By Abdulrasheed Maina
Nigeria’s sense of justice has a touch of irony to it. This has been demonstrated over the years in the manner justice administration is served. A political party chieftain inflates a contract to the tune of N87billion, faces trial and is sentenced for only two years while an artisan, for stealing a generator receives a jail term of 18 months. Or consider a former speaker of the House of Representatives, who bags a fine of N2, 000 for certificate forgery while Joshua Musa, a daily labourer, got 12 weeks in jail or the option of N10, 000 for stealing a goat.
The pattern that has emerged over the years is that of a system and a culture that has protected the privileged while rendering the vulnerable, weak and weaker. Amid such contrasts, there are other layers of very disturbing patterns. As a people, we express concern over the rate at which corruption eats through the commonwealth, yet individuals who do their best to arrest the situation get haunted even by the State.
Take Nuhu Ribadu, former chieftain of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the way he was hounded out of office. Or how yours sincerely was demonised as the chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team. How I became a subject of a vicious smear-campaign after I exposed the massive scam being run in this country in the name of pension administration. This baffles me.
I, and my team pulled the plugs on a N5billion naira Monthly scam, being run by some corrupt officials, who happened to be very powerful figures in the government, is enough reason to incur their wrath. By saving N4billion, which was hitherto, being diverted by these individuals into their pockets, the Pension Reform Task Team had established itself as a crucial platform with the potentials of eliminating waste, the single biggest bane of the nation called Nigeria.
Curiously, the state apparatchiks in my case that should give protection suddenly turned against me. The open hostility that characterized the hearing of the Senate Committee on Pension and Establishment that summoned me, a hostility that rubbished any claims of fair hearing and necessitated my initial refusal to turn up before the committee and the kids glove with which Dr. Shuaibu Sani Teidi, one of the principals indicted in the pension fraud, was received by the same Senate Committee made clear the suspicion that the senators may well be hand-in-gloves with the pension thieves.
As it emerged later, the chairman of that committee, Senator Aloysius Etuk, had received about N3billion in bribe to exonerate Teidi. Finding that they could not exonerate their clients without putting me away, they went all the way including assassination attempts to silence me. This is not a secret, yet it did not make the headlines.
Fortunately, I have been vindicated, not only as a different-bred kind of public servant who risked it all, but also as a competent administrator who put in place a system to forestall the massive fraud that had been running in the pension sector for years.
The three separate attempts on my life while serving as the PRTT boss, just as was the case with Dora Akunyili of blessed memory, when she was at NAFDAC, explains the danger I have been through and the desperation of the people whose ox I have gored. But the unfair manner in which I was treated, and the severity with which, not only the media and the public passed judgment on me is symptomatic of our collective malaise.
We are frequently baying for blood and celebrating the humiliation of our ‘prophets.’ Our collective desire to vilify, on which the falsity against me gained traction, is a manifestation of our collective self-loathing and a deep-rooted culture of unwittingly, and sometimes quite deliberately, unhorsing the knights that champion our cause while fostering a culture that promotes self-destruction and at the same time exalting the people who plunder our commonwealth.
If anything, the state owes me an apology for the manner in which I was treated, while in the service of the country and for the way in which my name was dragged through the mud. But beyond this, we as a people need to re-examine the parameters by which we measure the worth of men, especially those who have dedicated themselves to the service of our common interest.
I had and still challenge anyone anywhere within and outside Government to prove any of the allegations against me beyond the hatchet media jobs successfully carried out by a clique of pension administration cabals in Nigeria. This I bleed for my Country.
Mr. Maina, a former head of the federal pension task team, wrote from Abuja.