Albert Szent-Györgyi, a Hungarian physiologist who won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1937 was reputed as saying that “while politicians think of the next election, the statesmen think of the next generation. People elect the best politicians and then are astonished when they discover they have gotten poor statesmen.”
Many Nigerians felt under the prevailing circumstances penultimate 2015 general elections, President Muhammadu Buhari was adjudged the best politician to deliver the nation from the predicament. But there are ominous signs that except he makes a hard choice at the risk of sounding immodest, the soldier turned politician may as well become a “poor statesman”.
On June 9, 2015, in what could be described as the perfect coup d’etat, Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon Yakubu Dogara defied orders of their party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), by emerging Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives in a contest that was characterised by subterfuge and skillful guile.
The emerging scenarios can be likened to the reign of the concubine in the erstwhile Forbidden City in China, and it is dogged with grave consequence for a sitting president hoping to seek for second term in office.
The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty—the years 1420 to 1912. It is located in the centre of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum. Built in 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 buildings and covers 72 ha (180 acres). It served as the home of emperors and their households as well as the ceremonial and political centre of Chinese government for almost 500 years. Jin or “Forbidden”, referred to the fact that no one could enter or leave the palace without the emperor’s permission. Entry to this edifice was forbidden to all except the members of the imperial family and their servants.
In 1861, a simple concubine, one of 60 women serving the Xianfeng Emperor, rose to become the de facto ruler of the Qing dynasty. This is the story of Cixi, who, using charisma, political shrewdness and manipulation, governed the Forbidden City through the latter half of the nineteenth century, and who, by breaking with tradition, heralded the end of an empire.
The PDP had suffered a similar fate when in 2011 lawmakers on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) helped Hon Aminu Tambuwal and Hon Emeka Ihedioha to defy the zoning formula of the PDP to emerge speaker and deputy speaker in the House.
That act of defiance by its members was later to haunt the PDP, resulted in the eventual defection of Tambuwal along with several other PDP lawmakers to the APC, and was one of the factors that led to PDP’s woeful performance at the 2015 polls.
The second scene has to do with the trial of Senator Saraki by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for alleged false asset declaration when he was governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.
President Buhari’s sudden invitation to Saraki and Dogara last week to parley over his ministerial list before the senate for clearance has raised questions in many discerning minds. Many thought it was a moment for trade-off, in other words, “stop the trial and let me clear your ministerial nominees”. Though the Presidency quickly came out smoking, insisting that President Buhari has no intention to interfere in the trial proceeding of Saraki, but supposing the trial begins to go through a doubtful winding route of other high profile corruption cases in our courts, what becomes of President Buhari’s explanation? Will it be wrong to link such to this august meeting? Besides, what becomes the fate of President Buhari’s anti-corruption war?
Upon taking office, Xi Jinping, Chinese President and General Secretary of the Communist Party, vowed to crack down on “tigers and flies”, that is, high-level officials and petty civil servants alike. He launched an unprecedented campaign targeting Party, government, judges, military and state-owned company officials suspected of corruption after he came to power in late 2012.
So far, 40,000 government officials have been disciplined for graft violations. A further 10,000 have been fired from their jobs, allowing the government to recoup $65 billion in illicit funds.
China’s ex-security chief Zhou Yongkang and Bo Xilai have been jailed for life – the most senior politicians to face corruption charges under Communist rule.
Zhou Yongkang who had held a seat at the very top of the Chinese government pyramid was found guilty of bribery, abuse of power and “intentionally disclosing national secrets”, China’s official source.
According to media report on June 11, 2015, Zhou, 72, pleaded guilty, and while responding to the judge, he said he would not launch an appeal. “I’ve realised the harm I’ve caused to the party and the people. I plead guilty and I regret my crimes,” he said.
In a breakdown of the ruling, it was reported that Zhou received a life sentence for directly accepting bribes worth 731,000 yuan ($117,000), seven years for abuse of power and four years for “deliberately releasing state secrets”. His family was said to have received bribes of 129 million yuan. All political rights have been stripped and his property confiscated.
To achieve decisive and formidable corruption war, there must be impartial, incorruptible and fearless judiciary in place.
China’s chief judge and chief procurator said on 2 January 2001 that the country’s court and prosecuting systems dealt seriously with corruption cases involving judges and prosecutors in the past year.
Xiao Yang, president of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC), said in his report on the court’s work that in 2000, 1,292 judges in the country were punished for violation of Party and administrative rules, and 46 others were prosecuted for violation of the law, according to Xiao.
Han Zhubin, procurator-general of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP), said 494 rule-breaking prosecutors were investigated and punished in the past year, with 54 of them prosecuted.
Experience has shown that once a sitting government is ruminating over the next election to usher it into its second term in office, the tendency to take necessary bold and decisive steps in governance is lost; it loses the steam to make historical impact. Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan feebly handled anti-corruption war for fear of stepping on toes that may cause him his second term in office. And he lost both.
No Chinese President after Chairman Mao has ever earned the same popularity of the Chinese like Xi Jinping who is just two years in office. “Corruption” was among the top 10 issues of concern to the Chinese people when Xi became the president, and consequently took up the fight against corruption as a way to restore popular confidence in the government. It is also a skillful means of adjusting to the hatred-for-the-rich mentality so popular among the Chinese public in recent years.
Buhari’s fight against corruption must begin with judicial reform and the judicial corruption. Our criminal laws that prescribe hasher punishments for vegetable or cell phone thief more than for people who steal billions of dollars is unacceptable to Nigerians. This has to be reviewed as a matter of urgency.
A surgical operation must be carried out to fish out the “exparte or court injunction merchants’’ in the judiciary. It doesn’t matter if Buhari bends backward to deal with those that frustrated corruption cases by granting “perpetual injunctions’’ in the past. Such judges must be tried and sent to jail to serve as deterrence.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, revealed recently that he had directed the NJC to implement the new Revised NJC Guidelines and Procedural Rules for the Appointment of Judicial Officers of all Superior Courts of Record in Nigeria 2014; because the need for a change in the criteria for the appointment of Judicial Officers in Nigeria is at a point of no return.
“It was clear that the old Guidelines and Rules had become unworkable as it saw anachronisms such as the limitation that saw only Justices of the Court of Appeal, as of right, making it to the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Under the new, more rigorous and transparent rules, any qualified legal practitioner with the requisite intellect has the opportunity of making it to any Court in the land and even to the posts of Heads of Federal and States Superior Courts, including the Chief Justice of Nigeria”, CJN had said.
The CJN must be encouraged and supported to carry out this Judiciary’s self-cleansing reform to logical conclusion.
Eneyiramoh wrote in this from Ebiya, Ajaokuta LGA, Kogi state.