Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Of Opposition Parties and Anti-Corruption

As we know, the EFCC recently arrested the former Sokoto state Governor Attahiru Bafarawa for allegedly misappropriating N15bn during his eight-year tenure as Governor. The former Governor, who is also one of the founding members of the ‘yet to be announced’ mega opposition party, was arrested shortly after emerging from the opposition party meeting.

And as I write this piece, the former Governor is being detained by the EFCC pending his arraignment in Court.

So what’s the case against Attahiru Bafarawa? It is alleged that the former Sokoto state Governor awarded contracts to his wife and brother in-law, flouting due process. He’s also been accused of converting his personal account to a state government account while remaining the sole signatory and converted several millions for his personal use.

As we may know, the former governor's first encounter with EFCC was in May 2008 when he was arrested on allegations of corruption and money laundering. Following his arrest, his international passport was deposited in the custody of the Federal High Court in Abuja.

As expected, his recent arrest and detention by the EFCC has not been short of hullabaloo. Whilst the EFCC has strongly defended its action claiming it had substantial evidence against the former governor, opposition parties have claimed that the ‘arrest’ was carried out to intimidate and suppress political opposition. It is worth noting that part of the evidence against Bafarawa are from the White Paper, issued by a commission of inquiry that was set up by the present Sokoto state administration, which indicted the former Governor and his aides of fraud.

The anti-corruption crusade in Nigeria has somewhat become a poisoned chalice. Regardless of who is arrested or prosecuted, it seems there is always an excuse to discredit the action of the EFCC and the judiciary. Even when Chief Bode George, who is a member of the ruling party, was jailed for corruption, I heard people say it was because he had fallen out with the current PDP leadership. But does that really matter? Is it the fact that he was jailed that is important or his supposed falling out with the powers that be?

Don’t get me wrong, I hold no brief for the EFCC. In fact, I quite agree 100 percent with the Senator Hilary Clinton’s comments, when she said “the EFCC has fallen off over the last two years”. There is no doubt that the nation’s anti-corruption vehicle has been locked in reverse gear since President Umar Yar’Adua assumed office. I also need not to remind you of how the nation’s chief law officer has actively undermined the anti-corruption campaign.

However, it’s now become a trend for the opposition parties to see any attempt to arrest or prosecute their members as an act of intimidation and oppression. It’s quite convenient for the opposition to label the EFCC as a government tool, whenever they are under the hammer.

On the recent arrest of ex-governor Bafarawa. I agree that the arrest of the former governor shortly after a political meeting sends a wrong signal. And yes, the EFCC should have exercised caution in carrying out the arrest due to its political sensitivity. But at the same time, that should not distract us from asking the critical questions, “Is the former Governor actually guilty of the alleged charges”. Did he flout due process while awarding contracts? Did he convert his person accounts into state accounts?

It is high time; we address issues with sense of objectivity. Each case should be judged on its own merit. The ineptitude and perceived ‘selective prosecution’ by the EFCC is not an excuse for not doing the right thing. The same sorts of arguments where used to discredit Nuhu Ribadu’s efforts. Those arrested and prosecuted claimed that it was because of their stance against Obasanjo’s ‘Third Term Agenda’. The allegation then was that Obasanjo was using the EFCC to deal with his enemies. Others alleged that plots were being hatched to pursue an aggressive campaign of selective prosecution. However, one incontrovertible fact remains, everyone Nuhu Ribadu prosecuted had a ‘skeleton’ in their cupboards.

Let’s not be fooled by the diversionary tactics used by politicians whenever they run into troubled waters. Some are always quick to say that the EFCC will only be taken seriously until when the likes of James Ibori and Co have been successfully prosecuted. For me such a statement is hypocritical. Are we saying that prosecution of corrupt persons should be put on hold until James Ibori and Co. have been sent to prison?

Instead of getting bogged down with arguments about EFCC sincerity of purpose, let’s focus on the allegations levelled against these individuals. Let anyone indicted for corruption, regardless of their political affiliation; defend him or herself in the court of law. Membership of opposition parties should not be used as an excuse to escape justice.

But having said that, the EFCC should make sure that, the basic rights of all prosecuted persons are respect. Irrespective of their charges, such persons remain innocent until proven guilty.

And as for the corrupt politicians who are allies of President Umar Yar’Adua and the PDP leadership, let them continue to enjoy ‘immunity’ from prosecution. But as the Yorubas say, ‘there is no season that last forever’. It is only a matter of time before justice catches up with them. Who would have thought that Bode George would spend his 64th birthday in prison?

1 comment:

Bobby Akande said...

I totally agree with you jare. This hide-and-seek politics has long survived in Nigeria because these so-called politicians believe they can always play with people's minds. It's hightime Nigerians started to deal with these people for such insults. Whoever is accused should go to court and defend themselves, instead of whining like little kids. Shebi they have all been chopping and chopping, now the chicken bone don obstruct their guts and they come dey cry. I wish I could just go over there and slap all of them one by one. Well, that day is coming soon. And as for Bode George, I didn't know he was only 64. He looks older than my grandfather who is approaching 90. Oh well, I guess there isn't much to show for all the stolen gems afterall. Well, soon they will all know what hits them...cos this guy is coming for them soon; all of them!