We have a sluggish judiciary – Bisi Akande

We have a sluggish judiciary – Bisi Akande

Mfonobong Akpan

Former governor of Osun State, Chief Bisi Akande and
the first interim national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in an interview with Sunday Sun spoke on Buhari’s anti- corruption fight, the judiaciary and other national issues.

Read excerpts:
Now your party is now in power at the center, but are you aware that people out there are agitated that the promised ‘change’ is yet to manifest?

Well, you are very right. Not Nigerians alone, all human beings are impatient because life itself is not that long. And the life of a government is very, very short. The life of a government in Nigeria is only four years. So, the first month, everybody wanted change. But when we were coming to power, we promised changes around three important issues. Number one, we said we were going to confront Boko Haram or anything insurgency. We promised to bring peace back to Nigeria. And if you don’t do that first, you would not be able to do any other thing because where there is no peace, there cannot be order and there would be distraction. You would not be able to act or do anything. So, we said that, of these three issues, which one should be the first one? We discovered that we must solve the problem of insurgency first. Buhari’s first activities were concerned with how to stop the Boko Haram insurgency. And we are happy, though it was not there in one day. It started in 2009 and when something started in 2009 and somebody came in the middle of 2015 and by the end of 2015, he was able to remove the tap root of the insurgency; to me, he has done very brilliantly.

The other issue which our party said we would confront was corruption. If you don’t remove corruption, whatever you put on the table, no matter what you want to do, it would not be done well. The government we replaced voted money every day for roads. There were no roads. They were voting money every day for infrastructure, there was no infrastructure. They were voting money every day to improve the education of the people, the training of the mind of the people, it could not be seen. Two things make a country to develop, the quality of the citizenry, the level of the individual’s education in the citizenry of a country is very important. The second one is strength of the institutions. In a country like Nigeria, where some areas are fairly educated, but not properly educated, and some areas are not just educated, we have a lot of problems in putting things in proper perspectives, particularly when the constitution says federal character must be considered in making appointments.

So, in creating institutions that would be very strong and be qualitative in such a circumstance, we needed a delicate approach. And one should be very careful about it.

So, because corruption is endemic, our institutions are very weak. So, Buhari has to confront corruption. But it is unfortunate because we have a sluggish judiciary. And where the judiciary is sluggish, and a case can take 30 years to be determined, definitely the corrupt man can say, we would soon test his resolve through the sluggish judiciary. He would soon use the sluggish judiciary to test his own resolve and get him tired. And in four years, they may still be in court and by the time the President goes away, they have a way of killing the case and corruption would not go.

Another thing is that Buhari too should be very careful because when corruption fights back, it can be very devastating. So, in doing all these things, you have to balance many things. And you cannot rush into it. That is why it appears the impatience of the people needs to be managed. And we need an institution like the press to assist in managing this by emphasizing that corruption is a very delicate thing to confront. And it requires some tact and time. Therefore, the change cannot be immediate. And until you kill corruption the change being expected cannot happen. You will spend a lot of money on electricity, the next month, you produce less than before you started spending money on it because corruption has taken away the money you put into it. So, if corruption is not fought, the ordinary people can never have the benefit of good government. That is why it appears Buhari concentrates now on fighting corruption.

The third thing we have promised is employment. We said we are going to confront unemployment. Unless we remove corruption, unless we remove insurgency, it would be very difficult to create jobs because factories would not be able to work and government cannot give jobs to everybody. You have to create an atmosphere that would allow industries to grow and absorb the unemployed. So, those three are inter-twined. They are so inter-twined and so difficult to confront that we need some time before it can start fruition and before their effects can be seen by the people. I think that far, I can say, but many people are impatient to see all those things we never promised. I hear people say and write many things in the papers that Buhari has not done this or that which we never promised at all and which are merely in the assumption of the people. We cannot take them along. And unless we are focused and we limit ourselves to those three, we would not be able to get there.

With the scenario you just painted about the evil effects of corruption on any nation, do you subscribe to the idea of setting the rule of law aside as being canvassed by some people to fast-track cases against the indicted corrupt persons?

I don’t know what such people mean. When you talk of the rule of law, it depends on the extent or the wisdom behind the law in place. I say that because in the Nigerian Constitution, if you kill a person, you must be detained until your innocence is proved beyond reasonable doubt. A corrupt man has killed numerous people. So, a corrupt person is a murderer. Take for instance, you take money to buy arms to fight Boko Haram and you steal it though for selfish reason. In the process, numerous people have been killed by Boko Haram. Some people linked to that corruption are murderers. Our constitution says that murderers must not be let off the hook until the judgment is passed. So, what do you mean by the rule of law? It’s a matter of interpretation. You can say the man who used cutlass to kill is direct. One who used corruption to kill is indirect. Killing is killing. So, a corrupt man is a murderer. And corruption is a killer. It is a time bomb.

So, if a man is troubled and you cannot prove that the money in his hands, he never had it corruptly, he should remain in detention because he is already a murderer. And our constitution says a murderer must be detained. So, I don’t know what the people mean about removing the rule of law or keeping the rule of law. It is a matter of interpretation. In some countries of the world including China and in some other places, they kill corrupt people. The penalty for corruption is the gallows. It is capital punishment. If we don’t want to do that, I would not preach we should for a reason. When we impose capital punishment for armed robbery, robbers became more deadly. Before, they threatened you with arms, took your money and left you alive. But when you say we should kill armed robbers, they started killing you before taking your money. So that corruption will not start killing us, I do not support that corrupt persons be killed at this stage of our development. But I would think that a corrupt person is a murderer. And all murderers must always be kept and detained until their cases are treated. I know that there could be an insincere government that would tell a lie to say somebody is corrupt. It has been done to me before. A governor just went out and declared me wanted and said that I stole money on Bola Ige House and he didn’t know where I took the money, he didn’t know where I kept it and he could not prove anything. But he was looking for me. I sincerely refused to answer. I told the police if they were bold enough, they should come to arrest me in my house. They declared me wanted, they did not come to my house. But in a case where you go to the Central Bank of Nigeria to take money, you signed for it, and you did not spend the money for the purpose you took the money, definitely, what is your argument? You don’t deny taking the money. And the money is meant to save lives. And you don’t spend the money for saving life. And lives were lost. You are a murderer. And you have no argument. You don’t have a reason to ask for a bail from any court of law. That is the way I look at it.

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