By Phillip Ashaka
There is certainly a connection between Prof, Itsey Sagay, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) and Don Quixote, the swashbuckling protagonist in the seminal book authored by Spanish author, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. In the book, The Ingenious Don Quixote of La Mancha, Alonso Quixano sets out to right the wrongs afflicting the world but the problem with him is that the people he encounters view him as either a laughingstock to be played practical jokes on or a dangerous mad man. Ultimately, he became a figure of ridicule who in his delusional world believed he was fighting injustice and evil but ended up attacking innocent people. As a matter of fact, his family were so ashamed of him and his activities that they went to extraordinary lengths including transporting him in a cage to bring him home and restore his sanity.
When President Buhari appointed Prof. Itsey Sagay to head the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), the intendment was for the Committee to assist bolster the war against corruption which has remained one of the cardinal policies of the present administration. Prof, Sagay was expected to bring to bear, his years of judicial activism in the fight against corruption and promotion of national interest. But several years down the line, his scorecard on this important national assignment is uninspiring. Rather than approach this assignment with the maturity and seriousness it demands, Prof. Sagay has chosen to entertain a captive audience with unguarded utterances often out of sync with reality and out of tune with the policy direction of government. His delusions, rabid remonstrations and grandeur posturing have brought his office to ridicule and made him a laughing stock. As a matter of fact, no one takes him serious within and outside the corridors of power.
It is in the light of this sordid reputation that his recent attack on Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice did not come as a surprise especially to those who know him and his antecedents. Sagay had stated, without any shred of evidence that the Attorney General may under-cut the capacity of Abdulrasheed Bawa, the new Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to perform his duties. He hinged his justification for this spurious allegation on what he called the minister’s antecedents of interfering with the activities of EFCC, other anti-corruption agencies and the fact that the new EFCC chairman and Malami share the same state of origin. Sagay’s speculatory statement which to all intents and purposes is a hunting expedition is rather a new low capable of wreaking incalculable damage on the war against corruption. That his statement was not well thought out, deliberately provocative, incendiary and calculated to unleash crisis of confidence on the new leadership at EFCC is not in doubt. Sagay’s ill-conceived position is a statement of a public office holder desperate and determined to sabotage the ongoing war against corruption. But his latest attack is not unexpected since his battle against an institution he was hired to strengthen has have been unwavering.
Having established an incestuous relationship with Ibrahim Magu, the former Acting Chairman of EFCC, Sagay had used his office to support the numerous excesses, infractions, the arrogance of power and lack of probity and accountability exhibited by the former head of the anti-graft agency. While this unholy alliance lasted, the system was bastardized; while the nation suffered as a result of the then imperial leadership at EFCC, those who supported this decadent system continued enjoying the filthy lucre of their compromise. The only crime Malami committed and for which Sagay sees him as a mortal enemy is his determination to dismantle the heavily compromised system pursuant to the mandate of his office. For clarity and avoidance of doubt, it is within the purview and statutory mandate of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to supervise the activities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the DSS, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Person s(NAPTIP) and the Nigeria Police Force. Malami was never involved in any power grab; he merely carried out the duties of his office to best of his ability and in the national interest. His insistence on due process brought him at odds with powerful forces within EFCC who saw the call to duty as an opportunity for self- enrichment. It is instructive that apart from EFCC under Magu, the Attorney General enjoyed a healthy relationship with the heads of other agencies under his supervision. His disagreement with EFCC under Magu was simply a battle between impunity and accountability, between obedience to constituted authority and insubordination.
Under Magu, the War Against Corruption was impaired as a result of issues regarding the state of recovered loot and assets. While Magu held sway, the nation was treated to discordant figures as loot recovered from corrupt Nigerians. This created crisis of confidence and naturally provoked suspicions among well- meaning Nigerians about the transparency of the anti -graft war. It was therefore in the national interest that the Attorney General waded in to cleanse the Augean stable and rescue the war on corruption from total eclipse. Unfortunately, it is this intervention that Sagay who should know better alludes to as Malami’s previous antecedent of attempts to control EFCC and interfere in the activities of other anti- corruption agencies. Leadership is essentially about taking actions in the best national interest and not a popularity contest, it is about selflessness and not greed, it is about foresight devoid of bravado and playing to the gallery.
The war on corruption will only take firm root within our system if we collectively make the commitment to build strong institutions that will withstand manipulation of political predators. Given the avalanche of weighty and damaging allegations of sleaze against Magu, the president took the right decision to affect a leadership change within the anti- graft agency. His patriotic action was supported by these damaging allegations. Sagay’s insistence on the return of Magu even after he was suspended from office by the president to pave way for unfettered investigation of the various allegations leveled against him is unpatriotic and dealt a savage blow to his office. His calling to question, the capacity of the new leadership of EFCC to discharge its duties without tangible reasons is not only irresponsible but amounts to a withering attack on a constitutionally empowered agency of government. It calls to question his commitment to the duties of his office. While Magu and Sagay enjoyed their incestuous relationship, it never mattered to him that Magu was twice rejected by the Senate based on damaging report of the DSS. He never for once pondered on the consequences of this reality on the anti- graft war. The reset of the War Against Corruption is real and has come to stay. It is in our national interest that it succeeds and is therefore non- negotiable.
The appointment of Abdulrasheed Bawa by the President has been widely and favourably received by the vast majority of Nigerians especially by those who know his proven track record in service. Sagay’s veiled attack on Bawa’s appointment is a glaring act of sabotage and an affront against the president. It puts him at odds with the ongoing anti- corruption war and makes a compelling case for his departure from his current position. If Sagay indeed has any modicum of honour left, the only path left for him is to throw in the towel. The nation cannot afford to continue to sengage the services of a man who is desperate and determined to undermine the system in pursuit of his selfish interest.
Ashaka writes from Abuja