Posted by News Express | 30 April 2022 | 467 times
I was recently a ‘guest’ of the EFCC. What I thought would be a thirty-minute interrogation took over two hours. As an interviewer myself, I can say my ‘interviewer’ was thorough, if rigid. Maybe because of my training, I could sense a pattern from his line of questioning which indicated a mind which was pre-set. And probably because of that, he also preferred a definitive ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to questions whereas life itself is rarely that defined. From my small encounter however, I can now understand why people sometimes spend a whole day under interrogation. Your thoughts are only yours until you voice them. Then they have to be clarified and pursued to some conclusion or to the satisfaction of ‘the interviewer’. God help you if you end up implicating yourself in the process.
What led to my being a ‘guest’ of this important body was an article I wrote on EFCC late last year – here I am doing it again. I never learn – do I? – about some goings on within the organization. For that, an Acting Director of Internal Affairs wrote to the Editor-In-Chief of Vanguard inviting me to Abuja as part of their investigation. A trip to Abuja plus accommodation would have set a poor, retired me back financially. The first of the two letters was also at a time when Covid-19 was still raging and it was deemed unsafe to travel. I was pondering how to handle the whole thing when its media spokesperson called. He was respectful and deferred to my ‘seniority’ in the profession. He promised someone from the ‘Internal Unit’ would call me to resolve the matter. Someone did. This resulted after a couple of calls, in an appointment being set up for Lagos.
From my encounters with the officials both in person and on the phone, I would describe them as friendly, courteous and trained. And not just to me. I watched them interrogating other people and they only become impatient and short when they feel someone is trying to be deliberately evasive. It is also heartwarming to know that the organisation is concerned about its image enough to set up an internal unit to investigate allegations against its officials. I worry though about its perceived high handedness. For example, I don’t think I should even have been asked to travel to Abuja just to clarify some points when there is a Lagos office. I also worry about the notion that you must have committed some high crimes or misdemeanors once you have received an EFCC invitation. But we do need the EFCC – however it is called. More so now when politics seems to be the only job in town. And especially these days when hardly anybody leaves a political office poorer than when they got there. First, we need the EFCC to be clean and as corruption free as possible. Then we need it to be effective because its effectiveness would serve as a sobering deterrent to political aspirants. It has to be encouraged to be effective. It has to be aided to be effective. And finally, to be effective, its efforts must not be in vain.
For years, the EFCC was accused of media trials and ineffective prosecutions. For years, the EFCC was accused of chasing the small fries while the big ones found their way into the National Assembly. Then the narrative changed albeit briefly, and three former governors were successfully prosecuted. One got away on technicality at the last moment – thanks to the ‘advocacy’ of some high powered lawyers and the ‘integrity’ of our judicial system. He promptly and proudly retained his seat at the Senate which houses fellow travelers in its cushioned chambers. The other two were given ‘decent’ sentences. Then as an Easter present – maybe as a reminder of the first, historic Easter when Pilate freed a notorious thief – the two convicted governors were freed on health grounds. It was a slap on accountability. It was a slap on everything that was decent. It was a back-handed slap on the face of EFCC as a body. But it must have been a punch to the plexus for all those who must have risked their lives investigating and prosecuting the cases. There is no telling the threats they might have received and the inducements they might have refused. Then at the end of it all, when they would have felt the battle was well fought and won and justice served after so much would have been dissipated in terms of money and man power, victory was snatched away from them, from the nation, by the President. And not just any President. But one who got his current, exalted job because Nigerians wanted someone tough enough and clean enough to cleanse the Augean stable of corruption. With all due respect, it would have less curious for me if this had happened under the watch of President Goodluck Jonathan. But I never imagined a Buhari freeing a convicted politician in my life time. But then, many things are curious about this man and his administration.
Muhammad Buhari got the top job seven odd years ago because many people thought he would be most effective in dealing with security and corruption. And for these, many were willing to overlook his glaring lapses. Nobody expected the charisma of a Murtala Mohammed, or the smoothness of a Babangida, or the energetic presence of an Obasanjo. We didn’t expect him to deal with the economy the way Awolowo would. Or be cosmopolitan like the great Zik. But we expected him to deal with corruption and security because he had acquired a reputation or an image in that respect. Today, the country is at its most insecure, and with the recent unpardonable pardon, corruption has been given a green light to ‘go on soun’. What is now left as a legacy for this administration? Certainly not the economy. But more importantly, what is left to the name Buhari? Years from now, what would be attributed to him as achievement? As righteousness?
Is it any wonder that those who should be in hiding are coming out of the woodwork to contest for offices at a hundred million Naira per person for a mere expression of interest? President Obasanjo said many of those contesting for the Presidency should have been in jail. It is a statement many Nigerians will not disagree with. But they, and others like them, have just been endorsed for higher offices by the Nigerian State, led by its President which pardoned two high profile convicts seemingly out of the blues. Given the circumstances of our polity, this is one pardon that defies understanding.
•Muyiwa Adetiba is a veteran journalist and publisher. He can be reached via email@example.com
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