Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Muhammed recently stunned the Lagos-Abuja bound passengers at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MM2), Lagos with an austere appearance. He had walked briskly to the departure lounge, clutching his travelling bag with some newspapers, accompanied by no aide! After submitting himself for security checks, he walked to take his seat among the waiting travellers, not at the VIP lounge.
Expectedly, those who had never seen a serving minister demonstrate such abstruseness were stunned and began to x-ray the Minister’s ‘strange’ conduct in hushed tones. Nonetheless, there are reports that more ministers and heads of government agencies are increasingly shedding the culture of haughtiness.
The aggregate view is that the ‘Change Begins With Me’ agenda of the Federal Government crafted to stir-up attitudinal change in Nigerians has started making open display of modesty and humility most compelling for officials. Indeed, the best way to hackney and mainstream the ‘Change Begins with Me’ ideology is to lead in demonstrable conduct and attitude. Indeed, the Change Begins with Me is the first step towards deflating the over bloated incubus of corruption in the country.
Reports from the Presidential Villa are indicating that President Muhammadu Buhari is on the driver’s seat in display of the right attitude towards taming corruption. Allusions had been made to his modesty, humility and strong aversion to opulence. His government is cutting costs and schooling Nigerians to be parsimonious in the face of daunting economic challenges. Perhaps, the unique selling point is Buhari’s refusal to indulge members his wife, Aisha and children in the life of ostentation.
Although some entrenched interests are stiffly opposed to the vigorous approach Muhammadu Buhari has been taking in the fight against corruption, indications are that the fight is assuming some measure of successes.
Consistently, some civil society groups have been staging street protests in support of the anti-corruption stance of the government. All over, more Nigerians are rooting for an agenda to smash the heads of past and present officials of government who had connived to wreak the economy.
Recently, the war against corruption by the government swirled violently like a hurricane and blew across the judiciary. By a sting operation, the Department of State Security (DSS) stormed the residences of top Judges suspected as corrupt in a bid to make them get a taste of bitter recompense. Many Nigerians hailed the move prodded by the overwhelming reports on how Judges have allegedly traded justice with the highest bidders.
In Nigeria, watchers of democracy are of the view that the country is on a cliffhanger on alleged monumental acts of corruption perpetrated by a few Judges. Judges had continued to attract suspicion to their conducts through some judgement at election petitions Tribunals. To any layman, that a judgement could not be cited is an affirmation that some incongruities had crept into the script. In Nigeria, it is always easy for the camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a candidate with bails of ‘believable’ evidence to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that he won in an election.
It, therefore, presupposes that Nigeria would be doomed in the event that the alleged pervasive corruption in the judiciary is left un-investigated. During his electioneering campaign, President Buhari warned that corruption will kill Nigeria if not killed on time. He had affirmed more than once that the Judiciary has constituted an obstacle to fight corruption. It took the sting operation on marked judges to understand the dilemma on matters of Judiciary in Nigeria.
Incidentally, while in Nigeria, Judges being investigated for alleged misdemeanour have the avowed grace to remain on duty;the story is different in other climes. In the past few months, almost a dozen Judges have been weeded out of the judicial system of Ghana on alleged acts of corruption. In advanced democracies, voluntary resignation by judges has always footnoted every allegation raised on their conduct.
It is against this background that the call by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) for judges being investigated to step aside or be put on compulsory leave appears to make some meaning.
The wisdom in the position by the NBA is that Judges will have the time to prove their innocence and the seeming omission by the DSS, which many believed took an extra-judicial step in exposing them to humiliation.
At this time in Nigeria, that the clamour for a total overhaul of the systems is graining traction, it is NOT only the President, his cabinet members, lawmakers and others who should be purveyors of the Change Begins with Me agenda, the Judges, should be in the lead. Judges accused of corruption, should, therefore embrace the wisdom of submitting themselves for probe.
Idowu Samuel, public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja.