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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Ekwueremadu’s forfeiture and
‘ethnicisation’ of corruption

Busuyi Mekusi

Corruption could be symbolically organic in nature and practice, as its investiture of people is stringently across colour, creed and socio-cultural and political status. Simply put, corruption is evident of the dethronement or the impairment of integrity, debasement of purity, escalation of putrefaction, and acceleration of deterioration or decomposition, as the case may be. Whatever the manifestations of corruption are, it either permanently or temporarily assuage the greed of the invested but plague the existence of victims of the looting, who are not only made vulnerable to consequential vagaries, but locked in the annihilating consequences of corruptive behaviours.

The foregoing, ordinarily, explains the low life expectancy in Nigeria that is largely due to; lack of access to good medical care, endangering public facilities, palpable insecurity, deprivation of qualitative accessible education, etc. It is little wonder that Barrack Obama once described corruption as cancer, while President Muhammadu Buhari posited that it would kill Nigerians if they refuse to kill it.

The fight against corruption under the PMB administration, which was one of the cardinal campaign promises, has been viewed by some watchers as mere ruse when they argue that corruption under the watch of the government has ballooned and festered, with the allegation of corruption freely but spuriously levelled against some members of the administration. That is not to say, however, that the regime is populated with saints, even when so many politicians with cases of corruption like Orji kalu have had to decamp to the ruling party from their old political platforms that gave them the mandate.

For this, it has been jocularly espoused that joining the ruling party with allegation of corruption against you would lead to your sins being forgiven. For docile and malleable Nigerians, members of the looting political elite are the ones accusing themselves of corruption, while the masses either simply get entertained by their shenanigans, or mindlessly defend the accused because of the ethno-religious ties they share with an accused. Worst still, the looters would adorn the attire of a philanthropist, while sharing part of the loots as handouts.

Although, there are ample strictures emplaced in government businesses to forestall corruption, such as the Public Procurement Act, contract approval limits and criminalisation of contract splitting, etc., public officials have mastered ingenious ways of circumventing such gates to loot the system dry. Injection of fictitious names (ghost workers) to personnel payroll of establishments and government institutions is one way the financial pipes of establishments, both private and public, are drained into personal pockets or accounts. These stolen monies are usually buried in unmarked graves, stashed in foreign accounts, warehoused through proxies, both locally and internationally, invested in mortgage, both at home and overseas, or better still used to acquire choice jewellery and personal expensive assets.

Analogous somewhat to the justification of corruption, the disadvantaged masses would see nothing wrong in looting public resources, which they see as common cake or patrimony, provided the illegal gains are ploughed back to the country. Endemic corruption in Nigeria has fuelled insecurity, cyber crime, contract inflation or poor execution, etc., so much that criminal elements could easily dissolve into the labyrinth of an intractable socio-cultural and economic web. Like the mythical Ghanaian Chichidodo, most Nigerians pretentiously hate corruption, while they revel in partaking of the proceeds.

Established high-profile corruption cases in Nigeria have dwarfed the other snippets found at the various levels of operations. The prosecutions of politically-exposed corrupt suspects are usually greeted with huge media frenzies, vituperations and gesticulations, only for such to die a natural death after some time. For both corruption cases that started under the PMB administration and those that commenced before it, slowness and protraction of trials have often cast thick clouds on the seriousness of the agencies of government like the EFCC and ICPC to diligently prosecute corruption cases. This is even as lack of diligent investigation and prosecution has been cited as responsible for the corruption cases lost by the concerned agencies in the court. The order of the court for the retrial of the case against Orji Kalu, for instance, secured his return to the red chamber from the Kuje Correctional Service Centre seamlessly.

Among others, the celebrated corruption cases are that of: Sambo Dasuki, the NSA under Jonathan, Ikedi Ohakim, Murtala Nyako, Gabriel Suswam, Adesola Amosu, Babachir Lawal, Diezani Alison-Madueke, Femi Fani-Kayode, Ayodele Fayose, Fintiri, Bello Haliru, Sule Lamido, Abdulrasheed Maina, Abba Moro, Bala Mohammed, Andrew Yakubu, Olisa Metuh, Raymond Dokpesi, Ike Ekweremadu, etc.

The foregoing names cut across the different socio-cultural and politically inscribed Nigeria spaces, with ethnic profiling of corruption suspects vitiating the seriousness and desperation that should have informed the extermination of the malignant growth. Nigeria and Nigerians are worse for it, with the bleeding of the economy in the face of greedy affronts aligning with citizens’ depreciation to promote the status of the country as the poverty capital of the world. Apart from the corruptive hankering for public funds by some, official corruption by way of bogus allocations of commonwealth for the comfort of the political class is fast producing anaemia.

The pervasive ethnic tokenism in Nigeria reverberated lately with the response of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, to the interim forfeiture of 40 landed assets belonging to the former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who is presently incarcerated in the United Kingdom in connection with the purported trafficking of a boy for organ harvesting for kidney transplant to save the life of his ailing daughter, to the Federal government. The socio-cultural organisation decried the urgency with which EFCC secured the order of a Federal High Court Judge, Inyang Ekwo, in Abuja, without giving Ekweramadu the opportunity to defend himself. Ohanaeze believed the judgement was selective because there were other corruption cases pending before the court.

Without suggesting the validity of the presumptive claim of hastiness and selective approach made by Ohanaeze in responding to the exparte motion, it is arguable that Ekweremadu should have been given the constitutional opportunity of fair hearing. However, beyond the commitment of this socio-cultural organisation to defend one of its own, even with the concession of appropriate sanction for him if found culpable, the likelihood of being seen as either deliberately or inadvertently beautifying corruption leaves so much to be desired.

The issue of corruption in this contestation reminds one of the centrality of corruption to the annihilation of Kunle, the new President of the almost moribund company of his father in Osofisan’s Birthdays Are Not for Dying. For Kunle, getting rid of the formidable fraudulent partners is tough for an inexperienced youngster. Board members in the play like Honourable Fakunle, Chief Seminiyi freely fleece the company’s money. Even Councillor Lekan Bamgbade, who is considered clean, is believed could have enjoyed proceeds of the thievery, considering the pervasiveness of the climate of corruption in the text.

Like the Company in Osofisan’s play, Nigeria remains in the firm grip of looters that have united across ethnic groups to perpetuate their heinous crimes against the nation, while ethno-religious sentiments are whipped up by bigots to neutralise the severity of corruption allegation made against people they would appropriate for possible shared benefits.

The brouhaha around the headship of Afenifere, occasioned by the visit of Tinubu to Fasoranti and the formers’ endorsement by him, as against the earlier support Adebanjo threw behind Peter Obi, concretely showed how socio-cultural organisations could falter on the altar of tokenism. As the race to Aso Villa gathers momentum, Tinubu’s detractors are attempting using the template of the similar order against Ekweremadu to profit from the circulated affidavit purporting a forfeiture order made on him several years ago in the United States.

Even though it is not only Nigerians of northern extraction that have their corruption cases handled in a lacklustre manner by investigating and prosecuting agencies of government, as found in the matters of Sambo Dazuki and a former Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris that was arrested for N174 billion fraud, some watchers are of the opinion that it is only their ilk from the south that get scapegoated, while the media frenzies about others evaporate with the rains.

Corruption in Nigeria and anywhere in the world is neither adorned in any colour nor does it parade the vignettes of any ethnicity and religion. In Nigeria, ethno-religious considerations are merely used by the political class to divide the masses, to allow them sustain the pillaging of the commonwealth. It is expected, therefore, that as presidential candidates conduct their campaigns to earn the votes of the electorate, such must be devoid of heightened ethno-religious tantrums that would overshadow the unification of the elites by corruption. Ohanaeze, or any socio-cultural organisation for that matter, must be cautious of defending its members, not to be seen as suggesting the beautification of corruption, which must die for all of us to live.

I congratulate the Akeredolus as they bid Mama Evangelist Grace Akeredolu farewell, even as I rejoice with Ijare Community on the occasion of the celebration of 2022 Ijare Day! 

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