In the last few weeks we have been beset with a blitzkrieg of mind bugling and ponderous news about the revelations of huge levels of corruption and wrong doing at the highest levels of our government, on a scale so atrocious, even by Nigeria’s standards, that it makes all of us shudder in apoplectic spasms of pain. This time around, and as the revelations have gradually unfolded, we have all felt the impact on a very personal level. The news of all the alleged monumental and substantial acts of graft is indeed very disheartening to hear.
Trying to make sense of it all is quite befuddling. To begin to grapple with the issues that have befallen us in Nigeria, we must be prepared to understand the actual underpinnings of the founding of our nation and have a firm grasp of how we have arrived at this very abysmally low point. We must ask ourselves if our nation can be salvaged, and how it can be salvaged. If we are unable to appreciate how all modern nations have been built, we are bound for certain obliteration, and we may need to renegotiate the validity of our social contract.
Although it feels like the country is already destroyed and we have nothing left to hope for, that isn’t the case at all. This is precisely how the Axis nations of Germany and Japan must have felt after the total destruction and decimation of their infrastructure and political ethos after losing the 2nd World War by 1945; but these countries were able to find their footing and experienced a revival, making them nations of very high repute today. We are not done for as a nation, but we certainly are on the brink of teetering into total collapse. Every choice we make in the next few weeks would be crucial.
All modern nations are founded on certain principles which guarantee that no matter how many shocks the country endures, it would always produce men who possess the presence of mind and moral rectitude to bring things to order and return the polity to the path of growth and development. Aristotle, the great philosopher of antiquity wrote that “It is more proper that law should govern than any one of the citizens”. This is what is meant by the rule of law. This was further elaborated upon by Montesquieu in the 18th century suggesting the separation of powers; particularly saying that the legislative, judicial, and executive arms of government must work for the common good serving as checks and balances for the benefit of the citizenry. These ideas where then further crystallized by Dicey who stated that as opposed to a tyrannical or oppressive system, all men regardless of status must subject themselves to the letter and spirit of the law of the land. These ideas are incorporated into the current constitution of our great nation for our general protection. For this reason no matter how stressed or tenuous our federation has been over the years, no man can boldly beat his chest and say he is above the law in this country. In that way certain basic restraints are placed on all leaders to prevent them from completely destroying the fabric of society or cause them to be tempted to install themselves as gods, who will do whatever they like without a thought for the average Nigerian, and without a sense of pity or compassion for the plight of the common man.
Whether we like it or not, and no matter how bad things may have become in Nigeria, this country (and its resources) does not belong to any one man, group, tribe, cabal, posse, religion, or ideological affiliation. The social contract of the nation of Nigeria signed in the vision and labour of our founding fathers culminating in our independence in the 1960s cannot be ‘rubbished’ by any one to the detriment of ‘We the People’ today, and future generations to come. Our leaders of past believed in the rule of law to the hilt, and recognized that unless there are stringent and corrective law enforcement measures in place all the structures and institutions holding the country afloat will decay to the point that the country will totally fail. As earlier stated, Nigeria is not totally destroyed, but we are currently dancing with doom as our nation is in a perpetual state of teetering on the brink, and unless individuals with foresight act immediately and take the wheel to steer us away from the rim, this country may further deteriorate by 2023. This latest series of incidents might turn out to be the straw that has finally broken the camel’s back.
The fight against corruption is the most important fight any nation can embark on. Keeping corruption in check is the primary means via which the Rule of Law and the institutional order of a nation can steer clear of self immolation. Left unchecked, certain individuals can machinate the looting of resources to the point where nothing is left standing and the entire country could implode. With this in mind, and knowing full well the subversive and insidiously dangerous situation corruption portends, we all welcomed the institutional framework inaugurated by past governments comprising amongst others the EFCC, ICPC to help sustain our, at the time, fledgling democracy.
These institutions since inauguration have functioned to mixed reviews. Some have derided the EFCC in particular as being a toothless bulldog marred by cronyism and high handedness. However, even the most vocal detractors of the EFCC cannot deny that the anti corruption agency strikes a sense of fear in those involved with fraud and other financial crimes. The very existence and continued funding of the EFCC in fighting financial crimes has gone a long way to elevate our international image and serves as a deterrence to excessive graft activities. Regardless of how imperfect this agency is, it has stood as our final bastion of defence against ruthlessly corrupt individuals and serves as a source of hope, showing that our nation is at least moving in the right direction. Over the years several very high profile covert investigative and sting operations brought a huge number of all manner of financial criminals to book leading to the recovery of assets in the billions of naira. For a while, for the first time in our nation the common man felt that his stolen sovereign inheritance was being recovered and secured. We all remember the sense of pride we felt when these assets were confiscated and ostensibly secured to boost our coffers and push our national interests forward.
The entire polity felt vindicated when the agency orchestrated these series of huge breaks; cracking difficult cases. Whistle blowers were incentivised and their efforts began to yield real results. Prosecutions commenced and the defendants once confronted with overwhelming evidence against them mostly cooperated with the agency. This was all in tandem with the president’s primary and lofty goal to fight corruption with the fullest might of the law; and for the first time in years the agency began to receive accolades and praise for their efforts.
However, despite the euphoric joy garnered as a result of the perceived successes of the anti graft agency, several dark and disturbing stories and whispers began to seep out about the actual fate of the confiscated properties and funds. Consequently, there arose a public outcry for the full list and a detailed account of the proceeds of these myriad investigations. In line with his avowed position to fight corruption, and to foster transparency, the President authorised and inaugurated a forensic investigative committee to come up with much needed answers. This forensic investigation which proceeded with resolute diligence for several months resulted in a Report containing certain concerning allegations. A lot has recently been exposed across board, being some of the most egregious, most explosive acts of corruption ever recorded in Nigerian history.
We are all now acquainted with some of the fine details of wide scale conversion of national recourses now widely reported in the press concerning these and many other allegations, as bad as things have been in Nigeria, we have never had it this bad. This series of events which had begun to bubble to the surface from around 2018, and which initially spurred a palpable outcry about the funds and property supposedly confiscated from corrupt officials, has now blossomed into the massive bombshell revelations spilling all through the airwaves at the moment. If these allegations turn out to be true and substantiated, then this is indeed a seminal moment in our history.
The very idea that appointed officials vested with the responsibility of being custodians of the national cake , now being the ones alleged to be the progenitors of the most atrocious perverse acts of conversion ever recorded, is explosive and tectonic in its consequences. If the institutional framework designated to bring culprits to book, and render services to our citizens could themselves become the real face of corruption, then the nation has indeed danced and tiptoed to the brink of actual imminent collapse. The deviance of certain appointees, if all the stories eventually pan out to be substantiated, by desecrating their calling, and oath of office, have nudged us into the precariously dangerous situation we have found ourselves. This requires of us and other relevant institutions and individuals, who innately appreciate the true implications of the predicament they may have put us in, an urgency to do something drastic to stem the inescapable and devastating consequences that will invariably befall us.
The potential fall from grace of any government institution of parastatal is sure to set a domino effect in motion that could compromise the entire institutional framework of the nation, undermining their validity. An unprecedented looting spree that could begin to subvert the day to day national order, which is already fraying at the seams, could ensue. Aside from the inevitable demise of our other governmental institutions, the entire crime fighting fabric of the nation would not be spared either, for if a snake fails to show its venom, little kids will use it in tying firewood.
The office of the attorney general represents the crime fighting arm of the executive and fighting corruption falls squarely under its portfolio. The corrupt looters may have thought they could have a field day subverting our nation unchecked. However, yet again the reach of the Nigerian government still extends to control their perverse excesses, through the person of the attorney general himself who has exhibited rare dutifulness, heroic courage, and clarity of purpose to have some of these atrocities exposed and brought to public light. We should be honest with ourselves and admit that, although distraught over the details emerging from the press, Nigerians were all very pleasantly surprised that these allegations were not concealed and swept under the carpet as had been the case with past administrations.
Malami, by standing up, against all opposition, to do the right thing, is steering the nation away from a quasi thermidorian meltdown. His actions by possibly exposing all the biggest fish ever caught pants down, has recast the office of the Attorney General as a purveyor of the ethos of doing good, fighting head on against the face of darkness which had sought to sink our nation into the abyss. He has stopped in its tracks the retransfer of the sovereign wealth of our nation to any one man or group, persons, whose treachery if substantiated is truly unforgivable. Malami represents our collective outrage, regardless of the naysayers and those who wish to silence him. His direct action in bringing these revelations to light could signal a death knell to those who presently wish to subvert the nation. Nigerians are fully in support of Malami’s pushback against all the corrupt. This pushback also serves to checkmate all other nebulous phantoms and gremlins working in the shadows to loot this country to within a shadow of itself.
It is rather unfortunate that some have embarked on a targeted and albeit ineffective smear campaign to try to demonise Malami. They have strummed up unfounded allegations of financial impropriety against his family. It is obvious that the narratives his traducers seek to construe are paltry and weak. The portrayals are laced with exaggerations, suffused with social media fake news glamorization, and sentiment. The ad hominem attacks are attempts to paint him and his family in bad light. However, all those close to the attorney general, and have had personal encounters with him know these stories to be malicious fabrications not worthy of a second look. He stands as one of the most accomplished attorney generals to occupy the office and remains popular with the rank and file in the Federal Ministry of Justice. It is particularly ridiculous that in order to pool wool over our eyes, they seek to draw a false equivalency between what corrupt officials are alleged to have done, on one hand, and parading a few misconstrued photographs gleaned from social media of Malami’s family, on the other hand; a man who obviously has nothing whatsoever to hide. However, Nigerians are growing wiser by the day and would not fall for this gimmickry. Nigerians will not lose sight of the real enemies of the nation who have a penchant for rallying a retinue of criminal bedfellows to malign the names of those rightly persecuting them. Instead of their various camps to put up even a smattering of a defence to the serious allegations against them, they have elected to deflect and point fingers. They have chosen the coward’s path, which is almost always an admission of culpability.
Now more than ever Nigerians have to train their eyes on all national foes and ensure that they fully support those empowered to flog these gargantuan miscreants and remind them that Nigeria belongs to Nigerians and not a bunch of low life criminals who for personal gain seek to destroy what is left of our dear nation. We must arise! We must stand with the Attorney General to bring the evil ones and their ilk down. The future of our country depends on what is going to unfold in the next few weeks. We must join him to fight. Let the devils know that we too are not sleeping and will not close our eyes while we are raided and denuded. This is a call on all well meaning Nigerians to fight the true enemies of our land. We would have nowhere to run to or escape if our nation fails. Failure is not an option. This is our last stance. All hands must remain on deck and our unreserved support should be channeled to the attorney general. We must fight together. Let us save Nigeria.
Prof Achebo and Hajia Adamu write from Abuja