Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka yesterday urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other anti-corruption agencies not to spare corrupt leaders.
He said the nation cannot win the war against graft until justice catches up with the corrupt
Soyinka, who made his views known at the opening ceremony of the eighth Commonwealth Regional Conference for Heads of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Africa, said corrupt leaders should get ready to go down in status when justice catches up with them
He said: “That we have been bled dry in this nation by corrupt leadership and their agencies is nothing to reiterate. It is a given. And I took the trouble yesterday to visit the headquarters of the EFCC. I wanted to see what would be the mode of hospitality of some of our leaders who will surely, sooner or later, pass through the doors of that beautiful building.
“I am not a vengeful person but I think until we ensure that some of our leaders pass through those doors, this struggle against corruption in this country will not be won, will not be over.
“And so, I spoke to Magu and I said I want to see where the presidential wing is. I said as a human rights person, I want to make sure you treat them right when they come here and he said ‘sorry it is an egalitarian institution and I said I would take that message back to them that they should get ready to go down a little bit in status when the time comes and justice catches up with them.”
The Nobel laureate said for now, the responsibility of anti-corruption agencies should be to recover the rest of Nigeria’s stolen funds which could be used for development.
He added: “For now, your responsibility I believe is to help us recover the rest of the loot which is still flying all over the continent.”
Soyinka also queried the status of million dollars donated to a neighbouring Head of State by the the late military head of State Gen. Sani Abacha.
He said for posterity, the cash must be retrieved if it had not been done.
“Very specific, I said a certain sum of money was taken in a night plane to the head of state of a neighbouring country and if you can just help us recover that sum, it may be 50 per cent, given the resistance, it may be about 25 per cent and that way, it will help us not only to continue the war that existed but establish a principle that corruption is not just in one country. It is a responsibility of a collective group of people to fight it.
Many, many years later, I was justified because it became an issue in that country. I think you all know the country I am talking about. They raised a panel, explanations had to be given and up till now, I don’t know whether Nigeria has recovered the million dollars that was the figure.
“But at least, that was an issue of problem of conscience and this is exactly what I hope will emerge from this meeting.
A former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, recalled the circumstances of his ouster from office in 1975.
Gowon said leaders who came after him started looting because they did not want to end up like him, who was poorer after leaving office.
The former military head of state, who ruled from 1966-1975, recalled that he was attending a Continental summit in Ethiopia when he was ousted from power.
He said it was his aides that contributed money for him to travel to Britain where he went on exile.
He said: “I can assure you we did not know anything such as corruption. Yes, some of my ministers were accused of corruption but I can assure you that it was something we tried to make sure it didn’t happen especially in our public service.
“But after I left office, in 1975 and the state in which I left office, I can assure you that apart from my salary, it was those staff that were with me during the OAU meeting that contributed their estacode to ensure that I had something to live on after I had been asked to leave office.
“That was the only one and then I said I wish I had probably done something, made sure I had provided for the future. I think it was that experience that probably made those who came after us probably to make sure that they provided for the future and therefore, you should not blame them for doing that after the experience that I had.
“We must really try to make sure that all our leaders elected into office do not touch the nation’s coffers. They should move away from being tempted to touch national wealth.
“We should come up with solutions on how we can deal with this problem (corruption) and get back all the money stolen from this country for the well-being of this country and not for the good of those in office.”
Chief Justice of Nigeria Justice Walter Onnoghen, said the summit would enable leaders of anti-corruption agencies to “put heads together in an attempt to better understand the phenomenon of corruption and the canckerworm that has eaten deep into the fabrics of our country.