By Josef Omorotionmwan
THE outgoing year 2016 has been unique in several ways. It was principally the year of inconclusive elections; when re-run polls brought forward from the previous year could not be concluded in single shots. The harder they tried, the more the elections became hanging.
Till date, the major combatants in Rivers State are still within shooting range and some of the legislative elections are still yearning for final determination. The war is raging and souls are perishing.
2016 was also the year of monumental trials, SANs convictions. After trials come judgments. This explains our fear that all the convictions will arrive in 2017.
It also goes down as the year of profound duplicity, where there was an avalanche of plurality of reports. Suddenly, there was what appeared to be the cloning of the year’s budget. At a point, prayer sessions were held in churches and mosques while officials had to swear to affidavits as to which of the various versions in circulation was the one submitted by the Executive. Flowing directly from the above, the phrase, “Budget padding” entered into our political lexicon for the first time.
We have travelled this route before. In the Second Republic, during the consideration of the Electoral Bill, 1982, Prof. Ayodele Awojobi, a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Lagos, suddenly addressed a world press conference that he had stumbled into four different versions of the Electoral Act, 1982.
It was later discovered that the Draft Bill submitted to the National Assembly by the Executive was one Electoral Act; the version considered by the Senate was a second Electoral Act; the Bill as processed by the House of Representatives was his third Electoral Act; and the Bill that was reported out of the Conference Committee of both Houses, which was finally assented to by the President was the fourth version of Awojobi’s Electoral Act.
This past week, two separate reports emanated from the Department of State Security, DSS, during the confirmation hearing of Ibrahim Magu for the position of Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. Both reports were signed on the same day and by the same schedule officer. One was sent to the Acting Clerk of the Senate, Mohammed Sani-Omolori while the other was sent to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang.
While the former was totally damaging and gave Magu no chance of being confirmed; the latter recommended him for confirmation. What an irony!
In this piece, we shall attempt to examine the possible implication of the 2016 theatricals for Year 2017 and the future of this country.
Without prejudice to the outcome of the ongoing Electoral Reform Committee, it is clear that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, must work extra-hard to remove itself from the inconclusive elections syndrome. As 2019 is around the corner, the current INEC must work twice as hard as its predecessor to be half as good. It bears repeating here that the Professor Jega-led INEC only attained acceptability after several years of fumbling; and we are sure that Nigerians cannot afford the luxury of further apprenticeship. For them, Jega has left a standard, below which no one should go.
Year 2017 promises to provide a litmus test of our serious-mindedness. It is to be seen whether we can bark and bite or whether we shall continue to be the toothless bull-dog.
Whichever way it goes, there are challenges ahead. If we were really serious and equally massive convictions come in 2017, there will be disaster culminating perhaps in institutional collapses. Assume for a while that the Senate President gets thrown into prison. The Senate will automatically collapse as those Senators who migrated to the court during his trial will, on their honour, also follow him to prison.
We know a particular political party that will go into liquidation if the 2016 trials result in high conviction rates. Right now, most of our courts are short of judges and many of the few remaining judges are prison-bound, particularly those involving the midnight raids and high-profile trails, thus our judiciary may also be heading for imminent extinction.
On the other hand, a low conviction rate on those monumental trials of 2016 will be worse. That will raise many fundamental questions: for instance, for how long shall we remain at the infantile level of using our institutions to address personal and individual differences and for political vendetta? And how do we expect our institutions to ever grow?
Barely a year ago, Ibrahim Lamorde, then Chairman of the EFCC was holding Mrs. Toyin Saraki, wife of the Senate President at the jugular over alleged stupendous wealth accumulation when her husband was the Governor of Kwara State. Senator Godswill Akpabio was also being vigorously investigated over allegation of massive corruption while he was the Governor of Akwa Ibom State. Suddenly, Lamorde was pushed out of the anti-graft agency and the cases died. Ibrahim Magu replaced him in acting capacity.
Today, Magu cannot get a Senate confirmation, not because he has been found wanting on performance but because he has stepped on a few big toes in the process of performing well. Meanwhile the very corrupt in society are now the ones wheeling and dealing and trading-off their iniquities in the ensuing confusion.
People must refrain from doing the same old things for which the PDP was shown the door at the last general elections. The chosen war on corruption must be firmly prosecuted, devoid of political colouration.
Far into the 21st century Nigeria is still dealing at the basic primitive level of the survival of the fittest as exists in the animal kingdom, which Charles Darwin (1809-1882) dealt extensively with in his Theory of Evolution. Even in all this, the clock never stops ticking. In less than 72 hours, we shall be stepping into 2017 – the year of expected answers to numerous questions!
We wish our esteemed audience the very best.