Pius Adesanmi: President Buhari’s ‘own goals’ and the tragedy of Babachir Lawal

by Pius Adesanmi

I saw infographics on about 9 anti-corruption cases coming up in our regular courts today – former governors, political appointees, civil servants. These cases involve money laundering, contract racketeering, and assorted jibiti.

Straightforward Lagbaja versus EFCC cases in the courts.

I look at them and my unease about Ogbeni Babachir Lawal returns. I have tried to find creative and how man for do ways of consoling myself over the tragedy of Babachir Lawal.

He cleared “invasive plant species” and stole nearly N270 million from poor victims of terrorism? I consoled myself with the fact that, at least, he stole all that money to clear the botanical and scientific version of grass and not really grass. Besides, he stole from victims of terrorism as opposed to those even stealing from the dead by claiming the pension of dead workers – many died waiting literally in the sun for the said pension in our pension queues.

The really nice thing about Nigeria is that if a particular corruption scenario traumatises you, Nigeria will provide worse consolatory scenarios to heal your trauma. That is how I have been coping with Babachir Lawal until…

Until he got his own VIP, personal presidential investigation!

Now, many people have been wondering who Ogbuefi Osinbajo would submit the report of his panel to since the President has returned to London for medical help. That question has not really bothered me.

I’ve been bothered by the fact that a straightforward case of contract jibiti – much similar to all the routine contract jibiti cases against politicians, civil servants, political appointees – within EFCC’s investigative and prosecutorial remit has been taken out of that orbit and placed on the presidential plate.

That is presidential time.
That is presidential billable hours.
That is presidential resources.

The hours and resources devoted by the Vice President and his team to this case are also being duplicated by the taxpayers who are paying EFCC, ICPC, the police, etc. You do not spend the people’s money anyhow, use the people’s billable hours anyhow just because you have a friend and you somehow just don’t want to face the fact that he cleared invasive plant species. Now you are wasting the best talent in your administration in the pursuit of nepotism. Even if Osinbajo indicts Lawal or finds him guilty, the question of why he merited the special treatment of a presidential mechanism outside of the regular investigative structures of the state would persist for me.

Osinbajo is the best news this administration has going for her. Yes, he is one of Africa’s best Professors of Law. He is a great man. But he is the current Vice President of Nigeria and the only good news out of the Presidency. Of all the myriad problems Nigeria has; of all the things he could be doing, you diverted valuable billable hours of the Nigerian people by sending him on a nepotistic errand to curate a personal investigation for your friend.

What is so special about Babachir Lawal that his own case has to be taken out of the regular orbit of EFCC/police investigation, indictment, and prosecution? Maybe Abdul Mahmud and Inibehe Effiong can help me out. There may be things I am missing.

When fighting corruption, it is important not to create the appearance of nepotism. Gabriel Suswam, political appointees, and civil servants are appearing in various courts today within the system. They were investigated, indicted, and are now being prosecuted by the EFCC. Many are also Federal appointees like Babachir. And their offence, too, is contract jibiti. Why did they not get their own presidential investigation outside of the system?

When the President returns from London, I hope he will pay attention to the need to avoid scoring offside goals in his anti-corruption process.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Pius Adesanmi, a professor of English, is Director of the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Canada

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