What is your take on the issue of the embattled Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Walter Onnoghen, now on suspension over allegation of false declaration of asset?
I am a Nigerian, a man with political as well as ideological biases. In terms of political biases, I support any man or any leader who wants to fight corruption to the ground. Professionally, I am a criminologist and we deal with crime prevention, bursting and control. In my academic career, I discovered soon after I graduated from the university that if we calculate the types of the crimes that are available in this country — armed robberies, burglaries and all the whatever — in 40 years, they are not up to the damage done to us by corruption. It has sabotaged development; it is sabotaging the morals of the young people; it kills efficiency and effectiveness through the smuggling of fake drugs.
In my newspaper interview several years ago, I said corruption is more dangerous than Boko Harram. With that ideological background and with my academic knowledge of this situation, any leader that is sincere and essentially against corruption is a leader who I will support. That is why I want people to appreciate why I give my support for President Muhammadu Buhari in his fight against corruption in the country. While I may not able to comment on his other governance activities, I know that if corruption can be reduced to the barest minimum in the country, the problems in virtually all areas of our national life can be solved and that is why I am talking about the next level.
So, I am not just a newcomer to the situation and when this man came in 2015, after about 15 to 16 years of this rot and he said he was going to fight corruption, I said if the fight against corruption is to be effective, corruption must be engaged as a roforofo fight as the idea of due process has been abused. I mean we should go to the necessary process. Now what the president has done against the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, was a necessary process in the overall interest of Nigeria.
Do you think the president acted very well, given the general outcry that greeted Justice Onnongen’s removal?
Yes, the president did necessary process in the interest of the country because we don’t want a country whereby law, which is supposed to be a noble profession, just like democracy is supposed to be a good form of government for the people, but which our leaders have turned to the government of the greedy for the greedy and by the greedy, thereby sabotaging all that democracy is about. Therefore, you cannot have a democracy that is not moderated and you cannot have a reckless process. The leadership of the law profession, whether the Bench, the Bar and lawyers led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, are saboteurs and collaborators of corruption. If we are going to go by their peculiarities, the country is going to be run aground. The situation is so bad that you find out that High Court judges were found to be corrupt, hiding monies like traders under their beds and in their houses.
Is that one of the reasons President Buhari’s administration adduced for its Next Level slogan?
Well, the reason we are going to the Next Level is that now that we have gotten the connection, with this roforofo fight that we are going into, we are going to seriously fight corruption to a standstill in Nigeria. What I am saying is that Nigerians have not seen the effect of the anti-corruption war that this government has engaged in, in the last three years because they did not know how much money that has been recovered. Although corruption is still going on, I am saying that the anti-corruption war is still on course but you are not seeing the effects of the fight now. So, we are going to the next level whereby it would be fought more vigorously than it was in the beginning in 2015, on the assumption of Buhari in office for the second term as the president of this great nation called Nigeria.
What is your take on the promise made by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, that if he wins the presidential election, he would fight corruption by collecting looted funds from culprits but grant them amnesty thereafter?
Well, I am not surprised because most of the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are corrupt and some of them are criminals. You mean after an armed robber has finished robbing your house, you will give him amnesty after you have recovered your property? That just showed the type of people who are in PDP and who have ruined this country by selling the properties of the country to themselves, by monopolising the national resources and not even paying enough money back to the government as they are supposed to do up till today. Some of them are people who ruined the Societe Generale Bank and who have ruined Trade Bank in Kwara State. I can go on and on, but the people who have this idea that you must just pay back the amount you were accused of misappropriating and should go and sinned no more, it does not work like that. The punishment must be prompt and be ascertained. That would affect the person and it would affect other people who are likely to be corrupt in the future.
How would you juxtapose what you have said with the recent pronouncement by the APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, that if anyone guilty of corruption joins the party, his/her sins shall be forgiven?
Well too much analysis sometimes distorts the substance of the analysis. I understand what you are saying; remember I have said that I am not satisfied with the fight so far. I told you that the man started from the swamp and before we start getting the effects in about three years, compared to over 20 years, may not be enough. We should start counting our problems from the time of the former Military President, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, when all the people that were jailed were released and they received their properties back from the military administration.
But to get straight to your point, do you remember what the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, said that ‘progressives can never get power alone without a lot of other people to rule with them’? What he meant by that is that after you had gotten power, those other people would find it difficult to meet up with your agenda or policies and so they would wither away. Now, let us be honest; let us say we are about 10 people here and we are going to elect who is going to be the leader and I am for anti-corruption and you are all for corruption, would I ever get to be the leader if I do not bend my principles to accommodate you? President Muhammadu Buhari cannot ever get to be the leader in this country if he did not get the support of some certain sectors of the country. And if he doesn’t get there, he would not be able to continue with it. That was partly why the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo never got power. Awolowo was a good developer, but he was so ideologically pure and then they said, ‘well, you are very good but you will never get there and if you don’t get there, how can you make the impact?
If God allows Buhari to get there again, he can now be dealing with the other ones. In the history of the country, have you ever heard about five judges being arrested and being taking to court at the same time? Have you heard anywhere, perhaps in the whole world where a Chief Justice of the country is suspended and be asked to go and face the music? A time would come like the Next Level now which is four years and you would discover that some of those you are talking about would go under cover, one by one. I am a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption and we are under the Office of the Secretary to the Federal Government of the Federation. Immediately the former SGF, Babachir Lawal, was indicted, I was on the television, saying the man must go. I remember that it was in the front page story of a national newspaper that I said I openly disagreed with President Buhari over the issue of the former SGF.
I am independent-minded; I didn’t beg to be appointed as a member of the committee. If they like, they can remove me. This government might ask me to go or stepped aside at the end of the day, but I am not a 21-year-old boy. I was appointed by that office and one year later the man was not in court, even though I would have loved the man to be in court the next day he was indicted. But one by one, the people can reach the next level and find their ways out of the government. If President Buhari wins the election and he wants the war against corruption to continue after the expiration of his tenure, he can so arrange it in such a manner that he would find somebody to take over from him. I want to say that if we don’t deal with corruption in this country, corruption would kill all of us because that phrase is very real. In Brazil, former President Lula is where? In Israel, a former Prime Minister who I can’t easily recall his name off hands is in jail. I like discipline; I am for anti-corruption and I am also ideological. I know that if we do not lay the foundational properly, we cannot make progress as a country.
Don’t you think that this is not the appropriate time to take on Justice Walter Onnoghen in view of the fact that the country is some few days to the elections?
Well, as far as I am concerned, there could not have been more appropriate time to take him on, on this matter. But if the president did not do it, it means he is going to corruptly win the forthcoming presidential election.Read Full Story