Professor Femi Odekunle wants President Muhammadu Buhari to rev up the war against corruption by bringing more looters into the net including Obasanjo’s administration.
Professor Femi Odekunle is a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption and former Chief of Staff to Lt. General Oladipo Diya, as Chief of Defence Staff.
In this interview aired on Rockcity FM, Abeokuta, Odekunle wants President Muhammadu Buhari to rev up the war against corruption by bringing more looters into the net.
He also called for a probe of past administrations from 1997 to 2015 to give the fight more credibility.
You are a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, the anti-corruption war appears to be fully on and some people have said that the president appears to be selective in the manner in which he’s picking up people but not ready to follow the rule of law. As a member of that advisory committee, would you say that was part of the advice offered by your committee?
I’m not just a member of the advisory committee, I am a virile member of the committee even though I’m not speaking for the committee, I would rather speak for myself from there, it is left to you to guess whether or not the advice of the committee is partly, minimally or maximally responsible for the actions against corruption or the actions that are going on. I want to say for the umpteenth time, I had my PhD in criminology in 1974, and as a young man, I was studying burglary, armed robbery and the like but by 1980 or so, I realised that, the way it was going, I was going to end up been a handmaiden of the elites. They were the people who were interested in burglary, armed robbery and stuffs like that. I discovered that corruption was more dangerous in all its ramifications than all the crime combined. If an armed robber stole from a bank, maybe one million or ten million Naira, what he has done is wrong, but when a man is supposed to construct a road and he does not do it, or does it shabbily and people are involved in accidents on that road, that amounts to a capital wrong. When a man imports fake drugs and it kills thousands of people, it is corruption. When a man smuggles goods that are not supposed to come into the country, it damages the economy. When a man is supposed to give water and at the Water Corporation, he’s the director general with so many directors, engineers but there is no water, thereby causing damage to the lives of the citizens, its corruption. What about NEPA? What about the railways? What about schools that are supposed to be built, primary, secondary schools and there are roofs falling on children. Owing to corruption, people set fire on government buildings to destroy documents. These are more serious crimes than all the burglary, the armed robbery, and all the thefts you can think about. So, from that time, I started studying about corruption and without sounding immodest, I organised the first national conference on corruption under the aegis of Nigerian Society for Sociology in 1980 during which we involved all manners of organisations in the country. At that time, they had just started the Code of Conduct Bureau and they came and even financed the publication of that book. So, you could say I wrote or collated the first volume of corruption work in this country and in fact, the second collation and at that time, there was no law against corruption. Over the years, there has been argument back and forth about the need to have a law against corruption, then the ICPC law came out, however crooked or distorted it might look. At the first conference organised to discuss that law and the possibility of its relevance, I was the consultant to the organisers. The reason I’m giving this historical background is to say that my concern, views and positions are well thought out, they are based on experience, garnered long before the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption. That is why I gave all that long story, that I have been academically, socially and morally committed to the anti- corruption crusade before PACA. So, it will be better if I give you my views on your questions and from there, you can extrapolate by yourself whether it is what is affecting the president or not. On top of it all, I believe the president is going in the right direction, why do I say so? One of the factors militating against effective prevention and control of corruption in this country, is leadership, What did I say? Leadership! In this country, as far as I’m concerned, there’s been only three leaders that I take seriously, the first is Nzeogwu. Nzeogwu is a revolutionary that meant well for this country.
Should the desire or need to fight corruption trample on the rule of law?
What is rule of law? Rule of which law? Who made the law? For what purpose? In whose interest? You see, people don’t think about that one, people don’t think like lawyers, lawyers are learned, they are not educated and not enlightened. Yes, I asked a question, let’s say that somebody makes a law now that we should walk on our hands and I’m walking on my two legs, then you say I’m not respecting the law, so it means there are some other basis of judging the rule of law. On the hand, assuming we are in a room, and we are twenty and working equally but about three or four people who are making the laws now say well, out of the 100 naira gain, two people would take 90 naira and the remaining eight of us would take ten naira. When I argue about it, and you say that I’m breaking rule of law, so you have to question first, what is rule of law? Where is the rule of law? It’s like saying a community is there and we are a hundred in the community, ten has property, 90 has no property and you make a law, do not steal, in whose interest? It’s only in the interest of ten people that have property not in the interest of the 90 or you say those curtains in houses, the only beneficiaries are those who have houses. I am being hyperbolical, I am exaggerating these examples or analogies to show you people, you pressmen to start questioning, what you mean when you say rule of law? Then you say which law? First, God never came down to make the laws and we say it’s spiritual. Secondly, you never called a meeting of all Nigerians to say, do we agree with these laws or not? The elites did it. It’s not an argument to favour my position, it’s a deep argument. For example, if you say you are a governor and they pass a law, which says that, for the rest of your life, you will be getting your salary, two, you have a severance pay of how many millions at a time, your wife, four children, you are due for medical treatment abroad, once in a year, you are entitled to cars, is that not legalised corruption? But because the lawmakers have passed it and then you say that is the law. You must question the so called rule of law. I am not against this rule of law, but you must question first, which law? Is it law that protects the collective interest, or is it law that protects the interest of the elites? When you have an economy, a situation where about 5% of the population consumes 95% of the resources, to the extent that they are vomiting on the rest of population, you cannot have peace, you cannot have security, you cannot have order, you cannot have discipline, that is the issue about this rule of law. Now, let us apply it to the matter on ground, why did they handcuff Olisa Metuh? He should be handcuffed, it is one of the internationally accepted methodologies for dealing with corruption, I have argued for over 15 years that when they want to try a corrupt man, they should come to his home town, try him there, let the community witness it, and tell them that that house, those cars, that mansion, those Jaguar cars are actually the money for your roads, the money for your children’s education, money for your health clinics. “Naming and Shaming”, handcuffing somebody is part of shaming. Ordinary people, fellow Nigerians, you say we are equal before the law, you parade them on television, remove their cloth, put leg chains on them, you say they are armed robbers, they are just alleged to be armed robbers, but how many of our press people have complained about that? One noise maker who does not wish the country well was put in handcuff and the whole country is shouting that why should they do so? Was Tafa Balogun not put in handcuffs? Was he not an IGP? So, my question now is what is your noise about Olisa Metuh being handcuffed, in fact most of them should be handcuffed.
The view in certain quarters is that President Buhari wouldn’t have won the 2015 election without the support from some political big-wigs who are also regarded as money-bags in the Nigerian context, therefore, it would be difficult for him to actually stand up to those people. How far do you think he can go in the fight against corruption with these politicians around him?
Should he just go to APC or labour and say I want to have a representative of corrupt people? It is those who have held offices and not because they have held offices, it is when they check such offices. For now, there are thousands of MDAs (Ministries Departments and Agencies). The man has done that of office of the National Security Adviser, he has done that of NNPC, there is the NIMASA, and do you know hundreds and hundreds that are remaining? Office of head of service and pension, police, ministry of defence, army, navy, air force, immigration, customs, I am saying that the man has not even scratched the surface.
How far can he go with those people who helped him win the election, known politicians?
I will take him for his words, he said that if there is any information about anybody around him or in his party he will take it up and he will not tolerate, I will take him for his words. to me he has been a man of his word as far as I am concerned and to tell you the truth, so don’t get me wrong, I said that Buhari is in the right direction, he is not moving fast enough or deep enough in this matter. See, there are a minimum of six types of corruption, I think he appears constrained by our unmoderated democracy and rule of law. If the lawyers around him, the retired civil servants around him, the politicians, protecting their own interest and saying ‘’jeje sir, jeje sir’’ do it this way, do it this way sir, because they know if he does what he believes he should do, they will all be affected and it’s democracy, so he has to listen to them to a certain extent. In one paper I delivered to the social science academy fellowship annual lecture about 2-3 months ago, is that, if we are not careful, history will repeat itself, Murtala did, we went back, Buhari himself did, we went back and that if he is not careful, if he continues to listen to all these technocrats, advisers, lawyers around him, by the time he goes whether four or eight years, we will revert to corruption square one. When you promote someone lower over or above those who are senior to him, that is professional corruption. When press men take bribe to put a story up or down, that is professional corruption. When academics take money or sex from student, when lawyers hide information from the court, because they are supposed to be officers of the law. A lawyer in England now, on Ibori’s case, a British lawyer is in jail for hiding information whereas in Nigeria, this so-called Senior Advocate in Nigeria, most of them are seniors, they are collaborators with corruption. Our committee had a meeting with senior lawyers in Abuja and Itse Sagay was telling them that you people are looters and anybody who defend looters the way you people are defending them now, you yourself are looters. Corrupt judges are also part of the legal profession and the corruption has affected them, they wear this wig up and down which is something of integrity among their colonial masters, the British judges. Here we don’t seem to manifest that kind of integrity, it’s not all of them, but there are examples of them. And that is why I say, people are criticising the President, they actually don’t know what they are doing because he is not going deep enough or fast enough. I have told you there are different types of corruption. You are just dealing with financial and you are dealing with less than 1% of the MDAs that have been sabotaged all these years. He should go in such a way that he should be able to take two people as a sample.
I was trying to tell you that the man is not deep enough and I was giving the example that, if people who have been corrupt say for past 15 or 16 years, they are able to get away with it, it will give the impression that you can always get away with it, that the man, Buhari is just doing “initial gragra”, that he will cool down, but if he is able to go and take maybe two from the time of IBB as an example, two from the time of Abacha as an example, two from the time of Abdulsalam as an example, and about eight from Obasanjo and about 20 from ex-president Jonathan, if he is able to do that, people will know. I am not saying that he should catch millions of them, I have always argued that if Sharia Law were applied to corruption in Nigeria, every public officer, past and present will now be one-handed or no-hand at all. So, I know they are plenty but I am saying you need a sample to convince those who are there now. If he doesn’t do that, this is what is going to happen, go and write it down, and I am telling you, I am a social scientist, I am making prediction, if he doesn’t do that, history will repeat itself. So, I will expect him to set up a task force that will identify these people, with certain conditions, then ensure handing them over to a rejuvenated, with new blood transfusion, EFCC and ICPC to deal with them, to train prosecutors and make sure the judges actually are weaned like they did in Ghana, 22 judges, in one vessel. We need to do that in Nigeria, we need to take Senior Advocate of Nigeria, one or two that have compromised the Judicial system and make them examples. If that is not done, we would revert to square one. So, all those who are criticising the man, my own criticism is on the other side, that he is not doing enough as far as I am concerned.