Nigerians are a very delightful lot, with varied and swinging moods, interests and inclinations. And we constantly keep to the Biblical injunction of either blowing hot or cold, but never to be lukewarm. We also have a profound proclivity to argue about every thing under the sun, while at the same time being enthusiastic praise-singers and excellent traducers. And with a robust and free press, we enjoy ourselves thoroughly praising or condemning whomever it catches our fancy to. But the calamity, though, is that we dish out praises and condemnations not on the bases of good performances and achievements or on the other hand failures and non-performances but on the dial of our swinging moods, interests and very often from the prisms of ethnic colouration.
Or how else can one explain the constant flow of offensive propaganda, laced with intellectual crookedness and a dash of scoffing whims emanating from the stable of the Sun Newspapers against the person and office of Ibrahim Larmode, the incumbent boss of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Within a short space of two weeks, two of their best minds and leading columnists have trained their pen to churn out articles that cast aspersion on the good work that Mr. Larmode has been doing at the EFCC since its inception, first as pioneering director of operations and now as its Chief Executive Officer.
First it was Levi Obijiofor in his column ‘Insights’ and writing on a piece entitled ‘A Hopeless EFCC and a Corrupt Judiciary’, where he upbraided the EFCC for not doing enough to convict big criminals in government. And then it was the turn of Dr. Amanze Obi, erstwhile commissioner for information in Imo State under former Governor Ikedi Ohakim and now the Chairman of Editorial Board of the Sun Newspapers in his own column ‘Broken Tongues’ and in his own piece entitled ‘Larmode’s Lamentations’. However, there is an irresistible urge among observers that have been following this media bashing to conclude that there is no smoke without fire as it would be said in the local parlance.
And to think that both of them hinged the plank of their attack on the man, on his mere appearance before the Senate Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, to defend the commission’s 2013 budget where he tried to solicit for a better funding of the agency as most other chief executives have done and will continue to do for their various organisations is to say the least reprehensible and weighing heavily against balance of reason. At least, it is expected that Dr, Obi having been Commissioner for Information and later that of Culture and Tourism in Imo State would have, given this experience and background, appreciated the importance of good budgetary allocation and funding for a crime fighting outfit like the EFCC under the ever dedicated Ibrahim Lamorde, except if he never bordered about budgetary provisions for the ministries he headed while serving in Imo State.
For him to be regaling in the fact that the EFCC budget proposal for the coming year is being slashed from N21billion to N9 billion is regrettable. And his depiction of Lamorde as being unable to defend the budget proposal of his agency is not only untrue but uncharitable. If Larmode wore any perturbed countenance at all at the budget defence, it is because he knew and appreciated the fact that the buck stops at his table and that crime fighting of the magnitude that EFCC does, cannot be done with bare hands.
The very prime suspects that we press on the EFCC to chase all over the world and bring to justice have enormous resources at their disposal with which they use to thwart the efforts of the commission’s agents and officers. Even the long adjournments that they procure in some of our courts during trials still boils down to their effective deployment of these stolen funds to evade the course of justice. We have seen it happen here in the past and at the end it is the Chairmen of EFCC that were castigated and hounded out of office. While the near excessive desire of Nigerians to see that corruption and graft in government official dealings in our polity is tackled head on is understandable, and our seemingly impatience, even fathomable, given the apparent drawback and negative tendencies it casts on the genuine efforts of some of leaders to improve the living standard of Nigerians.
And particularly given the mind-boggling disclosures by the various instituted probe committees and panels of both the National Assembly and the Executive on how politicians, senior civil servants and other associated interests helped themselves to the public till, especially on the issue of oil subsidy scam and the workers pension fraud, then the drive for the anti-corruption crusade becomes a self evident project. Yet all of these are still not enough to permit the kind of rush that may infringe upon the rights of any suspect, because in the eyes of the law such a person is presumed innocent, until proved guilty. This is more so in a democratic environment like ours that thrive on the rule of law and equity. Moreover, even when President Goodluck Jonathan has acknowledged the legal axiom that it is better for ten guilty persons to be set free than to convict one innocent person, yet his government is doing its utmost to contend and contain this hydra headed monster in a very unmistakable terms as is evidenced in the ongoing trials of those indicted by such probe panels mentioned earlier and the large sums of money said to have been recovered from them.
Mr. Obi is no doubt a brilliant and seasoned journalist that can play effortlessly with words in some sort of literary calisthenics’ display. But I pray he uses this gift to advance the good cause of the nation and not use it as a tool to dampen the morale of those who have put in all they have on the line in the fight to salvage this nation. The EFCC needs our complete and unequivocal support in order to achieve the success that we all envisage for it. To do otherwise would amount to doing ourselves a great disservice, and to condone any act of omission or commission that will undermine its efforts at optimal performance as in this instant case of poor budgetary allocation of funding to the agency by the National Assembly is to aid the escape of the same corrupt persons Nigerians want brought to book.
•Ede, Poet and Journalist, writes from Abuja.