friend who is very perplexed about Nigeria recently told me that he has concluded that the whole of Nigeria is a crime scene and that he should write to the united nations to declare Nigeria a crime disaster area, so that law enforcement agents can be sent to investigate the crimes being committed in the country and bring the criminals to justice. He cited the bulging Nigerian president fleet which has more planes that some private airlines, the refusal of the president to set good example by declaring his assets, the obscene wealth of almost all past Nigerian leaders and that fact that almost every politician in Nigeria has an armoured vehicle and a house abroad. He lamented that there is no single governor, or minister who speaks out against corruption and said that Nigeria has no future. I did not know what to make of his light hearted, but hugely ironic joke about the state of rule of law, probity, security, democracy and accountability in Nigeria. He said that Nigeria needs a miracle and I agreed, but aware that we have a different understanding of how a miracle happens and what it means.
In 2012, Britain celebrated the Queen's diamond jubilee, and hosted the Olympics. It was an opportunity to watch the pomp and pageantry of this ancient and great country, her democratic evolution, culture, world view and attitude. In the sixty years Elizabeth has been on the throne of Britain, she has strengthened equality of sexes, improved race relations, ensured liberty of all, protected fundamental human rights, upheld the rule of law, due process and peaceful transfer of power. The prince of Wales has established twenty five charities and raised over 300 millions pounds for charity and the government continues to fund scientific research generously. During her reign, Britain has made huge progress in scientific discoveries and contributed to enlightenment. Her reign has further civilised Britain and made it a safer, more peaceful, and civilised country, with the an accountable government and proud citizens.
Watching the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics and the celebration of British culture, her sensitivity, attention to details, commitment to equality and diversity and respect for order; I could not but wonder about Nigeria, the country of my birth, where disorder, anarchy, ignorance, ethnic and religious prejudices, impunity insecurity, criminality and government corruption have strangulating hold. When I see how much accountability, culture of honesty, good government and the rule of law enable Britain to do with her resources, it is difficult to have any good words for those whose greed, criminality, ignorance, religious and ethnic prejudices and nationalism have brought Nigeria to her sorry state. How can I have any respect or good words for those whose leadership has left Nigeria on a precipice of an abyss? Why should I have anything good to say about leaders who award contracts for roads that are built and the budgeted money turn up in their foreign accounts from where they repatriate it to build hill top mansions, commercial farms, private universities and planes. How can any rational mind see anything good in those whose greed and criminality, has institutionalised corruption in Nigeria and made it one of the worst countries in the world?
In spite of these achievements, Britain still has a lot of problems which include social inequality that condemns a section of the population to a cycle of dependency and poverty, agitation for independence by Scotland, flawed but functional democracy with many undemocratic features which include the monarchy itself and unelected house of Lords, which enable politicians appoint their cronies to the upper house of parliament. Nevertheless, its strong institutions function independent of direct government control and those who appointed the the people who run the institutions. These are problems Britain continues to grabble with in a very British way. very soon Scotland will vote in a referendum to determine if the majority of Scots wants independence from united Kingdom. There is no militant groups in Scotland fighting for independence. The people of Scotland are not stealing the north sea oil or has a militant group which abduct oil workers because the oil is from Scotland. You do not hear of government officials, senior military officers and politicians conniving to steal the north sea oil through bunkering and no one becomes a millionaire in Britain simply by holding public office or been elected into position of responsibility and power. The Queen of Britain does not have a fleet of planes like the emperor of Nigeria. So, Britain is a great country which has made great strides in science and technology, arts, peaceful coexistence, equality of all before the law, due process and the rule of law; but it is not the promised land.
I cannot not help thinking about Nigeria and her mutated democracy with the worst of its citizens in power. A blessed country ridden with corruption, ethnic and religious prejudiced and abuse of power and position. It is a sad commentary on Africans and the black race that the evolutionary development of Nigeria as a nation has taken a sad turn. Growing up in Nigeria and living in Britain gives me opportunity to compare the the best and worst of both countries which is why I am very concerned about the way and manner successive Nigerian government including the current government of Goodluck Jonathan abuse their power by selective justice, corruption, nepotism,lack of respect for the rule of law, disdain for individual liberty and truth.
When Obasanjo established the EFCC, many people thought that finally Nigeria had become serious about addressing the scourge of corruption. However, it quickly became obvious by the arbitrary and selective way and manner EFCC was carrying out its functions, by targeting only politicians who were not in the good book of the president, that the EFCC was not working for best interest of Nigeria, but doing the bidding of the president. Today it is another feature of the Nigerian fiasco. An organisation set up to fight crimes but denied the resources and power it needs to do its job well because of the complicity of the leaders in crimes.
Unfortunately, in spite of his pronouncements and demonstration of religiosity, president Goodluck Jonathan has continued the tyrannical abuse of power, and exploitation of ethnic differences and prejudices to serve his personal political ambition. He has simply continued in the footsteps of his predecessors by getting as rich as possible while in office, using government agencies in a selective manner to avenge or settle old scores and using patronage to induce people to turn a blind eye to evil. Instead of demonstrating courage to tackle corruption, and introduce the changes and innovations Nigeria needs, he prefers to appoint committees who produce reports he leaves to gather dust, while the evil continues. The president prefers to give reasons why he is unable to do what he was elected to do, instead of finding solutions to the difficult problems which are destroying Nigeria. His battle with Ameachi which is currently threatening the peace in Rivers state and resulted in a fracas at the state house of assembly, is a classical example of where the interest and priority of the president lies.
The EFCC has continued to be used to target politicians who are not in the good book of the president, while many who have spent their time corruptly enriching themselves, like the Abia state governor are suckling up to the president in the hope that he would protect him from the fate of Ibori when he leaves office. The president is more interested in rehabilitating those who were convicted for corruption than ensuring that things are put in place to make it more difficult for politicians to misappropriate public funds. Now and then, EFCC arrests a high profile politician, only for it to undermine the case and the criminal walks free from court accompanied by their SANs. The recent victim is the ex- governor of Bayelsa state. He is on trial for corruption not because he abused his office and corruptly enriched himself like many of the politicians, if recent revelations should be believed; but because he fell out with the president.
First the president ensured that he was deselected by the party by directly interfering in the selection process and now he is trying to make him understand where power lies. His crimes have been made public and it is unbelievable that a single individual could steal so much in such a short period of time. At the same time, the president turns a blind eye to the criminality and excesses of many of his close advisers and ministers and does nothing to bring many indicted ex-politicians to justice.
We watched similar scenario played out between The president's boss when he was deputy governor of Bayelsa and Obasanjo. The man whose name is Goodluck benefited from this misuse of power. Unfortunately, he seem to have learnt very little about how not to use power. He seems not to have realised that good men use power to make those who hold power more accountable and its misuse more difficult. A good man uses power to make it difficult for evil people when thy acquire power to abuse it. President Jonathan has not shown that he is aware of this. President Jonathan owes it to Nigerians to make the Nigerian presidency more transparent, accountable, and less able to aid and abate corruption.
It is not wrong to arraign Sylvia for corruption or confront Ameachi if he feels that he has over stepped his bonds. I have no sympathy for Sylvia or care about the president's relationship with Ameachi. In fact, I believe that Many like sylvia should be facing justice and giving account of their stewardship. What is not right, which is what many objective minds object to, is the selective way and manner those who are accused of corruption in Nigeria are treated. Where is Peter Odili, and all ex- governors indicted for corruption by the EFCC? Where is Ex speaker of House of Representtative, Bankole? What happened to the charges against Tinubu? Why does the government apply what it calls political solution to some corruption cases and hang out some politicians to dry? How come it has been possible to prosecute Alemeihesagha, Ibori and now Sylvia, but the government is unable to prosecute the other equally corrupt politicians? Why is it that it is only governors from the core oil producing states who fall out with the presidency that have been prosecuted? Why has the rest not been brought to justice? Where are governors and politicians from the north who have mismanaged the allocations to their region and created the fertile ground on which Boko haram is flourishing ? Why is the Nigerian state unable to bring certain individuals to justice? Why should some individuals be above the law in a country that claims to believe in and operate the rule of law? Can the Nigeria president not see that his actions and attitude to corruption is making Nigeria a laughing stalk? Which is why an American senator can make disparaging statement about Nigeria and Nigerians.
Where are the other Iboris who also looted Nigeria while in office? Why should some politicians be allowed to obtain permanent injunction from prosecution, while a few are rusticated to teach them a lesson? Why are people like Femi Fani-kayode not under investigation for their excesses while in power? Why has the government not set up a judicial inquiry into many politically motivated murders which the police has been unable to solve? Why is Babangida not being questions about the murders committed by his killing squad and parcel bombs? why is Obasanjo not answering questions about his role in the murder of Bola Ige? It is not just necessary for justice to be done, it is very important that it should also be seen to be done. Selective justice is injustice. To do nothing in the face of evil, is to do something positively wrong. Equality of all before the law demands that all breeches of the law be treated in the same way and manner. This is how the rule of law is strengthened. To abuse one's power to enforce the law only when those who are not in one's good book breaks the law is to be unjust. This is Tyranny and does not augur well for the future of democracy in Nigeria.
President Jonathan should look at the way Queen Elizabeth and British government exercise power to learn the correct way to exercise power. No one forced the thousands of people who stood in the rain to honour her. They did it because they know that she has been a just Queen. During her reign, the rich and poor have been treated the same by the law. Members of the house of Lords, members of Parliament, and the lowest members of the the society have all been treated the same by the law. Britain has no political prisoners and Ministers who break the law including road traffic laws go to jail. No one is allowed to benefit from corruption and when people are convicted of corruption effort is made to make sure that they do not benefit from their crimes unlike in Nigeria, where they are given a slap on the wrist and allowed to enjoy their loot.
This is what the rule if law means. A state where the rich and powerful fear the weak and poor because of the law. This is what we lack in Nigeria. The Nigeria system looks like democracy, sounds like democracy but sadly does not work like democracy. It is a system with laws that are impotent in the face of power and wealth. Yes, Nigeria have great lawyers and judges , but they are like Potters without clay. They live in a country which has not created the enabling environment for justice to flourish. They acquiesce with the corrupt politicians to undermine the rule of law and make ass of the laws.
The rule of law is civilisation and no country can develop without making the rule of law sacrosanct. Nigeria should wake up to the real cause of our malady and compel the leaders to address it. We cannot have a constitution that protects undeserved advantage and privileges, or protects certain groups of people from the demands of the law and hope to build a sustainable nation. We cannot afford to be one nation two laws. We cannot be sentencing common criminals who steal to survive to long prison terms with hard labour while the corrupt politicians whose crimes do more damage to the country walk free and live beyond the law. This is wrong. This is not democracy but kleptocracy , the rule of thieves. It should be one nation, one justice one law and one constitution. Anything apart from this, is injustice and anarchy. Selective justice is abuse of power and evidence of tyranny.