Huriwa Logo

Huriwa Logo

Wednesday, 12 December 2012


On a very cold morning of November 3rd 2012 after a two weeks Spell in the United Kingdom while on holiday, I set out to stroll around some landmark institutions in Central London to catch a glimpse and to learn one practical lesson or two in the art of maintenance culture of public institutions/infrastructure that is deeply engrained in the lives and times of British people. Besides, the media, court system and the civil society are vibrant, independent and respectable in Great Britain.
I began my early morning Odyssey from my modest travel lodge guest inn located near church street Bust Stop in Sidcup High street where I took a ride on bus number 321 to Lewinsham police station from where I found a friend who drove me to a near – by train station from where I boarded a fast moving underground train that took me to Charing Cross Road Station.
Stepping out of the train station afforded me another Inspirational thought to stroll around the streets to take a look at some important selling out lets.
It was in the course of moving around that I spotted a magnificent books store named Foyles and my undying passion for good books took the better part of me and compelled me to look in for the latest book by the globally acclaimed Novelist Professor Chinua Achebe titled “There was a country”.
Navigating my way around the huge edifice to locate the book was not an easy task as there were millions of copies of beautiful books. However, in less than twenty seconds, one of the very courteous sales girls accosted me to assist me locate whatever books I wanted.
The long and short of this drama was that rather than pick only the book I actually meant to buy, I stumbled on several other books and ended up buying them including the 582 page book by the influential British law maker Mr. Jack Straw which was an autobiography that he philosophically titled “Last Man Standing: memoirs of a Political Survivor”.
I have since made this very voluminous book an intimate companion in my study even as I have learnt huge body of knowledge on what politics is not. These facts which were found scattered around the book by Jack Straw are the motivating factors that informed the writing of this piece with the conviction that our large army of politicians who hold a predatorial and self-seeking view about why they are in politics will have a change of heart and begin to work to make Nigeria a better place for us all.   
Jack Straw was born in Buckhurst Hill in 1944. Brought up in Loughton, he read law at the prestigious Leeds University and practiced at the British bar before winning a seat in the British Parliament in 1979 to represent his Black burn Constituency.
He served as Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and the leader of the House of Commons during Mr. Tony Blairs Premiership, and Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor under the immediate past Premier Minister Mr. Gordon Brown.
In this book, Mr. Jack Straw who is arguably British most experienced politician, clearly wrote that “Politics should be a high calling – the means by which we make difficult, sometimes nigh-impossible decisions without resort to violence and bloodshed”.
Jack Straw also stated as a matter of fact that one of the fundamental rules of democracy is that a democratic political party cannot pick and choose which laws it says should be obeyed.
The above statement brings me back to the ongoing political drama in my country Nigeria where those in authority since 1999 that the military restored what they called civilian democracy have betrayed the collective trust of the citizenry to implement two constitutional  reforms that would have transformed Nigeria.
One of these constitutional obligations of those in government and political authority is to eradicate corruption and abuse of office and the second is to create an Independent and vibrant Judiciary so as to clean up the Augean stable of lawlessness of all dimensions.
I as well as several other thinkers are of the considerable opinion that when these two constitutional obligations are enforced, then the myriads of challenges that confront Nigeria would be effectively tackled to the greatest satisfaction of the greatest number of the citizenry.
The constitution of Nigeria which for now is the binding body of laws for all parts of the federation captured the two obligations in section 14(5) which states that; “The state shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power”, and section 6 which states that; “The Judicial powers of the Federation shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established for the federation”.
But from available evidence, the lack of political will to effectively build strong democratic institutions to eradicate corruption and the deliberate failure on the part of policy makers and enforcers to build an independent Judiciary are the fundamental reasons why the Rule of law seems to have collapsed in Nigeria therefore creating room for the state of near-anarchy and chaos that Nigeria is witnessing that reached an all time low with the recent kidnap by force of arm of the Mother of the Nigeria's Finance Minister Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala [Professor Mrs. Kemene Okonjo] the wife of a First Class traditional ruler in Delta State. Hundreds of other Nigerians have been killed by armed non-state actors in the North even as several hundreds of others have similarly been kidnapped by freelance armed kidnappers who seek ransom payment before freeing their captors and the police is incapable of stopping this evil trend.
Politics is certainly not all about corruption, primitive acquisition of wealth to the detriment of the public good and definitely politics is not all about the consistent desecration and weakening of the institution of the judiciary and law enforcement as are being witnessed systematically in Nigeria.
Nigerians of all class, status and background must do everything humanly possible to reverse these evil trends now.
Importantly, Nigeria needs strong, independent, corrupt -free judicial institution to put the judges in a good position to frontally punish citizens who due to corruption have virtually destroyed basic critical institutions such as the police and the defence sector, the educational and health sectors.
Nigeria must enthrone the Rule of law to check these corruption; economic crimes of grandscale and to ensure that lawlessness is no longer attractive. Again, other institutions such as the civil society and media must also be made independent and corrupt-free if we ever hope to free Nigeria from the clutches of corrupt-minded politicians.
Professor Yemi Osinbajo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, had in a paper he delivered on 13th November, 2007 in Abuja captured the two salient constitutional obligations which as pointed out above must be observed without breach for Nigeria to be transformed.
Osinbanjo, a Professor of law wrote thus; “Today the nation is also faced with the challenge of fighting corruption. There are cases of individuals, who are said to have stolen billions of naira and acquired assets locally and internationally. The minds boggling figures have riveted every one’s attention. Many calculations are done daily on how many social services could be rendered to millions with money cornered by so many few”.
Professor Osinbanjo blamed the failure in respecting the principle of rule of law and weak Judicial Institution as reason why such monumental corruption Continue.
His words: “The accused persons are wealthy, they can engage the legal system for years, they can appeal every point, they can mobilize public opinion. The longer the cases against them drag, the surer it is that Nigerians will lose interest and after a while begin to wonder why these individuals are being “Persecuted”. “The Rule of ‘law’, or “due process” often lead to this ironical path”.            
Several years after Professor Osinbanjo penned down this beautiful essay, his worst fears are still very much with us thereby making it look as if corruption in political offices pays great dividends to political office holders, and their cronies including of course their lawyers, media consultants and other bunch of bad guys in the organized civil society groups who are ever so willing to be mobilized to play the devil’s advocate against apostles of anti-graft crusades and genuine reformers determined to put their enormous talents and time to try to save Nigeria from the twin evil of corruption and collapse of institutions of law enforcement and the judiciary.
Two examples will suffice to show that the essay authored by Professor Osinbanjo is factually relevant.
Firstly, for over one year, a drama of unprecedented proportion involving alleged bribery, and corruption is playing itself  out in the Nigeria’s National Assembly involving a long standing law maker from Kano State Mr. Farouk Lawan and a businessman Mr. Femi Otedola. Otedola’s company was allegedly indicted for the monumental heist of several billions of public fund dedicated for funding the fuel subsidy program but he (Otedola) alleged that he was blackmailed to part with $650,000 USD by Mr. Farouk Lawan who headed the now discredited House of Representatives Ad-Hoc probe panel on the fuel subsidy scandals so as to clear Mr. Otedola’s company.
The indicted legislator publicly accepted that he collected money from the businessman but denied that it was a bribe. Worst still, the Nigeria Police Force which stepped into the matter has so far failed to either recover the said huge “bribe” money or to prosecute the legislator for whatever it is worth to at least allow the due process of the law to be adhered to. The hierarchy of the Federal House of Representatives are comfortable that the public image of the National legislature is messed up even as the individuals indicted are still going about their public activities and drawing salaries from public treasury. The media and members of the civil society may have conveniently forgotten about this monumental fraud that wounded Nigeria's public conscience. Oh what a country?
Secondly, one of the many former state governors accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] of huge economic crime running to several billions belonging to his people, Alhaji Abubakar Audu of Kogi State is said to be on the run from the law after he delayed his anti-graft prosecution for years from the lower to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court of Nigeria recently cleared the way for the anti-graft charges to be filed against him [Abubakar Audu], but the anti-graft agency said the man escaped the long arm of the law when operatives stormed his Abuja mansion on December 11th 2012.
But Abubakar Audu is not alone as most “big men” accused of theft of public fund have hired many senior lawyers to frustrate their eventual prosecution.
The Nigerian Judiciary should be made independent in all ramifications and men and women of good conscience made to become judges to handle such historic anti-graft cases and there should be an in – built internal mechanism to stop lawyers by law from using interlocutory applications to frustrate quick, decisive and courageous completion of prosecution of cases involving bad people who misuse and abuse their public offices to enrich themselves illegally. Conversation around this issue has gone on for far too long and so this is the time to match our words with action and stop overflogging this important matter. Here, the National Assembly's ongoing constitutional amendment process is key but the question is again whether these men and women in the national legislature are ready to become the needed change agents.   
Car Baar, Professor of politics, in Brock University, Saint Catherine, Ontario, Canada writing on the theme of “the emergence of the judiciary as an institution”, clearly stated that good governance, transparency, accountability and rule of law are impossible in a nation whereby the institutions of law enforcement and judiciary are weak.
His words: “Courts not only share Functions that both reinforce and check the exercise of public power, but also share common institutional characteristics and concerns. These are often summarized in the twin concepts of judicial independence and impartiality”.
The best way to actualize the real benefits of politics in Nigeria which is the service of public good, is for corruption to be stamped out and this can be done only if the institutions of law enforcement and the Judiciary are made truly independent and impartial in principle and in practice and for men and women of good character to be appointed to oversee these critical public institutions. The current status quo will not achieve much in Nigeria.
* Emmanuel Onwubiko, is head, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS’ ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and   


No comments:

Post a Comment