To Probe Or Not To Probe By Eric Osagie


TWO eminent Nigerians, one, a firebrand cleric, the other, a highly revered monarch, recently expressed divergent views on pro­posed probe of the malfeasances of the imme­diate past administration of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan by the Muhammadu Buhari government. And both men, coinciden­tally, are domiciled in the old Sokoto caliphate!

Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, the arch­bishop of the Sokoto diocese, was the first to stir the hornet’s nest. Shortly after the National Peace Committee led by former Head of State, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar, paid a courtesy visit to Buhari, Kukah, a prominent member of the Committee threw a bombshell: The pro­posed probe was a needless distraction, which the new government could ill afford. Before Kukah’s submission, there had been media re­ports that the Peace Committee had gone on a trouble-shooting mission for Mr Jonathan, to stave off an impending probe of his administra­tion. This drew flak from many Nigerians, who are desirous of unveiling the rotten underbelly of the immediate past administration.

Just as Kukah was being ‘roasted’ by public opinion, the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Saad Abubakar 111, lent his weighty voice on the side of the clamour for instant justice for corrupt Nigerians. Speaking at the National Security Summit, organized by The Nigeria Police and The Sun Publishing Company Lim­ited, Sultan Abubakar, who was also the key note speaker, canvassed the jailing of looters, and seizure of assets of all proven cases of cor­ruption. The Sultan’s position also did not fail to draw criticism from a few Nigerians, like the fiery northern radical, Alhaji Yakassai, who has warned against the breach of fundamental rights of Nigerians under the guise of chasing after looters. In other words, Yakassai is can­vassing strict adherence to due process in the war against graft.

Of course, as is typically Nigeria, citizens are lining behind the divergent views expressed on the issue of whether Buhari should probe or not probe the Jonathan administration; whether the probe should extend to past administrations other than Jonathan’s. There is also the other argument of whether a probe of the Jonathan administration would amount to a witch-hunt or not? The argument just swings to and fro like a yoyo.

Without any circumlocution, here is where this columnist stands on the issues above: A probe is not a needless distraction to the gar­gantuan tasks ahead of the Buhari government. Digging into the rot of the past is one way of charting a purposeful future. How do we know where we are heading, when all over our ways are all kinds of thorns and obstacles? How can we find our way when dark, dusty cobwebs obfuscate our view? Shouldn’t we find how to clear the muddy pathways that inhibit our movement? That doesn’t mean we stand still while seeking to navigate our path.

I honestly can’t understand this country and our people. In one breath, we blow our lungs out, screaming how looters have done us in; how past government officials have stolen us blind. A government then comes to say it wants to examine the books, then the same people scream witch-hunt, even before the probe begins. Then, a respected priest says it will amount to a needless distraction to probe the past. I disagree with Kukah’s view. If any­thing, a probe of the past administrations is a needed distraction. How can trillions of naira go down the drains and someone is asking us to let bygones be bygones? How can a nation be wallowing in mass unemployment and squa­lor, and we call it a needless distraction trying to find out what happened? I agree with Sul­tan Abubakar’s postulation that looters and all those who deep their itchy fingers in the collec­tive till be jailed and their assets confiscated. Of course, following the due process of the law!

As to the question of whether inquiry by the Buhari administration should be limited to the Jonathan era, I beg to differ with government’s position on the issue. It would mean that cor­ruption in Nigeria started and ended with the Jonathan government, even as stinking as that era was. Let the probe start but not end with that era. From the known, we can then navi­gate to the unknown. From Jonathan, we can then move on to the administrations before his. For example, it will be interesting to find out what happened in the Halliburton scandal; PTDF mess; billions of dollars allegedly spir­ited away from the vaults of oil behemoth, the NNPC during Mr Obasanjo’s tenure.

Let all who have sinned face the music of justice. Let them dance naked in the open arena of citizenship scrutiny. Let no one attempt to plead the cause of all those who have caused the people deep agony by their thoughtless­ness. Let the probes begin…