By Tony Momoh
On October 31, I wrote a piece praying that the EFCC boss be not lured into taking decisions that would give the impression that she is being directed from the dark places of officialdom.
I quickly explained that I am for roasting corrupt people and throwing their carcases into the ocean, but only after a court of competent jurisdiction had found them guilty. It turned out later that what was setting me on fire was just a storm in a tea cup.
The EFCC had neither ordered the publication that was the cause for worry nor was it going to be allowed to be railroaded into doing what the law does not establish procedures for. I begin to see signs that we want to bring politics into matters that do not seem problematic on the face but for the timing of their burst on to public consciousness.
You cannot doubt what is happening in government if you see reports from strange quarters digging up issues that have either been forgotten or been left to the dustbin of history.
And many have been the major issues that have been left to the dustbin of history – like panels that were set up to address burning issues of the time and government white papers their reports, both of which never saw the light of day; like crimes that were unresolved; like cases that were sent to court and those affected being left there for 12 years without a head or tail to the trial.
So much have we sustained indiscretions in the way we run things that when you see the newspaper pointing to a matter you had not thought about, you begin to smell the smell of burning flesh.
That is why I am not comfortable with what some believe is being done to undermine former Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu because of his growing political power in the South West.
The party he is the undeniable visible and de facto owner of, the Action Congress of Nigeria, is yelling for attention. One thing you can concede to Lai Mohammed, the vibrant party’s chief spokesman, is that he is not flippant. He says there are plans by those who call the shots today in government to do something that would put Tinubu away.
One scenario is that Tinubu would be arrested by security agencies and accused of wrongdoing. The other is that his personal security would be compromised. This alarm is coming so soon before Christmas, and many have goose pimples when they hear of any danger to anyone’s life during Christmas. You remember when Bola Ige died like a fowl slaughtered for Christmas! I can do nothing but warn, as writers do, about the worst happening to Tinubu.
He must be alive, and kept alive to sustain the fight to entrench good behaviour in travelling the democracy road we have chosen. In travelling this road, there are basic rules to be obeyed. Those who assume office have a mandate to do so. It is settled in the document that we all have accepted to regulate our relationships.
Since 1999 when we chose this road, we have dug manholes and trenches to slow down the journey The wind of change blowing all over the world has reached our shores and the people who give the mandate we so clumsily abuse are saying they want the rules of governance obeyed. Shikena. And obeying the rules does not include killing to retain power or steal the votes so to do.
So, if Tinubu has been the most successful restorer of stolen mandates in the southwest where the robbery seemed to have been most blatant, what those affected should do is to struggle harder to meet the needs of their people, not give anyone the impression that there can be any other way to access power in the region, which has given Nigeria more than enough proof that the absence of peace in the territory affects profoundly the peace we need to grow our country and its people.
But there is another area, less worrying as far as I am concerned, that ACN and others have raised that affects Asiwaju Tinubu. It has to do with the fear that EFCC may come in to question his alleged operation of a foreign account, among others, when he was in office. As far as I am concerned, if there is anything against Tinubu or any other person, the security agencies should go ahead and ask questions.
But which of the agencies? It is the one I saw reported in the papers that advised this piece. I read that the Code of Conduct Bureau is digging up allegations that Tinubu operated or operates a foreign account as a public officer and so breached the provisions of the fifth schedule which he swore to abide by. I have in the past done some detailed work on the Code of Conduct and argued that it is the only body that has power to deal with those who enjoyed immunity under Section 308 of the Constitution.
If Tinubu enjoyed immunity under that section while in office, what is his status now that he is no longer covered by that provision? Is he a public officer that can be disciplined by the Code of Conduct Tribunal or that can be invited by the Code of Conduct Bureau that seems to be empowered to decide whether anyone can be prosecuted or not for breaching the provisions of the code? My take is that the Constitution is clear on who a public officer is.
He is someone in the public service of the federation (sec 172) or of a state (sec 209). Section 318 defines “public service of the federation” and “public service of a state”, and Part 2 of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution which deals with Code of Conduct for public officers specifies who the public officers are.
There are 16 different groupings of public officeholders in Part 2 of the schedule, from the president and vice president, through members of the armed forces and the police, to staff of educational institutions funded by the federal or state governments. One thread runs through them all, they must be serving, not retired.
You, therefore, cannot invite a former governor to face the Code of Conduct tribunal for any breach of the code when he has left office. Of course, he can be moved against through the regular courts where, as a governor he had enjoyed immunity from prosecution while in office.
It is good to mention the limit to the powers of the Code of Conduct Bureau so that it does not get itself involved in futile ventures that will at the end be no more than a wild goose chase.
If Asiwaju Tinubu or any other former public officer that enjoyed immunity from prosecution could not be dealt with by the tribunal that had power to do so while they were protected, the bureau should not be seen to be part of any scheme that may be dreamt up by those who ought to be more involved in looking for issues that should help in persuading the electorate that they have what it takes to let them continue to hold office.
Any untoward method of accessing power in the new time must be powerfully resisted by the people. Enough must be seen and felt by all and sundry to be really enough.