Ibrahim Magu has been acting as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for over five years. On two occasions, the Senate refused to confirm him, based on clear reports of damning allegations of corruption leveled against him by the government’s secret police, the Department of State Services (DSS). Magu’s compromised supporters and publicists, eating from his table, and those afraid of public denigration in the so called “anti-corruption war” hailed and ‘ranka dede-d’ him. They abused the Senate and spat on people and a plurality of voices, which dared to call for Magu’s sack or, at least, his voluntary resignation. Such paid grovellers, bootlickers and historical revisionists always claimed that “corruption is fighting back.”
They were not interested in the truism or otherwise of the available cold facts. It was simply enough that their cold-blooded god and power bacchanalian diety, who had terrorised everyone to submission, must be appeased on the altar of some obsequious, servile and sycophantic coven. Everyone spoke only in whispers, at best in soliloquies or monologues. The fear of Magu for everyone was the beginning of wisdom. Not quite everyone, really. But nearly everyone. I for one refused to be brow-beaten or intimidated by such blatant primordial display of asinine power.
I fought on. I criticised. I critiqued. I challenged him and his impunity several times in courts across Nigeria. I won virtually all the cases. I called for a change of the way and manner the ‘anti-corruption war’ was being selectively and opaqualey fought. I wrote a public letter in 2017, to the then acting president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), at a time his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, was sick on a hospital bed in London. I complained bitterly, with facts, figures and data, that recovered funds and property that had been looted, were being re-looted by the Magu-led team, who were supposed to keep the gate of our Commonwealth. They looted our treasury in collaboration with their cronies, friends and acolytes. Magu was the new Sheriff in town. I got no reply to my letter to Osinbajo. I wrote a reminder. No dice.
I later challenged Magu publicly, face-to-face, on at least three occasions, one of which was at a ceremony at the Federal High Court in Abuja. Another was at a capacity-building workshop organised by the EFCC at its training Academy, in Karu, Abuja, which he had graciously and personally invited me to. He refused to change his ugly ways. It was clear to me and deserning Nigerians that power had gotten into his bald head. Power is an afrodisiac, an intoxicating liquor. It bemuses. It gives one the delusional ‘Dutch courage’. It forces reason to vacate its seat.
So, for over five years, Magu continued to work as the acting chairman of the EFCC, inspite of the clear provisions of section 2(3) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act 2004 that the Senate must confirm him before he could continue in office. He recruited expert ‘constitutional lawyers’, who argued that Magu could stay in office till Kingdom come, whether or not the Senate confirmed his appointment. The Senate, the EFCC Act and even the Constitution could go to hell. Afterall, Magu was irreplaceable and was doing an incredibly marvelous job of ‘fighting corruption’.
Two night ago, Magu was given his usual dolled-out treatment. He was detained in a cold cell at the Police Headquarters, Louis Edet House, Abuja. He was accosted on the way from his EFCC’s Formella Street office, Abuja, and driven to Aso Villa, to face the presidential panel probing his alleged infractions of corruption. The erstwhile roaring lion could not believe it. The chicken has finally come home to roost. The proud pursuer is now being pursued. The assumed victor has become the victim. This is a tragic reminder of the urgent need for temporary power wielders to act with moderation, modesty, circumspection and humility. The roaring emperor is now being turned into the cringing vassal. The mighty iroko tree in the forest that mocks lesser plants is being diminished into a mere dwarf shrub. How the cookies crumble!
This shows the transience and ephemerality of raw might and strength. The vanity and vaingloriousness of the illusion and delusion of the grandeur of power and influence. Fellow country men, please let us not accord Magu the same shameless media trial, public conviction, lynching and execution of people, who were nothing but mere suspects (and thus presumed innocent), as he did with éclat and a swashbuckling manner. Let us presume him innocent until he has been subjected to the due process of law, through a free and fair public trial, NOT A MEDIA TRIAL.
The fact that he did it to others does not mean it was right. Two wrongs can NEVER make a right. As I argued again and again, like a broken record, the ‘anti-corruption war’ was never a regenerative and ethics-defining resurgimento war. It was purely a score-settling against rights activists, the opposition, public critics, plural voices and dissenters. The breeze has finally blown and the smelly backside of the fowl has been exposed. The following days and weeks will open up new vistas, the Pandora boxes and closed cupboards of decaying skeletons.
Mike Ozekhome is a senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).