By Dele Ogunrinde –
As a senior citizen who has never been a politician but, however, admire and cherish any party that works for the welfare and wellbeing of the citizens, I encourage any such party that will not only fulfil their political promises to the electorate but will at all times in and out of season in politics consider others first before self. In this context, I maintain that any comment or comments I may be making either referring to a political party or an individual will have no political meaning to me but for the reasons as stated above.
I am encouraged to write this because of my love for this country and because I am encouraged by the analyses and comments of the presenters and commentators in the media. This is to prevent disintegration of this country and I believe Nigeria will live as a united country.
In terms of endowments, this Country is highly endowed with human and natural resources that ought to have shot it to the position of one of the leading nations in the world since attaining independence in 1960. However, particularly due to bad leadership, as well as bad followership, progress and development in this country have been highly retarded, which has brought us to where we are today. Some of the bad products of bad followership and leadership are corruption; selfishness and greed; ethnicity/tribalism; and ignorance.
The fight against corruption
Let me pick on corruption. The present government under President Buhari has been doing so much to meet with their campaign promises to change the face of Nigeria for the better. Their efforts in this direction have not satisfied Nigerians in terms of their expectations and hope within the last two years of the administration. However, with renewed efforts, determination to succeed with God’s grace and divine intervention, the fight against corruption must succeed!
In tackling corruption, there is widespread perception that not much has been achieved within the last two years of the Buhari administration. This suggests that some mistakes have been made in the handling of the crusade. What I consider a fundamental mistake is the fact that the administration, having been massively voted in, should have cashed in on this popular mandate and asked Nigerians for that same mandate to declare a state of emergency to tackle corruption in all its ramifications. By so doing, all issues relating to investigation and court procedures could have been handled under this emergency for quick dispensation of cases within the shortest possible time. For example, the legal procedures, cases involving embezzlement, bribery cases, money laundering, outright stealing, etc., which in the normal way could have lasted for months and years to dispense with, would, under an emergency situation, be made to start and finish within 14 to 21 days. The culprits would receive maximum terms of imprisonment immediately and publicly made to wear the prison uniforms and sent to our normal prison houses.
This must be after all the legal issues are argued for and against by reputable/incorruptible lawyers employed by the government for both defendants and the plaintiffs, with accused persons free to choose who will defend them under the jurisdiction of judges of the High Court, Appeal Court and Supreme Court known to be incorruptible. Four of these courts may be established in Abuja, Lagos, Kaduna and Enugu.
It may be necessary to establish special courts headed by high-ranking judicial officers to try accused persons from the armed forces. Judges in each of these courts should not be more than seven. As said above, cases should not last more than 14 to 21 days for the whole procedure up to the delivery of the judgment. This is because corrupt people or culprits are very rich and well connected and can subvert the trial process if this is allowed to go on for too long. An accused person with access to N200 billion or more can buy anyone or anything to pervert the cause of justice or use any means to delay justice.
With only a handful of cases out of so many brought to court, people have lost confidence in the system. Under the provisions of the emergency dispensation, people in positions of authority who are accused of corruption should be made to resign or be suspended immediately from official duties, depending on the preponderance of evidence against them, so that they may not stand in the way of justice as it has happened in so many cases that has been decided today.
People are still wondering why it has taken so long to dispense with the allegations against the Secretary to the Federal Government. In addition, whatever happened to the case of the $43 million found in an Ikoyi home in which top security officials are implicated? Yet, the President gave 14 days to a committee headed by the Vice President to investigate these cases! Of course, there are also cases pending indeterminably at courts, where accused persons spend huge sums hiring lawyers to use judicial and non-judicial processes to stalemate cases.
In effect, until a special judicial process is established, with support from the legislature, to expeditiously deal with corrupt cases, the fight against corruption will remain a non-starter.
As the President has rightly said earlier in his campaign days, if we do not kill corruption, it will kill us. In order to achieve success in eradicating corruption, Nigerians — both leaders and followers — must rise up to the occasion, shunning selfishness and greed, to co-operate with the government and kill corruption. The public want to see results, in terms of prominent Nigerians such as ministers, permanent secretaries, high-ranking military officers, High Court and Supreme Court judges, governors, highly placed religious leaders, etc. – being jailed for corruption, the same way we hear about poor persons being jailed for petty stealing!
When such important persons are similarly jailed and sent to our Nigerian prison yards to don prison uniforms, I can assure Nigerians that corruption would have been killed without shedding blood. Therefore, it is left to this present Government to know how to tackle and kill corruption.
Security of human life
On the issue of security, this is an area in which Government has scored high marks, particularly on Boko Haram. However, other security monsters with even more potential to destabilize the country than Boko Haram are rearing their heads. These are organized kidnapping, assassinations and the menace of the herdsmen. There is also agitation for a separate sovereignty in a part of the country whose methods have verged on violence that could snowball into outright disintegration of this country. All these security threats must be nipped in the bud before they cause unimaginable damage to the Nigerian nation. Government must take decisive actions on each of these issues immediately, tomorrow may be too late.
– Ogunrinde is an educationist based in Lagos.