Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Lawan Farouk or How Not to Take a Bribe

opinion

In the end, it comes down to this: Lawan Farouk is going down. As I write, the police has announced the arrest and detention of the controversial lawmaker, who this past week has been embroiled in a bribery scandal that has rocked the House of Representatives.

The thing that makes the Lawan Farouk story very intriguing is the circumstance around it. It reads like a political thriller by Grisham. And it is indeed a political thriller. Lawan Farouk was not too long ago the face of probity; he was on the mark to garnering solid political reputation as a crusader against malfeasance in this nation's most rotten epicenter: the oil industry.

It was solid legislative work, and Lawan Farouk, a graduate of the Bayero University Kano, and three-term legislator in the House of Representatives had many a hope raised quite high of the emergence of a new kind of political leadership on the horizon. His background was solid. He had been chair of the Finance committee in the Masari-led House, and he had been part of the "

integrity group" that fiercely opposed and successfully countermanded the imposition of what some have called "the hair-dresser speaker" Mrs. Patricia Etteh, an Obasanjo crony, as the Speaker of the House of Representative.

Lawan Farouk has been at the frontline, fighting important legislative battles. What seemed to be the crowning moment of his legislative activism was as chair of the House ad-hoc committee whose report following its investigation of oil marketers and the petroleum subsidy scandal had been roundedly described as sterling work.

It put petroleum marketers, long used to feeding fat from the national trough on the ropes, and it made Farouk, a ranking member of the Federal House of Representatives representing the Bagwai/Shanono Federal Constituency in Kano, a potential candidate for the Kano governorship in the next election cycle. But all that now seems to be in jeopardy.

Lawan Farouk seems trapped in a terrible bribery scandal in which he has been accused of demanding and receiving bribes from certain marketers as a condition from delisting them from his investigations. At the center of the bribery scandal is Femi Otedola of Zenon oil and other oil marketers who have come out to accuse Mr. Farouk of demanding an

d collecting bribes from them. Mr. Otedola pointedly accused Farouk of collecting bribes from him, and in support of his allegations, tendered a recorded transaction between him and the lawmaker in audio and video profiles.

The evidence would be compelling if it would be admissible in court, particularly given the manner in which it was obtained. But I'd leave that technical part to the lawyers and legal technicians who may soon trade the craft in court.

But an important dimension of this allegation, which particularly intrigues, is Farouk's insistence that he had been set up. Of course, he was set up. But it does seem that he was an active participant in his on entrapment. It does seem that he rattled the cage of too many powerful interests who now consider him too much trouble, too dangerous, and far too much liability, and are prepared to drag his political career and whatever reputation he might have made into the sinkhole together with the reports of on the fuel subsidy program.

It does seem that his adversaries chose their quarry well, as well as the man to do the hatchet job. Femi Otedola is an oligarch; a beneficiary of one of the most corrupt systems in the world. He is no doubt adept at corruption and at making others corrupt.

Zenon was not under any investigation, and the question that many people are now asking is, why then was he bribing Mr. Lawan? Was acting on behalf of others? And to what end? To taint Farouk Lawan's committee's report by showing the pitiable underside of the crusading legislator?

Well, of course, he may have made his point; show the politician a lollipop and his brain flees through the window. We get it. But we also get the point, and this has to be made that Femi Otedola too his guilty of an attempt to bribe and corrupt an elected public official.

His own case should be easy in court, since he made a public admission, and he must be prosecuted without plea bargain; and he must serve a full jail term for this. It is an offence punishable by law, not only to receive, but also to offer a bribe.

The tangled tale in all this, is the insistence by Mr. Farouk that he had indeed taken Otedola's bribe but merely to collect evidence against Otedola. This seems too much like a cock and bull story, particularly because it came after the honourable member from Kano denied that he ever took money from Zenon.

It was a position he later recanted with the emergence of electronic proof, which he also first denied as a "doctoring" of his image. But I think he quickly realized how easy it is now to test his voice print with contemporary technology.

The short take in all these is that this business is far too murky, and Lawan Farouk is by the sheer weight of evidence against him, a participant in a scandalous conduct unbefitting a legislator. He had made powerful enemies. Perhaps, indeed, he was collecting evidence against Otedola, but at what point in that process did he report to the police?

He had no right, nor does his work as a federal legislator give him the leeway to conduct a sting operation, without the involvement of law enforcement officers. This is where he made the greatest mistake of his public life; by acting alone, and without the backing of the law.

We assume of course, that there is some hint of truth in his claims to be acting in that guise. He has failed to be like Caesar's wife. And he is going down - dragged down by caprice.

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