By Ifeanyi Mbakogu
No other minister of former President Goodluck Jonathan has been subjected to so much invasive investigation, serial hounding in the media and unremitting persecution as Senator Bala Mohammed.
Bala Mohammed versus the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is a macabre thriller of sorts. How it will end, nobody knows. But this is not about the powers of the anti-graft agency to do its work. It is not about whether the former minister is innocent or guilty.
Be that as it may, never has it been heard that an agency dragged someone to court only to turn round to say that it is not ready to go ahead with the case. That will reek of obvious bad faith, if not outright show of wickedness. Unfortunately, that is what Senator Bala Mohammed’s case is beginning to look like.
The EFCC started the investigation, laid the accusation, filed the charges and is prosecuting the case. So, short of playing some delay tactics, short of the desire to hold the former minister captive in perpetuity, why would an agency that, ostensibly, is operating under the law strive to deprive an accused of his liberty as guaranteed by the constitution? After all, as Chief Chris Uche, SAN, the lead counsel to Senator Bala Mohammed has pointed out, the charges remain unchanged, the accused had been granted both administrative and court bails based on the same matter, and had been reporting to the EFCC weekly since January. Yet, he has not absconded. If he hasn’t, why would he do so now? That is the zillion naira question that the EFCC has to answer.
All over the world, a person’s standing in society, his contributions to society and conduct, are all usually considered in legal matters, no matter how serious. Bala Mohammed is not just any miscreant to be treated in the cavalier manner that the EFCC has behaved. Let us start from the last point: His personal conduct. Here is a man who was abroad receiving treatment when he got wind that the EFCC was looking for him in Nigeria. He quickly returned home and reported to the headquarters of the agency as demanded. He patiently endured 49 long days of detention and has reported weekly to the agency as requested. Does he deserve to be so treated?
Now to his standing in society: Here is a man who, as a civil servant, served his country meritoriously and even rose to the rank of a director in the federal civil service before he went into politics. Here is a man who was special assistant to two ministers: the late Alex Ibru (internal affairs) and Isa Yuguda (aviation). Here is a man who was elected senator of the federal republic of Nigeria and who distinguished himself in the Senate. Here is a man who is the longest serving minister of the FCT under the civilian dispensation. The mere fact of these positions as well as his voluntary surrender to investigation and prosecution should stand him out for some respectable treatment in the hands of the EFCC. Make no mistake about it: he is just an accused and retains his stature and civil liberties, qualities that should earn him deserved respect instead of being treated as a petty felon.
Much more importantly, here is a man who, as senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, brooked formidable odds, risked sectarian sanctions and personal stigma to create a defining moment in Nigeria’s history. How could we have forgotten so soon that it was this same Bala Mohammed who is being treated as if he is a villain that moved the doctrine of necessity by which Nigeria was able to move past a horrendous and potentially destabilizing political logjam in the heady days of the late Umaru Musa Yar’Ardua’s illness? How could we forget, so soon, that without that effort in moving the “Doctrine of Necessity” motion, with the collaboration of patriotic Nigerians like the late Dora Akunyili, Goodluck Jonathan probably wouldn’t have become President and the basis of our constitutional democracy would have been destroyed?
It may not be the intention of the EFCC but what Bala Mohammed is being subjected to has all the trappings of political persecution. Could it be because he moved the doctrine of necessity motion? Has it anything to do with permutations regarding future political cleavages and outcomes? Or, as has often been alluded to, should he change political party to acquire ‘immunity’? But he should not be persecuted either. To insist on that is to persecute the innocent and to enthrone a culture of arbitrariness which sadists can capitalize on to produce a regime of despotism. We seem to be grinding perilously toward that path. Sadly enough, arbitrariness is akin to a bullet fired into a market place; it can hit anybody. It is Bala Mohammed today, it can be anybody tomorrow.
– Mbakogu, a public affairs analyst sent this piece from Abuja.