Ms. Arunma Oteh
Guest Columnist By Odilim Enwegbara
It was not just a piece of good news; it was the best news coming from Nigeria's capital market. And for someone following this capital market drama, I felt happy that it finally has come to an end, thanks to the wise decision of the government. The presidential recall of the suspended Director-General of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Ms. Arunma Oteh, was the best thing to do by any serious administration wanting to ensure that the ongoing reforms she has been associated with are not just continued, but also brought to completion to speedily arrest the dearth of medium- to long-term funding and to entrench the much-needed culture of savings, investing and wealth creation.
The decision has sent out that much awaited presidential signal to all honest and patriotic Nigerians home and abroad that President Goodluck Jonathan will be there to protect and defend them as he just did in the case of Oteh versus the capital market cabal. In other words, this singular step of the president is a revolution in itself because for the first time in the history of our great nation, members of a powerful corrupt cabal have been refused to get away with harassing and intimidating an honest and patriotic Nigerian for standing in their way, and for attempting to wrest the soul of Nigeria's capital market away from them for the good of the Nigerian people.
It saddens me each time I see Nigerians who decry the country's corrupt system to turn around and fight the very few remaining honest and patriotic citizens who risk their lives trying to dismantle the same corrupt system they condemn. That even some staff of SEC (no matter how few they're in number) could carry protest placards against Oteh shows how Nigerians have cheapened themselves to the extent that they can dance in support of the same cabal who've been sending them to a one-way economic slavery. Why on earth were these folks refusing her return if not for the fear that with her return, corruption would be impossible? What a shame that this is the best way to welcome the woman that just defeated the cabal in her patriotic battle to retrieve Nigeria's capital market from them!
Shouldn't we have learned something from our mistakes in protesting against the fuel subsidy removal, which later turned out to prove that it was the same oil cabal using fuel subsidy to milk the country dry that set in motion the protests?
Which is better, supporting compatriots who fight the cabals on our behalf or supporting the cabals not only because they brainwashed us but also because they handed us some peanuts as bribe? If as citizens we're truly sincere fighting corruption, then, we should have been bold enough to support those few Nigerians who fight on our behalf. Shouldn't we have supported Oteh for going after Ms. Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke-led capital market cabal? By posing her return, knowingly and unknowingly, Nigerians are telling the cabal, you can come back and continue your business unopposed. Would they have been after Oteh if she has been playing along? Does it require an extraordinary mind to discover that the ongoing efforts to crucify and mutilate Oteh using the media are the very handiwork of the cabal?
When I read that 'without removing Oteh government is not fighting corruption', I wonder who parades these stories if not the same cabal that she just defeated! Isn't it now clear that it was the same cabal calling this January for the heads of Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and her Petroleum Resources counterpart, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, for wanting to remove fuel subsidy that is today also calling for Oteh's head?
Since falsehood is much easier to market to the people than the truth, my question here is: When will our people learn to first examine the facts objectively before taking sides? When will patriotism mature in Nigeria? For how long would we speak ignorantly in support of baseless stories, stories without merit? I'm sure that if we all knew the magnitude of fraud that Oteh has covered examining the books of NSE, no doubt, we would be singing her praises as well as agreeing that this government is truly fighting corruption with all the energy it deserves.
I can't agree more with the words of John Adams (second president of the United States) for arguing that ''democracy can never blossom without well-informed citizens being its watchdogs”. And no one could have put it better than Edmund Burke who said: “Your [government] owes you, not its industry only, but its judgment; and it betrays instead of serving you if it sacrifices it to your opinion.'' John 8:32 reads: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” Therefore, let's remember that it's not only the truth that will set us free, but our knowledge of the truth.
Do Nigerians know that Okereke-Onyiuke single-handedly picked Mr. Musa Al-Faki as DG of SEC, enabling her to be calling the shots at SEC, the commission that was supposed to be supervising NSE? Do Nigerians also know that Al-Faki's sacking of some core professional staff of SEC was part of the cabal's hidden agenda to incapacitate SEC which freely allowed greedy operators in stock price pump and dump manipulations?
Is it difficult to recognise that by sending Oteh on a compulsory leave by a board whose tenure was expiring in five days, the SEC Board was publicly demonstrating to Nigerians that all it was just doing was appeasing the cabal, a cabal that not only lost at the judiciary but also at the National Assembly? Given all that the government knows, and given that here is a president who knows that facts should be separated from baseless sentiments, should the executive too be acting according to the scripts of the same cabal it wants to put out of business? Shouldn't we praise this government for resisting all the political odds and pressures from the cabal, in making the right decision by recalling her after discovering that she was innocent of all the accusations engineered by the cabal? If nothing was found incriminating in the investigations against her, isn't it the wisest decision on the part of the presidency to waste no time in recalling her, especially when that is in the overall interest of the Nigerian capital markets and the Nigerian people?
It is akin to Theodore Roosevelt's classical view that ''the best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men [and women] to do what he wants done, and wise enough to protect them when they fall out with [less-informed] citizens for pursuing the longer [-term] good of the state.'' This is indeed why, the government after having carefully ''studied the report submitted by the external auditors, and having noted that Oteh was neither indicted for fraud nor criminal breach in any form by the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) during its examination of the records of the commission's transactions covering SEC's Project 50, which she supervised,'' made the right decision in quickly recalling her from her compulsory leave.
That President Jonathan has brought this unending 'Cold War' to its final end is gallantly a demonstration of being more of a statesman than a politician. It is on this good note, especially given the kind of psychological trauma Oteh was subjected to by the Hembe led-House Committee on Capital Market and Institutions and later by the Ad hoc Committee on the Near Collapse of the Nigerian capital market, prior to her arrival in 2010 that I suggest that it should be magnanimous for the Speaker of the House of Representatives to publicly apologise to Oteh while inviting her to a coffee as his guest.
Enwegbara, international economic and financial analyst, lives in Abuja