Barrister Iyiola Oyedepo is a former Kwara state commissioner for Agriculture and Natural resources and in this interview with NAIJ.com in his office in Ilorin, he said that President Buhari needs to know the true meaning of corruption before fighting it. He also revealed that the present Kwara state Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed has done nothing so far for the people of Kwara state.
President Buhari’s fight against corruption has taken various turns recently, do you think the Buhari led administration has made any progress so far?
Well, my believe is that the President needs to know the true meaning of corruption and how to confront it; the hydra-headed problem because corruption is hydra-headed, it has so many heads and this President does not understand the meaning or the extent of corruption, so it is important to know because the way and manner in which corrupt cases are being handled in this country, you will be wondering.
Corruption as it appears, has different branches and the war against it does not necessarily have to be combative because the approach being employed by the current administration reflects the personality of the President as being a military man. When the agriculture scandal came about under the administration of the former President Jonathan, it was handled just in the right way and they were able to take out corruption in the agricultural sector without having to persecute or jail anybody, although I am not saying jailing a corrupt person is wrong.
Corruption started and endures even at the rudimentary level, so it has to be fought with great care. Younger ones up till today are being initiated into the life of corruption at a tender age. Also when you see a young child in the secondary school who is being aided to cheat in examination by his own father, you can imagine what that means even in the secondary schools and if corruption is cheating and fraud, then everybody involved in exam scandal from the students to the teachers and the WAEC authorities, they are all involved, so how many people would you put in jail? What I’m therefore saying is that the anti-corruption war can never be effective if it does not involve killing the crime instead of only attacking the criminals and that is precisely what President Buhari is doing.
Even specifically, if we go deeper into it, how many people have been jailed since the President came to power? Since about one and a half years, not a single person has been jailed, they are now saying judges are frustrating efforts or so. Although, I am not saying people should not be arrested or jailed if they should go to jail, but there are some basic things this man should do. If what we would eat is too scarce, people that have the dexterity of stealing would try it, so what is he doing to create affluence, or are we just going to keep fighting corruption by jailing everybody?
You have once asserted that Saraki is a corrupt man and now that his forgery case has been withdrawn by the Federal Government, what do you have to say?
Well I am a lawyer and I know there might be many reasons why cases are withdrawn, I don’t want to seriously talk as a layman, the withdrawing authority which is the Attorney General acted through the counsel to the government and what they told us is that there are similar case in two courts of similar or coordinate jurisdiction and if that is the truth, the withdrawal is normal, otherwise, we would be hearing of conflicting judgments.
But some people have said the withdrawal was being politicised by some cabals in the government?
You see, that is what I’m saying, secondly, if they had not completed their investigations which was bad anyway, and they rushed to court with Saraki and Ekweremadu, then their case would be futile if they didn’t withdraw, so if they have withdrawn because of that, fine but I didn’t expect the Senate President and Ekweremadu to rejoice over withdrawal of a case because the withdrawal of a case is not the end of the case; when a case is struck out, it could be relisted which is what the legal process says.
So, if there is anybody that politicised the withdrawal was Saraki himself who immediately rejoiced including some of his chorus boys, who were now telling everybody that they had always told them that this man had no case to answer. But let me make one statement which I consider very important, the issue of the withdrawal of a case will only tell on the credibility of the authority withdrawing it, if President Buhari wants to destroy his own integrity, let him continue to withdraw the cases against people like Saraki, if he doesn’t want people to take him seriously as a man of integrity then he should go ahead and continue to withdraw and then people would now categorise him to be in the same class with those people he accused in the first instance.
Saraki had been around for quite a long time under two or three presidents and none of those presidents had the courage to take him to court, we praise Buhari because of his courage but I hope he would not exhaust the credibility he has by withdrawing cases of this nature, and I don’t even really expect him to go to court without having his concrete facts against anybody, so he could not tell us that they were not prepared, so they withdrew, that is not a good thing to do also. And if you are taken to court and you are told you had no case to answer, fine, but just know that I can still go to town and tell people you were alleged to have stolen or you made a false declaration because you have not gone through the process to clean yourself and in the mind of the public, you are still liable.
Does your standpoint mean that there might be chances the case would be revisited?
Well if it is not revisited, then it is an injury to the credibility of Mr. President, so he had better watched that, and interestingly enough, in Nigeria, there is one thing which is allegation is almost as good as prove, when you are alleged to have committed an offence in Nigeria, you are in trouble, you better allow the case to be heard on merit and get yourself freed because people would run away with the fact that you are already guilty.
Why did you say that?
Yes, like now, it is difficult for Bukola Saraki to wash himself clean that he’s not corrupt because in the mind of ordinary people, he is corrupt, so he is the one that should insist that this case should be heard on merit. In fact, I feel sad for the man to continue to jump from one court to the other, does he not mind his own image, why must he continue to shop for courts? A man who is so sensitive to his credibility will never do that. He is not thinking of clearing himself, so it is very sad.
The DSS attack on judges has been widely criticised across the country, what is your take on this issue?
Look, I’m not against arrest of anybody in this nation that commits any form of offence, so arrest of the judges, if they have concrete evidence that they have taken bribe, is okay, but what people are complaining about is who are the actual authorities to do it? and I want everybody to get me right on this; I am not in favour of corrupt judges because it is sad if judges are corrupt because judiciary is the last hope of common man, if judges are corrupt, common man has no hope again because he has no money to offer judges, so to that extent, I’m against corrupt judges, but if something has been prescribed in this nation, we should allow the law to run its course, let them be arrested by the right authority vested with power of arrest if they are to be arrested.
Secondly, if they are to be arrested between , let them be arrested, but to go and wake up a judge in the dead of the night and get him arrested is not part of our law, that is what I’m against in the whole thing. I was thinking the EFCC or Police should arrest and not the DSS, so that is why I have parted ways with them, but on punishing the corrupt judges, honestly, I am completely in support of it.
Different forms of reactions have trailed President Buhari’s comment on his wife’s interview with the BBC recently when the President said his wife should not be involved in politics claiming she belongs to his kitchen and the other room, what is your own reaction?
We run a presidential system of government in Nigeria and everywhere presidential system is being run in a civilised way, your family, not even only your wife as a president, must be involved in your administration. I want to see a situation where Buhari’s children will go to a night club where they dance naked and he (Buhari) would say they are not part of his government, so if they will question you as a result of the conduct of your wife, it is better you bring her into your administration, that is my expectation from President Buhari because if his wife is not involved in his administration, it is very sad. And one interesting thing is that he has a wife that is articulate and well read; you don’t waste such a person in the kitchen, because there might even be so many things the wife of the President would do to help the President, so his own believe about women being in the kitchen and the bedroom is not of this age, rather it is for a time long gone.
Secondly, I am not expecting any family crisis within the first family to go that sour and bad because I was thinking that if they were living in the same house and in the same bedroom, all these type of things would have been ironed out because that woman made some important statements that cannot be flushed away, she even went to the extent that if her husband decides to go for a second term, she would not supporting him if he doesn’t change; she went to the extent to say that those working with him have no benefits in the government, so those are very important statements one would expect that ought to be ironed out at home, and I don’t know whether there is a very big crisis in the first family and Buhari had better handled it well in his own interest and in the interest of this nation because people will now believe that a person that cannot handle his own home cannot be able to handle the whole country because essentially, a family is a very small unit compared to more than 170 million people which are all in the care of the President.
In the present administration's bid to fight corruption, the EFCC was alleged to have arrested and detained the wife of Femi Fani-Kayode. What is your take on this?
I read it and I was sad because Femi Fani-Kayode was in government and unless they have trailed some stolen money into that account of the wife, and in any case, even if they had done that, I am sure they could easily frozen that account and secondly, they can also invite the wife instead of going to where the woman was withdrawing some money and then you arrested and detained the woman, I think it’s not good for this nation. You see the truth is the EFCC and many of them are becoming overzealous and they are fighting the crime of corruption with wrong methods that will make people to have a sort of misgivings about whether they have come out for vendetta or persecution or what have you, because we are dealing with a volatile society where even those who committed crime will not want to be arrested, so you had better done it in a way that they would not have excuses for the way and manner they have been handled.
The present construction of the Gerri Alimi bridge by the Kwara state government has received applause at some quarters of the State and many have said more is expected, what is your view about that?
Only those in government can applaud the construction of Under-pass at Gerri Alimi because to me, the government of Kwara State is misplacing the priorities of projects that can be beneficial to the state and I’m not surprised because that has been the stock trade of this category of people in government since 2003, but I was thinking that they would have learnt their lessons so that they would not do it the way it was done that has not been beneficial to the people of Kwara state. Take for instance, when the former governor decided to construct the Post Office bridge, apart from aesthetic value, it has not reduced the traffic gridlock that always occur in that place, except for the people that have not travelled to places where they have even better ones, who would be amazed by the overhead bridge, apart from that, it serves no other purpose. When Bukola Saraki constructed school of aviation, it was not done in the best interest of Kwara State, certainly not the priority that Kwara people would appreciate because Kwara is a backward rural community essentially and school of aviation shouldn’t have been the next thing in the order of their demand.
Again, the man (governor) eventually went to establish what he called KFA, Kwara Football Academy, I don’t think we need it and if it will be established, why can’t that one be established by an individual who is into promotion of football? He spent our money to do that too. At a time, the man went to construct a civic centre or so along Assa-Dam road; a replica of the Eagle Square, which is used only maybe ones or twice in a year and he spent more than 1.5 billion naira on that project, is that what we need to boost the economy of Kwara State? Now the Under-pass, they are constructing it with about 3.5 billion and apart from the aesthetic value where people would come from maybe the west or they travel to Ilorin by air and they would see the Under-pass and believe that is how beautiful Kwara State is, it is a deceit and complete fluke.
Anybody that is from Kwara should just travel to places like Pakata community, Oloje, Alanamu and the rest of them and they would see the true Kwara. In fact, let them leave Ilorin entirely and go to Kwara north, Baruti where you only have one single road that is tarred halfway, then let them go to Kaama where they don’t even have a tarred road at all and yet they are constructing something of aesthetic value. So, I don’t think that is the best project for our people at a time like this, if you now see anybody applauding it, they must be part of the administration and you know, they don’t tell him (the governor) the truth, commissioners will not tell the truth because they want to continue to eat the crumbs from the table; SSG will not do it, Head of Service will not do, no civil servant will do it, even the traditional rulers will not do it because they are also civil servants, so it is we that can tell him that is not in the best interest of Kwara State, it is a waste.
In the face of all this, what solutions from your own perspective do you think could be proffered to solve these problems?
Well the solution is already there because firstly, we are in a democracy which makes the change of government at the designated time, possible because it is the people that can always shine their eyes and know when a government is not serving their best interest but some people may say they would rig election but they can only rig election when people permit it and all the same, I am not advocating that we should do it by violence, we should still go through election. What has a beginning must have an end; if they have been there for fifteen years, that is not the end of Kwara State, so whatever is happening today is a lesson for whatever we want .
Asides the proposed Gerri Alimi bridge, is there anything from your own perspective that Kwara people can be proud of under this administration?
We are not even proud of the Gerri Alimi thing, no sensible Kwaran will be proud of it, in fact, let me tell you that there is nothing that has been done for which I personally can be proud of. I have written books where I have told them many things which would have been done and the way it should have been done. An example is contained in the new one now which I titled Shonga and the looting of Kwara treasury, so they have not done anything for which anybody could be proud of, is it in agriculture which is in a mess; is it in the area of health where we have some renovated hospitals without drugs and equipment; or the area of our bank, Trade Bank that was sold under their regime and a host of other? is it being unable to pay salary in many institutions that we must be proud or numerous potholes, the tertiary institutions students who cannot get bursary and so on?
Do you think the freedom of 21 out of about 200 Chibok girls held captive by the Boko Haram insurgents is an indication that the Federal Government is making progress in the area of security in the country?
Yes at least we should give glory to God for the 21 that were released, is it not better than when we had nothing? Definitely, it is better than when we had none and the fact that we are able to even free 21 shows that our military people are working and the evidence of it is that some of them are now being released, and when the government said they have degraded the Boko Haram, it shows that they have degraded them, at least, to the extent that they could free 21 of them and I believe that a government that is able to free be able to free the others; it is a good development.