The other day when President Goodluck Jonathan lectured Nigerians on the true meaning of “stealing” and “corruption” many armchair critics began to wiggle their noses as if to say, “Mr President, how is that? The two are one and the same!” However, for those still doubting the cerebral outpouring by the president, he has provided ample object lessons to buttress the point he was trying to make during his last media chat.
First is the withdrawal of criminal charges preferred by the federal government against Mohammed Abacha, the son of the ex-military dictator, General Sani Abacha. It will be recalled that Mohammed Abacha was arraigned at the high court of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja in February this year on a nine-count charge of dishonestly receiving the sum of $141.1million and $384.35million allegedly denominated in cash and traveller’s cheques. The fresh arraignment followed the Supreme Court’s quashing of a suit filed by Mohammed to challenge the previous charge against him on the ground that he had no case to answer.
However, the nine-count charge against Mohammed before the court presided over by Justice Mamman Kolo was last week arbitrarily withdrawn by the private prosecutor handling the case for the federal government, Daniel Enwelum, on the orders of the attorney-general of the federation, Mohammed Adoke (SAN), citing Section 173 (3) of the 1999 Constitution.
Another object lesson last week was the appointment of Mrs Roli Bode-George as the director-general of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). Roli, wife of a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George, is still a member of the National Population Commission (NPC).
Again, despite the hue and cry by Nigerians that the minister of petroleum resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, be sacked over a plethora of allegations against her that borders on corruption and wasteful lifestyle, the president went ahead to nominate her to the chair of the secretary-general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Now, Nigerians know why the president recommended Mrs Allison-Madueke for appointment as secretary-general of OPEC, serial accusation of gross abuse of office and monumental corruption against her notwithstanding.
Even though I am not a lawyer by training, I know that the intendment of Section 173 (1) (c) of the constitution that vests the power on the attorney-general of the federation to withdraw any criminal charge preferred against anybody by the police or any prosecuting authority in any court of law in the country should only be invoked in the public interest and the general good and not for self-seeking political patronage.
How could the president have acted so arbitrarily in exercising a discretion vested on the attorney-general of the federation by Section 173 (3) of the Constitution without the slightest regard for public interest? Whose interest is the withdrawal of the charges meant to serve if not that of the president and the PDP that seems to have found in Mohammed a man they can possibly use to upturn the political structure in Kano State. Mohammed has never hidden his ambition to govern the state of Kano.
It is a gross abuse of office for Adoke to use the power vested in him by Section 173 (3) of the constitution to take over and discontinue any criminal proceedings as an instrument of political patronage in order to give soft landings to political associates and friends of the president. The withdrawal of corruption charges against Mohammed is nothing but a clear endorsement of corruption by the president on whose orders Mr Adoke acted. The action of the president is outrageous, frightening, completely arsy-varsy, and must not be allowed to stand in any sane society. The exercise must not only be in accordance with public morality but must have regard to the public interest, the interests of justice and the need to prevent abuse of the legal process.
The sacrificing of national interest and fight against corruption on the altar of political expediency and crass opportunism in exchange for votes come 2015 is the height of irresponsibility and degradation of any government. I do hope that, very soon, the president will reward Mohammed with the “national creativity award” of Grand Commander of the Niger (GCON) in recognition of the magnanimity of his father to have pillaged the national treasury.
If a case of this nature can be withdrawn by the fiat of the president, then, why is the same president filibustering in swapping imprisoned Boko suspects for the over 200 Chibok girls kidnapped by the sect members? Is Mohammed more important than the over 200 girls? By now one expects the attorney-general to stop all criminal trials going on across Nigeria and ask the suspects to go and sin no more. Even those that are already serving jail terms and those awaiting trial should be asked to go home.
Today, the floodgates have been thrown open. You can “steal” but don’t be “corrupt” because “stealing is not corruption”. Corruption thrives here. How sad! A country where evil is not seen to be punished is doomed.
The freeing of Mohammed is not only condemnable but scandalous especially in a country where our global image is that of corruption, to say the least. This is one of the clearest indications that the Jonathan presidency has concretized corruption, graft and double standard in the country. Little wonder most international dailies and personalities openly accused our president of presiding over a corrupt government following the kidnap of the Chibok girls.
Moreover, the appointment of Roli Bode-George is outrageous. Even though the federal government, out of political consideration to “capture” Lagos, had paved the way for Bode-George to be cleared of his conviction over alleged fraudulent contract-splitting by the Supreme Court, it still beggars reason that the NDLEA with very high social and economic implications for the country can be assigned to somebody in such a cavalier manner. Little wonder President Jonathan had unabashedly declared that stealing should not be construed with corruption, an assertion that immediately found a willing supporter in the chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, Mr Ekpo Nta.
I dare say that this expensive joke by Adoke made with the full support of President Jonathan has confirmed beyond a shadow of doubt that, in Nigeria today, the Rule of Law is meant to protect and preserve the interest of the wealthy and powerful. It is also an indication that the country’s legal system is geared towards the protection and preservation of the selfish interest of the powerful and well-connected in our country. The underlying philosophy of liberal democracy premised on equality of the law has been thrown out of the window in Nigeria under the present government.
I make bold to say that the present administration relishes and derives joy from corruption. Or why should the president mortgage the future of Nigerians to bargain for his political interest? It is sad and highly unfortunate that he has given fillip to a most unpatriotic action undertaken by the chief law officer of the federation. Encouraging corruption and negotiating with criminals who have defrauded the country signposts a very low point for the president and his administration.