The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, has made a solemn pledge to resign if he is asked to do anything against his conscience. Bawa made this promise during a guest appearance on Saturday, March 27, when he appeared on One-on-One, a programme on Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). According to Bawa, he will be guided by the law in carrying out his utmost prerogative as EFCC Chairman. His words:
“I will continue to do what is right. The Commission under my watch will continue to abide by the rule of law. If anybody asks me to do anything contrary to my conscience or against the rule of law, I will resign my appointment.”
Almost anyone would admit that corruption is the bane to national development and good governance. In Nigeria, the malady cuts across all aspects of national life, from the public sector to the private sector. Acknowledging these realities is the more reason there are commissions and other bodies to tackle the menace that has continued to stifle the nation. One of such commissions is the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), as well as the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC).
While the ICPC targets corruption in the public sector, especially bribery, graft, and abuse or misuse of office, the EFCC is mandated to investigate and prosecute money laundering and other financial crimes.
The EFCC was created in 2003 and has seen many chairmen from Nuhu Ribadu, lead the commission towards its mandate to uproot corruption from the social fabric of the Nigerian society.
Abdulrasheed Bawa is the current chairman but stands out as the youngest person to ever head the commission. It is said that to whom much is given, much is expected. Chairmen of the EFCC have come face to face with high-profile Nigerians, many of whom are top political players. Under the previous EFCC chairman Nuhu Ribadu, the agency prosecuted and convicted a number of high-profile corrupt individuals, including Nigeria’s former chief law enforcement officer and many several bank chief executives.
The EFCC has faced several challenges, but none has been more challenging than the task at hand presently. The man who is given the task is also faced with the same challenges he wishes to combat. A good number of EFCC chairmen have been teased with huge sums of money to compromise their integrity and subvert justice. For instance, Nigerian governor James Ibori tried to bribe anti-corruption boss Nuhu Ribadu in 2007 with $15 million in cash in a bag reported to be so heavy that no one man could lift it. These were the words of Ribadu to a London court in 2013. Ribadu said he pretended to take the bribe because he wanted the cash as evidence to use against Ibori in a prosecution, but rather than keep the money for himself he had it taken straight to the Central Bank of Nigeria to be kept safe in a vault.
Even so, a good number of EFCC officials have been coerced to subvert justice with threats on their personal lives and that of their families and close associates. In fact, some have been sent to their early graves as such.
Abdullahi Muazu who was head of the forensic unit of the EFCC was assassinated on September 14, 2010. He was actively involved in the trials of several bank heads. While some have lost their lives, others have been blackmailed with what one can describe as peccadillo, oftentimes committed in the past. These are indicators that the job is not as easy as it appears.
Abdulrasheed Bawa who assumed office on 24, February 2021, has stated his commitment towards the very course and mandate of the EFCC. As cited above, he noted that he wouldn’t compromise the rule of law, nor his integrity in carrying out his duty. While some have hailed him, others consider his statement as one from a weak-minded personality who shouldn’t have been given the position in the first place. Having grown through the hierarchy, everyone expects Bawa to fully understand the challenges associated with the position he occupies.
It is noteworthy that Bawa’s appointment as EFCC Chairman met with mixed reactions. On the one hand, a good number of people insist that the president was very sagacious when he presented the name of a young individual as the one to head the anti-graft agency. This itself shows that the president is mindful of the capacity of youth across all sectors, and his appointment of Bawa is no doubt a trailblazer.
On the other hand, others have asked: is Bawa’s appointment an appetizer or was he accorded the position based on merit? From the look of things, it appears a combination of the two, particularly when the youth have consistently decried exclusion from politics and other important areas.
However, Bawa’s statement that he would be left with no choice but to resign when pressurized to compromise only bolsters the resolve of the few who insist that he hasn’t attained the level of maturity needed to oversee a position that comes with inundating challenges. This is from the standpoint of a traditional proverb that says a man is not a man that doesn’t face his problems fair and square. It is in fact illuminated in the words of J. R. R. Tolkien who noted that “A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a shortcut to meet it.”
To say you have no choice is to relieve yourself of responsibility. Bawa’s intention may sound good in some ears. Perhaps, it was a red waver to Nigerian politicians who might be nursing the option of trying to bribe and buy their way out of crimes. But psychologically speaking, the villain could read it as a sign of weakness and it is in fact what it is: a sign of weakness that could be capitalised on.
It is only reasonable to resign one’s position than subject oneself to the torture of a bad conscience, which according to John Calvin, is the hell of a living soul.
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In the words of the great, Martin Luther King, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.” But the same Martin Luther King noted that “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
If Bawa is going to resign from his job under duress, then where does it leave the fight against corruption by good people whose silence Luther King says is the ultimate tragedy? He who passively accepts evil is as involved in it just as he who helps to perpetrate it. Being silent and accepting evil, in this case, is not so much for doing anything but rather about chickening out or more politely, tapping out on grounds of conscience. Conscience in fact should stir action and not obviate it. It is expected that Bawa came to serve with a resolve to put an end to a menace that keeps rearing its ugly head, not to tap out at the next frosty experience.