa Ibom State? Is Amaechi by any stretch of the professor’s imagination from Akwa Ibom?
The real matter as we have said in some earlier piece is that Sagay is a party agent masquerading as an intellectual. Anyway, as the French thinker, Sartre, correctly canvassed, there is really nothing like party or government intellectuals. Parties house thugs or partisans and preclude intellectualism. Ironically, Sagay’s caveat that he is speaking on his own capacity, rather than absolve him, strengthens the logic that he is acting out a party script. Otherwise, how does one explain the split personality of swinging between his official and remunerated capacity on one hand, and his personal anxieties as a citizen who happens to be a professor of law on the other hand, in one and the same matter? Sagay, by the way, heads a quango, the so-called Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption.
The point is that decency demands that you act in your personal capacity only outside your official briefs. That is, in matters of corruption, for which Sagay is a remunerated agent, there cannot be any such distinctions in practice. And since we are not his students – God forbid – he cannot be playing mind games with us.
The issue is simple, Akwa Ibom and River states are, according to him, manned by “opposition politicians.” And one of the unguarded secrets of the APC government is to seize by electoral one-chance or another, or by intimidating the judiciary, the two oil-rich states. It can be said that Sagay is lending or renting his reputation or what remains of it to the anti-judiciary Federal Government, to serve this political game.
But the greater question is, why and how did we come to such a sorry pass that a professor who should be in line with Euclid and Plato has forgotten or auctioned off his dedication to logic and logos to be trading on pathos?
The revelation may be in the Sagay persona. He has literally been on an “invitation to offer” mode. At least, according to an insightful piece, “The unification origins of Nigerian corruption,” by This Day’s Akin Osuntokun, Sagay had been an advocate of federalism as a panacea to cure corruption. Now Sagay is working with unitary state apologists and consolidators to, unintendedly, according to Osuntokun, perpetuate corruption. That is, Sagay may be no more than a hired and hireable intellectual blunderbuss. Thus, if the offices and perquisites are right, the services of the blunderbuss may be retained by angels or ogres.
However, the main social disease may be found in an issue that was raised by Bishop David Oyedopo. Oyedepo, a famous churchman, is also an educational entrepreneur. As an educator, Oyedepo had wondered why Nigerians have not done well despite the abundance of professors on parade. Well, the fault line is in the tragedy of too many professors carrying on as if Plato and Euclid never existed. It is the shoddiness in their thinking that has driven Nigeria via her professors into never solving any problems, from electricity to Constitution-making. And it is not only Oyedepo, the world is also scandalised on the spectre of too many professors and not one national Nigerian problem solved. The missing link we canvass is that too many of our professors have refused, unlike their Euro-American counterparts, to go through the school of consistent, repeat, consistent, critical thinking. They, therefore, are not able to distinguish “between truth and poetry, and are never conscious if their convictions are derived from methodical thinking or from fantasies and verbal exuberances.” Our advice is, if professors in the mould of Sagay cannot solve the logical questions of our times with their interventions, let them, please, not make things worse for us, whatever the office or pay.
The book that tells it all: How and Why the Yoruba Fought and Lost the Biafra-Nigeria Civil War, by Jimanze Ego-Alowes, is selling hot. Available at Patabah Bookshop Shoprite, Surulere; The Connoisseurs Bookshop, Pentagon Plaza, Opebi, Ikeja; The Booksellers, Jericho, Ibadan. The Librarian, The Sun, Lagos.