Casting Minds Back: Otedola/Farouk-Gate

The recent bribery allegation and counter-allegation between Otedola and Farouk Lawan took my mind back to the days of Next, the now rested iconic newspaper, for whom I wrote the piece on the EFCC “corrupt persons list” that appears below . Bearing in mind they uproar that greeted that list and seeing parallels to what we have now in the subsidy-gate, read and cast your minds back.

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Before we Dismiss EFCC’s List.

I read with interest, not just the list of ‘corrupt’ politicians recently released to political parties by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), but also the comments posted to the web by others who read the list before me and felt like venting.

The leaning of most of the commentators did not come as much of a surprise, for I have come to associate my countrymen with that unequalled ability to look but see very little, an ability that stems from an uncanny compulsion to defend those who common knowledge depicts as the chain holding our collective will in perpetual enslavement.

For most of the commentators, the grouse is not the amount of money – staggering by the way – that those who made the illustrious list are alleged to have pilfered from our collective pocket, but with the EFCC, for having the temerity to conceive of such ill-thought-out-list in the first place. They barraged the commission for allowing itself be a tool in the hands of politicians who want to keep perceived opponents from challenging them at the polls.

While it is not my intention to hold brief for EFCC, I however find something fundamentally wrong with Nigerians who allow themselves be constantly beclouded by politicians and their antics. A say this because the EFCC rightly called the list and ‘advisory’ one. As such, the list as presently constituted, is supposed to provide information about individuals who have cases to answer in court to political parties that may want to field them in the 2011 general elections.

True, these individuals remain innocent until proven guilty. However, one thinks it is in the interest of the political parties and the electorate to know the status of people who might be interested in public office. On the other hand, if we all pander to the argument that asks that they remain unnamed, if elected, wouldn’t some guilty ones (again) enjoy the immunity that comes with political office, thereby defeating the aims and objectives of the EFCC.  I don’t know, but it seems we as a country have become so used to corrupt leaders that thoughts of not having them in power elicits in some a mild kind of madness.

I believe the EFCC is bent on preventing the situation highlighted above and should be commended for having the will to draw up the list as it is. I for one was wondering if the EFCC, as presently constituted, would and see this as a sign that the commission is still close to the right track.

As for those on the list, I doubt if they have any reasons to worry, if they are innocent, for the innocent have no reason to fear the law. However, something of import should be said here, cases against some of the accused that would have been concluded a long time ago, continue to drag as they (the accused) continue to use every available legal loopholes to prolong it. It is instructive to note that, had they allowed the case to run at a natural phase, they probably would be free men now.

I do not really know any of these people on a personal basis, perhaps with the exemption of Ndudi Elemulu, who I was opportune to meet while serving as a NYSC member in his home town and Chimaroke Nnamani who held sway over my home State Enugu for eight, perhaps, not very productive years, so I will not presume to know the strength of their moral character. That said, I gladly leave decisions about their guilt to the law courts. However, I dare to state that anyone with a sense of decency would have fought tooth and nail to clear a good name, not fight to postpone the outcome of a case that seeks to clarify that.

Nigerian politicians seem to lack positive ambition, not that they are not ambitious in other ways, as they seem very interested in momentary gains. Most are willing to grab what they can without recourse to posterity. I usually cringe, when I recall the euphoria that greeted the emergence of Chimaroke Nnamani as governor of Enugu state in 1999. I was among those who saw the young medical doctor as a breath of fresh air. I believed, with his charisma and education that he would ascend to the national pinnacle after serving Enugu state. I believed in a dream the probably did not believe in itself as Chimaroke, the EFCC claims, went on to steal N5.3 Billion from Enugu state’s coffers and effectively constrained  himself to the dregs of Nigerian politics. I am yet to hear of a bill the supposed senator sponsored in the years he has so far spent in the that not-very-much hallowed chambers.

As for Elumelu, I really cannot say. For a young man whom I recall, as chairman of the House Committee on Power, seemed to embody the new Nigerian spirit, especially during the public hearings for his power probe, a EFCC indictment for corruption does all kind of harm to his image. Like I said before, I know him too sparingly to be a better judge of his character, but I still feel the disappointment of believing in his star too. I hope the allegations against him turn out to be false, so we do not get to ask of him, “Where is our money?”

Let all those in the list have their day in court. They should stop running away and clear their names as Fani-Kayode is trying to do, and if they cannot, they can always swallow their collective pride and follow the Lucky Igbinedion, and recently, Ibru example – Plea-bargaining, that great gift the law provided for criminals everywhere.

Fred Chiagozie Nwonwu

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