Nigeria: Many Knives, One Carcass


Ibrahim Magu arrested! Magu Suspended! End of the road for Magu!... Those were some of the headlines that announced the ordeal of the former Acting Chairman of the Economic and financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. Before now, Magu had been a cat with nine lives, riding every storm and surviving every plot to bring him down. For four years and eight months, he made the high and mighty bite the dust and many looters of yore flee in fright.

Shortly after the confirmation of his arrest, an orgy of celebration broke out in the camp of suspected looters, many of whom had fled abroad to escape justice. Their acolytes rented virtual chairs and canopies online and threw cyber-gigs to celebrate the final burial of their tormentor-in-chief.

Corruption is the single most vibrant industry in Nigeria. It is becoming more and more institutionalised. In a country where legislators blackmail the executive for fat bribes under the guise of carrying out oversight functions; where the executive treat the public purse as an extension of family patrimony; where some members of the judiciary have been found to be not better than toll collectors. Corruption is the most serious threat to Nigeria's prosperity and the happiness of her people.

So, if every anti-corruption chief ends up the way Ribadu, Waziri, Lamorde and now Magu ended up -- in disgrace, no matter how muted or disguised -- you can see how hazardous it is to fight corruption

No one is saying that Magu is a saint. And no one is pre-judging all those currently under EFCC investigation. But we must face the fact that the problem of corruption is our greatest cancer and no outsider is coming here to fix it for us. The earlier we institutionalise the anti-corruption war, the better for the country. If Magu seemed to personalise the war, it is because every office in the land is personalised. I had written in the past about the system of unquestioning adulation we operate in the name of politics. I call it Babacracy or the Kabiyesi syndrome. Every position in the land is personalised, not just EFCC.

By all means, if Magu is found to have abused his office or joined the band of looters, let him face the music. I have no doubt that some of those pissing on him now will someday soon face their own music too. Where are the heroes of yesterday? All those ex-ministers hiding away in Europe at the moment, weren't they supposed to be invincible? Let Magu have his day in court. The turn of his traducers will also come, whether they the sixes of APC or the half-dozens of PDP.

Suddenly there are so many anecdotal narratives about Magu's tenure. Some hacks even tried to rope in the vice president. The arrest of the anti-corruption boss provided a great opportunity for his enemies -- and there are many of them -- to lash out at senior political and administration officials. Has anyone ever fought corruption by dragging the names of innocent people in the mud? Whoever has facts against anyone in government should come out with the details, not innuendoes; not senseless bandying of figures. In the same vein, anyone muddying the waters by falsely accusing others of corruption should be made to face the law. Is the IGP listening?

When the elephant falls in the jungle, all kinds of knife show up to carve the carcass. The Jagdkommando knife, a 7-inch weapon with a hollow handle takes the lead, followed by the cleaver knife with its thick spine and wide blade; the Chef's Knife with its broad blade tapering upward to a point; the Santoku Knife for slicing, dicing, and mincing; utility knife for tearing away ligaments from meat; the boning knife for separating meat from bone... .

What is surprising is that though all the poachers are carving from the same carcass, some are still carrying daggers as if they still need to stab the carcass a few more times just to be sure that it is dead. See them with their bagh Nakh dagger, the English Bollock, the Italian cinqueda, the longish Scottish dirk, the Arab Jambiya, the Indonesian Kalis. All tribes of daggers already drawn, poised to stab, some already stabbing away furiously. One wonders; can the dead suffer a second death?

And then the axes! Some carry the multi-function Tactical Axe, others are wielding the Grub Axe; Felling Axe; Forest Axe; the easy-to-conceal Hatchet (a.k.a. Àáké-UTC) with a flared shape that comes to a sharp-tipped blade, great for achieving semi-decapitation. This weapon used to be the favoured tool of Area Boys in Lagos who, in public view, waylaid passersby and motorists and robbed them of their valuables at axe-point.

This won't be the last carcass they will carve in the media forest, I assure you. More elephants are going to fall. This system we are running is rigged to produce looters, counter-looters and re-looters -- all potential carcasses.

The Way forward? It is my considered opinion that the position of EFCC chairman is too big for a serving Assistant Commissioner of Police who is still climbing the professional ladder. We should amend the EFCC law so that a retired jurist, security chief or an academic is appointed chairman. He/She should report directly to the president. In addition, a neutral body comprising retired jurists, ICAN, NIESV, NGOs and retired DIGs should be tasked with disposal of recovered assets and the proceeds remitted to the federation account. My tuppence.

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