We Haven't Seen
culled from THISDAY,
March 29, 2005
My earlier plan was
to leave the sleazy affair between some members of the National Assembly and the
Federal Ministry of Education alone and devote this space to a celebration of
the life of one of the greatest lawyers with black skin ever created by God.
As somebody who really revere excellence and brilliance, I have always been
marvelled by the achievements of Chief Fredrick Rotimi Alade Williams or Timi
the law. He was one man I adore.
I can never be tired of eulogising and commending the ingenuity Timi the law
demonstrated in the cases he handled such that many of the indigenous locus
classicus cases that students in our law faculties studied were handled by him.
And in many of the cases he had sought to break new grounds.
But there is nothing I can write again today which will not be a repetition of
what I and others produced in an eight page pull-out in yesterday's edition of
THISDAY. In that special package devoted to the life and times of the legal
icon, we have dissected Timi the law and showcased him as one Nigerian who
definitely left this world better than he met it in 1920 through his personal
The life of late Williams however represents one bright extreme of the present
Nigerian situation. At the other dark end is the state of governance in Nigeria.
As it is, there will likely be some fireworks in Abuja, the nation's capital
As an aftermath of a corruption scandal in which some legislators allegedly
colluded with some members of the executive over the fixing of the
appropriations for the current fiscal year, the two arms of government are
getting set to do battle. President Olusegun Obasanjo who had responded to the
public outcry against the continued high rating Nigeria enjoy in the comity of
corrupt nations as stated by the Transparency International had blown the
whistle on the education ministry bribery scandal. In a move some believe, and
rightly so, as being prejudicial and likely to subvert the due process of free
trial, Obasanjo made a nationwide broadcast in which he generally read the
preliminary report of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)
investigation of the bribery scandal.
There is a group of people who believe that the President should just have left
the matter to the courts and the Attorney General of the Federation to handle.
Another leg of the debate, is the one by some members of Ohanaeze that the
exposure of this corrupt practice is another anti-Igbo campaign. In giving it
ethnic colloration, it was easy for this people to point to the fact that the
key actors in this education bribery scandal are from one section of the
country, particularly the minister involved and the Senate President.
Even, the sacked Education Minister, Prof. Fabian Osuji had hinted of political
victimisation as the motivation for his travails. However, I believe that we
should try and separate the wheat from the chaff to enable the country focus on
the issues involved in the scam.
First, the minister's claim. I had thought Prof. Osuji will be smarter than the
way he is handling this crisis. I think he is right to have gone to court to
pursue his right and to redeem his name if he believes he has enough grounds to
do that. But to start insinuating that the bribery scandal came out or became a
crisis because of some phoney phone calls made to him by some fraudsters whose
trick and objectives he acknowledged is cheap blackmail. What has the
information given him by the tricksters who wanted him to pay N400,000 for his
name to be removed from a supposed pro-Atiku ministers list got to do with
allegations that be offered bribe to some legislators to jerk up his ministry's
budget? Is Osuji the only minister close to Vice President Atiku Abubakar?
The professor should know that his redemption lie in his ability to convince
Nigerians and the courts that he never offered the N55 million bribe or that he
never called the permanent secretary of his ministry, head of the National
Universities Commission (NUC) and others to a meeting on how to raise the bribe
money and that the money returned to the EFCC could not be traced to him.
I expect Osuji to start disowning that statement credited to him in the EFCC
report in which he was allegedly singing like a kenery on how the bribe money
was demanded, raised and paid.
Let the minister leave this thing called politics or the Obasanjo - Atiku
perceived feud alone. That will not be a shield in cases of corruption.
Also, for those who believe that the exposure of the ministry of education
bribery scandal has some ethnic colouration, I will advise them to review their
strategy if they want to gain the sympathy of Nigerians. Corruption has no
tribal mark. It is an endemic disease with which the entire Nigerian landscape
is infested. The corrupt leaders who made sure that nothing works in this
country and that millions of people suffer in the midst of plenty are from all
the tribes and sections of the country.
I believe that the way to respond to this present scandal is to make it a
catalyst which will trigger many other disclosures as to how governance has been
bereft of the fear of God and the care for the welfare of the people. In the
present scandal, all the key actors are from different tribes. An Osuji, a
Wabara, an Adighije, an Okebukola, a Maccido and so on are being accused of
wrong doing. The right reaction is to pressurize President Obasanjo to equally
revisit the abandoned corruption cases like that of Defence ministry's
Makanjuola, the National ID Card bribery case, the Tafa Balogun investigation
Obasanjo should ensure that the fight against corruption is not one in which one
celebrated case will break and the president will pursue it for sometime, draw
political capital out of it and then when public attention is diverted from the
case, it is quickly abandoned. The citizenry will then have to wait until
another discovery of corruption is made and then there will be a whole lot of
publicity on it.
Since President Obasanjo took over the reins of power with the promise to wage
battle against corruption, none of the top cases has really been concluded.
There have been instances when some ministers are said to have been sacked
because they were found to have sticky fingers and they were caught with their
hands deep in the cookies jar. Yet, they were only eased out to go and enjoy
their loot. Some of them later used the money to contest election and bounce
back to public reckoning.
Again, there are some people who have noted that the presidency is an accomplice
in the alleged pervasive corruption because of the role the executive arm of
government played in the changes of National Assembly leadership. Those who
belong to this school of thought talked of the Ghana - must - go bags which they
claimed flooded the National Assembly to influence the election of Chief Evans
Enwerem as Senate President or to remove Dr. Chuba Okadigbo or in the
unsuccessful attempts to remove Umar Ghali Na'Abba as speaker of the House of
With these antecedents, it is believed the Presidency lacks the moral ground to
stand and pontificate about National Assembly members being corrupt. It is also
said that the much - talked about legislative corruption became festered because
the executive was also a partner in the scams.
I sympathise with the legislators who believe the case is that of kettle calling
the pot black. But I want us to all admit that when there is a situation, a
proof and a case to call the kettle black, we should not run away from that
opportunity simply because the pot which is also black has not been so-called.
Let us then focus on the kettle which has been identified as being black and
seek to clean it once and for all so that we don't start having too many dirty
house utensils around.
I believe that this education ministry scandal should be pursued to a logical
conclusion. The identified culprits should be made to undergo full trial in the
court. Those who are guilty should be punished and those who are clean should
be freed. The latter group can then feel free to seek redress in court for any
defamatory statement made against them by anybody. Except that in view of
section 308 of the constitution, Obasanjo cannot be sued till 2007 when he would
have left office.
It is quite clear that from the trial of those involved in the education
ministry bribery scandal, we will be able to look at all the other ministries
and see what was done by the respective ministers before their budgets were
passed. President Obasanjo should fully use the intelligence machinery under
his control as well as other investigative agencies to beam the searchlights on
his ministers and other aides. Their activities should be checked to see that
they are anti-corruption compliant. The president should definitely not be the
lone ranger shouting himself hoarse while those who should support him are busy
subverting his efforts.
Good enough, finance minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has promised that the
federal government accounts will soon be thoroughly audited by an international
firm. It will be good for president Obasanjo to fully subject his government to
a transparent audit whose reports can be made available to the citizenry.
Tongues are wagging over the transactions in the oil sector since 1999. Many
believe that with that key ministry having no minister since 1999 and the
president superintending over affairs there, some fishy things may have
happened. To convince those doubting Thomases, Okonjo-Iweala should hasten the
commencement and conclusion of the audit process.
The federal government should submit itself to scrutiny so as to be on a high
moral ground to point at others.
In all, it should be
clear that this education ministry scandal will expose many other shady deals.
Nobody knows who will be the next victim. Many more revelations will come out
and many more individuals will have to pay the price.