Buhari’s so called war on corruption has many faces; on the surface it appears as if something is being done about corruption, but on closer scrutiny the mask is removed and the corruption war takes shape as a mere instrument and propaganda tool used to haunt down political opponents and mislead a gullible public into believing corruption is being tackled. So far the ploy seems to have achieved some success as many Nigerians who either do not understand what corruption in its totality actually encompasses or who are just being the usual hypocrites ever so willing to apply double standards have wilfully bought the governments line. But therein lies the danger—for in the ploy of fighting corruption albeit with insincerity and double standards, we end up entrenching more corruption, bastardising what is left of state institutions and creating a tyrannical one party state where all forms of opposition are permanently silenced.
This is exactly what is playing out in the Saraki Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) trial. Sometime in March Saraki’s lead counsel Kanu Agabi had argued before the CCT that since the allegations levelled against Saraki was not different from that previously levelled against the national leader of APC Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in regards to declaration of assets, and since Tinubu was set free on the grounds that the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) failed to fulfil the necessary conditions that would confer jurisdiction on it the same way it also failed to fulfil those conditions in regards to Saraki, his client should also be set free. Notably, the CCB by its own procedural rules is mandatorily required to invite alleged offenders to explain inconsistencies in their declared assets before any charges can be initiated. In the case of both Tinubu and Saraki, the CCB failed to follow these rules and it’s on those grounds that Kanu Agabi insisted his client be set free.
Curiously, in rejecting Kanu Agabi’s plea to set Saraki free, the Chairman of the CCT Mr Danladi Umar who himself is subject to an EFCC investigation over an alleged bribe, admitted that the tribunal under his Chairmanship did set Bola Tinubu free in 2011 on the grounds that the CCB did not fulfil the necessary conditions before filing the case. He however added that freeing Tinubu was an error which he has no intention of repeating since it’s been overtaken by paragraph 3 (e) of the 1999 constitution. But contrary to Umar’s claim that his decision to reject Agabi’s plea is premised on a constitutional provision that has negated the necessity to fulfil certain conditions before initiating a trial; neither the CCT act nor the 1999 constitution as it concerns the CCB has changed since Tinubu was freed. A standard principle in law is that similar cases particularly those previously adjudicated on get similar verdicts. This is why references to previous cases and verdicts are standard procedures in judicial processes. Why then is the verdict for Tinubu different from that of Saraki when the circumstances and the laws are the same?
As bizarre as it gets, it’s obvious there is more to it than meets the eye. Someone is certainly beating the drums that Umar is dancing to. Not only does his admission of making an error in freeing Tinubu diminish his legitimacy, the fact the he is subject to an EFCC investigation for corruption has nullified his fitness to preside over any tribunal. The fundamentals of justice requires that it must not only be done it must also be seen to be done in a free and fair process without bias, inducement or coercion. How can such fundamentals be guaranteed with a Judge who is under investigation for corruption and who admits freeing a defendant on procedural breaches as set out in the CCT act but refuses to set free another defendant under similar circumstances? This is more so considering the fact that the Saraki CCT saga started only after he went against the wishes of the godfather’s in the APC and emerged the senate president. Prior to emerging the senate president, he was like all PDP politicians who decamped to the APC, an untouchable born again saint and darling of the party. All that changed when he went against the dictates of the godfathers.
There is hardly any Nigerian who would not support a genuine and holistic war on corruption, but when the so called war on corruption is reduced to using state institutions like the EFCC, CCT, DSS to fight political opponents, advance personal political interests, silence the opposition and in the process weaken/bastardise those institutions, a greater corruption would have been unleashed on the society. When double standards, hypocrisy, persecution and witch-hunting become the standard for fighting corruption, the society is corrupted even more. A good example suffices in the fact that Danladi Umar publicly declared that Tinubu was freed in error, but when it was suggested that since the Judge admitted freeing Tinubu in error, he should be re-arrested and prosecuted for fraudulent assets declaration, the same people who are calling for Saraki’s head went to great lengths to put up defences on behalf of Tinubu, yet both of them committed exact same offence.
Just recently, Mr Joe Igbokwe the publicity secretary of APC in Lagos who has repeatedly called for Saraki’s head published a lengthy article where he laboured not only to defend Tinubu but to lambast those calling for his prosecution. For him and other such hypocrites, Saraki is guilty and should be hanged while Tinubu is a saint that should be left alone even though both are guilty of exact same infraction. Such is the double standards and hypocrisy that drives the so called corruption war. It also goes to show the ultimate insincerity and underlying corruption in Buhari’s methods of fighting corruption. Lest we forget; corruption is not only about stealing of public funds—the evident undermining and bastardisation of state institutions, use of state institutions to seek personal gain and advance personal political interests, inducement, coercion or intimidation of state officials to work for personal interests, silencing of the opposition, shielding corrupt political supporters while persecuting political opponents, disregarding the rule of law etc are the worst and most insidious forms of corruption. Once institutions are personalised and weakened the whole system becomes subject to corruption in all its facets.
Ultimately, the war on corruption will never make sense except the long list of untouchables and Buhari protégées are done away with and institutions are allowed to function without fear or favour. Saraki and Tinubu are guilty of the same infraction and since the Judge has insisted on continuing with Saraki’s case, Tinubu’s case should also be re-opened and pursued with vigour. After all, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Except this is done, the corruption war will lack legitimacy and will forever be viewed as a mere instrument of persecution and suppression of political opponents.
Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu