At a roundtable organised by the Department of Jurisprudence and International Law, University of Lagos, tagged
“Winning the War Against Corruption”, ideological schisms on the anti-graft war have manifested on a scale that should begin to worry the Muhammadu Buhari administration. Controversial Vanguard columnist and scholar, Femi Aribisala, drew the first blood when he took on Oby Ezekwesili, a former World Bank vice president, and shredded her viewpoint on the subject to the admiration and applause of the students in the hall.
According to Mr. Aribisala, “Corruption cannot be narrowly defined the way Dr. Ezekwesili defined it, only relating to public institutions. We are corrupt in Nigeria. The plumber, the tailor, the whole society is corrupt…The 2015 election was not an anti-corruption election. We did not have any political party that presented an anti-corruption mandate to us. The party that won the election was just a makeover of the PDP, I mean the PDP people moved from the PDP to the APC. If they were corrupt when they were in PDP, they became clean when they were in APC.”
For the students to dare to applaud this trenchant criticism of President Buhari’s anti-graft war, Itse Sagay, chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-corruption, fumed in response: “We are not here to make students clap…We are here on a very serious business. And students, don’t behave like American voters who are ignorant…The appreciation of unserious people shows ignorance. How can someone come here and say there’s no war against corruption and there is clapping? “
Also angry and exasperated with the students applauding Mr. Aribisala, Mrs. Ezekwesili thundered: “I wasn’t surprised that some of you were clapping. The reason you were clapping is that you are a page in your own level of corruption. There are many whose exam malpractice is the basis upon which they have come to school. So when you are talking about the need to wage a war against corruption, they are completely disconnected from it…There is no comedy session going on here. We are talking about something that can be destructive.”
Not only were Prof. Sagay and Mrs. Ezekwesili haughty, they were contemptuous of the students. The students, most of whom are studying law, and have thus learnt the basis of law in a society, have a right to appreciate any point that makes sense to them. Rather than counter with superior arguments and also perhaps elicit more vociferous applause from the students, Prof. Sagay and Mrs. Ezekwesili churlishly attacked the students without proof or foundation. They were wrong to do so. They should be worried that when the students applauded Mr. Aribisala last Thursday, it probably presaged a silent but demonstrable shift away from the president and his party, not necessarily that the audience failed to recognise that the controversial columnist was cleverly politicking for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Source: The Nation