That corruption and corrupt practices are eating away at our national fiber is beyond debate. It is a national scourge and an epidemic that is not only destroying us at home and abroad, it is wasting our collective sense of morality, ethics and national integration. In and out of Africa, Nigeria leaders have acquired reputation for wanton greed, excesses and licentiousness. Most public officials cannot, and are no longer trusted to faithfully manage state resources. And indeed, it would be difficult, really difficult, to find thirty Nigerians over the age of thirty — in public service — with clean hands and clear conscience. Public service has now become the safest and surest way to enrich oneself.
Public service in Nigeria — more so in the last two decades and it became even more egregious and profound since the coming of Obasanjo — is no longer about service to ones nation or nation-state. It is now about self enrichment and self-aggrandizement. The more you steal the better. And in some quarters, it would be considered sinful not to loot state resources. Financial irregularities, bribery and ten-percenting, across-the-board embezzlement, illegal political patronage, extortion, money laundering and organized crimes and kleptocracy are now part of Nigeria’s socio-economic and political culture. This unsavory culture has become a drag, a stigma on Nigerians everywhere.
Therefore, fighting corruption and corrupt practices should be an urgent task for every Nigerian. It is the responsibility of all Nigerians, at home and abroad, to help and or collaborate with properly constituted bodies that are waging war against corruption and corrupt officials. One such body is the EFCC.
Established in 2003, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission “is empowered to prevent, investigate, prosecute and penalize economic and financial crimes and is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the provisions of other laws and regulations relating to economic and financial crimes,” including, but not limited to advance fee fraud, capital market frauds, cyber crime, illegal bunkering and terrorism. The head of the commission is Malam Nuhu Ribadu — a graduate of the Nigerian Law School and a one time member of the Nigerian Police where he was head of the Legal and Prosecution department before he was appointed by President Olusegun Obasanjo to head the EFCC.
For all intent and purposes, the EFCC was to be an independent body, free from private and pubic interference by the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government. The Commission was supposed to be sovereign, impartial and above reproach. Considering the history and experience of such bodies, the EFCC was not to be seen to be doing the bidding of the president. It was not to be an instrument for vendetta; it was not to be an extension of the presidency; it was not be a tool used for browbeating political opponents, critics and perceived enemies of the state. And Ribadu himself was supposed to be on the side of the people, be above board and not act as the president’s poodle or hangman.
Sadly, that is what he seems to have become; and the EFCC an instrument for bullying opponents and critics, and for ruining lives, reputation and careers. The Commission has become the petitioner, the judge, the jury and the executioner. Sadder still is the fact that the Commission now takes its marching orders from Obasanjo. Those President Obasanjo wants accused and indicted will see their lives and reputation evaporate in an instant; those he can not convince to dance to his tune will find EFCC operatives knocking at their doors; and those he summarily wants to destroy, he may send in Ribadu himself.
We have criminals roaming our political landscape. But it is also criminal to go after them using criminal tactics. The law is the law. We must all obey the law. The EFCC is empowered to go after crooks and vagabonds and robbers and thieves. They are empowered to stop and arrest and prosecute sleazy and seedy characters. In these and other areas, their efforts should be applauded and rewarded. But neither the EFCC nor Ribadu must be allowed to do so outside the dictates of the law. And the president himself must not be allowed to turn the EFCC into an attack dog. And a hit squad is what the Commission has now become.
In some countries mere accusation is enough to get you hanged. In some parts of Nigeria yelling thief-thief-thief is enough to have one beaten to pulp or burnt alive. Jungle justice is justice without the benefit of innocence; it is justice without the benefit of the law. We cannot say because we want to rid Nigeria of corruption therefore it should be acceptable to point accusatory fingers, presume the accused guilty, publish their names and then tarnish their reputation without the consent of an impartial court. Corruption in all its form is evil and injurious. But we do more harm to our nation and our society if we disregard the law. If we allow Obasanjo and Ribadu to run amok in total disregard for due process, what stops the next president from branding his rivals unfit; what stops the next EFCC chief from branding the innocents rotten? Justice must not be selective or personalized.
The Nigerian media is reporting that “The presidency had hand-picked some of the 135 candidates on the EFCC list, invited them to appear before an equally controversial administrative panel of enquiry, pronounced 35 of them guilty, set up a white paper committee on receipt of the report and within 24 hours, came out with a white paper, held an emergency Federal Executive Council meeting to consider it and immediately gazetted it. The Presidency ordered INEC to disqualify the affected persons from contesting the next general elections. Everything was done within five days of the publication of the controversial list.” Now, how does that sound or look to a man or woman with good and common sense? Doesn’t this look hasty and fishy and illegal? Who is aiding and abetting Obasanjo in this illegal scheme? Mallam Nuhu Ribadu?
In the end, it just might turn out that all the accused are indeed guilty as charged. But we cannot know. We cannot be sure. We cannot know and cannot be sure unless and until the Courts tell us so. The rule of law must prevail; not the rule according to Obasanjo. Anecdotally speaking, why did the EFCC and the presidency omit certain names? Hasn’t Mr. Abubakar Atiku been accusing Mr. Obasanjo of high crimes and other serious offenses these past couple of months? Didn’t Atiku present us with damning documents that purports to show Obasanjo’s illegal dealings? Why then is the name Olusegun Obasanjo missing from the EFCC list?
In 1979, the same year General Olusegun Obasanjo relinquished power and moved out of Dodan Barracks, General Saddam Hussein read out a list of Iraqis purported to be unfit and working against the national interest of Iraq. His victims were called all sorts of names. Some were killed or exiled or barred from ever taking part in the politics of their nation. None of his victims had access to the Courts; all were presumed guilty. Saddam’s tactics was simple: get rid of stumbling blocks and remain in power. Obasanjo did the same thing (but in a slightly different fashion): he tried to perpetuate himself in power through the Third Term scheme.
When the Third Term Agenda failed, he prevailed on his party to appoint his anointed candidates as the party’s presidential and vice-presidential candidates and then made himself the grand patron of the PDP — a position that guarantees his fingerprints, pulse and shadow will be present in Aso Rock long after the 2007 elections. In the months leading to the general election, he is now qualifying and disqualifying candidates through EFCC and thorough the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). It is now easier to enter the kingdom of God than to be certified by EFCC
and INEC. Whatever Obasanjo wants, Obasanjo gets through the EFCC. He thinks himself a deity.
Mallam Nuhu Ribadu must be reminded of the fleeting and temporal nature of power. “Power come power go.” He must not allow himself to be used by Obasanjo and other self-serving groups. When it’s all said and done, what really matters is ones reputation and integrity. How does he want to be remembered? Well, we already know how history and posterity will remember Obasanjo. But what about Ribadu himself? As a man who presided over a witch-hunting brigade?