By Muyiwa Adetiba
A big fish was spiked out of the muddy waters of politics and government in China early this week and hung up to dry.
Mr Liu Zhijun, the Minister of Rail Transportation was given a suspended death sentence for alleged corruption while in government.
His trouble started when there was a train collision a couple of years back which called for a probe. The probe also coincided, unfortunately for him, with the President’s determination to rid China of corruption.
So you could say he was a scapegoat; a high profile tokenism in a corrupt ridden system.
Mr Zhijun had spent over 20 years in government and ironically, his tenure witnessed a rail revolution of sorts when better, faster trains were built.
In other climes, particularly in Nigeria, he would have been described as a performing Minister and given a plethora of awards. It took an accident to unearth some undercover deals that eventually put him away.
On the same day that Mr Zhijun was facing his suspended death sentence, our own ex Transport Minister, Mr Femi Fani-Kayode was in court to defend himself against allegations of corruption. He has been trying to extricate himself from the EFCC net since 2008 according to his lawyers. A case of two countries and two Transport Ministers you could say.
One got a death sentence while the other is enjoying the hide and seek game of a politically unserious regime. What does Mr Zhijun’s case say to the world about China’s promise to fight corruption? What does Mr Fan-Kayode’s case say?
There are a few lessons to learn from Mr Zhijun’s case as well. It is instructive that there were no elders and tribal warlords proclaiming political harassment.
Whilst it is possible that there were political undertones in his arraignment and prosecution, Mr Zhijun is, according to law, guilty as charged having broken the 11th commandment which says ‘thou shall not be caught’. At this point, political and ethnic considerations must take a back seat if you really want to fight corruption and clean up your country.
That Zhijun played a key role in the rail revolution of his country did not stop him from soiling his hand; a lesson we must bear in mind in assessing those few governors we call performing Governors or the Ministers who are recipients of local and even international awards. How much is the civil society or even the press doing to hold these people to the minimum standard of accountability and transparency?
We used to say Nigerians would demand more transparency from their leaders once they started paying commensurate taxes. Now we pay taxes. At least much more than we used to pay. Yet as far as the profligacy of our leaders is concerned, it is more of the same.
So why for goodness sake, do we allow our leaders to steal our money and get away with it because they have tarred some roads and built a few hospitals? Why do we also allow them to make governance so attractive for themselves and their offspring that it has become a family business? An ex governor who should actually be hiding his head struts about a State as if he owns it and talks about democratic dispensations as if we are all fools who can’t see or feel.
At the last count, he has installed key members of his family and friends into prominent and lucrative positions. Nothing he has achieved —as a dogged political fighter, June 12 activist or Governor—entitles him to appropriate (or misappropriate) the commonwealth and demand a slice of every juicy pie. We hear and see things, and what we hear and see are damaging to say the least; especially to those who see him as a role model.
We should also commend the courage and speed of the Chinese judiciary. Here, we have not made a head or tail of those who were indicted in the oil subsidy scam early last year. That prominent House of Representative official who was said to have collected bribe over a year ago, is still walking free and probably preparing for the gubernatorial election of his State.
The pension thieves who have sent many retired people to their early graves are still enjoying the warmth of their wives. When will justice be done to these people?
Also the length of the sentence shows not only the seriousness of the crime, but the seriousness with which it is viewed in China. Compared to this, our plea bargaining in Nigeria, makes us nothing but a laughing stock to the rest of the world.
When are we going to have a high profile case decided in a manner that will give us hope? i.e from indictment through prosecution to judgement within a period that shows some seriousness without the monarchs, elders and tribal warlords inputting ethnic, religious and political colouration to what is usually a simple case of daylight robbery?
The saying ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ is never truer than in Nigeria. Here, justice is initially delayed and eventually denied. And so, out again they go— with their colleagues— to sin some more.