The recent visit of the General Abdulsalami Abubakar-led Peace Committee (PC) to President Muhammadu Buhari has continued to generate both reactions and suspicion.
Neither the ‘disclaimer’ put up by the spokesman of the committee, Reverend Hassan Mathew Kukah that the committee did not plead for a soft landing for former President, Ebele Jonathan, nor the explanation that they only visited to remind President Muhammadu Buhari [PMB] that we are in a democratic era, where the rule of law should apply satisfied Nigerians.
This explains why many continue to see the committee’s visit as something ominous and counter to the moving current of a Nigeria, ready to make a clean break with her corrupt past by making examples of some people for posterity.
There is no doubt that with the advent of a personality like PMB, Nigeria is again at another cross road where opportunity beckons at the nation to re-write her history. But as usual, at every opportune period as this in the history of this potentially great country, there have always been elements from quarters least expected, who always serve as cogs in the wheel of the nation’s progress.
While not detracting from the personality of some members of the committee like the Sultan of Sokoto, Cardinal John Onaiyekan and a few other peace-able leaders and men of integrity, the same cannot be said of some other elements in the committee, especially one who Nigerians expect would soon be standing trial over his role in a failed illegal arms transaction on a foreign land.
Even at that, Nigerians would not appreciate that the impending probe of the Jonathan-led administration be watered down or compromised, for there are very grave implications for such outcomes. This is why the visit of the committee, coming at a time when the government has concluded all arrangements to commence the trial of treasury looters needs some form of dissection.
Transmutation of the ‘Peace Committee’
Although the role played by the committee in the heat of the last elections is well appreciated, yet, transmuting and conferring upon itself the title of a ‘Council’ is something which smacks of attempts to wield undue influence.
There were speculations at the time of the elections that the PC may have negotiated a ‘safe passage’ for the former President and some of his ministers with ‘global’ connections, in the form of immunity from prosecution as part of the deal that would make the incumbent concede an eventual defeat. Of course, they all know such an ‘arrangement’ would not have been supported by Nigerians, more so, with the amount of money involved in the free-for-all looting that characterised the Jonathan-led administration.
It then becomes obvious that the feel of ‘security’ from probe was responsible for the last minutes clean-off of some accounts as in the case of the 2.1 billion US dollars which vanished from the Excess Crude Account in the dying days of Jonathan’s administration.
Besides, is the Peace Committee not unaware that the country has a Council in place –the ‘National Council of States’ (NCS) – recognised in law and charged with ‘gauging’ the nation’s temperature and advising the President appropriately. Does the Peace Council intend to upstage this superior council and usurp its powers? Worse still, Nigerians would not have tolerated this kind of proposition even if it had come from the NCS.
It is therefore essential for members of the PC that the committee was a child of necessity and has practically outlived its usefulness. At best, it should be re-constituted with its terms of reference reviewed and restated if anybody still has any need for it.
Making Sincere Efforts at Peace?
As arrogantly posited by Kukah of the PC’s mission of working for peace: that it is ‘essentially just to hear out everybody…’; as he said further, ‘…the good news is that Nigerians are committed to a new nation, they are committed to ensuring that the gains and blessings God has given us come to fruition.”.
Does it mean that the PC tacitly admits of a Nigeria divided alongside two classes (the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’) labeled properly in this case as the ‘looters’ and the ‘looted;? Or is Father Kukah and those among the PC members who shared his philosophy suggesting that the looters be allowed to enjoy their loots and the looted ‘enjoined’ to show gratitude, at least for the continuous existence of the nation; then on whose side is a peace that sidelines justice?
If anything, Kukah’s newly found formula for peace will thus be mathematically expressed: P= Lr. (Safety/Enjoyment) + Ld. (Gratitude/Penury); where P= peace, Lr. = looters and Ld.= looted.
To anyone familiar with Kukah’s mindset and the sway of his argument about the country, especially in ethno-religious context, the ‘scores’ has only just been equaled by the ravaging of the country by people from the lower part of the Niger, since a theory popular with him and his cohorts has always been that the nation was held down by a ‘northern oligarchy’.
Kukah should know that no revisionism, either in ethnic or religious terms would dissuade Nigerians from going ahead with this war irrespective of who is involved.
The Place of Tribunals in Prosecution
It is laughable that the PC is already pre-empting, denouncing and proclaiming as ‘unconstitutional’ the imminent tribunals to be constituted to handle the humongous corruption cases by trying to remind the President that Nigeria is not in a military era.
The hypocrisy of this position becomes exposed when you consider the fact that Kukah and those who share his feelings would readily applaud the setting up of tribunals to try terrorism related cases.
But what is terrorism if not violence taken to a new height and dimension, with immediate threat to lives and property which explains why trial outside the regular court is not out of place? By the same token, the looting of public treasury (which is a higher form of corruption, laden with impunity) constitutes more threat to lives, livelihood and the future.
While the effects of terrorism on society may be limited to the present, looting of public treasury takes a toll on the future by incurring for the yet unborn generation, a litany of woes and burdens of debts that renders the development of their God-given talents and abundant capacity impossible.
It also militates against their ability to compete favorably with their counterparts from other countries and makes them subservient to others in the world of the future.
While we can count the number of dead persons and the maimed in a single terror attack, the number of people who suffer and die of hunger, accidents [owing to rickety vehicles and bad roads], minor ailments, maternal and child mortality, poverty-induced crimes, depression, suicide and others too numerous to mention.
Even terrorism has been linked in some instances to poverty whose precursor is treasury looting and corruption!!! What’s more, Nigerians want a quick dispatch of the corruption cases. PC members know too well that because of precedents, Nigerians barely have trust and confidence in the capacity of the regular courts to deliver on this compelling demand.
In this circumstance, the court itself has fallen victim of the effects of corruption, emasculated and emaciated by it, and will need ample time to be resuscitated to vitality before it could play a nobler and more dignifying role.
Both the prosecutorial and judicial institutions seemed to have compromised their integrity in their respective duties with the fallout that each time an accused is presented to the court, they are usually let off the hook after prolonged legal battles on grounds called ‘technical’, because the prosecuting agencies does more of compromising the evidences than ventilating them!
For instance, the two institutions could not nail anything on Ibori until a London court jailed him with evidences far less than what our prosecuting agencies claimed to have gathered against him.
The same institutions gave a fine of seven hundred and fifty thousand naira only to John Yakubu, a man who confessed to have stolen billions of naira from the Police Pension Fund, while his accomplice and chairman of the Police Pension Board Abdur Rashid Maina has since vanished from the radar of the anti graft agencies.
Recently the EFCC lost some big cases on the same technical ground of which Femi Fani-Kayode’s remains a ‘landmark’. The truth is that PMB would not have been so confident of nailing the treasury looters if the evidences in his custody have originated from our own agencies. Hence Nigerians want a departure from a prosecution that encourages rather than punishes graft.
Kukah and his committee would have done Nigerians a lot of good if they had gone to the looters (instead of going to PMB), appeal to them to have mercy on the poor by returning the loots, ask them to apologize publicly to Nigerians and then see whether Nigerians would not be magnanimous enough as to say to them: ‘Thank you, go in peace and sin no more’.
This would have been a mid-way compromise, even though serving jail terms would have been ideal as only that will deter potentials looters and set Nigeria on a sound footing post PMB
Looting and the Paradox of Development
Come to think of it, has the PC ever thought of the connection between looting of public treasury and underdevelopment manifested in hunger, poverty, diseases and violence? There is no doubt that looting and corruption makes a nation lose important epochs in global history and advancement.
Some countries with whom we attained independence in the 60s caught up with the tail end of the industrial age in the 80s and 90s; some made appearance on the global stage in the jet age toward the end of the last century; still others are making groundbreaking advancements in the ICT/nuclear age.
In a world where it is generally agreed that there are no free lunches, these looters (whom Kukah wanted us to condone and pamper) had their ‘ancestors’ in corrupt looting of the nation’s treasury deny us of making important imprints in the aforementioned epochs; while they, by their own additional act seek to ensure that we remained locked down!
A case which readily comes to mind was that of Umar Dikko and co. At the time they were siphoning our badly needed wealth to Britain (one of the world’s most preferred destinations for looted funds from Africa, especially from Anglophone countries), that country was in a state of dire financial need.
The loots of Dikko and co. offered some forms of palliatives to the British economy in the form of access to ‘loans’ without interest, which explained why the then Buhari government’s attempt at repatriating Dikko was foiled by the intelligence arm of that country.
An observation has it that, countries which served and are still serving as destination points for looted funds from Africa have hardly complained of cash crunch. Rather, after making a thorough use of the funds to better their economies, they make ‘special’ announcements of the presence of the loots so that ‘owner-countries’ can come and claim them, as we are still experiencing with the Abacha loots.
Some do not even make the ‘announcement’ and the looted funds remained in the kitty of their rogue keepers forever! Hence, away with the culture of slapping the looters on the wrist while they enjoy and terrorize Nigerians with their loots!
Kukah ought to know that none of the self proclaimed global lenders (from the IMF, World Bank, the Paris Club or London Club of Creditors) can muster a staggering $150 billion in a single loan deal to any country except they come together as a syndicate; even then, a nation with such demand for a huge loan must be prepared to mortgage the comfort of its third unborn generation; and this is what was stolen under Jonathan.
The Capacity of Corruption to Fight Back
One is not oblivious of the fact that corruption has ‘people’, ‘influence’, ‘structure’, ‘resources’, ‘machinery’ and ‘reserves’ constituting a combination of its ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ power to fight back, and these, Nigerians neither underestimated nor is she taking anything for granted.
Its soft power may include the use of distractions and subterfuges (as in the call in some quarters that the current probe should go as far back as Lord Lugard and Mungo Park); orchestrating chaos and confusion (by committing itself to a fallacy called ‘too koo kee,’ where, rather than answer allegations of graft, accusing fingers are pointed to others from the ruling party as also guilty).
Some have even alleged that the probe has been one sided as if the last administration operated a ‘government of national unity’ at the center, where members of other political parties were involved. While we believe that no one should be spared of probe, it is pertinent to point out that PMB is duty bound to probe the regime which he inherited.
The logical thing to do for those who inevitably got caught in the eye of the storm is to compile evidences of graft and approach the suddenly awoken anti graft agencies for investigation and subsequent prosecution of any member of the ruling party found culpable. And sincerely yours, they will find PMB most willing to help them out.
Consequent upon the above analysis, Nigerians are simply asking the Peace Committee to get itself dissolved if this is the kind of ignominious role it is going to lend itself to play. Nigerians have also taken note that in serving ‘a note of warning’ on PMB to stop the corruption probe, the PC may have lent itself as the ‘soft’ power arm of corruption.
When out of desperation in the near future, corruption hurls its ‘hard’ power [which may include violence and possible elimination] at the arrow head of the anti graft war, Nigerians will not hesitate to make the appropriate connections and go for the jugular of the fifth columnists and the devil advocates.
In the meantime, PMB must strengthen the security details around him. Nigerians are with him in this fight- body and soul- and will take nothing short of a Nigeria, cleansed of the hydra-headed demon of corruption, graft and impunity.
By Yekinni Shakiru, Executive Director, Center for Global Peace Initiative [CGPI]