By Ibrahim Sheriff (Gold)
Before 2019, we had a government that was largely perceived to be inept, corrupt, insensitive to people’s plight and more partisan than patriotic. We had leaders whose political interests reign supreme, over and above any matter of public significance. Our political space was characterized by brazen selectivity that leaves corruption and public resources misappropriation defined by loyalty and or disloyalty to the then leadership of the State.
Kwarans advocated for change and a breakaway from the old order. They craved and strived for an adept political leadership, with strong will to do the right things regardless of personal political interests, that will right the the wrongs of the past and redeem our lost glory as a people.
The priority expectations while Kwarans chanted OTOGE was to install a government that would ruthlessly fight corruption, objectively and decisively seek probity and redeem our institutions and resources.
However, almost two years after the successful hatch of the Kwara sociopolitical struggle christened “OTOGE” (enough is enough), we are faced with the realities of changed faces, running identical old system, same way. This is increasingly dampening the hopes of achieving any major change, bearing in mind that we cannot continue doing same thing and expect different results. The credibility of our public institutions remains questionable.
From the unending investigations into Kwara State misappropriated assets, to the corrupt and sharp practices established by various committees in International Aviation College, the suspended sixteen local government Chairmen indictment among others, it is getting dawn on us that the present government is perhaps, more interested in the media validation, pose and not the actions of fighting corruption in the real sense of it.
Else, one will be forced to ask what new policy framework have been put in place to frontally tackle corruption, nip it in the bud and those caught used as scapegoat ?
Mayhap, the social audit contraption with Enetsud will suffice here. It’s however badly skewed to achieve a narrow if not predetermined end (known or unknown to the CSO). Fighting corruption goes beyond exposing, it’s actually getting judgement for the people and that’s done by making those with culpability face the music squarely, that’s yet to be seen till date.
In the business of fighting corruption, we are now faced with some unusual terminologies that deliberately frustrates the fight. From committees, to panels and even ‘white paper’ committees. We are making what should be simple more complex, understanding that regardless of the number of committees instituted, they lack prosecutorial power and can only issue recommendations for trial of culprits. This is even mindless of the fact that law enforcement agents won’t simply act on these reports but subject them to further unending investigation.
When Gov. AbdulRazaq assumed office, upon outrage over allegations of fraud and misappropriated of funds by the Rector of the College, setup a committee to investigate allegations. The panel, Chaired by Prof. A.G.F. Alabi was inaugurated on 5th August 2020, with mandate to among others, unravel the clogs militating against the school’s attainment of financial sustainability, lack of harmonious relationship etc.
According to the 95 pages report of the committee submitted to the Kwara State government in September, 2020, the committee among other things recommended the termination of the appointment of the Rector, Bursar and Auditor among others over allegations of mismanagement, financial misappropriation, highhandedness and insubordination among others.
The visitation panel, according to the report also indicted the Governing Chairman, Alh. Gobir appointed by Gov. AbdulRazaq over drawing a weekly sitting allowance of #250,000, amounting to #1million monthly on a regular basis, without board meetings, even when it is a common knowledge that Board appointments are not full term and such appointees are only entitled to pay only when they sit. This recalls the bad old days of public resource wastage. However, do we blame the Chairman or the one who appointed a board Chairman without members, probably until lately?
Suffice to the absence of board members at the College at the time of committee filling their reports was the Panel’s recommendation, that “A full Council should be immediately constituted for proper management of the College. In view of the bad management and recklessness of the Rector on College’s finances…” It thus raised question as to why there will be a Chairman without members in the first place? An aberration that lasted for way over a year after a lone Chairman was appointed and has been operating. While the Chairman was appointed in February, 2020, members of International Aviation College were just inaugurated March, 2021.
However, it was rumored that the indicted Rector of the Aviation College, Benedict Adeyileka was relieved of his duty by the newly constituted Board, as recommended by the Visitation Panel last week. It is not only bad that these unwholesome developments are shrouded in secrecy by a government that hasn’t falter in blowing corruption trumpets of other politically exposed persons, especially, those on the opposing side of the divides, but also worrisome that same indicted Chairman who benefitted from the financial recklessness of Adeyileka was still a judge in his own case. How logical?
The endless probe into the legality or otherwise of the disposal of public assets in the State is another adventure yet to be concluded after almost 2years, for God knows why. We had the Committee headed by Senator Makanjuola Ajadi and later, another panel headed by Hon. Justice Orilonise. Both committees had repeatedly completed their assignments and submitted reports to the Governor but Kwarans have been in the dark over the findings and implementation of the report.
Another issue of interest in Kwara’s quest for probity and leadership integrity is the corruption in our local governments. It resonates a big lesson for those who care to learn from history, for God to have given us two similar situations in 2009 and 2021, under different Governors.
“If the then Governor Bukola Saraki, whose ‘corruption perception index’ in Kwara, by omission or commission, is the highest in my own judgment can sack a man, even though illegal, for allegedly diverting fertilizers meant for his people. Is it not an irony that the OTOGE crooner, who supposedly came to reshape our sociopolitical narratives and right the perceived wrongs of the past, deem it only expedient to appoint the same corrupt element?
Hypocritically, some people, whom we collectively echoed OTOGE, shamelessly make bold to defend the malodorous action that only motivates corruption in public offices. Of particular note is Alh. Tajudeen Aro, the APC PRO, who in his direct message to me, while reacting to one of my comments over the Patigi illegal promotion of corruption, said “The problem here is that most people indicted by Bukola were falsely roped to force them to toe their line. Many that went to court to challenge their removal were eventually vindicated. I would have suffered the same fate, but I was extremely careful and smarter.”
To my understanding, being careful and smart in political office is to not steal. If Alh. Aro’s position is anything to go by, anybody may also conclude that the suspended local governments Chairmen by Gov. AbdulRazaq may just be another Saraki style of ‘falsely roping them to force them to toe his lane’. As logical as that might sound, it is irrational to someone like me who holds the conviction that he who has nothing to hide have nothing to fear. Anyone roped made the ropes of corruption used in tying them, as there were undeniable evidences that points to their misappropriation.
However, unfolding events and Alh. Aro’s comment reflects that beyond revamping our local governments, Gov. AbdulRazaq is daily proving to place premium over the strengthening of his political base using the suspended local government Chairmen. 2years down the line, these suspended Chairmen have been offered a political soft landing through their negotiated defection to the ‘AA Direct’ faction of the APC, under the guise of forming a subgroup loyal to the Governor. This is nothing but mincing personal political interest with public’s and taking undue advantage of privileges of people’s mandate, just like the people of yesteryears.
Some people are also of the opinion that the alleged diverter of Patigi fertilizer was merely indicted by the House of Assembly and not pronounced guilty in the Court of law. The question that then follows is if Gov. AbdulRazaq also got a Court judgment before suspending the 16 LG Chairs indicted by same House of Assembly, just like Ndagiri? Or was the newly appointed Patigi illegal TIC Chairman also pronounced innocent by any Court of Law?
The appointment of Ndagiri, if anything, is beyond technical argument but exhibition of political immorality that can only encourage corruption in public offices. If a whole ‘unchallenged’ parliamentary indictment is inconsequential, what do they have to fear? They can only be confident that another Governor will come someday, whose interest lies not in your integrity and personal credibility but political loyalty to him.
If we are sincere about fighting corruption in the interest of the people, there mustn’t be any sacred cow. It must be holistic, it must be objective, decisive and above all, selfless. Fighting corruption is about showing the right leadership in an efficient manner and putting in place mechanisms that prevents corruption in public institutions.