Why I am ‘against’ anti-cor­rup­tion war

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

As a per­son, I hate cor­rup­tion ut­terly and wish that it should be rooted out com­pletely from our so­ci­ety be­cause of the harm it has done and is con­tin­u­ing to do to our coun­try. But as a hum­ble citizen with good con­science and one out for the in­sti­tu­tion of fair­ness, jus­tice and hon­esty as pil­lars of public con­duct so that faith in the sys­tem can be main­tained, I hate, even more pas­sion­ately, pre­vi­ous war ‘waged’ and the cur­rent one said to be­ing ‘waged’ against cor­rup­tion.

I do not think we need a ‘war’ against cor­rup­tion. Rather, what we ur­gently re­quire is a mech­a­nism, a process that is po­lit­i­cally blind, im­par­tial, im­per­sonal, fair and hon­est to deal with that so­cial malaise. This process must in turn be driven by men and women of con­science who are un­bribeable, un­bend­able and un­us­able; per­sons who hate pol­i­tics and the ways of politi­cians ut­terly and who are only con­sumed by the pas­sion to re­store the moral tone of the na­tion.

As a com­men­ta­tor and par­tic­i­pant-ob­server of the Nige­rian sys­tem for the past 31 years, I have come to hate the so-called an­ticor­rup­tion war be­cause I have come to re­al­ize that this war is in­sin­cere, ill-mo­ti­vated, hyp­o­crit­i­cal, vin­dic­tive, half-hearted, se­lec­tive, dis­trac­tive, waste­ful, per­se­cu­to­rial and ul­ti­mately, un­pro­duc­tive. That is why the war is not be­ing won and we stand no chance of ever win­ning it so long as we fight it in the way and man­ner we have been en­gaged in it.

Please mark my word: I do not hate any fight against cor­rup­tion. I only hate the way some of our gov­ern­ments have been ‘fight­ing’ it.

From my sin­cere and hon­est ob­ser­va­tion over the years, I can re­port that the so called war against cor­rup­tion has been more or less a skir­mish among dis­agree­ing po­lit­i­cal elite than the wield­ing of a spear or the dis­charge of a bazooka against cor­rup­tion. The ‘war’ seems com­i­cal in parts. It is a cir­cus show, a huge cha­rade staged by po­lit­i­cal ma­gi­cians meant to en­ter­tain and de­ceive a gullible au­di­ence that there is some se­ri­ous mo­tion against cor­rup­tion when in fact there is no real move­ment in that di­rec­tion. This ex­plains why each suc­ces­sive de­ceiv­ing gov­ern­ment finds it nec­es­sary to de­clare and launch his own war against cor­rup­tion. Each takes his own tar­geted war cap­tive(s), re­treats af­ter that is done and noth­ing is again heard about the war un­til another de­ceiver comes to the throne.

The whole process of bring­ing some men to ‘face jus­tice’ is a gim­mick meant to em­bar­rass, ha­rass, in­tim­i­date and ul­ti­mately hu­mil­i­ate a per­son or per­sons that has or have in­curred the wrath of cur­rent wield­ers of power. It is never in the public in­ter­est at all as it is never in­tended to de­ter oth­ers or to give a just rec­om­pense to wrong do­ers. In fact, the whole show ends up mak­ing a hero out of some per­sons who de­served rightly to be prop­erly pros­e­cuted and con­victed to show public anger against the acts they are ac­cused of.

And I feel that the use of the law to per­se­cute cer­tain cit­i­zens, no mat­ter what of­fence they may have com­mit­ted, is in it­self a griev­ous form of cor­rup­tion, more abom­inable that the al­leged acts of cor­rup­tion such per­sons may have com­mit­ted.

Cor­rup­tion, it must be pointed out, is not only the steal­ing of public funds. Mis­use of the law is also a form of cor­rup­tion and as far as I am con­cerned is as ob­jec­tion­able, if not more so, than the steal­ing or loot­ing of public funds.

Let me cite only three ex­am­ples to jus­tify my ha­tred of the an­ticor­rup­tion war as we pros­e­cute it here in Nige­ria. The an­ticor­rup­tion war of mod­ern Nige­ria, as dis­tinct from that of the Mur­tala gov­ern­ment which was gen­uine but mis­guided, can be said to have been started by, of all per­sons, Gen­eral Ibrahim Ba­bangida. And the one and only vic­tim of Babaginda’s war was, of all per­sons, Prof Tam David West who is with­out doubt one of the clean­est Nige­ri­ans alive or dead. We all knew that at one point, David West was mak­ing some noises which IBB did not like and in or­der to shut him up, ev­ery of David West’s cup­board in the world was searched in or­der to find some ugly skele­ton. A cer­tain oil ves­sel which no one heard of be­fore called M.T.

Tuma was made ev­ery fa­mous by the Ba­bangida gov­ern­ment in the vain ef­fort to sink the rep­u­ta­tion of David West in or­der to more easily hang him. A scan­dal was made out of that ves­sel that was sold dur­ing David West’s ten­ure as Petroleum min­is­ter. It was clear that West com­mit­ted no wrong.

But he must be con­victed at all cost in or­der to si­lence him. And as one thinker has ob­served, where there is a will to con­vict, ev­i­dence can al­ways be found. And so enor­mous state re­sources, both hu­man and ma­te­rial, had to be de­ployed in this vile, ma­li­cious pur­suit to cap­ture, dead or alive, Ba­bangida’s public en­emy num­ber one called David West. No ef­fort was spared in the war ef­fort to nail the ‘cor­rupt’

David West. Good money that would have tarred a road or pro­vided a bore­hole for some com­mu­nity some­where, was thrown into the bad war to cap­ture and jail David West in the name of ‘fight­ing’ cor­rup­tion. In the end, he was con­victed of cor­ruptly re­ceiv­ing a watch gift in Vi­enna, Aus­tria worth N5, 000 at the time! West was sent to do time in a harsh Gashua prison and that also ended Ba­bangida’s anti-cor­rup­tion war! He had got­ten his in­tended cap­tive.

Un­der Obasanjo there was no doubt that Nuhu Ribadu, who is among very few no­table Nige­ri­ans to have suc­ceeded in con­quer­ing their greed, was gen­uinely out to fight cor­rup­tion. But what hap­pened? Along the line, po­lit­i­cally wise Nige­ri­ans no­ticed that the only ‘cor­rupt’ per­sons that were be­ing caught also hap­pened to be the po­lit­i­cal en­e­mies of Obasanjo’s. Many Nige­ri­ans with con­science could not live with this very cu­ri­ous co­in­ci­dence and rose up stoutly to con­demn Obasanjo’s anti-cor­rup­tion war. Were it not for the trans­par­ently ob­vi­ous in­tegrity of Nuhu Ribadu him­self, the only gen­uine at­tempt to fight cor­rup­tion by a mod­ern Nige­rian gov­ern­ment would have been com­pletely dis­missed as po­lit­i­cal vendetta through and through.

The most no­table vic­tim of Obasanjo’s own anti-cor­rup­tion war was for­mer VP Atiku Abubakar whose real sin was that back in 2003 Atiku dared to want to run for the PDP pri­maries against Obasanjo. This, to Obasanjo, was a car­di­nal sin of dis­loy­alty. If Atiku did not have money, men and power to fight back, he would have un­con­sti­tu­tion­ally been re­moved as VP and may have been jailed also for cor­rup­tion!

I have pointed out in a pre­vi­ous piece that the only vic­tim of Yar’Adua’s ver­sion of the an­ticor­rup­tion war was Mal­lam Nasir el-Ru­fia and his sin was be­ing pre­ferred by some­one else as a bet­ter pres­i­den­tial ma­te­rial than Yar’Adua.

Those who say that we should not ques­tion the mo­tive for bring­ing cer­tain ‘cor­rupt’ public of­fi­cials to trial but should re­joice that cor­rupt peo­ple are be­ing dealt with whether fairly or un­justly, are them­selves not be­ing hon­est bro­kers of public dis­course. They are speak­ing cor­ruptly. I must con­fess that I used to hold such opin­ion be­fore that it does not mat­ter what mo­ti­va­tion brings cer­tain cor­rupt per­sons to face the law pro­vided they are just grounds for do­ing so. But I have since be­come wiser be­cause I have re­al­ized that jus­tice should not only be done, it should man­i­festly be seen to have been done fairly, justly and hon­estly. We should not al­low un­fair, un­just and dis­hon­est men and women with dark hearts and dark mo­tives to hood­wink us into ap­plaud­ing them. That will be cor­rup­tion. And the son of

Alibi will not be a part of that na­tional hood­wink­ing.

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