Why the Hurry, the Haste, and the Rush to Judgment?

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

How can one express or explain the political reality in our country without sounding melodramatic and without undue indulgence in hyperbolism? One can think of no other ways but to repeat the prevailing reality; and that is that as a people and as a country, we have lost our scruples and our sense of probity, responsibility and responsiveness. Collectively, we have no sense of direction and so have no idea how to seize today and implement future plans. Collectively, we walk in a daze — aided by a shot-gun mentality.

As it is, we are in a hell-hole in terms of human and economic development. Most of our people live in fetid economic and environmental conditions. Nigerians are running away en-mass from their country of birth; and those in self-imposed exile are scared to return home. It is bad enough that we have browning infrastructures, and have a society that does not enable creativity, hard-work, humanity and forthrightness; but who wants to return to a country where one can be thrown in jail on the basis of mere allegations?

And mere allegations are all we have against Senators Zwingina and Mantu. No clear facts. No incontrovertible evidence. No confessions. No incriminating evidence to support the commission of a felony. Nothing; yet, the folks at Arewa (ACF), and a group of Nigerians are out like vultures ready to pluck on Zwingina and Mantu.

Why is the Arewa Consultative Forum in such a hurry to get rid of these senators? The Daily Times Newspaper reported that Arewa is getting ready to do so because:

The FCT Minister, el-Rufai, had sworn by the Holy Quran at the seating of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions in Abuja recently, whereas the duo refused to swear by the Holy Books thereby casting doubt on their integrity and innocence.”

What is the hurry; and why the haste? Why pronounce these men guilty when their guilt or innocence has yet to be determined by a court of law? Why? On the other spectrum, we have a Senate that has already affirmed the innocence of these men, and has in the process shoveled the matter into the “dustbin of history with ignominy.” What is the hurry; and why the haste? Why?

The Senate is wrong in its handling of the matter; and so is the Arewa Consultative Forum. The Nigerian Senate did not help itself by its hasty actions and pronouncements; its action did not in any way, shape or form clear the cloud of suspicion surrounding Zwingina or the notion of dishonorable conduct that is being leveled against Mantu. The proper avenue for the Senate would have been to allow an unimpeded investigation by an impartial body to determine what took place: Is Mallam el-Rufai telling the truth regarding the behavior of Zwingina and Mantu? Or, was he just out to get and bloody two innocent men?

Soon, very soon there is going to be another round of accusations, another round of name-calling and vilifications. And when that time comes there will be no one on their (Senate) corner, no one calling for restraints, and no one giving them the benefit of the doubt. Since the Senate is being irascible with this matter, my advice to both the accused senators is that they should vigorously and sincerely call for an independent panel to investigate the matter so all parties involved can have some sort of closure. If the FCT minister is telling the truth; then the honorable thing would be for the senators to apologize, first to the minister, and then to their constituencies and then to the nation at large; after which they should then tender their resignation. The courts should then be allowed to sort out the subsequent mess. And what a mess this would be!

As things stand however; we may never know the truth. And the attendant consequences of not knowing are that some people will find it hard to believe the Senators. There will always be a question mark: did they…? Their reputation, their truthfulness, their accomplishments and their humanity will always be in doubt. The same goes for Mallam el-Rufai: was he telling the truth? Or, is he just one in a series of fraudster parading himself as a paragon of morality?

Not knowing bothers me. It also bothers me that there would not be a full and complete investigation; it bothers me more to know that the Arewa Consultative forum based their guilt verdict on the fact that Mallam el- Rufai swore by the Koran. That body should know that millions of Nigerians can, and are willingly to swear, straight-face, by the Koran or by the Bible when confronted by the obvious. And now, let’s be clear about this: neither the Koran nor the Bible is the foundation of our current judicial system. The constitution is. Therefore, we must follow the tenets of our constitution.

Although I have great reverence for both the Koran and the Bible, still, we cannot, and we must not base the guilt or innocence of fellow Nigerians – and in this case, the guilt or innocence of Dr. Jonathan Zwingina and that of Alhaji Ibrahim Mantu – on the fact that they refused to swear by those sanctified and divine books. We cannot and must not conduct the affairs of our nation contrary to the spirit and letters of the constitution, ethics and morality. We must not use the Bible or the Koran for finding constitutional truths; otherwise, others would be justified in using their brand of religion to subjugate us and use it to lord and enforce their brand of justice (no matter how perverted their sense of justice might be).

In an earlier treatise, I had counseled against a rush to judgment, and encouraged constitutionally sanctioned due-process. Sadly, some Nigerians have been calling for the head of these men. Sadder still are some so-called westernized and liberal-minded commentators of Nigerian origin who have been “rushing to judgment.” Some have no doubt (that) el-Rufai is telling the truth; while a few others have praised the minister for his “heroism, courage and truthfulness.” See for instance, the writings of Remi Oyeyemi, Bolaji Aluko, Mike Onwukwe, Adekunle Ajisebutu, Paul Adujie, Umar Tanimu Umar, Babayola Toungo, and Malomo Ajibola and a host of others who have all joined the fray.

Isn’t it sad that before the findings of any investigative body is known, or before the pronouncements of a properly constituted court of law, that these Nigerians have made up their minds? I was especially taken aback by Oyeyemi’s “I Believe El-Rufai” published in the Nigeria World website. Remi has always been on the “side of law & order,” but then to offer his guilty verdict without deference to the law is, to say the least, disappointing. He is never one to join a meaningless bandwagon. This time however, he did. For a more balanced and well thought-out essay, please see Kennedy Emetulu’s “The Nasir el- Rufai Testimony: Separating Substance from Farce” (http://www.gamji.com/NEWS2906.htm).

For me, this is what it all boils down to: Mallam el-Rufai is not an “ordinary” Nigerian. His integrity and reputation is at stake and so we have to be mindful of that. We also have to be mindful of the fact that the integrity and reputation of two Nigerian Senators has been called into question. It’s a mess, folks! The only way to untangle this mess is to follow a constitutionally sanctioned due-process. The guilty one(s) – according to the court must be punished.

For the sake of our country therefore, this matter must not be swept under the carpet; and unlike the pronouncement of the Senate, this matter must not be “confined to the dustbin of history with ignominy.” We owe it to ourselves and to posterity to know the absolute truth. We cannot be a civil society, or a society that treasures law and order if we engage in banana justice….WE should thinks of ways to become a society that values democratic institutions, democratic ideas and ideals and culture.

No one is guilty, yet. No one is.

Sabella Abidde, Norman-Oklahoma: Sabidde@yahoo.com

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