by Ossie Ezeaku
Bringing public officials to account for their stewardship is a practice that has continued to strengthen governments and institutions around the globe. It has been so successful that the fear of public scrutiny, has in no small way, elicited thoughtful actions on the part of emerging leaders.
In the West where the practice is routinely carried out in good faith, It has forced leaders to tread carefully, not only in handling public funds, but in conducting themselves morally before their citizens. A measure that has in effect, produced leadership role models within their society.
Thus, accountability has become an indispensable expectation that some nations, such as China, would take the extreme measure of executing their public officers found guilty of financial misdemeanors. While this is not a civilized measure worthy of emulation by any nation, the siphoning of public funds in Nigeria must not be treated with kid gloves. But in the process of doing that, efforts must be made that such cases are handled apolitical and without prejudice.
The concept of the EFCC was a timely one on Nigeria's corrupt political trough, it couldn't have arrived at a better time. But then, from the beginning, we've seen the agency continuously beam her searchlight on Obasanjo's political opponents. Chief among them, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, former Gov. of Abia state.
Nigerians have been watching the political fisticuffs of the duo of Obasanjo and Kalu, and which eventually took them to the electoral battle ground states of the South East, where Kalu's PPA sprung surprises to take the states of Imo and Abia from his arch political enemy, Ex Pres. Obasanjo. A victory which saw the Chief electoral officer of Abia state sanctioned for releasing the results handed to him by his field officers. It is on record.
In order to deal with some of the cunning political situations in Nigeria, Prof. Okey Ndibe wrote to say, "it behooves enlightened citizens to keep themselves informed, to retain a healthy skeptical stance in relation to officialdom's narcotizing nostrums, and to ensure that the mechanism of social remembrance is in a permanent state of activation".
To this, Most Igbo and the rest of Nigeria would not hesitate to see Gov. Kalu imprisoned If found guilty of the offenses preferred against him. But, prior to the judgment of this case, meting out extra judicial punishment on his interests, would only indicate that Kalu is paying the price of his party's electoral victory in the South East, or, that he is being punished for his open stand against Obasanjo's ill-fated third term ambition. This is a situation that will not augur well particularly with Ndigbo. And may as well ignite distracting ethnic sentiments.
A fair trial would be most desired by Nigerians. That, which is devoid of malice, and which I fear has manifested itself, with the pre-judgment freezing of the bank accounts of some of his business interests, one of them, the Sun Newspapers.
And now, the question is--Was Kalu's pre-1999 financial fortune less than what would have been needed to establish the Sun in 2001? Bearing In mind that the business mogul doled out one $million dollars of his personal fortune in 1998 to support Obasanjo's presidential bid.
The speed to which these accounts were frozen had made Kalu's spokesman to assert thus, "It is pertinent to state here that the said assets of Kalu being frozen were already duly declared in his assets declaration of 1999 and 2003 as required by the Nigerian Constitution for public officers. The said assets were culled from Kalu's assets declaration form. These are verifiable assets, most of which were acquired more than 20 years ago
It is important to note that while Kalu and his colleagues are awaiting trial, they are still suspects. The popular rule that they be presumed innocent within this period must prevail. In this wise, putting a stop to all measures detrimental to his sources of livelihood, a legal right which I believe he has.
And now that the EFCC has sprung into action, an all encompassing review of the tenure of all other Ex governors, including the Ex president himself, must be carried out without fear of favor. While Nigerians wait for the next bout of arrests, the efforts of web-based news organizations must be commended, Omoyele Sowore and the crew of Saharareporters.com.
Thanks to their very investigative efforts, which made the loot and the grandiose life-styles of some of the Ex governors, and public officials of the last administration exposed beyond doubt. Some of whom, hitherto, had no visible source of livelihood. The beat goes on.