Corruption is simply the fraudulent, dishonest or misuse of entrusted public power by those in power (or outside power), for private gain. Corruption could involve alteration, deceit, falsification, manipulation or doctoring. A corrupt person is a crook, or a criminal that taints the larger society with his immoral or dishonest behaviour. He is the exact opposite of an honest, honourable, ethical, moral, truthful and sincere person.
In the President Buhari’s much trumpeted fight against corruption (as anchored by the EFCC Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu), the Government appears to have a very limited, circumscribed and myopic view of what corruption is all about. They appear to equate corruption with only the giving and taking of bribes and stealing (they prefer the word, “looting” or “money laundering” of public money). Yes, these are surely forms of corruption. No doubt. But, corruption is much deeper. It certainly goes beyond this narrow definition. Corruption includes (and these are even more serious), nepotism, cronyism, prebendalism, sectionalism, influence – peddling, political party corruption; bureaucratic, electoral, human trafficking, legislative and media corruption; graft, financial and defence sector corruption; judicial, police, educational, security, environmental, humanitarian and health sector corruption; embezzlement, grand larceny and extortion corruption, etc. The worst and mother of all forms of corruption, is “anti-corruption corruption” (the current object of our discourse).
Indeed, political corruption that destroys the very fabric and building blocks of nationhood and bastardises its ethical and moral foundations, is a worse form of infectious and leprously contagious corruption. Wanton violation of the oath of office by public officers, from the President down, to defend the Constitution, is worse than graft. Flagrant disobedience to court orders, desecration of the rule of law, violation of citizens’ inalienable fundamental rights, humiliation and terrorism against Judges and other judicial officers and acts of executive, legislative and judicial impunity and rascality, are worse forms of corruption than looting our common treasury. Re-looting of recovered loot, is more criminal and more corrupt than the original initial looting. Indeed, fighting corruption with corruption, through selectiveness, vindictiveness, opaqueness, discrimination and favouritism, are worse than graft. Leaking of official secrets and statements of suspects who are undergoing interrogation (and therefore, ordinarily presumed to be innocent) to a section of the media, is worse than looting. Carrying out public and sensational media trial of suspects and the government’s “name-and-shame” policy against helpless suspects, is more odious and cancerous than looting. Putting shackles and manacles on suspects who have not taken to flight, with a view to humiliating them and tarring them with the paint brush of shame, are more corrupt acts than graft.
Magu’s Letter to the Presidential Panel
Magu’s Lawyer, Mr Wahab Shittu (my good “aburo” friend and a very fecund and brilliant Lawyer), has just written to the Presidential Panel probing Magu over a series of allegations concerning his tenureship. The panel is headed by no-nonsense retired Justice Ayo Salami.
In the letter Shittu submitted on behalf of Magu, he states inter alia, as follows:
“Please, be advised that the attention of our client has been drawn to serial falsehood publications in the media, in respect of matters which never featured in the proceedings of this honourable panel…….
“Our client has also not been given a copy of the Report of the Presidential Committee on Audit of Recovered Assets.
“Based on the above circumstances, our client was not given adequate time and facilities for his defence, and his demand for a copy of the allegations against him has not been honoured till date.
“We appeal to the honourable panel to consider the above, and uphold the Fundamental Rights to fair hearing of our client.”
I totally agree with Shittu, about the prejudicial nature of the apparent media trial of Magu. But, that was Magu’s specialty, which I had kicked against, again and again. On roof tops. On television. Through oceans of ink in writing. At seminars organised by EFCC and Magu himself (to which he graciously invited me). In his very presence. Before his face – “korokoro eyes”, “anya-anya”. Magu only spent a mere 10 days, in detention. Some said, he was sleeping at a nearby mosque. How would he have felt, if the Presidential panel had rushed to obtain a Magistrates court order to detain him for 2 weeks in the first instance, in EFCC’s cold dungeon and on the bare floor? And then such detention is quickly renewed for another 2 weeks, on effluxion of the first two weeks? This, notwithstanding the clear provisions of Section 35 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, which permits only 24 hours of detention? How would Magu have felt, if he was manacled and shackled, feet and hands, and paraded like a common criminal before the panel, as he was want to do to his many victims? Magu, through another Lawyer, Oluwatosin Ojaomo, had even asked the Inspector General of Police for bail on “self-recognition”, or with “a credible surety”. Oh really? So, these are achievable after all? But, Magu never allowed his victims such luxuries. I had clients who voluntarily reported to the EFCC, such as High Chief Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi, former Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, former Attorney-General, Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, Senator Dino Melaye, Femi Fani-Kayode, Senator Shehu Sani, Atiku Abubakar’s son-in-law, Abdullahi Babalele, Barrister Sylvanus Okpetu, Deji Adeyanju, etc. Yet, these mere suspects were immediately hauled into the damp, dingy dungeon of the EFCC, and held thereafter for months by Magu and his EFCC. How times change? This is why it is dangerous to throw a stone into the open market, because you never know whom the stone will hit. It could be your mother, father, uncle, aunt, son, daughter, relations, friends, associates. Just anyone. When you point one finger at people, the remaining four are pointed at you.
My Lone Voice in the Wilderness
The above is all I have been talking about, in the five years plus of this administration. That is, that in fighting corruption, we must follow due process; uphold rule of law; respect people’s fundamental rights; treat people with dignity of the human person; presume suspects innocent and not tag them criminals; obey court orders; investigate your cases thoroughly before arraignment of suspects; don’t detain people first and later fish for evidence to try them; or force them to self-incriminate. Some Magu apologists, bootlickers, grovellers, obsequious emergency “constitutional Lawyers” and self-styled “rights activists”, defended serial brazen violations of the rights of citizens, with some of them treated as animals. Some sections of the press and the public, bayed for others’ blood and humiliation. Even Lawyers defending accused persons were idiotically tagged “corrupt”, for merely carrying out their professional duties of defending alleged “corrupt politicians”. These historical revisionists were not interested at all in appreciating the fact that, the same accused persons were being prosecuted by some of the best Lawyers the Government itself had hired. They were not even interested in knowing that the Government itself, harboured some of the most corrupt people in its dark recesses. They said it did not matter, for as long as they have grabbed those they wanted. Such paradox! Such contradictions!! Such inconsistencies!!! Such self-denial!!!!
EFCC under Magu merely went after opposition elements, rights activists, critics of government, dissenters, plural voices; etc. Never their own. A decampment by any corrupt politician into the ruling APC party suddenly cleansed him of his criminal and corrupt leprosy, like Naaman the leper, who dipped himself 7 times into River Jordan, and became cleansed of his leprosy.
Magu has therefore, become a sad metaphor for the anti-climax of the anti-corruption war, as the very anti-corruption czar is himself, now being accused of the worst form of corruption – the “corruption of anti-corruption” war. This is sad.
My Earlier Nostradamic Interventions
I was not just criticising. I provided solutions. I asked questions; answered the questions; and even questioned the answers. Since 2015. I advocated for the building of strong institutions, not strong men or strong women. I asked for a full detailed account of all loot so far recovered (money and realty). I provided the panacea, to enable EFCC and other anti-graft agencies chart a positive way forward. I wrote to EFCC and presented a paper at a CACOL roundtable, titled “The A – Z and 24 “DOS” and “Don’ts” of how to fight corruption” (See Daily Times of 24th April, 2017 – https//issuu.com/dailytimes.ng/docs/din-24-04-17/19). I was ignored, almost sentenced to a “fatwa”.
On 14th January, 2016 (barely a mere 7 months after President Buhari assumed office), THISDAY NEWSPAPER reported me thus (https://www.thisdaylive.com/):
“Nigeria: Ozekhome – Buhari Will Know his Greatest Enemies When the Chips are Down
“Constitutional Lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), has accused the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration of undermining the rule of law in the polity, adding “that those who may be telling the President to put Nigerians on the stake and shoot them to death, without even trying them in the fight against corruption, are his worst enemies.
“Fielding questions from journalists in Abuja, Ozekhome maintained that under no guise must respect for the principle of separation of powers which is a sine qua non for democratic rule, be undermined under the present dispensation, adding that the President will know those deceiving him when the chips are down”.
“Nigeria: Ozekhome Blames Government for Worsening Corruption, Insecurity
The Guardian of 1st May, 2018, titled, “Nigeria: Ozekhome Blames Government for Worsening Corruption, Insecurity”, reported thus:
“Human Rights Activist and Constitutional Lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) has said that past and present administrations, including that of President Muhammadu Buhari, were responsible for the country’s economic conditions and socio-political woes.
“Besides, Ozekhome, who presented a detailed analysis of how corruption, money laundering and insecurity have destroyed the nation’s economic potentials among the comity of nations, said the challenges have worsened under the Buhari administration”. (To be continued).
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
“Corruption is paid by the poor” (Pope Francis).
“Corruption is a cancer: a cancer that eats away at a citizen’s faith in democracy, diminishes the instinct for innovation and creativity; already-tight national budgets, crowding out important national investments. It wastes the talent of entire generations. It scares away investments and jobs” (Joe Biden).