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Hunting a Just Man

Posted by By Ogbonna N. Ogbonna on 2005/10/05 | Views: 236 |

Hunting a Just Man

Every reasonable person will agree with me that nobody, no matter how highly-placed, is infallible. Obviously, perfection could only be attributed to the Almighty God. However, despite the apparent imperfection of man, overtime some people, especially public officers, have done much to earn a level of trust from the public.

Every reasonable person will agree with me that nobody, no matter how highly-placed, is infallible. Obviously, perfection could only be attributed to the Almighty God. However, despite the apparent imperfection of man, overtime some people, especially public officers, have done much to earn a level of trust from the public.

President Olusegun Obasanjo falls within that bracket. Whether you like the president or not, you will most likely concede the fact that he is not a frivolous person. One other thing that President Obasanjo's critics will not deny him is that he is a patriotic Nigerian, who will do anything within his power for the upliftment of and protection of the nation,
Thus, when on May 29, 1999, he identified corruption as the bane of development in the nation and vowed to confront it; Nigerians and the whole world applauded him. Six years on, he has not disappointed as the results of that courageous promise speak for itself. The setting up of two anti-corruption agencies, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the ICPC has over the years brought some level of sanity in the management of public finance in Nigeria.

These federal agencies have shown courage and seriousness in the discharge of their duties. Some corrupt Nigerians, irrespective of their offices, ethnic or religious affiliations, have been made to face the law. Many Nigerians and even members of the international community have given kudos to these agencies and President Obasanjo for their courage in tackling the scourge of corruption.

Based on this premise, I was appalled to read a statement credited to an unnamed governor in THISDAY newspapers of Monday, September 26. I read a piece entitled: "Mr. President, They Don't Believe You, a form of responses from the newspaper's readers. This is what a state governor had to say in that piece: "I read your write-up. Why I don't disagree with the spirit of the article, I think you have fallen into a trap set by Obasanjo to fool people that he is fighting corruption. Have you asked yourself why all this is happening now that the third term plot is thickening? What has the president done to Odili? If you know the story behind the new jet Odili claimed to have bought you would weep for Nigeria. Go to the US and investigate by yourself. He did not intend to buy any jet at first. Something led to that. Go and investigate. What the president is doing now is pure witch-hunting...I swear to God who made me."

To me, there is nothing as perfidious and irresponsible as this statement purportedly made by a state governor. When juxtaposed with the current realities, the illogic and abject stupidity in such comment come to the fore, just as it exposes the moral hollowness of the governor in question who made such a statement to trivialize an important war against corruption. There is no sense in the claim that President Obasanjo is shielding Odili because of their closeness. This is pure arrant nonsense that holds no water. There is nothing wrong in the president being close to Odili and others, after all democracy is teamwork. For the people to reap from democracy, the three tiers of government and the component units in the federation must work hand in hand and that explains Odili's closeness to the president. To read another meaning into it is sheer lack of logic. Again, governors and the president meet at different level and it is just natural that he takes to some of them and vice versa. It thus would be unreasonable for anyone to criticise Odili for being close to the country's number one citizen. Only someone ignorant of the relationship between state and the federal government could criticize his colleague for being close to the president when they also belong to the same party.

As a matter of fact, Odili is not the only one close to the president. Across the six geo-political zones of the country, we have some governors who are ardent supporters of the president and are primarily close to him because they believe in his leadership qualities and values. But the question is, will such closeness make the president turn the other way if such governors are corrupt? My simple answer and perhaps that of other Nigerians who have observed the anti-corruption war in the recent past is no.

To further this argument, one would want to refer to some recent cases. It is no longer news that Governor Dariye is facing charges of corruption brought against him by the EFCC. While it is not may in any way determine his culpability or not, it is pertinent to note that Governor Dariye was once a close ally of Mr. President. In fact, he was said to be a frequent visitor to Aso Rock, yet he was not shielded by the presidency when he went beyond mark.

Again, Tafa Balogun, the immediate past inspector general of police, who is also in the EFCC net was very close to Mr. President. But when he burnt his fingers in the fire of corruption, the president did not spare him. How else can the president prove that he is serious? Here was the head of the police who is saddled with ensuring the responsibility of keeping law and order and here was also a president who was the chief security officer of the nation whose jobs gave no choice but to be close. And they were close. But for a president who set out to fight a deadly scourge like corruption, not even such closeness could be an obstacle. He did what is right and today Balogun is answering charges for his sin against the nation and the police force.

If pessimists are still unconvinced by this, then too bad. If what they want is for somebody to be punished for what he did not do, such as wanting the president to go after Odili, then they need to look elsewhere. Can the president or the anti-graft agencies just swoop on Odili for no just cause only to prove a non-existent point? This "crime" of Odili exists basically in the fertile imagination of those pushing it. Let them bring out evidence if they are sure of themselves instead of just raising dust where there is none.

But if Odili is caught red-handed, then there is a reason to let him face the music. Otherwise, he should be allowed to continue the good work he is doing for the people of Rivers State. As a man who has the interest of his people at hear, it is very unlikely that he has engaged himself in any shady deal like some of his colleagues. Vice President Atiku Abubakar, while speaking at The Week leadership Award recently in Lagos, attested to Odili's love for his people. Abubakar listed Rivers as one of the states where the governors have done well for their people.

So for one state governor to now impugn the character of Odili is not only unfair but also equally borne out of his own inability to do well for his people. The governor should have given all the information he claims to have instead of asking THISDAY to investigate. It is a shame that he even went to the extent of swearing on a matter he knows too well is a figment of his own imagination. But as Simon Kolawole told the president in the piece in review, the president needs to shame his critics by continuing with the battle against corruption. I also urge Odili to shame his critics by increasing the zeal and zest with which he is working for the betterment of his people. That way, critics will have no choice but to bury their heads in shame.
Dr. Ogbonna writes from Lagos

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