Posted by By LOUIS ODION on
As long as man is obsessed with placing right over wrong, the idea of ethical conditioning surely remains a social imperative.
As long as man is obsessed with placing right over wrong, the idea of ethical conditioning surely remains a social imperative. The challenge is even more critical for a society that finds itself at a moral crossroads: where traditional value system that, for instance, ennobles the virtues of industry and integrity, are under mortal assault from the "post-modernist" disposition which glorifies the carnality of prosperity without labour.
Such moment can be harrowing indeed. Things that endure, it must be remembered, are never products of plunder; they are fruit of toil and faith.
As India’s famed thinker, Mahatma Gandhi, once rightly observed, wealth without labour is a social sin to be avoided by a society that wishes to avoid the spiritual pestilence that follows ethical disarray. Of course, the consequences are grim: the proverbial dogs begin to eat dogs.
To say that the 21st century Nigerian society is stewing in such conflict of value systems is to restate the obvious. But whereas division may exist as regards the solution to the National Question, there is surely a consensus already that the problem is substantially ethical in nature. Really, it is not that thieves did not exist in the olden days or that people never sought to cut corners then or that the word self-aggrandisement had no meaning among public officers. Of course, that could not have been possible. What confounds the older generation of Nigerians today is, however, the culture of impunity, the near glorification of corruption.
The stench permeates virtually every facet of our national life. So much so that the nation has for years now been ranked as one of the most corrupt in the world. From parents who no longer feel any qualms in openly procuring "expo" for their wards to pass exams to teachers awarding grades to the highest bidder. From lawmakers who extort bribes to pass budget bills to members of the executive arm who simply convert public money to private use. From leaders who make promises they never intend to keep to pastors who take donations from armed robbers…
Sobered by the deepening rot, the board of editors of The Sun, therefore, found the activities of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) particularly outstanding in the year 2005 in the war against graft vis-à-vis the nation’s long desired quest for ethical rebirth. Of course, the organization is personified by Nuhu Ribadu, the police officer whose petite frame belies a seeming steely resolve.
Indeed, EFCC had emerged in 2000 alongside ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Crimes Commission) as twin mechanisms devised by the Obasanjo administration to wage war against graft. But perhaps due to the advantage of the force of arms it enjoys, the former has emerged the most active.
Indeed, the choice of Ribadu as Man of the Year (2005) by The Sun board of editors was not without robust arguments for and against. Trailing behind Ribadu in the assessment is Finance Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who helped the nation achieve debt forgiveness this year.
But while debt relief easily translates to more money in the hands of government, the gains, it was observed, can only be sustained if the nation imbibes a new culture of prudence, accountability and transparency. True, change is scientific. Progress is ethical. Of course, that takes us back to the ethical debate.
In the nation’s history, 2005 should go down as the year of Golgotha with the highest number of public officers felled for soiling their fingers or 419 super-stars suddenly dimmed having for long dominated the nation’s firmament.
From the Senate President, Adolphus Wabara, who lost his throne over allegations of demanding N55 million bribe to pass budget estimates to the Education minister, Fabian Osuji, who brought the money. From the 419 icons, Emmanuel Nwude and Amaka Anajemba, to Tafa Balogun who fell from glory as the "almighty" Inspector General of Police to the infamy of a conviction for stealing N17 billion. And lately, DSP Alamieyeseigha impeached as Bayelsa governor over allegations of laundering and jumping bail in London… Indeed, it was a year the fabled long arm of the law literally went on rampage, engaging EFCC as the lightning rod.
To be sure, the idea of EFCC itself should be seen as extra-ordinary. The statute books certainly boast of more than enough provisions to combat corruption. But it has taken Ribadu’s crusading doggedness to give bite to the organization. Of course, what this confirms is that nothing is impossible once there is commitment. Even more telling is that
Ribadu, who has infected the nation with a new puritanic fever, is a product of the same police force often written off as being beyond redemption. The lesson: no institution is ever so cursed not to be blessed with its own potential redeemer.
Today, with the nation’s courtyard already strewn with the torn robes of the likes of Tafa Balogun, it will certainly not be wrong to say that the land is astir with a new consciousness. It is the fear of EFCC. The crooked-minded now have something to fear. The bribe receivers are now a little more careful. Who knows, the mint-fresh banknotes may be marked. Or, the bespectacled Nemesis may just be lurking around the corner.
But in making the choice, the board was hardly unmindful of the contradictions of EFCC as an institution. Chief among these is its tendency to become a tool of witch-hunt – an attack dog of sorts – in the hands of Aso Rock against enemies – real and imaginary. Yes, many have been brought down by EFFC’s sword in the war against graft in public office. But check the statistics: they are mostly those in Aso Rock’s bad books or errand-boys who had ceased to serve any use.
Another failing is the tendency of the supposed moral crusader to confront criminalities with acts bordering similarly on illegalities. Nowhere was this penchant brazenly demonstrated as Beyelsa State in the high drama that led to the ouster of DSP Alamieyeseigha penultimate Friday as governor. Indeed, just as DSP began to play his last cards in what had from outset been adjudged a lost game, EFCC permitted itself the temerity to cause the freezing of the state account.
The result was that the statutory allocation for the state for the month of November was withheld. Similarly, some of the state legislators alleged that they were coaxed, at gun-point, to sign the impeachment notice served on Alamieseigha. While such strong-arm tactics may indeed be expedient in the art of political brinkmanship, nowhere in the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is EFCC empowered to assume such sweeping powers.
While these lapses indeed stand condemnable, we, however, choose to see them as a corruption of the idea and not as a failure of EFCC as an idea. As the old Spanish proverb says, "More things grow in the garden than the gardener sows." With more circumspection on the part of its foot soldiers in the times ahead and casting out of the demon of partisanship from its high command, EFCC, we believe, will enjoy greater public confidence.
Before then, will Ribadu, therefore, step forward to receive the garland. He joins the exclusive pantheon consecrated by The Sun for patriots whose actions, words or even silence help to inspire hope for a better Nigeria. In 2004, it was Professor Charles Soludo who dared to envision a new banking order. And in 2003, it was Dr. Mike Adenuga, the Globacom boss who brought phones to the ordinary Nigerians.
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