In his convoluted essay — That EFCC List: Where is the Outrage? Where is the Indignation — Mr. Paul Adujie said he was troubled by the deafening silence of Nigerians over the recently released list of alleged corrupt officials by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. He was incensed because the list “has not been greeted with popular acclaim or acceptance,” and wanted to know why Nigerians are not “excited about the actual prospects of finally holding those who pillage and plunder Nigeria’s resources?” The rest of the essay is vintage Paul Adujie: praise for President Obasanjo; and condemnation for others.
No one who is familiar with his commentaries (regarding Obasanjo) will be surprised at his treatise. I am not. However, I am disappointed that such a brilliant and learned friend would dismiss the rule of law just to praise one man and then virulently condemn others. The law is the law and common sense is common sense whether one agree with one’s opponents or not. It was wrong — wrong in law and wrong in basic decency — for the EFCC to release such a list and then imply that the listed are guilty. If the EFCC has the evidence, let them go to Court.
Have we reached the point in our national life when we accuse a man and then lynch him; or accuse a man and then condemn him in the court of public opinion without giving him the chance to defend himself before the court of law? When did the Presidency or the EFCC get to be the accuser, the judge, the jury and the executioner? This type of behavior must not be allowed to prevail. If this type of behavior was acceptable, then President Olusegun Obasanjo would be number one on the list.
Paul Adujie has a problem, and so do Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and President Obasanjo. The perceptions are simple: that Adujie has lost all objectivity and fairness in all matters Obasanjo; that Ribadu, unlike in earlier times, is no longer his own man and that he is reading from a script handed him by Aso Rock; and finally, that Obasanjo does not have the legal or moral right to point accusatory fingers at anyone. Are his hands cleans? Does he have a clean and clear conscience?
Karl Kraus it was who said that “Corruption is worse than prostitution. The latter might endanger the morals of an individual; the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country.” That is true! Corruption — graft and kickbacks, cronyism, nepotism, embezzlement, illegal political patronage, extortion, bribery, money laundering and trafficking, organized crimes and kleptocracy –.has been slowly eating away at Nigeria’s institutional and moral fibers for more than three decades. Before then, corruption and corrupt practices were tolerable and manageable. In the year since however, it has become one of the deepest and most widespread cancers eating away at our nation’s soul.
To be clear, no formal or informal institutions are immune from corruption. Every body and all institutions are susceptible to corruption. Everybody has a price. Anybody can be tempted and indeed, most people succumb to temptation. However, it is the degree and pervasiveness of corruption that most societies frown upon. And in fact, some types of corruption are good for the smooth running of society. Corruption becomes a problem only when its presence hinders easy exit and entry to public space, or when it forbids equal and continuous access to political goods and services, or when it willfully promotes one interest to the detriment of another.
One of the great things about the rule of law and institutions is that they help to regulate private and public behavior; however, in societies where the rule of law, or where institutions are weak, corruption-channels becomes the conduit through which most private and public transactions are conducted. Under such systems some people gets shut out or are deprived of goods and services that are rightfully theirs. Generally, such illegal channels make conducting private and public transactions expensive or prohibitive.
Aside from laws and institutions, one of the tools societies employ to combat corruption are transparency and accountability on the part of the government, and personal integrity on the part of the president. In the case of Nigeria, transparency, accountability and personal integrity is lacking and has been lacking for decades.
Any attempt to genuinely fight corruption must start with the president. In other words, the president, his staff and his cabinet must set good example for the citizens to follow. Absent that, the laws and institutions must be such that anyone caught or suspected of corrupt practices must be severely dealt with according to the dictates of the law. No one is spared. But not so in Nigeria.
No serious-minded individual believes President Obasanjo is waging an honest and vigorous war against corruption. There is not a single fair-minded individual I know who believes Obasanjo to be above board. There is not a single Nigerian I know who will bet his or her ten cents and say Obasanjo has not illegally enriched himself and or allowed his friends and family and proxies to illegally enrich themselves.
To compound Obasanjo’s muddy and fetid standing in the minds of most Nigerians, his deputy, Vice President Abubakar Atiku has been saying to Nigerians — before man and God — that his boss, his partner, the president of Nigeria has been illegally digging his hands into the nation’s coffer. Long before Atiku’s bombshell accusation, Governor Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State has been pointing accusatory fingers at the president. At the very least, the perception is that the president of Nigeria is not an honest man. Long before Kalu and Atiku sounded their siren, Nigerians have been suspicious of the president’s war against corruption. Moreover, there are those who believe that the president is using the EFCC to get at his detractors and critics.
When the late General Murtala Muhammed said he was fighting corruption, most Nigerians believed him. When General Mohammadu Buhari launched his war against indiscipline, most Nigerians believed him. Does anyone believe President Olusegun Obasanjo? This president simply does not have any credibility. Without credibility there can be no support, and without support, Nigerians will not express their sense of outrage or indignation. Paul Adujie should have known this. If he doesn’t, I am telling him now.