Like a popular saying goes, ‘no amount of cleansing or bathing can change the spots on a leopard’s skin. So also to say that ‘integrity’ either positioned in front of mirror or placed on a binocular cannot be dented. It is not a gainsaying to assert that in Nigeria today, our democracy in at risk judging the scourge of corruption practice by its citizenry in all strata which seems to grow bigger than the society itself, but however, concerted effort by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to quell or bring the scourge to the barest minimum have become an antidote that should not be swept under the carpet.
Looking at the current events happenings in our legislative houses including both public and private sectors of the economy is an obvious fact that corruption with its hydra-headed characteristic is ever fighting back in a war the current administration has set all strategy to conquer. More so, the presidency having made the corruption fight a priority is also battling with a counter effort from within the polity and the corrupt suspects who either sees no reason to comply to the good effort of the government to bring sanity to our polity or myopic to the reality of the truth about integrity pursuit of the administration.
In the heat of all these, one man who has stood his ground to instill and uphold the pursuit of integrity in the nation is Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, the chairman of special investigative panel, SPIP. The Presidential Panel chaired by Chief Okoi Obono-Obla was set up in pursuant to the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act-Cap R4, LFN, 2004; an extant law for the investigation of the assets of any public officer who is alleged to have been engaged in corrupt practices, unjust enrichment of himself or any other person who has abused his office or has in any way breached the Code of Conduct for Public Officers contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Ever since Chief Obono-Obla became the chairman of the panel, his private life has been in the beam light by the alleged corrupt ones who has done much to either paint his image black or indict him in any unforeseen circumstance. One of it been the prying to know the authenticity of his secondary school result certificate after he has gone through series of academic pursuit to a doctorate degree level and the alleged wrongful utilization of public funds. All these according to findings are calculated attempt to silence the sterling quality of Chief Okoi Obono-Obla who has vowed to bring to book all public officers who have corruptly enriched themselves.
However, these allegations and counter-attack on the person of Chief Okoi Obono-Obla with some findings about his life both in and out has positioned him in a true beam to ascertain whether truly he deserves the integrity accolade. Besides, these have unprecedentedly promoted Chief Obono-Obla as a paradox of justice and anti-corruption crusader in the eyes of majority of the citizenry. Despite efforts by the corrupt people to blackmail and victimize his person, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla has imprinted a mark in the anal of history as a dedicated crusader that believes so much in corrupt-free society.
In the words of Elder Charles Ogban-Ntasi, Chief coordinator, Reclaim Our Democracy Nigeria (RODEN), in his write-up on SPIP vs NASS, he said; “Right now, our democracy is at risk. We have a National Assembly who would rather have their way on all fronts or else throw tantrums like a little child disallowed from playing with an unsafe toy. Current events in our legislative houses, if not checked would on day take the heart out of our country. We are therefore not surprised when the House committee investigating the Special Presidential Investigative Panel for the recovery of Public property fell into the temptation of transcending the proper limits of a legislative inquiry and going on a fishing expedition to various institutions ostensibly to ascertain whether O/Level statement of result presented to the University of Jos and purportedly issued by Mary Knoll College, Ogoja in the 80s to Chief Okoi Obono-Obla was altered or forged by him.” Chief Ogban-Ntasi queried to know the hidden motive at the bottom of the congressional investigations of the SPIP, prompting inquiry into Obono-Obla’s WASC result which according to him, appears irrelevant to the legislative investigations.
We may be fair to say that despite all the antics of the corrupt minds to blackmail the chairman of the SPIP, the present administration’s effort to fight corruption is still ongoing to actualise its agenda. With the establishments of various Anti-Corruption Graft Agencies that include the Economic and Financial Crime Commission EFCC, Independent and Corrupt Practices Commission ICPC, The Special Presidential Investigative Panel for Recovery of Public Properties SPIP, Code of Conduct Bureau to mention but few, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has done much to put in place strategies and polices to block loopholes and leakages through which unscrupulous officials use to siphon public funds.
Much as we may agree that corruption cannot be wiped out in the society in a day, concerted effort by the government in empowering the anti-corruption graft agencies is yielding result despite strong oppositions. The SPIP panel can boast of some achievements in exhuming the rots of some political office holders without bias. Perhaps, the stir which has sent signal in the homes of some yet to unravel corrupt officials ignites the attack on the person of Panel chair, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla. However, the Nigeria Change Agenda of President Buhari’s administration has also made remarkable efforts in repositioning the economy with the massive recovery of looted funds. One of such recoveries is the sum $322.5 recovered from the estate of the former Military head of State, late General Sanni Abacha in Switzerland and the subsequent distribution of some of the fund to the poorest and most vulnerable Nigerians.
Besides, the economy is bouncing back with the return of some foreign companies to the land. Recently, Volkswagen AG announced that it is set to resume assembling of its vehicles in Nigeria in a bid to foster sales in Africa. These also include the return of the National Air Carrier, Nigeria Air that is set to start operation by December, 2018 among others. Undoubtedly, all strata of society must share the responsibility for contain corruption.
Having mirrored all need to contain corruption and rebrand Nigeria in the eyes of the international community, Nigerians must look inward and sanitise their conscience to join the change agenda of the federal government in fighting corruption in the country. However, the change agents like in the person of Chief Okoi Obono-Obla will always stand tall despite all odds to mar his good personal intention, commitment and nationalistic cause to reposition the country’s image.
Emmanuel Nwachukwu is the Spokesperson of the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Nigeria