Between Lawan and Otedola By Mohammed Haruna



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A week after Honourable Farouk Lawan, chairman of the Ad-Hoc Committee of the House of Representatives on the management of the country’s petrol subsidy regime, submitted his committee’s report to the House for debate on April 18, I expressed cautious optimism that the committee’s work held out hope that the seemingly lost war against corruption in the country may yet be won. This was in my column of April 25.

“By sticking together to write and submit its report about the country’s subsidy regime with all its damming substance,” I said in the concluding paragraphs of the piece, “Honourable Lawan and his colleagues in the Ad-Hoc Committee have clearly demonstrated that all hope is not yet lost in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.”

“Before long we will know if this optimism is a case of triumph of hope over experience.”

It took less than six weeks for the turn of events around Lawan’s report to expose my optimism as indeed a case of triumph of hope over experience. Or so it seems.

Since the war of words first broke out a few weeks ago between Mr. Femi Otedola, Chairman of Zenon Oil, and Lawan, over the initial indictment of Zenon in Lawan’s report, truth, as in all wars, has become the first casualty in the sense that it has been difficult, if not impossible, to tell who between two is telling the truth and nothing but the truth.

The one thing that is not in dispute is that money exchanged hands between the oil mogul and the legislator. The other thing not in dispute is that the bribe was in exchange for clearing Zenon – along with AP which Otedola also chairs – of involvement in the huge petrol subsidy racketeering of these past years. What is in dispute is whether Otedola paid the bribe on demand as the oil mogul says or Lawan took it on offer as the legislator insists. Each insists his motive was to expose the other as a rogue.

My suspicion is that Otedola offered. I have it on good authority that Lawan was warned more than once by sources close to veteran senior intelligence officers worried about the scale of the oil subsidy scandal, that he was being set up for a sting in order to discredit his committee’s report. From the look of things, Lawan did not heed the advice; his claim that he accepted the bribe to use it as exhibit eventually, rings rather hollow.

First, Lawan’s colleague and chairman of the House Committee on Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Honourable Emmanuel Jagaba, who he said he had given the money to for safe custody, has denied the claim. Second, as a legislator he ought to have known that to establish a case of attempted bribery it was not enough to keep it in-house; legislators make laws not implement them. Accordingly he ought to have formally informed the relevant intelligence organisations, to wit, the police, EFCC and possibly SSS, of his motive from the word go. To have done so only after Otedola had gone public with the case sounded like being rather clever by half. Third, his case has been complicated by the fact that the bribe money seems to have vanished into thin air.

Again the legislator’s case has not been helped by the House insistence on hearing him and Otedola out in camera. Of course it’s the legislators’ privilege to choose how to conduct their legislative affairs. But having chosen to do so openly from the beginning, consistency and morality demanded that the hearings remained open. Besides it was the only way to dispel public suspicions of a whitewash.

So if one must choose between a rock (Otedola) and a hard place (Lawan), the odds right now seem to favour the rock. This suggests that the Lawan report may end up discredited. This would be a great pity, if only because of the relative rare vigour with which the Ad-Hoc Committee did its work and wrote its report.

However, even if the report ends up discredited the one undisputed fact it has established is that government’s excuses for the size of our oil subsidy and for the need to end it – smuggling, huge increases in local consumption and sharp increases in the international price of crude, etc – are exactly that; excuses.

Discredited or not, the Lawan report – indeed the very war of words between himself and Otedola over the report – has definitively established corruption as the overwhelming cause of the size of our oil subsidy and the main reason why its impact on the economy has been negative. It would take the most brazen act of impunity for the Jonathan presidency to attempt to sweep it under the carpet.

Re: A (Shaba Ward) lesson for the new NSA.

Your submissions on appointment of Col Sambo  Dasuki as NSA was apt and insightful in the sense that it threw more light on possible reasons why Azazi was replaced. I share President Jonathan’s position that all those who play politics with national security lack patriotic courage. That is why I find it hard to comment on the merit or otherwise of appointment of Sambo Dasuki.
However, I am constrained to submit that the appointment has placed northern leaders in position of a goat whose master is sick: if the master recovers from the ailment, the goat would be used to celebrate the recovery. But if the master dies, the goat would still be slaughtered for the funeral. Such a goat cannot win.

In the same vein, if the new NSA is able to rein in activities of Boko Haram, those who posit that northern leaders can be anything but good would say we told you that northern leaders sired the sect for political reasons. They would say wisdom of the adage that “give the thief custody of goods for safe keeping has come unto its own”. And if Sambo Dasuki fails to deliver on the promise of his appointment, the adversaries of northern establishment would still say we told you that it is number one position they want. You see, either way, northern leaders cannot win.

But as you say, it is better Sambo Dasuki delivers on the promise of peaceful coexistence and national security, even as the North will become butt of joke on the street, rather unfairly, that “the white man brought slave trade, and the white man brought it to an end”.

Those who still advocate use of force to address current security challenges feign ignorance of fact of history that late president Umar Yar’Adua used forced and killed about 700 members of the sect in 2009,which did not subdue them. They also forget how President Bush used force to remove President Saddam Hussein within seven days and boasted “mission accomplished with precision”, only to realize much later that the action merely marked the beginning of a ten year campaigns that would cost 4,400 American soldiers,$800b and the lives of countless Iraqis. America with all its might had to go home with tail in between its legs. Today the whole NATO is in Afghanistan with 137,000 soldiers holding 4,000 Taliban soldiers prisoners. Yet the Taliban remain unbowed. As a result, the US is considering an exit strategy as France is withdrawing its soldiers home. All these are pointers to the reality that force cannot deliver.

Also, those who regard Boko Haram as a northern phenomenon which should be handled by northern leaders forget the fact of history that both Osama Bin Laden and most of the 19 pilots who brought the New York twin towers down on 9/11 were Saudis, yet America never saw any wisdom or strategy in branding the ensuing campaigns against terrorism as a Saudi affairs nor as a conflict between Muslims and Christians. Such people further forget the fact that President Obama got his Nobel Prize for making a distinction between Islam and terrorism during an Arab conference in Egypt, a distinction which helped in enlisting the support of Muslim countries against terrorism that led to the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

I, therefore, share your view that both Muslims and Christians must come together and live up their collective security challenges reminiscent of what happened in Shaba Ward. Such a synergy against terrorism is also happening in Kenya where Muslims protect Christians during worship in churches.

Anthony N Z Sani.

Re: General Abdulsalami Alhaji Abubakar at 70: a metaphor for destiny

I noted your doubt (in your birthday tribute to Gen AAA on June 13) about the number of Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar’s classmates that were drafted into the army. They were ten. The one you omitted was Ibrahim Sauda of armoured corps. He was crushed to death by a military vehicle in 1967 in Kaduna while trying to control traffic at very early stage of preparations for movement to the war front. Then ‘Dogotigi’ is unknown. The officer under your reference was Muhammed B Ndakotsu.

 

Major Buhari A Auna (rtd)

 


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