Last year, when the Federal Government was stalling in honouring its contract with a whistleblower, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption matters, Professor Itse Sagay, told Nigerians the reason his principal and its agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), would not honour the contract was because they were protecting the whistleblower from himself. In Prof. Sagay’s words, the whistleblower “is like someone who will almost run mental when he gets the money and will use it in an irresponsible manner”. When Professor Sagay said this, two things became apparent; his inconsistency and an alarming hypocrisy.
It was inconsistent because neither he nor his principal considered the mental state of the man when he led the EFCC to the mouth gaping million dollars stashed away in an apartment but suddenly, he became mentally unstable when it was time for the government to pay the whistle-blower his money. This, ostensibly, yelled out the hypocrisy of Professor Sagay louder than anything he has ever done. The irony that the author of ‘Nigerian Law of Contract’ is the same person saying it’s alright to sh*t on an honorable contract speaks volumes of the integrity quotient of many Nigerian leaders. But the recent “I-Care-Less” comment by Professor Itsejuwa Esanjumi Sagay, about the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun’s NYSC certificate scandal, was another testament that Nigerian leaders have no iota of respect for the people.
Sagay flagrantly said – with that sense of superiority common with government officials – that he doesn’t “bloody care whether she [Adeosun] did youth service or not”. This was right before he told the whole of Nigeria that it was alright to break the law if you are “brilliant” and an “extremely valuable” member of the government.
To drive the last inch of the nail on Sagay’s hypocrisy and double standards, he then said he doesn’t “see anything serious about not doing youth service” even though it breaches the Constitution Professor Sagay swore to protect when he was called to bar in 1966 and – again – swore to defend when he accepted the role as the Chairman of Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC).
Same Professor Sagay supports the unlawful and shameful act of parading innocent – but poor – Nigerians before the press as criminals, an act that has been condemned as an infringement on human rights and a contradiction of the Nigerian Constitutional tenet that assumes all man innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.
Sagay, in one of the interviews granted the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), said: “Personally, I don’t quite agree with the elitist lawyers and judiciary who say that we shouldn’t parade anybody.”
Inferably, Sagay thinks it is very much alright for an innocent, ordinary man to be shown to the world as a criminal but a “brilliant and valuable member of the government”, whom investigation has shown to have broken the law, must be shielded and left alone. Clearly, Sagay, a Professor of Law, believes whatever law protects the masses can be taken away, while the rich and mighty can flout whatever law that seems to take them away from the national honey jar.
This is the we-are-better-than-them mentality many Nigerian politicians and government appointees have that makes them behave as they so please. It is the same reason Adeosun will say nothing after investigation showed she not only forged a certificate, but also committed perjury by presenting the fake certificate to the Senate.
But this is not surprising. This one percentile who feed fat on Nigeria’s common wealth let us into their mind when they unabashedly tell us exactly what they think of us. After all, Professor Sagay did say Nigeria is a country with no regards for the law.
“The tendency is that you find judges and a lot of lawyers saying that it is wrong to parade anybody after arrest and before the completion of a trial, because the person has not been convicted and therefore, by our Constitution, he is innocent until he is convicted.
“I think that’s very good interpretation of law as it should apply in a developed country that appreciates the freedoms and rights provided by the Constitution. In a country like ours where freedoms and rights are grossly abused and people do not have a sense of responsibility or discipline, I think some deviation from the way it is handled in some developed countries is called for. And to that extent, such parading may be a deterrence to such matters. I think it is not unsuitable for the type of climate that exists here.”
Sadly, much of the suffering Nigerian population is deluded and divided. The Saraki’s ‘game of throne’ has kept them so occupied that they do not see how ‘inconsequential’ these people treat them. Until the right things like governance and demanding accountability from the ilk of Sagay start getting more attention from majority of Nigerians, this one percentile will continue to poop on us and keep getting away with it.
Banjo writes from Lagos. She can be reached via email: [email protected] or Twitter: @RealBanjo