Steve Nwabuzor, "Bribery and hypocritical grandstanding"

A national broadcast on Tuesday March 22, 2005 by the president, Olusegun Obasanjo, indicted the Minister of Education, Professor Fabian Osuji and members of the Education Committee of the National Assembly for bribery to jack-up the Education budget. Concomitantly, Professor Osuji was fired and prosecution recommended. 

In a clear move feigning to fight corruption, the President embarked upon an insincere rhetoric in a broadcast about fighting corruption with the crooked hands at the disposal of the state. This move has been welcomed by all and sundry, including sycophants, clergy and hypocrites. While corruption cannot be said to have started with this government it is doubtful if it (this government) has the will or moral authority to fight this endemic problem.

This bribery scandal is unique because of the high profile positions of the people involved in this despicable action. One is a Minister, another is the Senate President and others are members of the legislature. Clearly under the laws of the country no one is guilty until proven so by a court of law.  Hence the rush to broadcast to the nation and passing judgment by the President is, to all intent and purposes, an illegal act as this would be prejudicial to the litigation in the court of law and a blatant interference with the judicial process in a supposedly democratic setting.

Nigerians have been victims of corruption in all facets of the national life and are unflinching in their desire that corruption be obliterated or minimized so that the socio-economic engine can run freely with minimal friction. However, in fighting this canker, the government must be seen to have the legitimacy and moral ground to do justice to the problem. Only few Nigerians can assert that the Obasanjo-led PDP has the mandate to rule or the transparency to combat the wide range of corruption that is bane of the country.   In the latter lies the dilemma of this 'renewed,' ad-hoc crusade which has excited the polity, albeit fleetingly.

One of the fundamental pillars that hold justice is that 'he who comes to equity must come with clean hands.'  And one may add, for any government fighting corruption transparency in all its ramifications must be a sine qua non in the affairs of state. Current bribery scandal is not a first under this dispensation. In the first term of this PDP government, the House of Representatives accused the presidency of arm-twisting and subsequent bribery. To prove the latter, members of the national assembly brought bags of bribe money to the floor of the house and no denial from the presidency on this incident has ever been forthcoming. 

Also, the former Defense Minister, Rtd General T. Y. Danjuma, blew the whistle on a former permanent secretary in the ministry, Mr. Makanjuola, who allegedly stole N400 million from the Defense fund. Other instances included the ID scam, which involved late Minister of Internal Affairs, Chief Sunday Afolabi, of "the come and chop" fame; the ex-Inspector General of Police', Tafa Balogun, unaccountable one billion naira in a bank account; the Ngige-Uba affair in which the president was an accessory to the facts; the president's forgery of the Electoral Act; the cloud surrounding the president's appropriation of the Abuja stadium fund and spin-offs in building a private hotel and mini-stadium in Otta. Until recently it is public knowledge that the presidency pays allowances to law makers when approval is sought for passing a bill or expenditure?  Is the latter not bribery? What has the current alleged offenders done that are contrary to the President's way of doing business?

There was no instance in the aforementioned when the presidency went on the air to be the accuser, the jury and the judge. Why in this instance did the president go public without allowing the judicial process to pass judgment?  It will not be out of place to infer that this action is predicated on scoring cheap political point, at the expense of the PDP controlled legislature, and a tactics to impress the West that this government noted for stinking corruption is at last 'doing something'?  Obviously this new antics is a stratagem to pull wool over the eyes of the West in seeking debt relief.

In concluding, Nigerians are in the right frame of mind wanting corruption to be combated. However, such fight must be holistic in nature and not selective. For this new drive to be meaningful all previous cases must be subjected to the same weight of law with no sacred cows. This democracy in Nigeria cannot watch previous looters of the treasury, mainly in the military constituency, enjoy their booty, while some politicians, especially of a particular ethnic nationality, are constantly ridiculed, made scapegoats and projected as nonentities in the affairs of state. A foundation for the New Nigeria cannot be built on sleaze and selective justice. The latest national broadcast by the President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, is nothing but hypocritical grandstanding and a perversion of the judicial process. It should be condemned by well-meaning Nigerians.