They say two wrongs don’t make a right. This is a very questionable commonplace. What never ever makes a right is one perpetual, unchecked wrong. There are times when two wrongs make a right, or at least a wrong forces progress toward saner action. Mandela came to understand the usefulness of fighting a wrong with another wrong during the struggle against apartheid. Although it was literal in South Africa’s case, second violence is justified against an initial officially-sanctioned violence, speaking metaphorically now. Level the playing field first, and then consider commonplaces. When a thing is both sick and upside down, you don’t yourself turn upside down to deal with it. You keep your head, slap the thing on its head again, and then bust out the scalpel.
In essence, those who scream “due process” when shamelessly corrupt individuals are being given one-tenth of a dose of their medicine are disingenuous and dangerous people. Nothing is given is this world, except our humanity. Every other thing (conventions, laws etc) arises from an assumption, and all assumptions are arbitrary and therefore subject to challenge. Newtonian Physics was, and is, immensely helpful but the limitations of its assumptions were made clear by Einstein and company. Look where that has got us. Despite being the foundation of modern physics, there are phenomena that do not obey the theory of relativity, and perhaps another theory will come along to extend Einstein. Only God knows where that will get us. If science, supposedly a bastion of certainty, shows this much uncertainty, politics and its kosekukoseye bedfellows have a snowball’s chance in hell.
Isn’t it anarchic, this confronting a wrong with another wrong? No, not necessarily. That certain people continually demonstrably violate public trust to steal public funds is the real anarchy. No attention was paid to due process then. This post hoc chorus of due process is at once invidious and insidious. That it finds its shrillest choristers in the indicted quite obviously signals it is an immoral position to take. And I can only question the intelligence of anyone who suggests that there is something wrong in doing everything morally permissible to garrot a breach in public trust. You don’t grow six-packs on a protruded belly; you deflate the belly first.
Yes, there might be collateral damage. But this collateral damage is very much welcome if its ultimate aim is the pursuit of the overall good of the public. Steep sacrifices are often made for dubious ends (dulce decorum est pro patria mori etc etc); inconsequential sacrifices made for moral ends must be welcome. After all, isn’t government supposed to be in the best interests of the greatest majority of the governed? A man who steals a goat can stay in jail for years on end, without even getting his day in court, but a man who steals enough money to give “leaders of tomorrow” free qualitative education can get on TV and speak unspeakables in defence of his commission of unspeakable atrocities. And we indulge him. If this does not tell you anything about whom problematic “norms” like “due process” is rigged to favour, then, well.
It used to be that only the crooked would exploit legalistic loopholes. It turns out two can play that game, so long as the political will exists. In any case, indictment and investigation are not outright verdicts of guilt, however demonstrable the guilt of looters. There is the small matter of the court, where both sides are allowed to present their cases, and where justice may or may not be served. So, stop crying, and get in the music.
Prosecution and investigation are really not synonyms, even if it appears like madness that you can sue government, but not certain agents of government, for whatever reason.
THE LENGTHENED SHADOW OF ONE MAN
The American Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson once spoke of an institution as the lengthened shadow of one man. I invoke Emerson because one of our favourite bugbears appears to be “strong institutions.” We must create strong institutions. We must create strong institutions. We must create strong institutions. Ad infinitum. We don’t need strong men; we need strong institutions.
In the absence of strong institutions, I’ll take strong, committed leaders. Strong institutions are great, but when the lack of them is used as a stick to beat strong, committed leaders, we have a problem, especially since strong institutions require strong leadership over a great period of time. Strong institutions will not create themselves. And how strong for how long can an institution be in such a citadel of anyhowness as ours? Strong institutions are supposed to guide against anyhowness, but the evidence suggests otherwise. How strong can institutions be when the fundamental structure of the state remains as it is? How compatible is this idea with our cultural antecedents? Do we assume politicians tend to hog-tie themselves? Do we think if anyone but Mr. Buhari were president, we’d be seeing this level of action against official corruption? These are the questions we must attempt to answer.
For good or for bad, the EFCC was formidable at inception. A change of government intervened. The bulldog smelt the coffee, and lost its bite. A strong institution was crippled, by hook, crook and both. In recent history, the CBN, supposedly independent, turned a blind eye to the commission of monumental frauds (frauds that must make Abacha green with envy given that he could essentially slap the Governor of the CBN around). This after its activist governor was systematically eased out. The Attorney General of the Federation seems to be the Attorney-General of the Ruling Party and Invested Parties instead. As much as a strong institution is the lengthened shadow of one man, one man can as well effectively undermine its strength in a system like ours. If the Jonathan years have taught us anything, it is that all we can do is to ensure only “public-spirited pigs” assume power to protect the sanctity of strong institutions.