Nigerians have expressed reservation at Tuesday’s visit by the National Peace Committee for the 2015 General Elections to President Muhammadu Buhari, in Abuja. The committee headed by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, was reported to have met President Buhari with an appeal to him to follow due process in his war against corruption. The meeting took place some days after former President Goodluck Jonathan paid a visit to Buhari in Aso Rock.
Members of the committee, who were at the meeting with Abubabakar and Buhari, according to the report, included the Catholic Bishop of of Sokoto, Bishop Matthew Kukah; the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’Ad Abubakar III; the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor; Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Most Revd. Nicholas Okoh; Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan; a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mrs. Priscilla Kuye; Publisher of the Vanguard Newspapers, Chief Sam Amuka Pemu; National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and Senator Ben Obi among others.
Bishop Kukah who addressed newsmen after the meeting was reported to have said that from the various discussions they have had with political leaders, it was clear that no one was in support of corruption, but that since the country was no longer under military rule, due process should be adopted in the anti-graft war, as a suspect is presumed innocent until he was found guilty by the court.
Kukah, in the address, said: “In our conversation with President Jonathan and members of the parties, I don’t think any Nigerian is in favour of corruption or is against the President’s commitment to ensuring that we turn a new leaf.
“I think what we are concerned about is the process. It is no longer a military regime and under our existing laws, everybody is innocent until proven guilty.
“Again, our own commitment is not to intimidate or fight anybody, the former President’s commitment and what he did still remains spectacular and I think that President Buhari himself appreciates that. So, our effort really is to make sure that the right thing is done.”
Nigerians’ reservation over the visit, therefore, is on the backdrop of the reports that former President Jonathan had recently complained to the committee, alleging that the Buhari administration was victimising his former aides on corruption allegations. They expressed the fear that from the bishop’s speech, the committee could be trying to influence a reduction in the tempo of the Buhari anti-corruption crusade.
They asked to know what bearing the former President’s spectacular act of accepting defeat in the 2015 election has with the present serious need to rid the nation of corruption which has almost crippled the economy.
They said that so far they have not seen anything done by Buhari in the quest to recover looted funds that has been contrary to due process or not right, in that the President has not accused any particular person of taking Nigeria’s money for personal use. They said that the allegation that someone diverted funds meant for a particular project to another does not mean an allegation that the person is corrupt except he is directly accused of appropriating the money for personal use.
One of such Nigerians who reacted to the address by Kukah is the Chairman of Edo State chapter of the All Progressives congress (APC), Barrister Anselm Ojezua, who said that Buhari had not done anything so far in the anti-corruption crusade to show that he was not following due process, as according to him, the President has not personalised or directed the battle at any particular person.
According to him, “There is nothing the President has done so far in the anti-corruption crusade that is not in consonant with the rule of law. In fact, what the President promised Nigerians, which he is doing now, is that he would strengthen the anti-corruption and investigative institutions like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the police and also provide the judiciary an atmosphere that would enable them to perform their duties effectively and efficiently.
“What we are only seeing now is that these bodies feel that the President, from his body language, will not in any way impede the performance of their duties and that there is no body that they go after that can hide under his protection. So, any one that is under investigation should do well to account. The only thing is that it should be ensured that no one is untowardly or unjustly treated. So I agree with the peace committee that due process should be followed.”
Some other Nigerians who reacted said they agree that the former President, according to Kukah, did a commendable thing by honourably accepting defeat after the election, “but that does not mean that anybody, whether aide of former President or not, should not be spared in the anti-corruption war.”
Another concerned Nigerian, Arch Swanzy Oguike, while commending the former President for accepting the result of the 2015 election, said, however, that there was nothing to be blown out of proportion in the act because there was nothing special in a candidate accepting the result of an election that was clear to the whole world that he lost.
He reminded Nigerians of the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire where Lawrent Gbagbo refused to accept the result of an election in which he was defeated by Alhassan Ouattara, and advised that such an action must not in way be encouraged by Nigerians.
On the allegation that the crusade, so far, appears to be selective, they said that that cannot be justifiably said until the battle is concluded, adding, however, that the process must start somewhere.
They commended the peace committee for helping to ensure peace in the country before, during and after the general elections but cautioned it not to attempt to introduce the “sacred cow” influence into the process. They said that in as much as they would not want innocent persons to be victimised in the anti-corruption war, anyone found culpable in the inglorious act that has brought Nigeria and Nigerians odium in the eye of the international community, impoverished the citizens and stunted the nation’s growth should be given the toughest penalty after he is made to return all looted money. They advised President Buhari not to waiver in his effort to address the corruption problem in Nigeria.
According to them, “Drastic problem requires drastic solution.”