by Ike Ogu
It is very sad that Nigeria is slowly being turned to a Nazi State where an appeal to the emotional inanity of the mob and a resort to jungle justice is slowly becoming the order of the day and peaceful dissension and the holding of contrary opinions is now viewed through the lens of sedition.
How does one explain the recent happenings where it is now becoming commonplace for any person or group of people who are courageous and far sighted enough to voice anything akin to a contrary opinion to the methods being adopted by the current administration in its widely acclaimed “War on Corruption”, to be immediately and rudely rebuffed by a litany of spokespersons from the Presidency to the media offices of the ruling party to countless social media hirelings and branded as “those who support looting of the treasury” or “those who want to stand in the way of President Buhari’s fight against corruption” or as “those who want to shield the guilty elements of the former dispensation from prosecution?”.
In the past few weeks, the propaganda machine again revved up its engines in defense of the administration’s methods (crude as they may seem) by taking a swipe against revered personalities in Nigeria’s political firmament who have a lifetime of achievements and have made their names in times past; standing for constitutionality, against military dictatorship and in support of the ordinary Nigerian. By my estimation, these personalities have been steadfast in their public conduct for as long as I can remember unlike many of the fair weather activists who have exploited the system and the gullibility of Nigerians for their personal benefit.
If memory serves, Professor Ben Nwabueze, Rev Matthew Kukah both now affiliated to different groups, had cause to seriously vilify the last administration on more than one occasion on its perceived shortcomings even to the extent that the eminent Professor Nwabueze publicly suggested that former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan not contest the last Presidential elections in order to preserve the peace, Rev Kukah even took it upon himself to stitch a peace committee of respected Nigerians together, in a bid to set a code of conduct for the major gladiators of the last election and to set the stage for a tranquil post election Nigeria, to the extent that for the first time in a long time, the loser in a Presidential election did not go to court, complain or seek any kind of redress even when there existed ample ground to do so. (More on this later)
It is therefore disheartening to note the way and manner this respected individuals who cut their teeth and had their place of pride secured in Nigeria’s history before the emergence of many of these latter day democrats and social media activists, have been made to seem like the villains by the relentless propaganda machine of what is daily becoming more and more, a government without a direction or substance.
These two eminent Nigerians are concerned like many other Nigerians, at the selective and uncoordinated shape the Buhari anti-corruption initiative is taking, we are concerned that an administration that shouts to the high heavens about its will to fight corruption is willing to draw a line in the sand and declare a self imposed statute of limitation on the scope of its fight by saying only the immediate past administration will figure in its crosshairs as if to say evil is only evil if it exists within a certain time frame, we are concerned that the grand purveyors of this campaign are themselves men of questionable integrity, we are concerned at the newspaper reports that the President is looking for “good” judges to prosecute corruption cases as if this is not meddlesomeness and against the principles of separation of powers, we are concerned that anti-democratic tendencies of the President are beginning to show themselves again in comments he has made since taking office, we are concerned that an anti-corruption fight not properly defined and coordinated could lead to sections of the country feeling alienated and the conditions that gave rise to many upheavals previously experienced in our national life would again begin to rear their ugly head.
To my mind the right thing the government ought to have done was at very least, explain the method to its madness, carry the people along by creating an avenue for grassroots involvement, set out a program of scholastic reorientation for the young people and send them out as “anti-corruption ambassadors” as a way to secure the buy-in of the general populace, because to my mind, for any serious anti-corruption effort to be successful, the people must own the process, any other way is a joke and will have little no effect in the long term. Instead, the Presidency and the ruling party media machinery have descended into the arena of name calling to defend its flank and made insinuations of sedition against those who are asking questions, and as a result the aforementioned gentlemen are suddenly being made to look like enemies of the state, Jews or Jewish sympathizers in 1940s Germany and Obote men of Idi Amin’s Uganda; seditious elements to be verbally vilified and castrated in the public square just because they dare to ask legitimate questions.
Unfortunately for Lai Mohammed and the APC, peaceful dissension and holding of contrary views is a part of democracy, infact it is what makes democracy, democracy! What is worse, is that this same APC and especially Lai Mohammed were the greatest beneficiaries of that gift of democracy under the last dispensation, where their party lampooned the former President to no end, calling him all kinds of names from clueless to drunken sailor, yet a little friendly advice from genuinely concerned Nigerians to them is replied with insults and accusations of seditious behavior. I have no issues with the exchange of barbs between Olisa Metuh and Lai Mohammed, their claims and counterclaims against each other sometimes enlivens the political space, but when eminent and respected Nigerians have thought it necessary to intervene and those interventions are thrown back in their faces, especially when the past interventions of these same personalities resulted in the peaceful emergence of the current government, then all men of goodwill must speak up.
I maintain that Nigerians must not only want democracy, we must want to be democrats! We must want to follow due process, we must respect the concept of the standard of proof, and we must understand and respect the difference between what is an allegation and what is proven fact, if not, we are no better than the lower animals that populate the jungle and our sense of justice, no less primitive.
I say this to my contemporaries and the young people in our nation, whose understanding of governance and the Nigerian state has been reduced to a duel between their favorite English Premier League sides. I posit, that unlike the Premier league; when a winner emerges in an election that winner is responsible for all and not just those who wear the teams jersey or supported them during the season. Sadly, it is almost as if criticisms against the government are defended by the winning side almost on the basis of “they are my team so good or bad, right or wrong I must support them for life”, the same can be said for the other side who voted for the parties that lost.
It is on this premise that I noticed again that almost overnight, a new word has entered our collective lexicon, and some now brandish it carelessly without understanding its real meaning or the implications of its use. I believe the term “Looters” recently emanated from the camps of the “opposition party in power” and like many of the buzzwords that take on a life in the Nigerian society, the word has taken on a life of its own. The dictionary defines a looter as a thief, burglar, robber, pillager, plunderer; this definition is definitive and not open to interpretation or contest, it is fact. It is therefore worrisome that many undiscerning Nigerians are been slowly brainwashed by the ever-vibrant APC propaganda machine to believe that everyone that participated in the last dispensation looted public funds and all those said looters will be brought to book.
Is an individual guilty only by accusation? Where have we put the concept of the standard of proof? We hear of many billions looted but not one shred of evidence has as yet being provided to back up these accusations, not one! People are saying instead of all the song and dance in the media, take the accused looters to court… no answer. For a sitting government to allow itself to be dragged about like this doesn’t give one a lot of hope that this war against corruption will find any real success.
I, figure cynically, that the standards of proof required to successfully prosecute such cases is quite high and for this reason, the administration is quite content to prosecute its cases in the courts of public opinion rather than in any court of law.
We have been regaled by the almost weekly accusations of the governor of Edo State about how funds were looted by the past administration, how the immediate former minister of finance stole (sorry looted), so and so amounts of money, the less said about the looted figures ascribed to the immediate past minister of petroleum the better. Only last week Mr. Lai Mohammed again released a list of the monies he claims are missing or that the PDP government looted and again I found myself wondering if this so-called corruption is not a smoke screen for an inability to govern.
The list amongst other allegations accused the PDP governments of having looted the sum of $13Billion from the sale of 160 Billion Barrels of crude oil from 2009 to 2012. As an industry person, these kinds of allegations do nothing to add to the credibility of the APC; firstly how did Nigeria sell 160 Billion Barrels of crude oil in just 3 years?
In the last 5 years Nigeria’s daily output of crude oil has at best been nearer the 2.5 Million barrels per day mark on very good days, this is not to mention the OPEC caps on production, or the effect of oil theft on those numbers, not to mention declarations of force majeure as a result of periodic shut-ins by oil majors due to pipeline ruptures and other issues that lead to operational shutdowns; but for the sake of argument let us even put the production at 4 Million barrels a day (a very aggressive upper limit).
4 Million barrels per day multiplied by 365 days in the year equals 1,460,000,000 (One Billion Four Hundred and Sixty Million Barrels). If we multiply this amount by 3 years, the math brings the total to 4,380,000,000 (Four Billion Three Hundred and Eighty Million Barrels), again as an industry man, I can tell you these figures were never achieved, where then does the APC get its figure of 160 Billion Barrels from?
How on God’s green earth does 160 Billion barrels even equate to $13 Billion in revenue, where the average oil price over that period was in the region of $40-$80 per barrel? Fuzzy mathematics if you ask me.
In any case the last administration only came to office in 2011 and by their own admission their probe would only be targeted at the last administration, so how come this recourse to imaginary events that predate 2011?
Another curious allegation that made the list is the $15 million seized in the South African arms debacle last year, which as at last count was still in the possession of the South African authorities and who said they would return the monies to Nigeria in due time as a means to smooth over the rough edges that were thrown up as a result of the whole fiasco. How then does the APC list this as part of the so-called looted funds?
The fact that the APC is not even willing to treat this matter as the diplomatic backstab that it is by a nation we consider our brothers and a major beneficiary of Nigeria’s past assistance at a time we were in dire need of assistance and is more content to use the fallout of same to suit its own twisted agenda, should give us all cause for serious concern about those currently in charge of our nation.
There is also another figure of $6 billion dollars being bandied around that a former minister was said to have stolen, again not one shred of evidence, proof of wrong doing or confessional statements by said culprits have been provided but yet they have been publicly tried and executed by propaganda.
Lai’s list reminds one of the EFCC style of piling hundreds of charges against an accused person in the hope that at least a few will stick and in the end all the charges are thrown out.
For the record, I am not absolving the last administration of any financial wrongdoing, I believe anyone who is proven to have stolen, looted or misappropriated our commonwealth by any name sexy or not; should face the full wrath of the law and made to account for their misdeeds. The level of impunity in Nigeria to say the least is quite bothersome across all levels of governance and even into the private sector and urgent and REAL change is needed, however, I am concerned that as a nation we are being baited by the political class into a place of frenzied emotions and eminent mob action because of our orientation and aggressive nature as a people.
I remember the incident of the Aluu 4 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State; bright young men who had their whole lives ahead of them cut down in their prime by mob action, whether or not the allegations made against them by the mob were true, they deserved due process- they deserved their day in court, they deserved a trial by a court of competent jurisdiction, not the jungle justice that was meted out to them by those lower animals who paraded themselves that day in skins of human beings.
The burden of proof must always be on the accuser and not on the accused; unfortunately this is the tragedy of our nation and us as a people, we are always quick to reach for tyre and matches, than take the time to apply ourselves and investigate the merits of an argument of an accused person. This is why our security forces are notorious for extra judicial killings and torture, because as a people it is acceptable to our psyche, if not outrightly encouraged, almost as if beneath our collective persona lies a beast that has a bloodlust that is insatiable.
For those who might consider this long treatise to be in support of any particular agenda, be sure that you will remember this on the day that you or someone close to you is accused unjustly and condemned in the court of public opinion without a shred of evidence and purely on the say so of an accuser. On such a day you will need somebody to save you from the mob and guide you to a place where the protection of due process is assured. Again this is not to make a case for elements of the past administration, but I believe a society must develop a social conscience for itself that transcends football team, political party, tribal or religious affiliations and must be able to define what is right against what is convenient.
We as a people must never tire of demanding a higher standard of governance, a higher standard of communal interaction, a higher standard of due process; sadly many of the responses from the very people who should be demanding this high standards and in whose interest this higher standards serve are the same people who are admonishing people like Rev Fr Hassan Kukah and Prof Nwabueze for asking President Buhari, Lai Mohammed and the APC, “where is the evidence, where is the due process?” They ask not because they want to shield anyone from prosecution but because they have a deep understanding of Nigeria’s convoluted political history and the fragile fault lines that bind us together as a nation and the kinds of things that may compromise those bonds, they ask because they understand that the law and sanctity of the judicial process must be upheld at all times despite the blood lust of the impatient mob, they ask because the quality of prosecution must not be undermined by spurious allegations that border on politics and witch-hunts.
In conclusion, if by accusations alone, it is enough to label the past administration as looters without the adherence to any standard of proof, then by the same token our current President himself is not fit to hold his current office because he has more than a few unresolved allegations hanging around his neck from his time as minister of petroleum, his time as military head of state, to his time as head of PTF; again the burden of proof should be on his accusers.
If we must prosecute, let us prosecute in the courts not on the pages of newspapers or in the courts of public opinion and in the meantime, let governance start, we must be able to work and chew gum at the same time, the common man might hunger for the blood of the rich, but he hungers more for the sweet taste of bread.
Ike Ogu is a professional working in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.