By Dele Sobowale
“You can fool some of the people all of the time; you can fool all the people some of the time, but, you can’t fool all the people all the time” -Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865, VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, p 62.
“Day 4: Panel grills ‘Magu’s 7 Untouchables’” – VANGUARD, July 10, 2020, front page.
America’s 16th President left that observation carved in stone for prominent Nigerians who now must apologise publicly for misleading the public for so long about Mr Ibrahim Magu — professors of law, journalists and opinion leaders. Most important of all is Buhari – who stubbornly kept Magu as Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, after he was turned down by the Saraki-led Senate. It is axiomatic that the most important decisions made by a President concern those he appoints to important offices. Undoubtedly, Buhari must accept responsibility for foisting Magu on Nigerians and allowing him free rein to perpetrate whatever alleged crimes he and those called “Untouchables” within the ranks might have committed. What the VANGUARD reporter wrote about the seven operatives should renew outrage among Nigerians who had long passed being outraged by government officials.
“The operatives referred to as “Magu’s Boys” are said to be seven in number and were grilled by the Presidential Panel over their roles in the suspended acting Chairman’s activities.
“The seven operatives also pejoratively called “The Untouchables” were accused of committing several atrocities including allegedly blackmailing and extorting money from suspects, appropriating exhibits to themselves and selling off forfeited or seized assets without remitting the proceeds to government coffers.”
While the “Untouchables” were being accused of those grievous crimes, Magu himself, according to PUNCH report, was being held for “alleged diversion of recovered loot…was accused of selling or mysteriously releasing about 157 oil tankers seized in Port-Harcourt without following due process. Also a report by the Auditor General of the Federation, last year, alleged that about N13.96bn recorded as salaries and wages in the consolidated financial statement of the EFCC were not in the anti-graft agency’s trial balance submitted for reconciliation.” The allegations, while hitting me like a heavyweight boxer’s punch in the chest, were not totally surprising. Here is why:
The EFCC is obviously getting tired; convictions are few and far between. At the rate the crime Commission is going, few big money thieves will ever be jailed. Public money appears gone forever.
EFCC IN A ROT AND ITS ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES FOR NIGERIA
I made that declaration in an article published on June 1, 2020 – barely six weeks before the EFCC drama started unfolding. Two things prompted me to write that article. One, were my instincts — which never fail me on such occasions. Unlike most Nigerians, I have read with growing alarm as the EFCC lost one case after another on account of ineffective prosecution. Criminals were getting away with heinous financial crimes everywhere. Could it all have been coincidental or was it planned? Increasingly, my Area Boy instincts said there was a great deal of method to the seeming madness. EFCC may have wanted to lose — but, why? I will attend to that later. Second, Magu’s self-righteousness was a pointer to me that the man may have had something to hide. I refused to join when the clamour for his confirmation started again. To me, it was clear that EFCC had reached a stage of diminishing returns. Now, we might be unraveling some of the mystery.
If, indeed, there is a group recognised as “untouchables”, then the agency is already doomed – even if they were star performers. Favoritism exhibited by a Chief Executive destroys team spirit. Officers hide vital information from one another and the agency becomes less effective. That might be partly responsible for the low productivity of the EFCC in recent years as it was disgraced in several courts by justices giving stern lectures to its prosecutors.
Any Commission turns to a House of Horrors when a clique is formed with the CEO as the godfather of members. This is akin to creating a mafia in a society by the person(s) charged with providing security. Contrary to the impression which those officers engaging in blackmail and extortion think, crimes don’t run one-way.
And usually somebody pays for the money extorted. The person being blackmailed or forced to pay for protection also has information which, especially when desperate, can be used against the blackmailer. It is at least a two-way secret which can only be perfectly kept if one dies. In that regard, one wonders how many EFCC investigators have been killed by their co-criminals – the persons they have been milking. Sudden death is a constant occurrence where blackmail is present in a relationship. It is therefore a dangerous business for the group as well as individuals.
Obviously, two unacceptable consequences are visited on society. One result is that guilty individuals are allowed to go unpunished. Two, people against whom the EFCC had no substantive case are scared to surrender money under duress. Occasionally, people blackmailed repeatedly have been known to slip into depression and later commit suicide. Anyway one looks at it, allowing a bunch of blackmailers to operate under official cover is the worst crime imaginable.
If only a few of the accusations made against Magu are true, it would amount to employing a cat to watch the fish shop. I pity all the admirers of the suspended EFCC chief. George Elliot, 1819-1880, warned those with ears. She said, “It is better sometimes not to follow great reformers beyond the threshold of their homes.” (VBQ p210). Otherwise, they make Mugus out of their followers.
To be continued…
AFTER BUHARI, WHO’S NEXT? DR NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA—3
“There is only one way out; and that is the road we should take eventually because everything else is doomed to fail” – Henry Miller, 1891-1980.
The late American author summarized my submission for me better than I can myself. We have tried everything else with the present mob of politicians we have. We might as well try something else. After all, we have been told repeatedly that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the perfect definition of insanity. And, unless we want to be branded as a nation of mad people worldwide, the time has come to put a stop to the reign of atrocious politicians. One look at the list of those rumoured to be likely candidates in 2023 is enough for one to go into exile once the gates are opened.
“I want to make a policy statement. I am unabashedly in favour of women” – US President Lyndon B Johnson, 1904-1973, March 4, 1964.
So, am I. The American President, a most unlikely promoter of women since he grew up in the conservative South of America, was surprisingly liberal in his attitude to women in politics and their role as leaders.
A few months after the first statement, he made an even stronger one. On April 13 of the same year, he declared: “To conclude that women are unfitted to the task of our historic society seems to me the equivalent of closing male eyes to female facts.” I want to agree with those two statements and the sooner we realise those facts in Nigeria the better for us.
At this point, I want to address Ngozi’s primary constituency – the women in Nigeria by drawing their attention to two statements made by women.
“But when at last woman stands on an even platform with man, his acknowledged equal everywhere, with the same freedom to express herself…in government of the country, then, and not until then….will he be able to legislate as wisely and generously for her as for himself” – Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1815-1902, in HISTORY OF WOMAN SUFFRAGE.
Margaret Thatcher, Great Britain’s first female Prime Minister, and the longest serving, had very little regard for male politicians. In one dismissive statement, she declared in PEOPLE on September 15, 1975, “In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.” Given her record as British leader, it will be difficult to fault her. Britain became great because her Queens were as purposeful as the Kings. So, I expect every woman reading this article to get on board of this campaign. That includes Women Journalists (print and electronics as well as online), Women Professionals (Doctors, Nurses, Lawyers, Accountants, Engineers, Politicians, etc etc). I would expect every woman reading it on Facebook, WHATSAPP, Instagram etc to share it with as many other women as possible.
Women members of social and religious societies should also join the crusade. Young women over the age of 18 should also take this as their fight for equal rights in a society which currently cheats them. Women must, in their own interest, make 2023 the year they will seize control of their fates instead of waiting for Nigerian male politicians to do it for them.
“2023: Uzodima, Ngige, Nnamani, others meet, vow Igbo united front” -SUNDAY VANGUARD, July 12, 2020, front page.
Because Okonjo-Iweala represents more than women, I was extremely happy to read that Igbo political leaders are now talking about a united front – no matter what that means. I only hope that is not just talk.
Their expressed desire to work together must however be weighed against the dismal record of Igbo solidarity with regard to the presidency. So far, James Macpherson, 1736-1796, the grand-father of a former Governor General of Nigeria, Sir John Macpherson, must have had people like Igbo male political leaders in mind when he wrote:
“They came forth to war, but, they always fell.” In my view, they fell because they lacked a strategy for winning and a credible candidate around which to build the struggle. Now, they have a great candidate. All they now need is a strategy.
Central to that strategy must be a plan to reach out to fair-minded Nigerians in other zones. They also need to be open-minded enough to borrow ideas from others outside Igbo land. For instance I know why the contest for governor in Lagos was so close in 2015. Ambode won by just 100,000 votes. I will not say more than that for now.
Finally, all real professionals in Nigeria must look forward to a day when the country is ruled by somebody with a methodical mind-set – instead of the bedlam we now experience.
I stop for now.
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