Apparently in the desperation to get rid of someone who had become a problem for their boss, the media handlers of the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, committed a fatal professional error on Tuesday. They broke the all-important 11th commandment: Thou shall not get caught!
In the email forwarded to some selected reporters to leak the report of the administrative panel of inquiry which investigated and called for the dismissal of the suspended Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mr Mounir Gwarzo, for “breaching civil service rules” , somebody was naïve enough to put this caveat on top of the report: “PLEASE DO NOT DISCLOSE THE SOURCE OF THOS (sic) STORY. PLEASE DO NOT ATTRIBUTE TO FINANCE MINISTRY. JUST USE PRESIDENCY SOURCE.”
For me, that sort of blatant attempt at media manipulation raises questions about the objectivity and impartiality of the panel, the person who constituted it and their report. Besides, having followed the SEC saga from the beginning, I did not believe that due process was followed in the manner in which it has been handled. That a minister would serve as the judge and jury on a case in which a serious allegation has been levelled against her shows the extent to which politics trumps everything under the current administration despite the anti-corruption mantra. Even if the allegations against Gwarzo (who, by the way, I do not know) are true and he deserves to be removed, I don’t think he has been fairly treated by the federal government.
The sequence of events, from the evidence now in the public domain, shows very clearly that the suspension and investigation of Gwarzo commenced only after SEC had instituted a forensic audit into the activities of Oando Plc, an energy company with powerful backers. If that was a mere coincidence, it is bad for the government. But when you juxtapose Gwarzo’s allegation with the immortal words of Senator Shehu Sani that when it comes to issues of transparency and accountability, the current administration applies deodorant to friends while spraying insecticide on enemies, you get the impression that there may indeed be more to this saga than Nigerians are being told.
Whereas it took almost one year for the federal government to act on the report of “Mr Grass-cutter”, who is yet to have his day in court despite the usual drama of sensational arrest and subsequent release, Gwarzo has been investigated within a matter of weeks with a report ready for presidential implementation. He is recommended for dismissal “in relation to the allegation on Golden Handshake” and he is also to be “referred to the ICPC for further investigation of using his position as Director-General to influence the award of contracts to Outbound Investments Limited” in which he is alleged to have personal interest.
While nobody should shed any tear for Gwarzo if he gets the sack, especially given the questionable jumbo severance package he awarded himself before assuming office as DG of SEC, I still don’t believe that Adeosun is after him for any altruistic reasons or that his travails are about the pursuit of public interest. The whole brouhaha looks to me, as he has claimed on several occasions, more about attempts to scuttle a regulatory intervention that could financially damage a private company and perhaps–he has not said this–prove costly in political terms in a period when cold calculations are being made about 2019.
What the foregoing says very clearly is that this issue goes beyond the stewardship of the Director General of SEC, a mere agency under the Federal Ministry of Finance, to the character of public service in today’s Nigeria. A major part of what has brought President Buhari’s anti-corruption commitment into disrepute is the unevenness of its standards and the arbitrariness of its methods. That then explains why, whichever way one looks at it, the treatment of Gwarzo by Adeosun is an embarrassing illustration of the selective vindictiveness that has since vitiated the anti-graft mandate of the current administration.
So, at the end, whatever may be the reasons for demanding the sack of the embattled SEC Director General, Adeosun will strive very hard to justify her untidy method and the clearly opaque motives.
The Passage of Ekwueme
There is a certain hypocrisy associated with the death of prominent politicians in Nigeria. No matter how they lived their lives, they become saints the moment they die. But there are also a few whose death evokes genuine feelings of sadness, including by those who may never even have met them in person. The late Second Republic Vice President, Dr Alex Ekwueme, whose body will be committed to mother earth tomorrow in his hometown of Oko, Aguata Local government of Anambra State, is one of such personages. At different epochs, and without drawing attention to himself, Ekwueme made considerable contributions to the political development of our country and has in turn left a lasting legacy.
Sadly, it is a testimony to how fickle party politics is in Nigeria that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is not playing a front-line role in Ekwueme’s burial. Not only was he the founding chairman, he sacrificed his ambition for the party when it mattered most. And despite how shabbily the PDP has treated him over the years, Ekwueme never left for one day, thus demonstrating an uncommon loyalty in a milieu where politicians change parties almost every week.
In so many respects, Ekwueme was a breed apart. Despite the fact that he was one of the most educated political figures in Nigeria, with degrees in sociology, history, philosophy and law from the University of London after he had majored in Architecture and city planning from the University of Washington as a Fulbright Scholar, Ekwueme had no airs and he treated everybody with respect. He was at all times a complete gentleman in the real sense of the word.
I once had the privilege of a long one-on-one conversation with Ekwueme and I was awed not only by his simplicity but also the rigour with which he approached critical issues. I found him rather charming and a delight to talk with on a wide array of subjects. What became more obvious in our interaction was how Ekwueme made and kept jottings of materials he considered relevant for advancing his positions on issues. There are not many politicians with that kind of rigour in our country today.
Throughout his life, Ekwueme was also a leader who walked his talk while his actions were steeped in values, purpose and above all, integrity. Yet, perhaps because he was idealistic, it was also easy for some people, including those who are now speaking big grammar after his death, to mock the fact that he chose the road less travelled which may have accounted for why he never became president of Nigeria. But that was also because his concept of leadership was different from the shallow and the mercantilist that define politics in our country today.
At 85, Ekwueme could not be said to have been too young to die, even when he will be sorely missed. But the challenge is for the politicians left behind to learn from the virtues that stood Ekwueme apart and begin to work for the greater good of our people. What saddens is that, in a way, Ekwueme was perhaps a lonesome model. While he exemplified the ideal that Nigerian politics has recognized but endlessly deviated from, his passage leaves an unfortunate vacuum. He left no visible body of disciples neither did any of his political followers assume any significant position of power. Even his conception of party supremacy and partisan fidelity were lost on the PDP which he helped to found and nurture.
As we therefore mourn Ekwueme’s passage, all that we are left with are no more than his sterling record of transparent service and political conduct as a true statesman. It is for the wide acknowledgment of the latter that he deserves to go home with the final salute of millions of compatriots and a grateful nation. May his soul find perfect rest.
Only in Nigeria!
That the social media has changed the way we relate with one another is perhaps the greatest understatement of the year. But the aspect that I consider rather positive is the way Nigerians have adapted it to create a situation in which we could laugh not only at our problems but also at one another. For that reason, there is no better place to be than on WhatsApp which, I must also confess, is a most dangerous platform where all manner of messages, including those preaching hate, are circulated. But there are also many that would make you laugh and cry at the same time. I leave below one such message, which reflects the reality of the Nigerian condition, for the enjoyment of readers:
It is only in Nigeria that you will find fish inside ‘Meat Pie’; only Nigerians would stay to count the cash withdrawn from an ATM machine because there is no trust that it is complete; it is only in Nigeria that PHCN will do a promo asking you to win a Generator set if you pay your bill to NEPA as and when due; only Nigerian drivers will be honking at the traffic light, expecting it to change from Red to Green; it is only in a Nigerian Pharmacy that you will find Coke, Puff Puff and Recharge Card being sold along with drugs; it is only in Nigeria that you will see a mad man controlling traffic and road users will obey; it is only in Nigeria that you will see a native doctor with laptop connected to the internet and finally, it is only in Nigeria that an able-bodied man would be hawking a book from street to street with the title: HOW TO MAKE MILLIONS OF NAIRA WITHOUT STRESS!
Nigeria, indeed, we hail thee!!