The public saga around the return of the Paris Club loan funds has taken a strange twist. It seems a coterie of individuals and companies are trying hard to pinch much of the $419 million from the government’s coffers. This is the tale within the tale.
These businesses claim they are due handsome commissions for helping to procure the Paris club paybacks. These claims are dubious and backed by contracts in need of the most ardent scrutiny. The EFCC and the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) scorn most of these claims and cast significant doubt on others. However, the powerful claimants who have swiftly obtained judgments based on these claims are not without their allies. Amassed on their side purportedly stand several ministers and senior members of the president’s staff.
Into the fray insert Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State. Governor Fayemi, as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, has publicly called for a moratorium on payment of the controverted amounts so that a forensic audit of the claims can be had.
Having thus set the cat amongst the pigeons. Governor Fayemi has asserted that those trying to pilfer government funds had twice offered him bribes, the first of US$40 million and the second doubling the original temptation. All he had to do was drop his insistence on an audit so that the funds could rapidly pass to the shady claimants. Governor Fayemi says he refused the bribes. That he did not take the bribe is welcome but Fayemi is not to be lauded; for his obligation to the people is only half done. Here we come to the tale within the tale within the tale.
Fayemi is right to call out the crime. However, he is half wrong by naming the crime but not calling forth the criminal. For him to be offered a bribe, not only the amount of the inducement must be known but the identity of tempter as well. Fayemi cannot brag about refusing the bribe yet claim not to know the cut and gait of the would-be briber. Such a scenario is unrealistic. But how can Fayemi in good conscience maintain silence in this regard? The crime charged is not a minor infraction. We are talking about thievery in the hundreds of millions of dollars or billions of naira. This is an attempt to defraud the nation of funds needed to build infrastructure, create jobs and reduce poverty for many. The crime is not simply robbery. It is nothing short of the economic sabotage of a nation already in economic peril.
Given the severity of the crime and the severity of the moment, Fayemi is actually encouraging bribery by refusing to name the culprits. There is no crime without actual criminals and Fayemi cannot claim to be forthright without bringing for the names of those who wanted to bribe. He knows his was not the only the bribers would knock. By failing to expose them, he is tacitly encouraging them to continue their turbid craft.
As the head of the Governors’ Forum and a potential presidential candidate, Fayemi cannot go half way forward and halfway back. Not only does he lay claim to national status due to his position with the governor’s forum, he is also his state’s chief law enforcement officer. By failing to name the culprits, he betrays the essence of his role as governor. He has a moral and legal obligation to report the attempted bribe in all of its details to the law enforcement authorities and to work actively with those authorities to bring the crooks to justice.
If Governor Fayemi wants people to believe that his claim is not merely an empty boast to attract publicity, he needs to say more. He has pledged to serve Nigeria and his state in truth and in honesty. He has a clear and compelling duty to expose corruption. If he does not do so, he but a slick and less than honest politician. He cannot pretend to represent a new generation of politician or a new way of politics if he covers up for those who would do such strong injury to the nation. If he did not kiss the bribers there is no prohibition keeping him from telling us who they are. This will prevent them from doing more harm.
Governor Fayemi, if you want to be president now is the time to show the people that you are made of that timbre. How can anybody support you if you claim to have witnessed an attempted rape of the nation’s coffers yet you fail to name the rapists although you reportedly saw them, face to face.
Time for Fayemi to face the truth. Either he reveals the attempted bribers or he is hiding something he would rather be kept hidden. Governor Fayemi has danced himself into the middle of this controversy. The only way to extricate himself is to disclose all he knows about the tawdry affair. If he does not, then we now his half-disclosure is complete hypocrisy.