Prof. Femi Odekunke is a professor of Criminology who served as aide to Lt Gen Oladipo Diya when the latter was second-in-command to the tyrant Gen Sani Abacha.
He was one of the people put on trial by the Abacha junta when his boss, Diya, was accused of a plot to remove from office by force. It was by sheer fortitude that Diya and Odekunle came out of the gulag after Abacha died a day before the coup convicts were to be executed.
Since he came out of that experience, Prof. Adekunle has been prominent in one circuit or the other making sense here and doing less than that there. His views at times makes you wonder what quality of advice he made available to Diya when he worked with.
I saw him on NTA hours after the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29, 2015. He was asked to analyze the speech of the president. He shocked many listeners when he said he would not have allowed the president to acknowledge the good measure of his predecessor conceding defeat if he were an adviser to him.
He eventually had the opportunity to become an “adviser” of some sort to the President when he was made a member of the Sagay’s Anti-Corruption committee.
It was in that capacity that he spoke with Sunday Vanguard of January 3, 2016.
The interview headlined “I don’t believe in unmoderated rule of law” without mincing words exposed the dangerous mind with Odekunle professes.
He was asked on what basis the EFCC continues to re-arrest accused persons granted bail by competent courts with an order that such people should not be re-arrested and he answered. “You see, one of the problems we have in this country is that we put the interest of the individual above the interest of the collective. As a professional criminologist, I am not for unmoderated democracy, I’m not for unmoderated rule of law in which the rights of the individual will be so hyperbolised and override those of the collective”.
“If a man is accused of stealing N1billion, and he goes to court and the SANs, with all their shenanigans and technicalities, using the Constitution, to say you have committed a bailable offence whereas the consequences are more than what is bailable, then you are able to get bail; then tomorrow, we find that you have stolen another billion naira, that is another offence and, therefore, you should be arrested. To me, once you get a bail for a particular offence that does not mean you cannot be arrested for another offence. As far as I’m concerned, the government has even been very gentle and constrained in doing its job and dealing with this monster of corruption. If you know the damage that is done to us morally, psychological, socio-culturally and financially, image wise, you will not be going into this discussion about the human rights of certain people who are actually ruining us. If we don’t make examples of these characters, sooner than later, our future and that of our children are jeopardized”.
His views above typify a mind that would not mind using the corruption of the system under the guise of corruption. Yes, we are all agreed that corruption has become a monster in our society and must be fought holistically. However, we cannot void our rights provision because of hastiness. We need diligent prosecution and due compliance with the rule of law in dealing with corruption in our land.
Any talk of “moderated” rule of law is nothing but its violation. We need to remind Prof. Odekunle that he could be talking of “moderated” rule of law when he was advising the Abacha regime but such balderdash has no place in a constitutional democracy.
Let us pray that this kind of dangerous professions belong exclusively to Prof. Odekunle and not a reflection of the mindset of the Sagay Committee. The rights enshrined in our laws and constitution were fought for and cannot be taken away by seasonal advisers.
For many years, the men in brass hats who invaded our polity and violated our due process of law have always argued that there was no atrocity they committed that were not facilitated by civilians working with them. Prof. Odekunle has just proved them right.
The war against corruption must continue but let no one “moderate” the rule of law. If we signed up for the violation of our judicial process because it is being done against those accused of corruption, the same process will be deployed against those fighting just causes later.
The warning of Rev. Martin Niemoller when Adolf Hitler and the Nazis surfaced in Germany are still instructive:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
And for those who may be in doubt as for the need to protect the independence of the judiciary, the words of Justice C. Oputa are worth repeating:
“Without judicial independence, no Judge or Justice however well prepared by qualities of heart, mind and professional training, can give full effect to the enduring values enshrined in our basic law – our constitution. Since the independence of the judiciary is a concept and a role which have been unconsciously and sometimes willfully misunderstood, as the judiciary trying to turn itself into a government within government, it becomes necessary to emphasize that any freedom, any immunity, any privileges accorded to the judge are not accorded so much for their own sake, as for the sake of the public. No judge tries his own case, nor should he try any involved. Any power given to the judge, therefore is not given for self – advancement or self aggrandisement. Such powers are necessary for greater efficiency in the administration and dispensation of justice. They are given for the advancement of – that being free and independent in judgment, so that they may better and more efficiently and more effectively perform their necessary duties to the course of justice including protecting all of us – the government and the governed; the powerful and the weak – from power and its abuse. A weak – kneed and dependent judiciary can be awful, an ill-wind that blows no one any good.”