Sometimes in 2004, when the fear of EFCC was the beginning of wisdom, I had the privilege of meeting with its tsar, then Assistant Commissioner of Police, Nuhu Ribadu when he came visiting the editorial board of Media Trust Ltd of which I was a member. Nuhu was angry over a reportage said to have been coupled by the editor of the weekly title, Garba Deen Muhammed.
Nuhu called the chairman of the paper then Editor-in-chief and complained bitterly about some aspects of the report which he saw as unfair to him and the commission. Malam Kabir after some pleasantries requested if the EFCC chair could visit the editorial board so as to clarify some of the contentious issues raised in the said publication. Nuhu obliged and was with us for hours. Several things were my resolutions after that marathon session.
One was that in as much as I did not agree with some of the positions that the EFCC chair had taken on some issues, one thing that nobody could take away from him was that he was passionate about the endemic crisis of corruption that enveloped the nation and was sincere in his drive to curtail it. The issue of methodology was one particular phenomenon that the anti-graft agency had faced since its establishment and possibly up till this moment.
Remember that about the same time, the nation was engulfed in a huge rumour that one of the sons of the then president, Olusegun Obasanjo who had graduated from a university in the United States of America had bought a house of about $500,000. The polity was charged and the allegation was all over the place. Nigerians were really terrified by the rumour and on every lips the statement was anger and frustration, given the picture of anti-corruption war, which the government had just began with the coming on board of the EFCC a few years after the ICPC.
At that meeting I asked Nuhu Ribadu why he and his commission did not find it worthy to investigate the huge allegation against the young son of the president.
Nuhu’s response was that the laws setting up the commission only mandated it to take cases on people in government or working for or having a direct relationship with it. He however, did not address the issue of his commission that had to pursue Muhammad Babangida and conduct a search in his Kaduna residence simply on the accusation that he was suspected to have some interest in Globacom.
Many years after Nuhu, his erstwhile dircetor of operations and now the chairman of the commission, CP Ibrahim Lamorde is spearheading another fragile political case involving the wife of the Senate president, Abubakar Bukola Saraki. The charges being investigated I understand revolve around money laundering which took place more than four or five years ago when her husband was governor of Kwara State.
I stand against corruption and urge that it should be fought to its knees if Nigerians are to know the essence of government. One thing that I find confusing about the investigations is why now, given the fact that Saraki has defeated the leadership of his party by winning the Senate presidency in a manner that to me was more of political sophistry than an anti-party activity. I think there is a problem, a huge one for that matter that is capable of putting the commission into serious disrepute at this time when the government of Muahammadu Buhari is seen and believed to be genuinely waging a war on all fronts against corruption.
The timing of the probe or investigations is definitely wrong and at best could be seen as a political witch-hunt against a person who in my humble view is merely exercising his full constitutional franchise of aspiring to positions of leadership and authority in a country that is driving from civil rule to a democracy.
If what Nuhu Ribadu told us over 10 years ago is any relevant today, the question to ask is was Mrs. Saraki in government? After all, the petition that led to the investigation was said to have emanated from Kwara State PDP. The English man would call this balderdash!! I hope the EFCC knows that what is Kwara PDP today is a culmination of the assembly of disgruntled members of CPC and ACN who retraced their steps after the PDP in the state under the leadership of Bukola Saraki had joined the APC.
So who is actually fooling who? The question that many citizens are asking is who is the EFCC really after? Toyin or Bukola? I am of the view that the whole thing is unnecessarily being politicised and the implication of the development is that it is going to cast doubt and aspersions in the minds of Nigerians as to whether truly the change they asked for is in the offing. What they say seems to be happening now isn’t different from what the EFCC did during both ex-presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan tenures and thus made Nigerians very skeptical of the genuineness and sincerity of the war on corruption.
Let me advise Ibrahim Lamorde, no doubt a distinguished and crack police officer, and his commission to be careful of what aggrieved and possibly desperate politicians are up to. He shouldn’t allow his respected institution to be dragged in the mud of dirty politics. Even if Toyin does have questions to answer, the circumstances and timing of the inquiry in my view leaves much to be desired.
Every Nigerian knows that Senator Saraki is in the eye of the storm with some of his party heavyweights bent on removing him from that office which he cleverly and politically outsmarted all of them. The EFCC must not be the trigger. Politicians within and outside of the Senate must be allowed to wrestle themselves without tainting the image and integrity of an institution of sanctity. I want to see an EFCC that is respected by most Nigerians by virtue of its standing in honesty, integrity and neutrality.
The crisis in the Senate has taken a different dimension from that of the House. While the House has seemingly resolved its, the Senate’s may be protracted for several reasons but one fact which some of us that are students of Nigerian legislature would continue to say is that it is almost impossible to cause a change in the presiding officers of the red chamber. What will continue to happen is an unnecessary distraction that will continue to pitch the people against the senators. The earlier that is internalised the better for us all. All the arguments about leadership in the Senate are about the self and not the party, people or the nation.
Let me again call on the aggrieved senators and those in their support outside of it to allow the nation enjoy the fruits of change that we so tirelessly and at very great risk fought for and won. As PMB would say, we shouldn’t win the war and lose the battle. That is exactly what selfishness is driving the APC and the nation into.
I am not against investigating Mrs. Saraki or any other Nigerian for that matter but the coast must be clear and those from amongst us that are charged with the responsibilities of presiding over affairs, especially on critical matters such as this must be neutral and factually so.
We must draw a thick and visible line between politics and governance. If Toyin would be investigated because her husband has refused to listen to a group within his APC and as such he must be brought down on his knees through such act, I will frown at it and I am sure several other citizens of conscience too would. The inquiry is untimely and shrouded in political circumstances. I am of the view that the EFCC is too serious an organisation to fall into the play tricks of a Kwara PDP that we all political observers in Nigeria know is a group in desperation and will go any length not just to implicate Bukola Saraki but possibly see him in tatters if they can.