Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Marching In Circles, Walking In Circles

By Chuks Iloegbunam
We must invite Hon. Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to come to our immediate assistance. On Thursday June 9, 2016, Mr. James F. Entwistle, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, petitioned Speaker Dogara, accusing three members of the lower chamber of the National Assembly of improper conduct, attempted rape and soliciting for prostitutes while participating in a political programme in America.
*Buhari 
The following is a part of the Ambassador’s petition: “It is with regret that I must bring to your attention the following situation. Ten members of the Nigerian National Assembly travelled to Cleveland, Ohio, as participants in the International Visitor Leadership Programme on good governance. We received troubling allegations regarding the behavior of three members of the delegation to the U.S. Government’s flagship professional exchange programme.

“The U.S. mission took pains to confirm these allegations and the identities of the individuals with the employees of the hotel in Cleveland. “The conduct described above left a very negative impression of Nigeria, casting a shadow on Nigeria’s National Assembly, the International Visitor Leadership Program, and to the American hosts’ impression of Nigeria as a whole. Such conduct could affect some participants’ ability to travel to the United States in the future.”

The Ambassador requested “in the strongest possible terms” that the Speaker should share his government’s apprehension with the National Assembly so that the members will understand the “potential consequences” of their actions. The Ambassador had acted appropriately. As was to be expected, the matter sacked every other topic in the Nigerian media, orthodox and social. Calls sprang from the four corners asking for the heads of the accused legislators. Some, more merciful, demanded their imprisonment or, at the very least, their letters of resignation. It was at this point of cacophony that Speaker Dogara stepped in with a dose of fresh air. He called the American Ambassador’s petition by its real name, which is Allegations. And he tweeted severally: “He who alleges must prove. That’s the law. As we speak, no evidence has been put forward other than the letter sent to my office and copied to many others.”

  “Together with the US Embassy in Nigeria we will get to the bottom of this matter and until then let’s not be judgmental.” “Under our laws, an accused person is deemed innocent until proven guilty and he enjoys the benefit of any doubt.” “Social media trial and conviction of members alleged to have committed the offence is taking up arms against our laws.” It was difficult to believe that Speaker Dogara had tweeted as reported, especially as commentators appeared to have missed the import of the pronouncements credited to him. What the reported tweets scream with uncommon eloquence is an indictment of the Nigerian government, for not following due process in its vaunted anti-corruption war.

This will be addressed shortly. But, first, an examination of related issues. Ambassador Entwistle’s petition was not written in his individuality. It was written in the name and on the authority of the Government and the peoples of the United States of America. This underscores the petition’s gravity. There are two questions to ask here. One, would the US allow the laisser-faire attitude common to these parts to undermine the credibility of its top envoy in Abuja, by watching gleefully as this critical matter gets buried in the womb of time? Two, if the Americans offer every assistance to get to the “bottom of this matter,” would Speaker Dogara’s promise, made on behalf of the House of Representatives, to unearth the truth be redeemed?

Or would it turn out that he had only spoken to douse excited indignation? Fears that this matter will soon disappear cannot be easily dismissed. During February, a video went virile on the Internet showing a female Army officer and two soldiers brutalising a poor, defenceless civilian, slapping him more than 40 times, inflicting karate chops on the nape of his neck, kicking him in the area of the groin, washing him down with a torrent of caustic insults, and compelling him to wipe the blood oozing from his ruptured facial organs with his shirt, simply for the alleged offence of calling the officer “beautiful”.

Five months later, not a word has been heard on the investigation promised by the military. The Halliburton bribery scandal has refused to go away. But it is not being investigated at the Nigerian end, despite America’s abiding encouragement to that end. Instead it has been devalued to a joke on the ownership of the initials AMB. The petitions filed last year against two serving Ministers, one of which was the outcome of a judicial inquiry, have continued to gather dust on the shelves of the EFCC. The authenticity question regarding the presidential school certificate managed to be asked at the High Court. But a judicial order of indefinite adjournment suddenly bludgeoned it. Above all else, corruption allegations have surfaced against the Chief of Army Staff.

Evidence is everywhere that the man bought up property in Dubai. Did the purchase funds come from his legitimate earnings or from other sources? This case is crucial because it concerns the embodiment of the Army’s morale and integrity. Further, it has to do with the man whose way the Army said was blocked, and on the strength of which hundreds of Shiites were mown down with gunfire and their estates razed to the ground. By the way, the murder of the Shiite hundreds happened six months ago. Yet, no word is today being heard about the work of the tribunal of inquiry ostensibly investigating it. Why is it that, in all these examples and in many more, Abuja is not applying Speaker Dogara’s cited dogma on judicial process?

The following comes from Corruption and the Rules of Engagement, an article I published last December: “Unfortunately, the President’s anti-corruption rhetoric, and the manner his government is prosecuting the war points to duplicity. This is because the fight against entrenched corruption cannot succeed unless it is systematised. But Buhari’s anti-corruption war is bereft of system. It is selective. It is running on the wheels of media hysteria. It is unconcerned with preventive measures. It is overloaded with censure and sanction. It is, therefore, bound to end in tragic failure.” The way things stand, there is no doubt that the country is currently entrapped in the barber’s chair, whirling – a transfixed object perpetually in motion but incapable of advancing from any one point to another.

Thirty years ago messiah had turned up in military fatigues, complete with medals and epaulettes, marching in circles. After a three-decade interregnum of costly hairsplitting, messiah staged a comeback garbed in embroidered, civilian robes, walking in circles.
*Mr. Chuks Iloegbunam,  an author, wrote from Lagos.


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