Caveat: This piece is in no way a comment on the judicial context of the ongoing trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal. That is not only outside the scope of my competence but would constitute contempt of the court, which I dare not do. Rather this is a journalistic overview of events surrounding the latest appearance of the Senate President at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, with particular reference to the sudden twist in the fate of the CCT chairman, Mr. Danladi Umar, in the hands of the EFCC and its implications for the wider administration of justice as well as the fight against corruption by the current regime.
While it could be argued conveniently that by the arraignment of the CCT chairman before a Federal High Court on corruption charges signals another evidence that the fight against corruption by the Muhammad Buhari administration fears no foes, the reverse, in this instance, is actually the case, especially when it is realised that the EFCC/prosecutor has before now cleared the same man on the same allegation. What has then changed since the initial clean bill of corruption handed over to Umar by the anti-graft agency?
But really, so many things have changed. At least, Danladi has unexpectedly cleared Saraki of all charges; it appeared he did not play to script. Also, the Appeal Court has asked Saraki to go and clear himself of three charges from the 18 levied against him by the EFCC and which Umar had earlier struck out, discharging and acquitting the Senate President in the process.
There are many questions begging for answer on this sudden volt face by the EFCC. One of them is, are there new evidences linking Umar to the alleged crime? If so, why has the EFCC, which is noted for promptly revealing links between accused /suspects and their alleged crimes to the media, refused to do so in this instant case?
How does the EFCC wish Umar feel taking the plea of a man alleged of corruption in his own court, when himself is making his plea on corruption allegations in another court? If there are new evidences against Umar, why did EFCC write initially to clear the CCT boss when it knew it was yet to conclude its investigations into the allegations against him? And are they sure now they have completed the investigation succinctly enough to ensure a conviction? Or, as is being speculated, does the Federal Government want people to continue thinking that setting up Umar before the court at a time he is set to hear Saraki’s case again is a way of mounting pressure on him to ensure a conviction of the Senate President irrespective of facts?
Questions, questions and more questions begging for answers; and the more questions we have on issues like this, the more challenging it becomes to see how our leaders can, come out, take water, wash their hands and say they are innocent of what is being done to a just man.
The anti-corruption crusade of the administration is not only losing steam, it is surely losing its initial esteem. And to be candid, many people have been pointing at this decline only that their appeals seem not to have sunk well into the deliberations of the constituted authorities.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo puts this concern laconically when he said, “there were serious allegations of round-tripping against some inner caucus of the Presidency which would seem to have been condoned. I wonder if such actions do not amount to corruption and financial crime, then what is it. Culture of condonation and turning blind eye will cover up rather than clean up. And going to justice must be with clean hands.”
The attitude of the presidency wherein it presents itself as the only body fighting corruption is a position that is injurious to the success of the battle against the rot in the national system. Time and again we have canvassed, like several other commentators, on the need to make the war against corruption an institutional issue and not personality attack. We are fighting people and, from all indications, majority of the people we have accused of corruption happen to be those who are known enemies of personalities in the government. That is no way to fight because whether we like it or not, one day this administration too shall become history and new faces would be in the corridors of power who would also be tempted to wage war against their opponents, using the war against corruption as a platform.
We will just continue an unnecessary cycle, if we go on like that. It is the existence of credible institutional framework against corruption of all hues that gives boldness to several agencies in the United States of America to take up Donald Trump presidency on sundry issues without anyone seeing himself as an object of personality attack. And it is the absence of such a framework here that makes someone like our dear Maina to approach a court and slam multi-billion naira suit on the EFCC for libel et al.
It is the absence of such platform that created the unnecessary intervention of the police and DSS in the private affairs of General Ibrahim Babangida and his media aide in the last few days. It is the absence of such platform that made the former SGF to remain in office long after credible evidence had been adduced to warrant his stepping down and facing trial.
But it is not too late; our redemption is still possible if, like Saraki said at the national summit on security, our leaders can summon the political will to actually make the fight against corruption an institutional issue and not an instrument to settle personal scores. That is the real change we desire; that was the change this administration promised us during the campaign in 2015. That is the change we expect from them.
The Asiwaju Tinubu reconciliation committee, whenever it takes up, if the Jagaban is not set on a wild goose chase, provides another unique opportunity to put things right and deliver the expected change. But, Shall we get it? Time will tell.
Oba is the Chief Press Secretary to the Kwara State Governor