‘Buhari Must Take Advantage Of National Mood That Ushered Him In’

Untitled-1Justice Emmanuel Ayoola, former chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and related crimes Commission (ICPC), the current situation, as gloomy as it was, could be turned into advantage by the new government. He also spoke to ABIODUN FANORO on what could be the policy direction of the new administration. 

THE new government is taking off when the national economy is in parlous state. How could it get out of this crisis? To start with, I think we have the right person at the leadership of the country this time around. The President is not new on the job; he knows the direction he is going and I believe he knows how to get there.

Having said that, tragic as the current situation may be, let us look at the silver lining at the end of the tunnel, which is that the current situation will make us cut our excesses and inculcate the discipline of frugality in us.

It is an opportunity not only to rebuild the economy and society, but also the system itself. This is an opportunity we would not have had.

But for the current hardship, we would have taken everything for granted. I don’t see why we cannot use that courage and wisdom derived from this very recent past to overcome the current challenges we are facing. I keep coming back to the fact that the President is best positioned to do the work, because you need a president who has the determination and has an idea of what he wants and put politics aside.

He is not a politician as such; he only got elected into politics, but he is not a politician. If he succeeds, then we would have had a better hope for the future.

Which direction should the government go, in terms of policies? I think the initial path is to inculcate the sense of discipline among the citizenry, in the sense that we must become law abiding, because there is so much pervasive lawlessness at all levels of society in Nigeria today. One major thing that must be of serious concern to the government is security.

I am, however, glad that President Muhammadu Buhari, being from that constituency, has the capacity to confront this issue frontally. He is well equipped for that, when you consider his antecedent as a military man.

Are you saying that discipline is key to turning around of the country? Without discipline, you cannot achieve anything. It starts from even the leadership. Without the discipline of the leaders or the operators of the law, you cannot achieve anything.

When we talk about lawlessness, we are not talking lawlessness solely from the ordinary man on the street. Lawlessness with regards to the law starts with whoever is charged with the responsibility of the operation of the laws, who more than often disregards the law. There are many beneficial laws that are not operated.

If we look at the law books, we will find numerous laws that we don’t need to rush to make new laws. If we develop the culture of implementing all the laws in the law books, which has become very voluminous, we may not need to make new laws for now, because there are so many laws that are neither being implemented nor obeyed.

Having headed an anti-corruption agency, how should the new leadership effectively tackle corrupt, which is ravaging the country? When it comes to corruption, there are several things that must first be borne in mind before you can successfully tackle it.

It (this) is an opportunity not only to rebuild the economy and society, but also the system itself. This is an opportunity we would not have had. But for the current hardship, we would have taken everything for granted.

By successfully tackling corruption, I am not thinking of fire brigade approach; I am thinking of a durable and sustainable approach to fighting corruption, an approach that will monitor the system, change the culture of administration and behaviour without which not much could be achieved. The culture of corruption seems to have persisted.

And if we must fight corruption, we must attack that culture from its foundation and to do that, he must use a full-proof anti-corruption prevention strategy, not only by putting people in jail (I am not suggesting that people should not be jailed if need be), but it will be a mistake to think that that is the only way to discourage the scourge of corruption.

What were those things the former administration failed to do or put in place that undermined its anti-corruption fight? The ICPC Act provides for states offices, but it is one thing to have the provision in the law books and another thing to provide funding for those state offices.

Up to the time I left ICPC, there were state offices within the limit of our resources and I am sure the development of the states was still ongoing. But now, I cannot tell you whether those offices are still viable. We had an alternative strategy to make every citizen a fighter of corruption.

The first step is to educate him/her. About 90 per cent of all Nigerians at all levels, the educated or uneducated really do not see much what they lose by corruption, because the average Nigerian probably doesn’t feel the impact of not being touched by corruption directly.

But if the government revenue is unable to provide efficient health services or good schools because somebody has stolen the money, and you do not show him the linkage between corruption and the poor facilities that have made those things impossible, they are not likely to appreciate the enormity of corruption.

How could Nigerians compel their leaders to fulfill their campaign manifestoes/promises? How many of us have seen the manifestoes? As I sit here, I have not seen the manifestoes of any political party in Nigeria.

Manifestoes, as I see it in Nigeria, are just to satisfy a formality, because if you have a manifesto by which you want to convince the people to become a member of your political party, that manifesto must have a wide distribution spread, supported by advocacy.

But we don’t have such. However, lofty a manifesto is, if it is on the shelf of a political party, there is no how it could get to the people.

I delivered a lecture sometime ago, where I said manifestoes should be regarded as a contract between the citizens and the political party and I suggested that that contract must be actionable.

If you promised to give priority to education and you failed to do so, then it should have a legal consequence. Of course, that has to be debated, but I think it is possible because manifestoes should not really be an instrument with which you deceive the people.

If you have a party manifestoes, where you promised to put up a facility and cannot deliver as promised, then there should be an opportunity to explain to the people why you could not.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan raised a serious fear of persecution by the new government. Is it wrong for the new administration to look into the books where deals or transactions are not clear? I think it is unfortunate that the former President used that word, persecution. I think it is a word that is not appropriate and also uncalled for.

If there are issues or deals not very clear to the new government, they could be investigated. If such investigations lead to prosecutions, there is nothing unusual about that. You cannot call that persecution. Persecution means deliberately going out of your way to harass a person for no just cause.

If you look at the dictionary meaning, persecute means subjecting the person to ill-treatment on the grounds or basis of different or opposing political belief or religious belief. You cannot persecute a person on the basis of belonging to a different political party.

If you investigate or probe into how the office holders in the previous government(s) had managed the resources of the nation, that is not persecution. If as a result of that anybody develops cold feet on, that is not persecution.

If you have reasons to ask the other person how certain things were done and you failed, then you will be neglecting your duty or functions.

It is not only in government, any suspicion of wrong doing that needs to be accounted for must be accounted for and if it must lead to probing, why not? If you don’t probe, that means you will be reneging in your duty.

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