By Tonnie Iredia
During the 2015 electioneering period, it was easy to see how corruption was established as Nigeria’s most intractable problem. Hence, the then opposition party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) vowed to deal with it head-long, if voted into office. Many people believed that the party could in reality fulfil its promise because of the antecedents of its flag bearer, General Muhammadu Buhari. In fact, many of those who opposed Buhari were ignored because they were seen by the public as corrupt officials who feared the likelihood of the exposure of their corrupt practices. Having won the election against that backdrop, one would expect that Buhari’s anti-corruption war would be fierce and that it would in turn be appreciated by all. Today, the situation is inexplicably shifting as those being interrogated have succeeded in convincing some people that the war is selective. Almost on a daily basis now, the criticism is getting louder as corruption is fighting back with groups being mobilized to condemn the policy
Is Buhari’s anti-corruption war really selective? If so, who are those being selected and who is doing the selecting? These were the questions which agitated this writer when Bishop Timothy Yahaya of the Kaduna Arch Diocese last week joined those condemning the selective prosecution allegation. Yahaya, who spoke at an Easter service to commemorate the resurrection of Christ, reportedly said the fight against corruption was lopsided, selective and only targeted at members of the opposition party. If the statement was credited to the Bishop of Ekiti, I would have imagined that it was probably an after dinner speech in response to a toast by Governor Ayo Fayose in Government House, Ado Ekiti. But coming out of Kaduna was a bit of a surprise although we hear religious leaders are having a brush with APC’s Governor El Rufai. Anyway, to be sure that the Bishop was not misquoted I went in search of the details. Luckily, I found that the preacher was well reported and that he wants all those (not some of them) involved in the looting of our treasury to be brought to justice irrespective of their party, religion or ethnic affiliations. He similarly condemned impunity and the abuse of human rights in the course of the fight.
While the call for the anti-corruption war to be fought with the rule of law in mind makes a lot of sense because of occasional show of exuberance by our security operatives, there is a big question mark on the allegation of selective prosecution. Each time that point is made the impression created is that President Buhari received from wherever, a list of corrupt persons from which he chose those to fight while letting others off the hook. But we seem to forget that majority of those being prosecuted now, that we call members of the opposition party, were the powerful men of yesterday who ought to account for the nation’s resources squandered under their watch. Some other persons who are also being called for questioning now were either implicated by those arrested or were found to have been involved in some suspicious transactions. Of course APC members do not feature prominently among those being questioned not because they are saints but because until a few months ago, they were a hungry lot like the rest of us who have nothing to account for. If the then ruling PDP, in line with our winner takes all political culture monopolized the looting, who else should be made to refund diverted public funds?
To seek to attain balanced prosecution being advocated now is by far more dangerous than the selective prosecution that is being condemned. This is because government is being inadvertently prompted to find a way of convicting some APC members whether or not they did any wrong so as to balance the numerous PDP suspected looters that are facing trial now. To do that is to establish clearly that the nation is not ready to fight its greatest cankerworm because the political affiliation of a man facing corruption charges is irrelevant. Therefore, if those condemning selective prosecution are not accomplices, they should stop their irrational argument which if taken to its logical conclusion is the same thing as saying that no thief or armed robber should be brought to book until all criminals are apprehended!
Perhaps President Buhari should be encouraged to expand the scope of his anti-graft war by looking into more sectors in search of those who looted or aided the looting of our treasury. In so doing, many people among them traditional rulers and religious leaders will be made to account for their roles in the fall of our economy. The acclaimed men of God in particular have questions to answer. Last year, one Pastor Kallamu Musa Dikwa, described as the Executive Director of the Voice of Northern Christian Movement, alleged that former President Goodluck Jonathan gave huge sums to the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to support him during the 2015 general elections. The Pastor named the amount; seven billion naira (N7b). He named the exact date the transaction allegedly occurred; January 26, 2014. In response, CAN disowned the pastor, so the man called a press conference in the same Kaduna where he urged the media to show him to the world while reiterating that the CAN leadership disbursed N3million to each state chairman and kept a huge fraction for itself.
We have no proof that Dikwa’s allegation is true but no one appears to have successfully debunked it. Indeed, Bishop Peter O. J Imaseun Chairman of CAN in Edo state was at the time publicly commended by a political group for allegedly rejecting his share of the loot. Thus, while in line with the rule of law all those named by Pastor Dikwa remain innocent until proven otherwise, the matter ought to be properly examined because if the allegation is true, the amount involved is government money making the subject fall squarely within the anti-corruption war. Not to extend the searchlight into Dikwa’s allegation could give ample credence to the criticism that the war is indeed selective.