Chief Sarafa Tunji Ishola was Minister of Mines and Steel Development under the administration of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and before then, Secretary to the Ogun State Government. A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Isola in this interview reviews the war against corruption in the country and proffers a holistic approach to killing the menace. Excerpts:
By Bashir Adefaka
Do you agree with the claim of the PDP that the anti-corruption war is selective?
The truth is that, Olisa Metuh is not the only person that has said that. How many former APC governors have been put to trial? How many
of them since they left office have EFCC gone after? Those ones invited so far by EFCC, whether Sule Lamido or Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom or Shema of Katsina, Dakingari of Kebbi, all the former governors that EFCC has invited so far are PDP.
But Admiral Murtala Nyako is a former APC governor?
Nyako was not APC. He was PDP governor. He was impeached and the questions that he is being asked were issues that were raised before the exit of the last administration of Jonathan. So, he was not being called for fresh charges. He was declared wanted and when he came back of course, he had to come and answer those questions that were earlier raised.
Witch-hunting of PDP
So, the issue is, these PDP governors being investigated, what had they done differently from their APC counterparts. At least we need to know.
They would then tell you that although you were alleging witch-hunting of PDP but that the ongoing revelations about mind-boggling loots by those PDP governors and chieftains have vindicated them. What will be your attitude to that?
There is no attitude that I am going to have. We have our laws in place. If anybody has broken our law, the person should be tried. I am also for fight against corruption. But what is not good is the media trial. You must also look at it within the context of if you are the one involved. People must be thoroughly investigated and evidence must be overwhelming before the arrest.
It should not be a question of you making the arrest asking them to make statements and detaining them for over 24 hours. The maxim in law is that it will be good for nine criminals to evade justice than punishing one innocent person. You are innocent until a court of competent jurisdiction pronounces you guilty.
So, I am not going to join in any conversation of whether it actually happened, it didn’t happen or it should have happened or whether it is correct or wrong as it is being done in the current media trial. No. I am not going to do that. Having been in government before, I know, sometimes when some of these petitions fly, it is only court of competent jurisdiction that can pronounce guilt.
And don’t forget that we have our justice system in place. If the lower court finds you guilty, you can appeal to the Court of Appeal. Look at the issue of Chief Bode George found guilty by a lower court.
He had served his sentence and then from there to Court of Appeal, which also affirmed the lower court judgment only for Supreme Court to upturn the judgment. So for those who had given opinions along the line, have their opinions not come to nullity? That is why at my level as a former minister in our country, I can’t rush to start taking a position on such matters. What is important, like I said, is that people must be properly investigated and the investigation must not be partisan.
And that brings me to the issue of corruption itself. You know corruption is an endemic thing in our society. It is like canker worms.
The issue is, we are involved in media trial and the cases that are usually involved in all these media trials are the cases of politically exposed persons. The ones that are exposed through petitions are about 10 percent of corruption cases. There are lots of corruption in the system.
How then can corruption be nipped in the bud?
You nip corruption in the bud by looking at processes. While the EFCC and ICPC will be handling the issue of investigation and prosecution, the government should sit down and say, “Okay, even under us, has corruption continued? If a process involves five or ten stages, at what stage does corruption come in? How do we reform, and readjust that stage to ensure we insulate it from corruption?” So, it is more of a process thing than the fighting.
So, the instance from that one is fine but the present government would concentrate on making sure that areas of loopholes that are being manipulated, that are being susceptible to corruption are removed from the system. Therefore, as you do the fight, you also reform and that is what is called institutional reform.
Do you think that this present government is moving along this line of process?
Well, I am aware that they have set up an anti-corruption committee and these are some of things that I expect the committee to come up with. Let us look at our education sector. Which areas do we have corruption? Is it admission racketeering or sexual abuse? Identify the present ills and how do these ills come in and what can we do to remove them?
Do we start having a secret code for each student to the extent that there is no lecturer that will know the identity of the student? Or do we have one lecturer giving the lecture and another one setting questions and marking?” All these things are doable! In admission racketeering, which area is susceptible to corruption there?
That is why all over the world there is no universally accepted definition of corruption because it is multi-dimensional. The policeman that takes money from motorists as the case may be, what is the motivation? How does it happen?
Have we taken time to go to police stations to find out why they collect money for papers to write statements and why bail is not free?
Is establishment of state police one way to stop corruption that is now endemic in the police?
Well, people are talking about state police but I don’t believe in their perspective. We should have Community, State and Federal police with exclusive and concurrent duties. What I believe in is community policing. You see, in advanced countries the community has ownership of institutions. How do you bring an Egba to accepting a police formation in Egba Land? He must be part of it.
These regular transfers, to me, are most unnecessary. And there is no state that does not have sufficient personnel in the force. Let every policeman
be restricted to his own state. Then if you must say you don’t want them in their state then let them be in their zone. How do you bring an Igbo man as a sergeant and take him to Odeda Police Station (Abeokuta) and expect him to function well when many of the people he will be dealing with don’t even understand English? This is the question.