Recently, US Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta resigned following heavy criticism for his role in granting a light sentence to sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Epstein indicted in 2007 in connection with allegations that he sexually abused dozens of underage girls at his Palm Beach, Florida, mansion. But prosecutors under Acosta, then the US attorney for Miami, cut a deal with Epstein allowing him to serve just 13 months in a county jail.
Mark, Acosta was not guilty of any offence. It’s only that he approved of work done by prosecutors under him which by the perception of many fell short of integrity test. For that he resigned.
In our clime, all manners of criminals and specialist looters have been recycled in some key leadership positions, with the appointees and the appointers showing no whiff of guilt of conscience. In many of the advanced democracies many of the persons on the list of ministers submitted to the Senate by President Muhammadu would not qualify to hold that office because of the huge baggage hanging loosely on them. In US from where we borrowed our Presidential System, ministerial screening is a serious business, such that every aspect of the nominee’s life that have direct or even remote relevance to his effective operation in the public office is x-rayed with a fine tooth comb. Those with any form of credible suspicion about their life background would not make it through the Senate screening. You cannot be facing a serious fraud investigation and still make your way into the cabinet.
In the case referenced earlier, the Secretary was not the offender; he just was the Attorney that supervised a bargain that is perceived to have let the sex offender off lightly. But it became an issue that haunted him out of office some years later. That is one mark of a sane society. People in public positions are held to high moral standards, beyond whether or not they actually broke the law. Any reasonable form of investigation especially ones that are yet to be fully resolved would keep any person in such a situation from public office. Not so here.
Flip over to Nigeria, you discover that those things which offend the sensibilities in other climes go without notice or pass as normal. Even the masses, appear benumbed by constant occurrences of the unusual that they indicate little or no sensitivity to shenanigans and oddities in the land. And sometimes, when they do notice horrendous happenings, they hardly find unanimity of purpose to fight a common course. Politicians often propagate ethnic or religious sentiments to keep them divided, such that despite their common and shared situation of exploitation and depravation, they remain submissive like a lamb being led to a slaughter slab to a system that does not evince any hope.
Watching the comedy of errors going at the National Assembly in the name of screening of ministers, one is filled with huge sense of disappointment with a system which has lost every sense of good and bad. To see Akpabio, who just a few months ago was being hounded by the Economic and Financial crimes Commission over an alleged fraud of N108 billion take a bow before the Senate under one useless convention of the upper chamber of honouring their own, is to say the disconcerting. It further accentuates the level of low the country has reached. All he did for his sins to be forgiven and to earn Buhari’s role of honour was to ditch the Peoples Democratic Party, under which he was governor for eight years and then a Senator.
Think of former governor of Benue State, George Akume, who has an outstanding before the EFCC. Reports have it that Akume, who was governor for eight years, took N2 billion from the state coffers before leaving office.
Equally interesting is the case of Timipre Sylva, which was allegedly dropped by the anti-graft agency in circumstances not clear to the public and 48 houses returned to him. Not a few Nigerians were taken aback by such a development
But what do all these say about President Muhammadu Buhari who appointed them in the first place. Buhari, whose sole political strength is so-called integrity, many would agree has hardly lived up to the billing. Contrary to expectations, the eagle has come down to the earth to eat with the vultures, and it is no longer easy to tell the difference. He has embraced men of power and wealth, many of whom have huge cases, subsisting cases, on their head. Is that the way of men of integrity?
How can Buhari lay claim to integrity when he gleefully raised the hands of a man captured on camera for taking bribe, without qualms? How can he claim integrity, when the former Secretary Federal Government Babachir Lawal, his man Friday, was sacked for alleged fraudulent reasons, and is yet to be prosecuted and if ever he will?
Now, all you need to get a soft landing from fraud investigation is to run to the ruling APC. The party has become the Pool of Bethsaida that wipes away sins. If some of the fugitives from the EFCC justice get appointed as ministers, it is difficult to see the moral plank under which the administration would sustain anti-corruption fight.
Not a few Nigerians expected Buhari to start a radical refocusing of his administration by shifting away from what obtained in the first four years when all manner of characters held sway. When he delayed the release of the list of ministers, some thought he was taking his time to scour the four corners of the world to bring Nigeria’s best to steer the country on a fast lane. But just like in his first, he hugely disappointed.