Sagay’s hard knocks

Itse Sagay

Itse Sagay, the esteemed erudite professor of law and now chair of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, is any good reporter’s delight any day. He has a long history of giving reporters good copies to wave before an eager editor pressed for deadlines. Professor Sagay uses law in defence of human liberty and civil rights, and as it was to be expected in our clime, especially in the days of yore when the nation was under the jackboot of the Khaki Boys, he has suffered for it. But he is not one to be put down; he is not one to allow cold water to be poured to dampen his vibrant spirit. He has thrown his gauntlet, for example, at the members of the National Assembly from which they have shied away till this day. The Prof. is wont to say it as it is, no holds barred.

On Tuesday, he came down hard on critics of President Buhari over the publication of board members of government parastatals. On the long list were seven confirmed dead persons. You can trust him for the logic of his take and the lucidity of his thoughts and expression. Hear him: “This list has been under preparation for two years. There were recommendations from governors, ministers and other important members of the APC. And that list has about 1, 500 persons. So, can any normal person be surprised that about six people have died out of almost 2,000 in two years? Also, was the Presidency supposed to have visited the houses of each of the appointees to know if they were still alive? The outrage is unreasonable and needless. The impression that I have is that the Nigerian elite have a Lilliputian mind. For me, the whole episode shows the stupidity of those who were outraged, I think it is evidence of an idle mind.”

There is logic in his argument, but I am afraid the Prof. lost me this time in his advertised lack of appreciation of the objective goal of the President’s critics on this score— which is seeking a higher degree of thoroughness in checking and re-checking information that may go out of the Presidency. The office is expected to represent our aspirations and our symbol of excellence in all things. There should be no room for tardiness or carelessness. It is, in fact, for the same reason of length of time that the list had taken to compile and the appointments had taken that made a new round of verification a necessity: That some of those nominated may have died. Send it back to those who recommended them. Who says a situation for a fresh wave of security checks may not have arisen? The announcement could also have been made sectorally in view of the length of the list to make room for proper cross-checking. How much time, anyway, do the board members have left before the tenure of this Administration runs out for them to study and have a thorough grasp of the business history, ethos, operations and practices of the organisations to which they are posted to lend their expertise to the running of the places? Appointments are no doubt to placate and not to make for the development of the country. In the next few months they will all fan out on electioneering, covert or overt.

It is a matter of courtesy that those nominated are contacted or given a shout to know if they would be able to take up the appointment. In the process any development about any of them would have come to light. Our practice of getting people to learn about their appointments on the pages of newspapers without appropriate consultation does not demonstrate refinement. Most times it is friends and relations who draw attention of appointees to such appointments. Now, it has blown up in the face of the government. We ought to move away from such shameful practice. The Presidency did well in admitting that they could have done better and that the errors would be corrected. Nothing short of that admission could have been expected of the two senior media aides of the President. Not only had Adesina and Garba Shehu been editors, but in fact president of the Guild of Editors. They are familiar with the high standard and courtesy expected in public communication, that they must check and re-check and when in doubt, leave out! Methinks that this time Prof. Sagay misfired and badly, too.



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