Playwright and social critic, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has urged those saddled with the responsibility of administering justice for social order not to trivialise corruption to score ‘dismissive political points.’
He stated this in a statement on Tuesday titled, “Trivialise corruption, Neutralise justice.”
The Nobel laureate said it was heartening news that some 20 ‘concerned lawyers’ came together to undertake the mission of cleaning up the Augean stables that seemed to pass for the Nigerian judiciary.
He said, “Some of us do need an institution to which we can look up, of which we should even live in awe. Some find that in religious institutions, others in traditional fixtures, some even in family and so on. All agree that the Order of Justice is a pre-eminent candidate for collective regard and even self-regulation. No matter, we all know that, without justice, society unravels at the seams, and its citizens resort to self-help.
“I feel especially exercised by recent happenings within that body currently from a dominant perspective: it has become increasingly fashionable to sneer at any anti-corruption preoccupation. No, no one actually ever goes so far as to condone corruption. Perish the thought! Gradually however, the nation’s psyche is being both subtly and brazenly retuned to accept not simply corruption as the norm of social relationships, but its heightened product, impunity, as a national emblem. The justification? The machinery that was launched against corruption with such fanfare, it is claimed, has run aground. Selectivity has been cited as proof. Insincerity, non-seriousness, cynical distractions are routine assessments of the current governmental campaign. Even the heady draught of ‘stomach infrastructure’ – ‘na anti-corruption we go chop?’ is now applauded, accompanied by guffaws wherever decanted.
“Not surprising then, that it was only a matter of time before the flagbearer of one of the ‘parties to beat’ came out openly to dismiss the punitive option, delivering the promise of amnesty as one of the corner-stones of his plans for the nation.”
Noting that it was election time and issues normally generalised take on enhanced desperation, he added that a recent image stuck to the mind, and for it, Nigerians must be thankful to that desperation born of elections.
He stated that impunity covers all crimes, not just material corruption and any social or governance institution which, through act or negligence, failed to stem the tide of criminality within its charge.
“This has been the case of President (Muhammadu) Buhari in his lacklustre, indeed hands-off approach to the menace of the killer herdsmen – at least at the beginning, before swathes of Nigeria were reduced to slaughter fields, thriving farms erased off the food supply chain of the nation.
“Impunity stalks the land, indeed it is virtually lording it all social interstices. Let no one take my word for it – simply turn the pages of the media any day. Impunity’s ravages churn the mind. Somehow, this nation – and here again we turn to our learned friends – this nation generally failed to recognise, much less learn from the murder and enabling implications of the unsolved murder of Bola Ige, the nation’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. The Bar Association accepted the casual disposition of its erstwhile captain and has – understandably perhaps? – moved on….”
Soyinka said he brought up the murder of Ige principally to exclaim that “history strikes again” and also to decry the unbelievably short memory span of Nigerians.
He said, “Amnesia is often a contrived tactic of escapism, which, to put it bluntly, is another word for moral cowardice. I have brought it up principally to remind the judiciary, and associate orders such as the (Nigerian) Bar Association, that the war between impunity and justice is an incessant one. Corruption is not a trait to be trivialised for political opportunism or locker-room guffaws. Corruption murdered the nation’s Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, and justice was rendered helpless in the defence of its own prime advocate. The reign of impunity will prevail as long as the legal community continues to betray its calling, its oath of office, even its rites of professional collegiality and its responsibility to the rest of us.
“It is disappointing that even under a government that promised to dust up the files of political murders and end that reign of homicidal impunity, the association has not thought fit to demand from the Buhari government its findings. There is more than ample material to warrant a judicial commission, and that demand has come up again and again. It will continue for as long as there remains a shred of conscience somewhere in this nation, especially when provoked into resurgence by the antics of those who murdered justice to enthrone corruption and bask in the miasma of impunity.”
“As always, election time brings out the worst of animalism in political participants. Justice was betrayed on that edition, repudiated, hung up to dry, and the door left wide open for commissioned killers. Bola Ige, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, died in the line of duty. Justice Salami at least survived the rites of passage.
“The government at the time of Ige’s killers knows the truth. That government protected -I repeat- protected, and rewarded his killers. Those who wish to dispute this had better first immerse themselves in the circumstances of that murder, and the unconstitutional, indeed illegal trajectory of the principal accused, one that not only facilitated his unconstitutional participation in the ensuing election but catapulted him straight to the occupancy of the seat that had been kept warm for him during his trial and absence. On release, he was ushered straight into the slot of Chairman of the Appropriation Committee of the House of Representatives. That was not all.
The head of that government, General Olusegun Obasanjo, proceeded to burnish Ige’s memory with characteristic zeal. With that victim in no position to defend himself, that inveterate letter-writer sent a reference letter to Ige’s new abode – just in case there are ministries of power over yonder: “We put Bola Ige there to rectify the power situation. It turned out that he did not know his left hand from his right.”
Saying Ige’s murder took place at election time, Soyinka said once again, the nation was confronted with another election, while killings and kidnappings had escalated.
The convener, Citizen Forum, said a political association which he once described as a den of killers was regrouping and wishing to direct Nigeria’s fortunes yet again.
“This nation needs no reminding that, yes indeed, the rule of law must prevail, and constitutionality must not be trivialised. Neither, however, must criminality, or else, history merely repeats itself in increasingly dismal accents. Justice becomes neutralised,” he said.