Anthony Kila argues that rather than pour anger on the Minister off Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) for perceived bribery of delegates from Kebbi State, in order to fulfill his gubernatorial ambition, this righteous indignation should be directed at changing the system that breeds corruption, not an individual
One the major item that made headlines and attracted comments by readers and non-readers was the arrival and distribution of luxury cars linked to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN). Thanks to the internet and social media in particular, perhaps you have seen images of the vehicles online. The cars, we are told belong to the class of the most expensive brands and within those brands they are top of the range.
Pure Class. I use the vague term “linked” because of the various chapters of the news about the luxury cars that appeared in Kebbi State. Chapter 1: The media breaks the news that Hon Abubakar Malami, the chief law officer of the land, has distributed premium cars to his political associates and delegates in Kebbi State. The reason for this fit of generosity, we are told, is due to the Minister’s ambition to become the Governor of Kebbi State.
These gifts in form of luxury motor cars are there to help the party delegates in Kebbi State take a better look at the ambition of the Minister of Justice and give him a soft landing, media reports imply. Chapter 2: The Attorney General of the Federation replies, first through his media aides, then personally and directly that he did not donate any car to any delegate. To prove his point, the Minister for Justice calls as witness the national secretariat of his party (the APC) and invites journalists to do their own investigation. The cars we saw online and in print are for workers of a foundation to which he is associated, the minister explains.
They are gifts from his friends and associates who donated and distributed vehicles to long-term workers in the Khadimiyya Foundation. Arent they lucky?Reactions to the news and denial have not been favourable to Hon. Abubakar Malami. I have not come across anyone or comment that doubts media reports or believes the Hon. Minister for Justice. I have had chance to meet Abubakar Malami more than once during the CPC days (Congress for Progressive Change), he was not a minister then and there were no telling signs of a gubernatorial ambition. The Malami of then was a young reserved party man and party legal adviser that displayed no particular propensity for attention let alone controversy.
Who knows how he is taking all this attention; I wonder how he is holding up lately generally? Most people just went from reading the news to condemning and criticizing him. That is another indication and confirmation, if need be, of how low the trust index for politicians and institutions is in the country. Reading and listening to comments on social media and other spaces, it is clear most people simply and swiftly concluded that the Attorney General of the Federation is guilty as charged. People seem to concur that he must have indeed bought those cars for delegates with the intention of buying them or at least buying their votes. Most people also assume that the money used for buying the cars must be from one shady deal or the other. Bribes from criminals, abuse of office for self-enrichment or outright looting, they guess. Understandable and even logical as the feelings are, it is my view however that there is no point blaming Malami.
Let us face it sincerely, how many politicians do we know that can truly say that he or she has been above aboard in the process of getting to office and in the mode of managing power once in office? There are currently 36 Governors in Nigeria and there are three senators from each state of the federation plus one from Abuja. Can anyone of them honestly say they got into power without bribing delegates or giving gifts to some party stalwarts. I know some politicians that have tried not to bribe or give gifts. I also know that the CV and profiles of such politicians reads “aspirants” not “elected” today.
Abubakar Malami has already denied doing so, but does the fact that others give and bribe justify Malami doing the same? No, not one bit and that is not the case here. The point here is that rather than calling out the individual we need to look at the system. The problem we have and the point we need to spend energy and intellect on is understanding and changing a system that demands and condones corruption. We need to find a way to destroy and reset a system that causes and allows a few people who are politicians to spend in a season what most people who are citizens can only dream of having in a life time.
Think about it, these rich politicians are spending so much money in order to serve poor citizens. What do we call that? Irony or paradox? Who are these delegates that politicians have to bribe and pay anyway? We know they decide who bears party flags but how qualified are they? What is their claim to being king maker for their parties and indirectly but essentially for the country? What is their stake in the party and in the country? Are they tax payers? Do we have proof that they have paid party dues? What do they believe in? How much do they care about the integrity of the system they are delegate to manage? Political parties are selling their expression of interest and nomination forms at astronomical fees and people are cringing.
Beyond the understandable righteous indignation provoked by these obscene fees maybe we should insist that anyone that buys a party nomination form or donate towards the buying of party nomination form should not only declare the source of their income, submit mode of payment and donations but also provide up to date proof of tax payment. With the state of our education system: on one side, we have ASUU on strike because they want money, and student unrest on the other side because they want to study, I have a proposal and request for the attention of the chairmen of political parties: Please be kind enough to donate some of the money you are getting from sales of forms to ASUU. You can call it Corporate Social Responsibility. It should not cost you too much given that after the first aspirant has bought his or her form, every other form is pure profit.
*Prof. Kila is Centre Director at CIAPS Lagos