GOVERNMENT progressives, so called, and their misguided camp followers are still reeling from the double whammy they were dealt last week. They have always led the battle cry against impropriety in public life, whether substantive or merely perceived. Now they are complaining that their principal, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has been hauled before the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), charged with illegally operating offshore bank accounts while holding public office. For once, let them do the squirming. Again, more than any other group, they have always sought to place the rule of law at the heart of governance. Now, their leader is being tried in open court before competent jurists sworn to dispense justice and dispense it impartially Let their rule of law save them. At first blush, it might seem puzzling that, in the face of the brazen improprieties that define the conduct of public officials in Nigeria, the first major figure to be hauled before the CCB in recent years in this manner is Tinubu, who vacated public office some five years ago. From this circumstance, the so called progressives have jumped to the conclusion that the arraignment has been staged to create the illusion of momentum in the oft-trumpeted fight against the ills crippling public life in Nigeria. At first, I saw it as pure coincidence. Upon further reflection, however, it struck me that here might be much more to the matter than pure chance. The authorities must have decided in their wisdom and their accustomed impartiality to proceed on the basis of the alphabetical order of titles and first names. So, there is really no mystery about why they had to go for Tinubu first. His title Asiwaju begins with the very first letter of the English and Yoruba alphabets. His first name Bola begins with the second letter of those alphabets.
Would the so-called progressives have handled such a delicate matter in a fairer, more democratic, and more transparent manner? In whatever case, the authorities had to start somewhere. And even if the alphabet had not neatly resolved the matter, Tinubu would still have qualified as the most dramatic point of departure by his larger-than-life posture. Those who habitually settle for timid gestures are free to quarrel with this arrangement. An Administration known for its bold, imaginative thought and action surely knows better.
Going after the chief rascal himself in this dramatic way has already put other rascals on notice that their rascally days are over. It has struck a mighty blow for accountability and entrenched, at long last, the proposition that nobody is above the law. I have been assured that, even before Tinubu’s case is disposed off, the CCB will constitute as many panels as the law allows for the speedy arraignment and trial of serving or former public officials who operate or operated offshore bank accounts since the law came into force. That should convince the so-called progressives and their gullible followers that the crusade is not about their principal. I also have it on the highest authority that the war on official misconduct is not going to be fought on the very narrow front of offshore bank accounts. It is going to be waged on a much broader front, with the law requiring public officials to declare their assets while in office and after leaving office as its anchor. Any public official who has not complied with that law had better start getting ready to answer for his or her dereliction.
Nor is that all. Case files of investigations the EFCC carried out into the conduct of many a public officials have grown so cold that some of those against whom the agency said it had compiled a litany of high crimes and misdemeanours are now denying that they ever figured in such investigations. The EFCC itself has grown so cold in the head and the heart that it says it cannot remember conducting such investigations, much less issuing any incriminating reports. The authorities are set to unmask all such dissemblers, I have been assured. And there is more still. An executive order bearing the official seal of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Bello Adoke (SAN), is on its way to all police formations directing them to establish a register for citizens to furnish, under cover of the highest secrecy, information about the bank accounts, as well as the movable and immovable properties of former and current public officials and their proxies. Where painstaking analysis suggests even the appearance of impropriety, the Office of the Attorney-concerned will compel the officials concerned to answer at law. These measures are being taken immediately, not in the year 2020, to dispel the slander that the authorities singled out Tinubu so as take him out of political reckoning and thus retain power and control until the end of time, just as they have taken out Justice Ayo Isa Salami out of judicial reckoning, the better to hold on to their stolen mandates in Akwa Ibom, Kwara, Benue, and Taraba.
To confound the cynics, President Goodluck Jonathan will personally spell out the details of the coming war in his National Day broadcast next Saturday. And the whole scheme, needless to say, will be under girded by the rule of law. I can already hear the rascals engaging in their favourite game of hair-splitting, quibbling that what the authorities have been advertising as the rule of law is at bottom rule through law. Under the latter scheme, they will insist, the law is an instrument of power, fashioned to serve political ends, whereas the rule of law has justice and justice only as its goal. If President Jonathan were a pharaoh, a Goliath, or Leviathan, such comments might have some merit. But he is no such creature. And his Administration will not allow such dilatory tactics to divert it from its firm resolve. By the time the authorities are done, the cynics will have to scramble up the transformation train or risk being stranded on the platform as it roars away at full throttle.
•Culled from THE NATION Newspaper